Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thursday, January 1, 2009 ~ Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).

Luke 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.


Sweet Mary! This Gospel helps me to picture you as a quiet, docile woman, as you ponder the birth of my Saviour. Teach me the virtues of silence and gentleness.

Bold shepherds! You go out and proclaim what you have seen. Help me to not be shy at sharing my faith with family, friends, and strangers.

My Jesus! From before your conception, God planned for you to be born of Mary and to suffer on Calvary. Everything I am is yours.

This day is one of my favorite feasts of the year! We honor Mary as the Mother of God, as the one who bathed him, fed him, changed him, taught him, and loved him tenderly. As a mother, the intimacy Mary shared with Jesus Christ inspires me to seek intimacy with Him, as well, to draw near to Him by caring for Him. By caring for others, especially my children, and by offering Him my sufferings as comforting caresses, I hope I grow closer to Him day by day.

Mothers are called to a very special role. The Lord God had a perfect role for Mary to play, but the key component was that God's plan relied on Mary's freely offered yes. I need to work on my "yes," to offer it more frequently and wholeheartedly, and most especially in those moments of tension or frustration when I just do not want to do it God's way.

God, please send Your Holy Spirit to infuse my soul and give me the fortitude to follow your will at all times, even when it is very difficult. I am weak and do what I do not want to do. I must rely on you. Help.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I am a football fan. Yes, I thoroughly enjoy watching any and every game my family lets me turn on! And, this is my favorite football time of the year. It is almost January, time for bowl games and playoffs! Hooray! The only drawbacks are that I am the only serious fan in my family (my husband will rarely even watch a whole quarter with me), and we do not have cable. Therefore, I am limited to what the national networks show.

Those of you who know me well are not surprised by this admission, but to those who may be a bit dumbfounded at why I would spend my time watching such a man's sport, let me explain. Football is men being men; it is that simple. Baseball, basketball, or golf cannot compare to the hard-hitting strategic machismo that is demonstrated on a football field. Hockey has it, but it can be a bit too violent for me. Our culture has largely lost an understanding of what it means to be masculine and feminine. I admire the sport for its masculinity.

Now, let me clarify a few things. I am not a football fan in the sense that a man would be. I do not memorize stats or formations or obsess over particular teams or players. I will watch almost any team, and I understand just enough about the rules to follow the game. This can be funny when my husband brags to his friends that I am the football fan in the family, because they automatically assume I know as much about the game as they do and want to swap predictions and stats. I just enjoy watching.

In defense of the game, I do not believe all football players are intellectually challenged. This is one reason I particularly enjoy watching several talented quarterbacks; they are smart leaders. Admittedly, some players just grunt and tackle, but some of those are really good at taking another man down! In my playbook, that is entertainment.

I also believe, forgive me guys, that many players are amazingly graceful. If you have ever watched a QB scramble to throw a long pass to the corner of the end zone and a wide receiver leap into the air to catch the ball on his fingertips and land with both feet in the end zone, dragging those toes and maintaining control of the wobbly ball, while being thrown to the ground by 200 pounds of brute strength, you know what I mean.

I do not cheer for any particular team. There are some teams I like more than others, but I generally decide who I want to win when a game starts. Sometimes, I will even waffle and wait until the second half to decide who deserves the victory. I like college ball and professional. College ball is pure and exciting. NFL players are impressive and awe-inspiring. With both, you never know what to expect. It is almost like a good mystery novel...okay, maybe that is too much of a stretch for most of you.

There it is. You know my secret. And, beginning on Wednesday, I have the opportunity to watch at least one football game every day for 9 straight days! After that, you can be sure I will try to watch every NFL playoff game and will put the kids to bed early on Superbowl Sunday, so I can open a six-pack and bag of chips and watch a bunch of guys hitting each other hard. Oh, and the commercials are usually entertaining, too!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Smile Mortification

In an inspiring book I have been reading on and off over the past several months, You Can Become a Saint! by Mary Ann Budnik, the author speaks of including mortifications in our daily prayer habits. As a sample, she gives us some ideas on how to start such routines and includes, for the beginner, the smile mortification.

It has been a while since I have read this part of the book, so I am not going to go into any detail on Mrs. Budnik's description. Instead, I want to tell someone...

It is hard! I am not a bubbly person, so to make smiling a part of my normal daily activities is actually a challenge. I find myself with a blank stare, a mommy glare, or a tired grimace 98% of the time!

