Learning To Walk With God

stockvault-holding-hands217386One of my favorite memories of my nephew was when he was first learning how to walk. Like any small child, he was not very steady on his feet so he would need assistance when he walked. In order to help him, I would stand behind him, holding onto his tiny hands, and we would walk together. Back and forth we would go from the kitchen to the dining room until either he got tired or became bored. From an adult’s perspective it was not the most exciting thing to do but because my nephew liked it I found myself enjoying the walk as well.

This memory recently came back to me when I saw a picture titled “Walking with Jesus” created by Morgan Weistling. It shows St. Joseph in his workshop, taking Jesus’ hands like I did with my nephew and walking with him. It was while I was reflecting on this picture that I was struck with how it can explain our own relationship with God.

One thing that the viewer will notice is that there is a hammer and blocks of wood on the floor so it looks like Joseph might have been working when Jesus decided that he wanted to walk. Instead of Joseph ignoring him or asking Mary to remove him from his shop, Joseph accepts Jesus’ invitation to walk with him. This same thing happens to us every day. God calls us to walk with him throughout the day regardless if it is convenient or not. He does not do this because he is some kind of control freak but instead he does this because he loves us. Part of it is that he wants us to know that we are not alone (read Psalm 139) and another part of it is that he wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives not only when we are in church or in prayer. He wants to be our constant travel companion who is there to provide a steadying hand that will uphold us when we find ourselves on unsteady ground or to listen to us when we need to talk. By inviting him into our daily walk through life, we will find support, encouragement, and whatever else we need to make our life’s journey.

Another interesting thing that I got from the picture was that Jesus came to Joseph in his workshop instead of during times where you would expect to see a child such as at a mealtime or bedtime. Jesus’ presence in the workshop shows us that God meets us where we are at. That means that we do not need to be perfect nor saintly for him to come to us. For it is in all our messiness and in our spiritual poverty that we will find God extending a helping hand out to us. If we chose to grasp his hand, we will soon find ourselves walking a better path that will help us grow spiritually closer to him which in turn change us into better people.

Finally I saw in this picture a profound thought; sometimes God simply calls us to walk with the Child Jesus. Walking with a child takes patience and time because they are slow and they do not get very far. When God calls us to walk with the Child Jesus, he calls us to slow down and be in the present moment. The sad thing is that now days we are often too busy to even notice God, let alone that he is asking us to take this walk. We are so busy checking our phones or rushing from one thing to the next that we do not notice him there. Our surroundings become a blur so we miss out on such things as the beauty of nature or those people who are on our journey with us. We become so wrapped up in ourselves that we miss out on those moments that could impact our lives. That is why God calls us to walk with the Child Jesus because as we start to slow down, we will find that our attention is no longer focused on ourselves but on God and others. We will see things that we missed so many times before and through our new sight, we will start to enjoy the walk too.

Walking with God can be both profound and difficult. Sometimes the difficulty comes from the fact that we are prideful so we do not want to the help. Other times it becomes difficult because we find that we lose control of where we are headed which means the path becomes unclear. Yet all this difficulty does not compare to the sweetness that we will find when we choose to walk with God. It is through his presence and help that we find that our journey becomes sweeter and more profound. Nothing on earth can compare to walking with God so take his hand today and walk with him. Do not push it aside but hold onto it tightly. Let him guide you and help you to learn to walk this path we call life.

St. Zeno of Verona help us to learn to walk like children.

Paths to Jesus

Most everyone has heard the story about how it was a stormy night and the Apostles were in a boat without Jesus. All of a sudden they see Jesus walking on the water towards them and this is when Peter yells to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water”. Jesus tells Peter “Come” and so Peter starts walking. He does well at first but instead he gets distracted by the storm, losing his focus on Jesus and therefore starts to sink. He calls out to Jesus who grabs his hand and pulls him up, telling him “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14: 22-33). It was upon the sinking of Peter’s faith that I found something interesting on a calm lake recently.

It was a nice evening where the temperature was not too hot and not too cold. I was sitting on a boardwalk that extended slightly off the shoreline. As I looked out on the lake, I noticed that upstream there was open water that rippled from a slight breeze going across the lake. Downstream was a huge bunch of lily pads. They were clustered together in a group, sitting just off the shoreline. They were so thick that all you could see was the green from the pads themselves and brown from whatever mud and weeds got trapped in their intricate grouping. Since they were so close to the shoreline, at first glance, you would have mistaken them for an extension of the shoreline itself.

As I contemplated the view of upstream verses downstream of this lake, I thought about how God still calls us to get out of the boat and walk to him. When he does this, most of us want all the reassurances that we can get. “Is God really calling me to do this?” “How do I know that this is really from God and not something that I just made up?” “Is God serious about this?” As we look for reassurances that this is truly God’s will for us, we start to over think and analyze everything. This can cause us to start to put up safety nets and false illusions of doing his will (ex. I will do this thing instead because that should be good enough for God). All of this is done in order that if we are wrong we can save ourselves. We would start to take the lily pads out to Jesus. lily-pads-992007_1920The false illusion of an extension of the shoreline would have us thinking that we were walking on solid ground towards him. Solid ground means that we would have to commit very little of ourselves to trusting Jesus and that everything is in place for us to save ourselves if we needed to. Yet as we start to walk on those lily pads, we would start to sink. All our planning, all our false illusions, and self-reliance left us walking on a mirage of solid ground.

On the flip side, I started to think about the open water side. In order to walk that path, there is a lot more commitment involved. We have no safety net once we put our foot onto that water. We have nothing that we can depend on except Jesus. Of course, this route requires a lot more trust of Him instead of ourselves and that can be a very scary thing. The only reassurance that we get on this route is that if we trust Jesus he will take care of us. That is how he works because God only gives us the reassurance that if we leave it to him he will take care of everything. If he told us everything that was to happen when we did his bidding, we would most likely try to setup our safety nets and false illusions like we did with the lily pads. This in turn would only hinder his work in us. That is why he just holds his hand out to us, asking us to trust him as he bids us to come to him.

It is never easy to trust God and it is never easy to come to him. We will start to sink at times and that is when he will grab our hand and pull us back up. As we keep coming to him and asking for his help, he will not allow us to sink completely. Is God bidding you to come to him? Will you take the step off the shore and if yes, what route are you planning on taking? Lily pad or open water?

St. Florian, pray for us that we will trust Jesus enough to walk on open water towards him.

The Look

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Have you ever experienced the “look”? You know the look every child has gotten from an adult when they are doing something that they should not be doing. Or maybe you got the look when you had one of those moments where you put your foot in your mouth and someone could not believe that you just said that. Of course there are other looks out there that do not bring about behavior modification or incredulousness.  These looks are sometimes a look of love and caring. For instance you might see this look when a parent is looking at their child or when a married couple is looking at each other. Regardless of the type of look that is being given and received, there is one thing that is guaranteed about any look, they convey a message that can make all the difference in your life.

One of the bible verses that I like comes from Mark 10:21. It says “And Jesus looked upon him loved him”. This verse is from the story about the rich man who had wanted to know how to gain eternal life. Jesus goes on to tell him that he must follow the Ten Commandments which the man says that he does. It was at this point that Jesus looks at him and loves him because he knows that this rich man will not like the next requirement; sell all your possessions. Jesus calls him to a radical change but he does not demand it, instead he loves him and then kindly delivers this requirement to him. We find out the rich man’s response will be “no” and he walks away sad. He does not accept the invitation to change but instead holds onto those temporal things that will fade away eventually.