Since reading this idea, I have half-heartedly tried to pay attention to my facial expressions to no avail. After all, I have many, many reasons to smile at all the blessings in my life, but it is simply not my natural appearance. I have decided I need to change my look for my sake and my children's sakes. This is certainly an act of mortification that will help my soul, as well.

Besides, yesterday when I was smiling for a while, my husband noted how beautiful my smile is. I am not sure I agree with him, but for his sake, I should smile more. So should the rest of the world, I think. Then, our world might be an even more beautiful place, don't you think?

The Feast of the Not-Normal Family

We are not normal. Our pastor reminded me of this in his homily today. He said that this is not the Feast of the Normal Family or the Feast of the Perfect Family. It is the Feast of the Holy Family.

Now, I realize this is no shocker to those of you who know us. We tend to be pretty counter-cultural. We do not have cable. None of us own iPods (a.k.a. personal isolation devices) or Blackberries (a.k.a. crackberries). My children received only one toy each that required batteries this Christmas. We homeschool. We drive 30 minutes each way to attend Mass at a parish that values reverence and modesty in church. I could go on, but you get the point.

Our pastor also told us, "Marriage is not about fun." If you've been married for longer than five years, have children, and are still "in love" (whatever that means) with your spouse, you know this is true. Have you noticed our world is fixated on having fun? In fact, he reminded us that it is possible to be a holy family and dispense with fun most of the time.

The thing that struck me the most from his homily, however, was this point: Our sanctification comes from the sacrifices we make in and for our families. It is when we die to ourselves and unite ourselves to the suffering of Christ on the Cross that we become holy. When we embrace the natural suffering of dirty diapers and back talking children, our souls are being purified.

This purification usually hurts. It is not easy. And, above all, it is rarely fun.

That's why we're not normal. We embrace suffering. We give of ourselves until it hurts and then give some more. We love without recompense. How else can we be salve for the Wounds of Christ? How else can we caress His blood-stained body?

We must kiss our cross and unite the daily struggles we experience in our families with the True Cross of our Salvation. Then, little by little, not only will our souls be sanctified, but our offerings can be given for all sinners. In this way, we can be a part of the New Pentecost, the New Springtime in the Church.

Don't be normal. Be a holy family. It is worth the effort.

Friday, December 26, 2008

St. Louis De Montfort's Prayer to Mary

***Wow! This says everything my soul cannot find the words to say and more! I urge you all to find a quiet moment and pray it from your heart.

St. Louis De Montfort's Prayer to Mary

Hail Mary, beloved Daughter of the Eternal Father! Hail Mary, admirable Mother of the Son! Hail Mary, faithful spouse of the Holy Ghost! Hail Mary, my dear Mother, my loving Mistress, my powerful sovereign! Hail my joy, my glory, my heart and my soul! Thou art all mine by mercy, and I am all thine by justice. But I am not yet sufficiently thine. I now give myself wholly to thee without keeping anything back for myself or others. If thou still seest in me anything which does not belong to thee, I beseech thee to take it and to make thyself the absolute Mistress of all that is mine. Destroy in me all that may be displeasing to God, root it up and bring it to nought; place and cultivate in me everything that is pleasing to thee.

May the light of thy faith dispel the darkness of my mind; may thy profound humility take the place of my pride; may thy sublime contemplation check the distractions of my wandering imagination; may thy continuous sight of God fill my memory with His presence; may the burning love of thy heart inflame the lukewarmness of mine; may thy virtues take the place of my sins; may thy merits be my only adornment in the sight of God and make up for all that is wanting in me. Finally, dearly beloved Mother, grant, if it be possible, that I may have no other spirit but thine to know Jesus and His divine will; that I may have no other soul but thine to praise and glorify the Lord; that I may have no other heart but thine to love God with a love as pure and ardent as thine I do not ask thee for visions, revelations, sensible devotion or spiritual pleasures. It is thy privilege to see God clearly; it is thy privilege to enjoy heavenly bliss; it is thy privilege to triumph gloriously in Heaven at the right hand of thy Son and to hold absolute sway over angels, men and demons; it is thy privilege to dispose of all the gifts of God, just as thou willest.

Such is, O heavenly Mary, the "best part," which the Lord has given thee and which shall never be taken away from thee-and this thought fills my heart with joy. As for my part here below, I wish for no other than that which was thine: to believe sincerely without spiritual pleasures; to suffer joyfully without human consolation; to die continually to myself without respite; and to work zealously and unselfishly for thee until death as the humblest of thy servants. The only grace I beg thee to obtain for me is that every day and every moment of my life I may say: Amen, so be it's all that thou didst do while on earth; Amen, so be it's all that thou art now doing in Heaven; Amen, so be it-to all that thou art doing in my soul, so that thou alone mayest fully glorify Jesus in me for time and eternity. Amen.

Sunday, December 28, 2008 ~ The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).

Luke 2:22-40

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, They took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. ”The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted — and you yourself a sword will pierce — so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. ”There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.


This Advent, like never before, I finally grasped the concept that the Jewish people were waiting a very, very long time for their Savior, just like Simeon. My children and I were able to reflect on the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah, reminding me of this time of preparation before Jesus was born. Sometimes, we might feel we are waiting a very long time for Christ's Second Coming, and I am grateful that is part of the point of Advent.

Simeon and Anna wait along with all of God's people for hundreds and hundreds of years. Some of God's people apparently became disillusioned with their wait, but not Simeon and Anna. Simeon is described as a righteous man who was intimate with the Holy Spirit. Anna was a prophetess, also intimate with the Spirit of God, and known for non-stop prayer and fasting.

My prayer and fasting is certainly not non-stop, but I do long desperately to be more intimate with the Holy Spirit. Like the Jews waiting for Christ, however, I sometimes become disillusioned, which results in a distance from God, marking my prayers and sacrifices almost robotically, certainly without a true sense of the Spirit.

It is during such times of darkness (whether they last for days or months) that I eventually realize I, too, am waiting for the light. I must continue to empty myself, so that when I am ready, the Holy Spirit has room to dwell. I believe these times of purification are pleasing to the Lord, and interestingly, they are the easiest times for me to completely surrender to His will.

Like Simeon and Anna, we wait, but for the Second Coming. While we wait, we must believe that He will come and be ready at any moment, like those virgins waiting for the bridegroom who bring extra oil for their lamps. Our sanctification comes through how well we prepare for Christ's Return, how intimate we are with the Holy Spirit now, and how fully we allow Him to fill our emptiness.

The Holy Season of Christmas gives me an opportunity to reflect on how prepared I am for that final day of judgment. Jesus Christ was born and is here among us, but He will come again. In what ways am I failing in my preparations for Him? How can I be sure no prayer or sacrifice is wasted? What do I need to do to help my family become a holy family, modeled after Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, ready for Christ to come?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chore Charts

By special request, I am posting my children's chore charts, or what we use as chore charts. The first one is for my 3 yo ds; the second one is for my 6 yo dd. We only have morning chores, right now, because I am not a morning person and need them. At one point my daughter had a noon chore list and an evening chore list (like Mom), but I have not updated them in a long while. I admit my children should and could be doing more housework, but I need to be consistent with getting my chores done, I think, first of all. I will work on that and keep you posted!

The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

I can't hold it in any longer! I HAVE to share this treasure a friend shared with me this year (thank you, M!). File this idea away for next Advent! My daughter and I are reading The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder that we borrowed from the public library. Each day in December, leading up to Christmas, you read one chapter. Below is the description from the book jacket:

"In the corner of a dusty old bookstore, Joachim discovers a magic Advent calendar. When he opens the first door on December 1, a small piece of paper falls out. On it is the beginning of a story about a little girl named Elisabet. One December many years ago, Elisabet follows a white lamb straight out of Joachim's town and on to an amazing journey. She travels back through time and down through Europe to be present - along with the Wise Men and the shepherds, and other familiar figures - at the birth of Jesus. Each of the twenty-four windows in the calendar hides another chapter in Elisabet's story, along with illustrations. Through the mysterious calendar, Joachim and his parents get a new sense of the Nativity story and the meaning of Christmas. But they also start to wonder: Who was this Elisabet and where is she now? On Christmas Eve, all the pieces of this puzzle come together. Using his historical insight and playful imagination, Jostein Gaarder has created a unique and exciting holiday story for the whole family. Beautifully illustrated by Rosemary Wells, The Christmas Mystery will make a wonderful permanent addition to the literature of Christmas."

So...the whole story is about this girl who travels across Europe and back through time (simultaneously) with some angels and other "travellers" to Bethlehem. But, it is also about a modern Norwegian boy, Joachim, and his family who discover this story and make sense of it (originally written in Norwegian). We're not done yet, but I can tell the ending will truly be beautiful!