Let’s face it, radical change is hard. God calls us to change in order to grow in holiness. This is no easy task and it often calls us to let go of those things that we hold dearly in our hearts. God calls us to let go of these things because they are acting as barriers that prevent us from seeing as God sees or acting as God acts. We can look at others and see their sins but when we look at ourselves we have blinders on. For example, we can look at someone who is boasting as being prideful while at the same time we mistaken our self-criticism as a form of humility but in actuality it is pride because we are saying that we are too bad to change. Or we can look at someone who does not donate money to any charities and say that they are greedy but then we turn around and do not help our unemployed neighbor who is struggling to makes ends meet because we cannot write it off on our taxes. When God calls us to radical change he is trying to show us where our blinders are so that we can make the choice of choosing him over ourselves. The rich man loved his riches and therefore was not willing to change in order to gain eternal life. Jesus knew this and instead of giving him the “look”, he loved him. So the question now becomes what look is God giving you and what is that look telling you?

St. Angela Merici intercede for us that we are willing to receive God’s “look” and change because of it.

 

 

Go Ask Your Mother

14655554469_566f8d7340_o.jpgShortly after the passing of Mother Angelica in March, EWTN was running reruns of her show and I happened to catch one of the episodes. It was during this episode that Mother Angelica said something interesting. As she was talking to the guest priest, she said that God sometimes wants us to go to our Blessed Mother. Now I know she understood the Church’s teaching that Mary cannot answer prayers and that she is just an intercessor or someone who prays for us so I thought this was a very particular thing for her to say. Why would God, who answers our prayers, want us to go to the Blessed Mother first?  After some thought on this, I have to wonder if he is telling us to “Go ask your mother.”

Most of us have heard this phrase sometime in our life and as a kid I probably heard this answer more often than not. It was the go to answer to any question. Can I watch television? Go ask your mother. Can I have a treat? Go ask your mother. Could I play on the computer? Go ask your mother. Could I do (fill in the blank)? Go ask your mother. If you had any question that someone did not know the answer to, they would give you the fail-safe answer of “Go ask your mother.” It was a phrase that as soon as I heard it, I knew that I had no choice but to go ask my mother and see what answer I would get. There was a 50/50 percent chance that I would get the answer I wanted or the one that I did not want. If I got the one that I did not want, no amount of arguing or moaning and groaning was going to change her mind. As my mother, she knew what was best for me so while my younger self did not comprehend this and often times thought she was being unfair, she was just trying to help and protect me.

I believe that this is the same with our Blessed Mother. God wants only the best for us and while he tries to tell us this, we often do not listen. We get distracted by other things or we think that God is either not answering us or we are hearing him wrong. Sometimes we do not even pay attention to him and so he talks and talks and talks until he is “blue in face” and we still do not hear anything that he is saying. Therefore he tells us to “Go ask our Blessed Mother.” If anyone can get through to us, hopefully it will be her because she is our spiritual mother after all and this motherly status might make us more apt to listen to her. Like any good mother, she can tell us things in that such a way that we might be open to what she or God has to say. She wants only the best for us and since she has always done God’s will perfectly, he knows that she will not mislead us so he enlists her help to get through our thick skulls what he has been trying to tell us the whole time. God knows the right words to say but sometimes it takes someone else’s words to help us see things differently. That is what Mary does. She helps us see differently what has been in front of us the whole time.

A good example of this would be when we pray the rosary. Most of the mysteries are stories that can be found in the bible but when we pray the rosary, we sometimes get a different perspective. For instance, think about the third sorrowful mystery; the crowning of thorns. While we can read this story in the Bible and see the cruelty of people, Mary might show us a different perspective; one of love. Her son endured great amounts of pain and humiliation in order to show us how much he loved us. He was God and did not have to go through all this but he chose to do so that he could show us how to be courageous when we are faced with our own pain and humiliation. His love is so great that he not only goes through the suffering but shows us that he understands what it is like. Mary, who is so connected to her Son, shows us her perspective to help us realize the depth of Jesus’ love for us as well as let us know that we are not alone in our pain. Even though God has been showing his love consistently  up to this point, Mary’s willingness to work hand and hand with him helps give us a new insight in this fact.

So while God is the one that will answer all our prayers, he might be asking us to “Go ask our mother” so she can share with us a new perspective and help us to understand what God is saying. She loves us so much that she wants only the best for us so while we might think we know what that is, as our mother, she knows better then we so listen to her. She is only telling you what God wants you to hear but are too stubborn and prideful to hear from his mouth.