The reason I have to share it with you (particularly if you use a Charlotte-Mason style curriculum) is that every day is an opportunity for some incredible learning! Because they travel across Europe, they identify the cities and towns through which they travel. The modern dad even gets out a map and starts tracking their journey, and the family sometimes grabs an encyclopedia or the Bible to look up an event or person. Plus, because they travel back in time, they go through historical times and places, giving details about customs and events of those times. Can you see this becoming an amazing journey for your students?

I definitely want to buy this gem for our home library and use it exclusively as our curriculum during several Decembers. When we start doing a Century Book, this will be amazing to mark the times the travellers journey through, but a timeline might be a simpler start. I hope to find a bigger map of Europe to use and track their journey, as well. Each day includes geography and history, besides some Biblical events and the wonderful literary technique of a story within a story. It's all there! The trick is not reading ahead, which my daughter has done a couple of times.

The awakening of faith the family demonstrates is wonderful in building the anticipation for Christ's birth and travelling to Bethlehem along with them. May your Christmas be blessed, and may your children travel to the magic of Bethlehem on that Holy Night!

Side Note: My son and I are reading Advent Storybook by Antonie Schneider, which my daughter and I enjoyed last year (and she still begs to sit in on the readings this year). It also has one story a day for Advent, but is simpler, following a small bear on his journey to Bethlehem.


In our family, we decorate our tree on Christmas Eve. It usually goes up at the beginning of Advent and waits with us, helping to keep Advent simple and peaceful. The celebration begins when we place the Baby Jesus in the manger of our nativity scene. Then, we light the lights and add the ornaments. This year, however, the children could not resist decorating the tree a few days early with stuffed animals, toys, and dress up!

December 25 ~ The Nativity of the Lord (Mass at Midnight)

Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).

Luke 2: 1-14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”


There is one message for me this Christmas ~ Humility. Simplicity. Surrender.

When the decree went out for all to be counted, St. Joseph packed up Mary and went on his way. He obeyed the law whether it was convenient or not. He wasn't even married to Mary, but he took her with him, to fulfill what was prophesied. To me, this shows a tremendous respect for authority, a hint of the respect St. Joseph had for the authority of God, and reminds me to surrender myself to His will as humbly as St. Joseph whether it is convenient or not.

When they finally did get to Bethlehem, there is no room at the inn. Was Joseph upset? Did he complain that they had traveled SO far and demand a bed for his betrothed? I don't think so. He humbly accepted what was given to him, a dirty, smelly, damp cave where the Savior of the World was born. We have all imagined that night, giving birth in the hay, nursing among the animals. It is far from what we would expect, but it is exactly the way God planned it to be.

The shepherds in the fields hear an unbelievable story. Angels appear and explain that the Savior has been born, but the sign will be that he is wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in manger. Can you imagine the confused looks on the shepherds' faces? It's like saying, God has been made man, and He is in rags in a feeding trough. But, those shepherds believed. Perhaps in blind faith, they went to worship Him in all of His Poverty and Simplicity.

Christmas should bring us great joy, as the angels declare. We should deck the halls and feast and be merry! Just don't forget that Jesus Christ came to save you and me as a helpless newborn baby in a barn in the middle of the night.

A Child Is to Be Born!

For most of my life, my relationship with God has centered on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and personal experiences of the Holy Spirit. Lately, I have been led to a greater understanding of God the Father and now, as we approach Christmas, of the Christ Child.

My son gave me a hug this morning and nearly knocked me down with affection. Did Jesus hug Mary this way? I think, he did.

Both of my children know the best way to get my attention when I am busy is to say, "Mom," wait until I look at them and say, "I love you." How often did Jesus say this to Mary and did her heart melt as mine does each time? I think, very often and yes.

My daughter, after eating two portions of dinner last night, being told there was no dessert that day, and being asked if she had room for any more food, said, "I think there is room for, not a chocolate coin, but something the size of a chocolate coin." Was the child Jesus's sense of humor that adorable? I think, absolutely.

Today, when you look at your children, picture the Christ Child. The Master of All Creation came to redeem us as a tiny baby, a small child, a growing boy, and a young man before He spent three short years as a man teaching and preaching. In this simplicity and humility, He showed us His love.

Prepare your hearts. Make room. A Child is to be born!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hello Again!

The coming of the Christ Child has inspired me to offer everything to Him in humility, just as He came in humility and died in humility. I believe my passion for writing is a gift, and right now, I am not taking any risks with it. I'm burying that talent instead of investing it.

So, here is my you, dear readers. I will share openly what is on my heart for a while and see how it goes. My goal, as stated in my sidebar, is to glorify God and encourage other mothers to embrace their daily crosses as love offerings for Jesus.

I believe mothers have a very specific and sacred role in our world, as St. Therese's quote in my page header attests. It is our duty to surrender ourselves to that role and become who God created us to be.

Rejoice in His Coming! Our Savior is soon to be born! Bless you!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Taking a Break

To all my friends and faithful readers, after writing these reflections for a full liturgical year plus most of this Lenten season, I am going to take a break from this blog to reevaluate and reflect on my writing.

My purpose in doing this blog, beyond hoping to prompt mothers to nourish their own spiritual lives, was to practice my writing regularly. Mission accomplished. I feel I need a new goal for my writing.

This does not mean I will not return to this blog to continue in the exact same format as before. I don't know. I'd love your feedback on that. I just need some time to figure out what direction to take with my writing. Considering our approach to Passion Sunday and Holy Week, I feel this is a good time to pause. I imagine I'll be posting something again somewhere as the Easter Season comes to a close, and I'll let you know.

If you don't want to keep checking back to see if I'm posting again, be sure to sign up for the email reminders when new posts are added (see link in column on right side of this page).

May God richly bless your family through the mysteries of this Holy Week and Easter Season!

Sunday, March 9, 2008 ~ Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 11: 1-45

Now a certain man was ill, Laz'arus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Laz'arus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard it he said, "This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Laz'arus. So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go into Judea again." The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, "Our friend Laz'arus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep." The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, "Laz'arus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." Now when Jesus came, he found that Laz'arus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary sat in the house. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world." When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying quietly, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me." When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Laz'arus, come out." The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him;


But...but...but... Do I lack faith that God really can do anything? When I am reminded to have faith and trust in Him, do I wonder and worry, saying but...but...but...? In this Gospel Jesus encounters so many doubters. We can't go into Judea; they want to kill you. If you had been here, he wouldn't have died, but now there is no hope. There will be a stink, Lord!

But, Jesus does raise Lazarus from the dead! And, He can make miracles happen in our lives today, too, if only we believe. When I'm waiting for a job, a baby, a house, a death, a healing, or whatever, do I resign myself to circumstances or do I rejoice that God is capable of doing so much for me?

Do I remember that His plan is better than mine? Am I able to laugh at my own doubt and cast it aside? When things don't go as I expect, do I see His hand in it all? Or am I bitter and downcast? Do I put a limit on what God can do? Or do I remember His power?

As we approach Passion Sunday and Holy Week, it is important for us to enter fully into the mysteries of this season. Knowing that Jesus suffers miserably and dies a horrid death BEFORE he rises, is key to our faith. Easter is a miraculous day but only because of the events of Good Friday. As we join Jesus in his darkened tomb to grieve His death, let us take comfort in how He overcomes and surprises us beyond our hopes and dreams.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sunday, March 2, 2008 ~ Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday

John 9: 1-41

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Silo'am" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, "Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is he"; others said, "No, but he is like him." He said, "I am the man." They said to him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, `Go to Silo'am and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know." They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet." The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age, ask him." So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner." He answered, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see." They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?" And they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The man answered, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you." He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him. Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, "Are we also blind?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, `We see,' your guilt remains.


Jesus has so many great lessons for us today! Let's examine our lives in light of the primary ones that I see in reading this Gospel passage...

1. Suffering is permitted so "that the works of God might be made manifest." Do I honor the value of my own and/or others' suffering? Do I blame God for the bad things that happen to good people? How do I treat those who are diseased or disabled? Are there any who are outcasts in my close community to whom I need to reach out? Do I despair in suffering of my own or a close family member? Do I endorse euthanasia, which refuses God the opportunity to make His works manifest?

2. Our healing may come in a different package than we may expect, like the clay on a blind man's eyes, but it is our faith that will heal us ultimately. Do I get upset or angry with God when He violates my expectations? If a prayer is answered in a different way than I requested, do I resist the growth that God is asking of me? Is my faith strong enough to believe that there is purpose in even the strangest or most difficult circumstances?