Blessed Mother Mary, help us to hear like you do.

photo credit: Mosaïque de la Vierge Marie (2) via photopin (license)

A Restless Heart

St. Augustine once said “Our hearts are restless till they find rest in You [God].” I have always loved this quote because I often suffer from a restless heart. My restless heart leaves me always searching for something that will make it feel at peace. Sometimes I will find this peace in things such as food or television or the internet but it is short lived and the restlessness always returns. This constant battle not only leaves me feeling frustrated but tired as well. If only there was a way that I could stop the restlessness and then it came to me; Eucharistic adoration.

For thosemonstrance-699488_640 who might not be familiar with Eucharistic adoration, it is when we have the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a monstrance (see picture to the left) for people to come and pray before. In our Catholic faith, we believe that the Blessed Sacrament is the real Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ so when we sit before it, we are actually sitting before Jesus. Some churches can only do Eucharistic adoration at certain times while other churches have designated areas called adoration chapels where you can come and adore at any time. If you go to a chapel, on of the things that you might notice is that they are usually very quiet and no one is talking. That is because a chapel is not a place to have outward conversations with others but a place to have an inward or prayerful conversation with Jesus. There is no format to follow so people can choose whatever prayer (ex. reciting a rosary or chaplet, Lectio Divina, etc.) that they feel comfortable with to pray. I have even gone there and did nothing but sit and “be” so you can even do that.

Whether you go to a chapel or participate in an hour at your church, Eucharistic adoration facilities that peaceful connection with God. It is in this peace that Jesus comes to us and puts our hearts at rest. Our lives are so busy with family and work obligations that we do not have time to stop and sit, let alone pray. We have so much noise in our lives that we are constantly bombarded with it which makes it hard for us to find the quiet we need to clear our minds in order to pray. This is our reality so no wonder our hearts are always restless. We need that quiet time to talk to our friend, Jesus, and listen to what he has to say. He wants us to come to him and share with him the joys and worries that are going on in our lives and in turn he wants to share with us how much he loves us. For example, I have a friend that once told me that she always looked prettier in the adoration chapel’s bathroom mirror. Now she is a pretty person but she does not necessarily agree with that assessment so when she says this kind of thing, I wonder what changed to make her recognize her beauty. As I was reflecting upon this, I think the difference is that she is seeing herself as Jesus sees her.  You see, she would stop in the chapel to pray for a few minutes first and then go to the bathroom before she left. Since she just left Jesus’ loving presence, her eyes were “opened” to her seeing herself as Jesus sees her; a beautiful woman both inside and out. She is reflecting Jesus’ love for her in that mirror just like the moon reflects the sun’s light and that is why she cannot help but notice.

Just about everyone knows the story of Martha and Mary. Martha, the hard working sister, is busy getting everything ready while her sister, Mary, is sitting around doing nothing (anyone with siblings knows what that is like). Martha complains to Jesus about Mary and instead of backing her and telling Mary that she should be helping, he looks at Martha and tells her that Mary has chosen the better thing. Being a Martha type person, I sometimes find it hard be a Mary type person yet if I look at this story in the context of Eucharistic adoration, I see that I can be a Mary type person. It is in adoration that I can come and sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from him just like Mary did. Adoration gives us the chance to be Mary because we do not have to be busy getting things done or worrying that something is being missed. We can come as we are and just sit at his feet to listen to him. It is the time where we can be at rest and peace and just let someone love us for who we are. So consider participating in Eucharistic Adoration in your area and maybe you will find rest for your restless heart.

St. Augustine, pray for us to let go of the busyness of life and rest in the Lord.