3. Some will always find fault with God, like the Pharisees who criticize Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. Do I know those who cannot see the hand of God in this world? How do I treat them? Do I reach out to them? Am I a pessimist who always expects the worst? Do I criticize God? How can I surrender to God's way instead of holding on to the ways of the world?

4. Sometimes we will be cast out for the truth, just like the blind man. Am I fearful of proclaiming the truth? Do I avoid certain people or topics in order to avoid speaking the truth? What decisions in my life have cost me a relationship or benefit in the name of God's truth? Who in my life needs to hear one of God's truths right now?

5. If we only believe, God will give us the gift of sight; if we refuse Him, we will be blinded. In what ways has my faith opened my eyes to the truths of the Gospel? Have I refused God in some way recently? If so, how can I open my heart to Him and believe again? What blemishes on my soul do I refuse to see? How do they worsen my relationship with Christ?

Laetare Sunday marks the midpoint of Lent and reminds us (in the midst of our penitent prayer, fasting, and alms giving) that Easter is coming. Am I ready? Has this Lent been life-changing or spirit-moving thus far? What Lenten practices have I neglected in recent days? Can I recommit to making the last half of Lent more fruitful than the first? Am I open to the changes God wants to see in me during these 40 days? At Mass this Sunday, will I decide to enter intimately into these last three holy weeks of Lent and bring my family, too? I pray we all do.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sunday, February 24 ~ Third Sunday of Lent

John 4: 5-42

So he came to a city of Samar'ia, called Sy'char, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samar'ia to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samar'ia?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, `Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?" Jesus said to her, "Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, `I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly." The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he." Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, "What do you wish?" or, "Why are you talking with her?" So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" They went out of the city and were coming to him. Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." So the disciples said to one another, "Has any one brought him food?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, `There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, `One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."


A simple act of outreach to one woman results in the conversion of an entire town. All it takes is Jesus taking the time to talk to one woman, one sinner, one outcast, and many others come to believe. Personally, I constantly struggle with the concept of evangelization, but yet, I firmly believe in the principle that one small act or word can make a huge difference.

In the words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look only at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one. You get closer to Christ by coming closer to each other. As Jesus, said, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.’ So you begin . . . I begin. I picked up one person - maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person I wouldn’t have picked up the others. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if we don’t put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you. Same thing in the church where you go. Just begin . . . one, one, one.”

These are remarkable words from a remarkable woman. I honestly believe that we are brought into this world to help one another, and helping one person is all it takes. I used to staff many retreats, and I was constantly reminded that all of the hard work and preparations are successful if we help to bring one person one small step closer to Christ. So it is in your life. Your simple acts of love and service help many, especially your husband and each one of your children.

I know that I have not met most of you reading this, but I know about you. I know that you are courageous, seeking truth and longing for holiness. I know that you are devoted to your families, praying daily for the best for them. And, I know that you love the Lord, because you read Scripture, hoping to know Him more.

Every little thing you do for another person brings them a step closer to Christ. They begin to truly believe in and follow the Word of God by your simple actions. They learn more about the teachings of Christ and the ministry of the Church by your noble example. Some choose to serve His people as a result of your outreach, and that is how the world is transformed.

Life can be rough. The demands we all face often overwhelm us. When I do not quite know if things will "be okay," you pray for me. When I cannot find a friend anywhere who has the time to sit down and talk, you are there, and Jesus is near. When the real world seems big and bad and ugly, you give me hope through a simple "Hello!" You are the spark which ignites so many to love our Lord and His people with sincerity and devotion. God works through you to change individual lives one moment at a time.

As Mother Teresa taught, it only takes one. I am loved, and I have been fed by the Body of Christ . . . by you. The ocean is one drop vaster. Don't stop reaching out to your family, your friends, your neighbors, even strangers. It only takes one.

Sunday, February 17, 2008 ~ Second Sunday of Lent

the flu hit our home; enough said...

Matthew 17: 1-9

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Eli'jah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli'jah." He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and have no fear." And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, "Tell no one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead." And the disciples asked him, "Then why do the scribes say that first Eli'jah must come?" He replied, "Eli'jah does come, and he is to restore all things; but I tell you that Eli'jah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and kneeling before him said, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him." And Jesus answered, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me." And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?"


We want Heaven NOW! We want the power to cast out demons, too! Sometimes I hear myself talking to Jesus and wonder why He puts up with my whining. I struggle to exorcise it from my kids on a daily basis, because it drives me up the wall! My latest retort - "My name is not 'Moooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!' It's Mommy." But, I digress.

This Gospel reading of the Transfiguration is amazing. Peter, James, and John head up the mountain with Jesus, thinking He's going to take a nap. Instead, they get to witness a glimpse of Heaven on Earth. Obviously, they want to stay and expect that is the plan. Let's build a couple of tents, Lord! This is WAY better than the tough life we live down in the valley! God's voice from Heaven humbles them, however, and reminds them of the gift they have in Jesus.

My favorite part, though, is the ending. The man insists the disciples could not heal his son, and the disciples are also puzzled. Jesus' response is to pity them and, of course, to heal the boy. Yes, if I had said, "How long am I to bear with you?", it would be with a breathy sigh, fed up with the lack of faith. But, I am certain that Christ's voice was gentle, calm, and loving, full of mercy and pity.

Do I whine too much? To co-workers? To my husband? To my children? Do I tolerate the whining of others? Am I grateful for the here and now or am I constantly unsatisfied? It is one thing to seek holiness and yet another to despair that it will never happen.

What glimpses of God's glory do I see in my daily life? When is the last time I pointed out His glory to my children? Do I recognize His Kingdom "under construction" here on Earth? Do I live in this world but not of this world? Do I struggle with being a part of the world and isolate myself too much?

Do I believe ALL things are possible with Christ? What are my doubts? How can I increase my faith? Do I hear Jesus' gentle voice, tolerating my weaknesses and loving me despite myself? When is the last time I sunk into His merciful embrace?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008 ~ First Sunday of Lent

Matthew 4: 1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, `He will give his angels charge of you,' and `On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, `You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Begone, Satan! for it is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.


It is Lent, and I am fondly remembering the days when I had to give up something relatively easy like television or chocolate. This Lent, God is definitely calling me to something bigger, or maybe it's just now that I'm finally listening to what He really wants out of me. My Lenten resolutions are more character-centered, practical ways to get rid of the sins and temptations to sin that cause my soul such unrest. For I long to be closer to Christ, but as St. Paul says, "For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." (Romans 7:15)

In this week's Gospel, Satan tempts Jesus and tries to exploit His weaknesses - hunger, fear of death, and desire for power. Of course, being God, Jesus can overcome all temptations and all human weakness. It is not so easy for us. Is it? But, Satan DOES try the exact same approach with us. So, the answer is to eliminate weakness and strengthen our resistance to temptation. Lent is a gift we are given to motivate us to practice such soul-refining, as challenging as it may be.

Do my Lenten resolutions of prayer and fasting ensure my growth in virtue and elimination of sin? Or have they become meaningless practices whose effect is lost the day after Easter? Did I spend time asking God what He is asking of me these 40 days? Have I asked Him for the guidance to grow in virtue?

Have I made a good Confession lately? Have I spent quality time in examining my conscience and identifying my faults? Do I have practical steps to take to reform my ways? If I commit the same sins over and over again, what can I do to stop the cycle?

Is there time in my Lenten practices for quiet? Jesus went to the desert for forty days and saw no one and only communicated with God. Do I put my communication with God first? Do my children and husband know that I am trying to spend time in prayer, so they can help me do so? When is the last time I spent time in Eucharistic Adoration? Can I take my children to 30 minutes of Adoration every week of Lent?

My daughter has a list of special forms of prayer and a list of fasting options for Lent. Each day she chooses one from each list. Friday, she chose Adoration, a good day, since our parish has Eucharistic Adoration on Fridays during Lent. Her comment to me was, "Mom, you'll like that, because then you'll have quiet time to pray." Wow! She's 5. I was so touched by her simple thought, and I relished that 30 minutes of relative quiet as both kids prayed and "read" their Bibles silently nearby. It was inconvenient to go, but it was worth every second.

The Lord is waiting to hear from you, waiting for you to surrender your soul to His will. Are you ready for forty days of change? I am!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Sunday, February 3, 2008 ~ Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 5: 1-12

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you."


To me, these are such comforting words. Not only does Jesus outline for us how to live a Christian life, He also gives meaning to suffering. Our world does not value suffering. From "helping" the elderly die quickly to avoid more pain to turning a blind eye to the beggar on the street, we have forgotten that they hold the key to holiness, a beautiful gift, a connection to God.