Blind Faith

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Blind faith is not something that I admittedly have. My ideal environment would be a place where I can control everything so that when things happen, they happen in the order, way, and time that I want them to happen. When I am in control of the situation, I almost feel safer even if that is not the reality of the situation. From time to time, I will hear these stories about people jumping in cars on a whim and allowing the wind to take them wherever they go and I will think, “Wouldn’t that be nice if I was that carefree and trusting? To get up and just go.” But for me to do something like that, I would have to make sure that my navigation system is working, that my car was reliable enough, and I had a backup plan in place if anything should happen. To have blind faith is to lose control of a situation and yet know that it will work out.

Recently I was making a trip back from a major city during a snow storm. I live about 45 minutes away on a good day so if you have ever driven in a snow storm, you know that time is an imaginary thing which means it will take you twice as long but feel longer just to make you mad. As you can imagine, the roads were horrendously bad and therefore the major highways and freeways were very congested. In order to avoid an occasion of sin in regard to me losing my patience with a fellow driver, I decided to take back roads for part of the trip. Due to the fact that it was dark and the snow was falling pretty heavily, I missed my turn and ended up on roads that I was not familiar with. By the time I realized this, I was on a bridge that I have seen many times before so I knew that I was running parallel with the road that I needed to be on which meant that I was going the right direction. It was while I was on this bridge that I could not help but think that God will put us where we need to be even if it is not the path that we want to be on. Even though we can see the path and we point at it saying, “No, I need to be on that road”, God knows that is not the path for us and therefore will put us on a road that we might not expect or plan to be on but still has us heading in the same direction. It is up to us to decide to take the road he wants us to go down or be stubborn and go our own way to only discover it has more problems than God’s road.

After crossing the bridge, I started to look for crossroads that I could take that would get me on the road that I needed to be on but nothing was looking familiar so I was hesitant to take any of them. As I was praying that I would find a familiar road or a place to turn around at, I ended up stopping at a stoplight right behind a Mercedes. It was at this stoplight that I felt drawn to follow the “star” and so I decide to do just that. Wherever the Mercedes drove, I would drive as well and so my journey continued in such a fashion. As I was driving behind the Mercedes, I realized that God puts signs in our path to help direct us to our destination. That means we are called to be like the Magi at Christmas time and we are to follow the signs that God gives us. Sometimes these signs can be as obvious as a real star or a star emblem or they can be as simple as directions from a navigation system but if we are open to looking for those signs and seeing or hearing them, God will help direct us on the road we need to take.

Eventually we came to a fork in the road and that was when I felt that I no longer needed to follow the “star” and so while the Mercedes turned left, I turned right. I was now back on my own and praying that I would finally find something that would be familiar to me. After driving a short distance, I came upon a road and area that I knew a little bit which in turn led me to more familiar roads and areas. I was back in control. As I got closer to a major highway that would take me all the way home, I realized that I ended up in an area of one of my favorite Adoration chapels. It was then that I realized that God led me back to him and the safety that he could only provide. It was through the storm that he led me to him, helping me to see that all paths lead to God. In the end, no matter what journey we take or how we take it, God calls us all to journey to him.

St. Christopher, pray that we have a safe journey.

The Perfect Prayer

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Everyone seems to have the perfect prayer. I know people who love the rosary so they will encourage everyone to take up the rosary. I know people who love the Divine Mercy chaplet and will jump at the chance to talk about it with anyone who shows interest. I even know people who have a favorite novena, devotion, or other prayer that as soon as you tell them that you are looking for prayers, they are handing you a copy of it even before your sentence is finished. These people are so passionate about their favorite prayer that they will tell you that they have the perfect prayer for you.

Now they are not wrong when they say this because any prayer aimed toward building your relationship with God is perfect but not every person will have the same reaction to a prayer that someone else has. For example, I once had a person tell me that it drove her nuts when someone would tell her that she should be praying the rosary. She said that she personally did not like it because of its repetitiveness and she had not gotten much out of it when she had prayed it in the past. She never understood why people had this great devotion to this form of prayer and she got tired of everyone telling her this is the perfect prayer for her. Now in her case, while she did not get anything out of praying the rosary, the people who recommended it did and therefore they felt that this prayer would help her in her own prayer life. They had such a great experience with praying the rosary that they felt that if she prayed it as well, she would have a similar experience. It would be like going to a restaurant and experiencing really good food that not only tasted good but was filling and satisfying. Afterwards, you would probably go and recommend that restaurant to others, encouraging them to give it a try. This is why people recommend certain prayers because they have experienced this spiritual feeding of love from God and they want to tell everyone about it. So what is someone to do when they have several recommendations but they are new to prayer or just getting back into it?

First of all do not get overwhelmed. Sure you might have a lot of recommendations but that does not mean that you have to try them all at once or even at all. Start off by picking one and “trying it on” to see if it is a good fit for you. If you do not know how to pray a particular prayer then consider looking it up online or seeing if your parish has something that they can give you to show you how to pray it. Maybe even reach out to the person who recommended it to see if they could help you. Trust me, if they love the prayer, they will jump at the chance to give you any help that you need to start praying it.

Secondly, do not get discouraged. If you have put an honest effort in at trying to pray a certain prayer but it does not seem like a good fit that is alright. What I have seen in the past is when someone is not experiencing the same feeling from a certain prayer that someone else is getting, they become discouraged because they think they are doing it wrong and quit praying. Do not give into that temptation! Just like life, not everyone is going to like the same things so why would you expect any different in prayer? If a prayer does not work then try something else. Luckily, the Catholic Church has several different ways to pray so if you have exhausted all the recommendations you have been given, then see what else is out there.

Thirdly, the perfect prayer is your prayer. What I mean by this is that no matter what prayer you pray or how you pray it, the perfect prayer will always be the heartfelt prayer that you give to God. Prayer is our communication tool to reach God and he does not care if you say the right combination of words at the right time and in the right order. He wants to spend time with you and therefore whatever you decide to pray will be the perfect prayer for you and for him. A good thing to remember is that God will be happy that you are giving it your all and doing your best. He does not require us to be perfect in prayer but he does require us to put in the effort.

As we prepare to head into Lent, maybe consider giving prayer a shot. Dedicate some time each day to offering a prayer to God and talking to him about whatever is going on in your life. As you get to know him better, I can guarantee that he will show you the perfect prayer that will make you that passionate person who is telling your family and friends that you have the perfect prayer for them.

Seraphim angels please help us to pray like you do.

The Power of Healing

 

 

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St. Mary Magdalene

Over the last couple of years, I have developed a devotion to St. Mary Magdalene. There is just something about her that I can not only appreciate but admire as well. First she comes to Jesus looking to be healed from seven demons. Next she can be found at the foot of the cross with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John. Finally, she was the person who stays at the tomb that Sunday morning after everyone else had left making her the first one to see the resurrected Jesus. This woman who was probably called broken by many people would eventually become the Apostle to the Apostles, a title given to her by St. Thomas Aquinas himself.  She has been the catalyst for many good reflections on the power of healing.

One of the things that I have reflected on was the amount of courage that it took for her to approach Jesus for healing. It was not because Jesus was unapproachable but she might have thought she was not worthy of that healing. After all she lived with seven demons so I am sure that her family, friends, and neighbors did not treat her well so by the time she sought out Jesus, her self-esteem and self-worth could have been pretty low. As she nervously approaches him, maybe even second guessing this decision, I could see her asking herself if it was even worth bothering him. So many people had tried in the past to help her but none of them were successful so why would this be any different? Sure, she had heard that Jesus could work miracles but could a miracle be done on her? As she wavers between turning around and leaving or sticking with her decision to ask, she comes into his presence and she finds the courage to ask for healing and the faith to believe it could be done so he is able to heal her. She is more courageous then she thought.

Another aspect that I have reflected on was the fact that she stood with Mary and St. John as Jesus was being crucified. Here is this strong woman who stays to be with Jesus as he dies on a cross. She did not leave like everyone else but stood there and waited. Was she hoping that he would show the people that he was indeed God and get down from the cross thus saving himself? Did she want to scream at the executioners as they hurt the one person who loved her when no one else had? Did her heart break every second, minute, or hour that she watched what was going on? When she was probably the weakest and the most emotionally and physically tired, she found strength to stand there through the whole thing. She was stronger then she thought.

Lastly I have reflected on her at the tomb. I have to wonder if she woke up that morning, hoping and praying that everything that happened on Friday was just a very bad dream and that Jesus was alive and well. She might have thought how he would look at her, smile and say gently, “It is alright. It was just a bad dream. See I am here, all in one piece and without a mark on my body. I am fine.” But as the drowsiness leaves her eyes, she is hit with the reality that it was not a dream and now she must get up and go to the tomb to prepare the body as per the Jewish custom. Maybe as she was walking she might have found some comfort in the fact that this would give her the opportunity to say her goodbyes since she did not get to do them on Friday. She could tell him how much he meant to her and how much she appreciated everything that he had done for her. I could then imagine how her heart sunk when she sees that Jesus’ body is gone and then how it soared when she heard him say her name and she realized that the person in front of her was not the gardener but Jesus. The joy of this realization caused her to go running to the apostles to share with them the good news. Her devotion and love for Jesus made her the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection. She was more loved then she thought.

These different periods in her life have given many different insights and since these are my reflections, I am not sure how accurate any of it is. I can at least say that it has helped me develop a bond with her. She is this single woman who needed healing and once Jesus healed her, she was never the same. Jesus’ miracle helped her see things about herself that she probably never thought or believed prior to the healing. It was with that one encounter that her life changed forever and she began to see herself through God’s eyes. She was a courageous, strong, and loved child of God. That is how God saw her so it did not matter if others did not see or think the same way. She did not need to be perfect or strong or the most popular person to be God’s beloved daughter. She just needed to be herself and that was good enough for God.

St. Mary Magdalene, please intercede for us and help us see ourselves as God sees us.

Through The Eyes of Another

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Recently I was paging through the Psalms and my eyes fell upon Psalm 69. Now I am very familiar with this Psalm because I have found comfort and strength in it many times before. Yet as I read it this time, I read it differently; I read it as though the writer was a priest. I had never prayed this way before so out of curiosity, I continued to read it in this fashion and what followed was very interesting.

The first verse that struck me was verse 4, where the writer (or priest) talks about how people hate him without cause and I was moved by the thought that our priests are sometimes not liked because they are priests. There are the parishioners who do not like a priest because he is too conservative or too liberal or too whatever they don’t like about him. Instead of getting to know the priest or trying to understand what he is trying to do, they will hold onto their dislike and refuse to change their attitudes which does not make it easy for a priest to work with. This led me to also reflect on the fact that the media will often stereotype a priest and then use that stereotype to vilify him. If a priest is experiencing dislike on both sides, I could image that this could become very heavy to bear and so it was with this verse that I prayed that the priest may feel God’s love during those moments when he feels the most unloved.

In another verse (verse 6), the writer (or priest) asks that those who hope in God not be put to shame through him. It was with this verse I began to think of the fact that our priests are called to shepherd us. If while they lead us, they should teach us the wrong thing or not admonish us when a certain behavior is sinful then they could put our souls in danger of being eternally damned. If a shepherd is truly concerned about his sheep, then I could imagine how the stress of trying to do the right thing all the time might weigh heavily on him. It was with this verse, I prayed that during times of uncertainty or failure that God would give the priest a glimpse of some of the good work that he has done so he does not become disheartened.

In verse 9, the writer (or priest) talked about the zeal that he has for God’s house and how the insults against God have fallen on him. In a world that sees no need for God or, even worse, does not think that He exists, I could see how a job of sharing the Good News could be difficult. Priests want people to partake in the sacraments and have a personal relationship with God but how do you convince them of that when they do not come to Mass on a regular basis? Or the new priest who wants to share the joy of his ordination with everyone but soon realizes that people are too busy to notice or care. It was with this verse that I asked God to help us, the laity, to open our hearts so we can be receptive to the zeal that the priest has for sharing the Good News with us.

As you can imagine, I could go on and on but that would take too long so I will stop with these few reflections. I will admit that when I was done, I felt like I had received a little insight into the priesthood with all its many challenges and thus it gave me more of an appreciation for our priests. I found that it was an interesting way to pray and so I wanted to encourage you to give it a try yourself. See if you find a Psalm that you feel drawn to and ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray it as if a person you know wrote it. God might reveal some interesting things that could put things into perspective for you or give you insights into looking at things differently when it comes to that person. You will never know what you could find out if you don’t try, right?

Oh and please do not forget to pray for our priests. They could use all the prayers that they can get!

St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests, please pray and guide our priests.

Splashes and Ripples

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If you have ever skipped rocks on a lake or watched a small object fall into a bucket of water, you know that there is a ripple affect. The surface starts off calm and smooth but when that object hits the water, there is a splash and from there a ripple forms which grows bigger and bigger, moving outward until it finally depletes itself and disappears. The reason I bring this up on a frozen winter day is not to give hope of warmer days to us who live in a deep freeze area but to share a story about a splash and a ripple that I saw recently; God’s love.

I teach second grade Faith Formation and their lesson for the week was about Jesus forgiving us. That morning, I was inspired with the idea of including something about the Jubilee of Mercy. It would fit well with the lesson and it would give me the opportunity to share this special year with the kids. As I was formulating my plan on how to present this to the class, it came to me that I should include a small corporal work of mercy with it. They were after all second graders and this would give them something to do and it would help them understand what a corporal work of mercy was. The plan was to put together care bags that could be given to the homeless. They would not be complicated and could be assembled pretty easily. So with some encouragement from a friend, I figured that I would see if I could pull everything together and if I could, great, otherwise if not, then no worries because it was not meant to be. This was the splash that started the ripple. As the day progressed on, I discovered that the lesson would be short since we went through most of it before Christmas break which would give us the time to do it. Then I was able to leave work on time so I could run to various places to pick up the items for the bags. This is when I started to see the  ripple. For example, when I was checking out, the cashier asked me what the items were for so I shared with her the plan. As I was leaving, she said to me “God bless you.” and I took this as a sign that this should be done.    

Then it was time for class. Class moved like it always did but amid all the chaos, I was able to get the kids focused and we started to assemble the bags. Each kid was in charge of one of the items that would be put in the bags. They were also in charge of putting a bag together so they had to go to each classmate and get their item for the bags. As they each took turns filling their bags, they worked as a team to make sure that everyone had included their items and that each bag was filled. Even my quietest student was a little vocal (or at least more vocal then she normally was) while doing this. When it was all said and done, we assembled 12 bags that had 12 items in them. As we do every week, the students invited their parents in to pray with us but this time I asked that we pray the homeless instead of ourselves. This is was the point where the ripple started to grow and move outwards.

The ripple got bigger when a father took a bag to deliver after I had offered them to the parents who might see any homeless on their way to work or out and about. It continued to grow when a mother who sometimes goes to Mass in one of the major cities took a couple of bags with her so she could hand them out there. Finally I had stopped in to talk to the youth minister about something unrelated and when she heard about the bags, she and a few of the confirmation teachers in her group took some of the bags. When it was all said and done, I was left with four of 12 bags to deliver but the best thing about the whole20160113_204312 situation was that I got to see the ripple of God’s love. He had taken this small splash (the execution of a thought) and turned it into this huge ripple (people stepping forward to deliver the bags). This small splash and ripple caused a great impact in which He only knows how big it would grow. This splash and ripple opened up conversations and offered people opportunities to serve Him in his people. Finally this splash and ripple gave me a chance to see that it is the small things that make the most difference. It was truly amazing! Therefore if you ever wonder if your small contribution (or splash) does any good, think of this post and know that God can work great things in small splashes.

St. Peter, you made a small “splash” when you admitted that Jesus was God. Please help us to recognize the splashes and ripples that God does in our lives so we can appreciate the beauty of them. St. Peter, pray for us!