I just finished reading The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene, truly a masterpiece of historical fiction! It takes place during the persecutions of the Church in Mexico and follows the last practicing priest in the state on the run from the government. Priests have been ordered to marry and stop administering the sacraments. At one point, the priest is speaking to a police officer, trying to help him see that the suffering he has endured on the run and the suffering the poor people of Mexico survive is a blessing, not a curse. To deaf ears, he explains that there is the potential for God's mercy and even for joy if one embraces his condition, living faithfully the purpose God set for his life. Needless to say, the brainwashed officer does not understand, although his conscience tugs at him for the rest of the book.

Jesus offers so much peace in the Beatitudes above. He urges, like Greene's character, that no matter who you are or where you are, there is holiness to be gained in each moment. If we just embrace the crosses and the gifts we have been given, we will grow closer and closer to Christ every day. It takes living with purpose, God's purpose. There are many self-help programs out there, intending to help us find our purpose and live it (including one recently released by Oprah which includes mantras that deny the existence of sin, evil, or even the devil, but I won't even get started on that...), but the Catholic Church has taught us our purpose for thousands of years - love God.

If you are old enough (older than me), do you remember? "God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven." Why must there be something more complicated than this? Yes, it means something different to each person in practical terms, but the root is the same. We are the ones who try to make it complex. All God wants is our faith, love, and service. The Beatitudes are a roadmap for this.

Am I poor in spirit? Do I seek out the simplicity of loving God? Is there quiet and peace in my days?

Do I mourn? Do I empathize with others' plights? Do I respect the suffering some endure?

Am I meek? Do I embrace humility? Am I prideful?

Do I hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do I do anything about it?

Am I merciful? With my husband? With my children? With my co-workers? With myself?

Am I pure in heart? How honest am I in my every day dealings? How sincere am I with others? Do I allow the sexual sins of the popular culture to corrupt my eyes? my mind? my actions?

Am I a peacemaker? Do I seek out every battle? Do I always pick sides? Do I try to understand different points of view?

Am I persecuted for righteousness' sake? Do I hide my opinions for fear of criticism?

Do men revile me and persecute me and utter all kinds of evil against me falsely on Jesus' account? Are there people in my life who are skeptical of how I live my faith?

Am I truly bless-ed?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008 ~ Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 4: 12-23

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Caper'na-um by the sea, in the territory of Zeb'ulun and Naph'tali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "The land of Zeb'ulun and the land of Naph'tali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles -- the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned." From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zeb'edee and John his brother, in the boat with Zeb'edee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.


Wow! These guys dropped everything and left. Can you imagine if the Lord came to you tomorrow and said, "I need you to come with me, now. Drop everything. Let's go!" Part of me would be so excited and overwhelmed to see Jesus that I might collapse in joy and fear. Part of me would be terrified, because I am definitely not ready for my judgment. And, part of me would hesitate: but what about the kids? the laundry? the dinner on the stove? That's called doubt, and I've got plenty of it.

My current naptime reading (this is what I read with one hand while I rub my 2 1/2 year old's back with the other hand until he falls asleep, so he will actually take a nap most days) is called You're Late Again, Lord! The book itself is short and sweet, but not profound - while you're waiting for whatever it is you want or think you need, be sure to wait with purpose. Look for the lesson in the moment, the opportunity to improve yourself now, because God gave you this time of waiting for a reason.

Another book I read before marriage, called Lady in Waiting, gives almost identical advice to women waiting for a husband. Prepare yourself. Take the time you have to grow closer to God, so He can make you ready for the man He wants you to marry. I highly recommend this book for single women hoping for or discerning marriage.

How good am I at waiting? How good am I at responding to God's call when it does happen? Do I have doubts that keep me from surrendering to God's will? Do I believe that He is not trying to punish me by making me wait, just refine me? Do I resent that I need to be refined in order to reach what I think I need? What is God calling me to do today in my life? Am I dropping everything to obey? Do I embrace the current purpose God has for me, regardless of whether I think it is useful or best? Do I ask God too many "why" questions?

I am definitely struggling to let go of everything I think I need, my nets and boats, and walk down the path Christ is leading me. He knows what is best, not me. That's right. He knows what is best, NOT me. And, even though I can't see one step in front of me, I will continue to pray for the courage to keep following Him, one step at a time.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sunday, January 20, 2008 ~ Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 1: 29-34

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John bore witness, "I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, `He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."


John believed. He proclaims in a confident voice that Jesus is the Son of God. Do I? How many times do I shy away from speaking about Christ or God's role in my life? Am I fearful of what others may think or say in response? In this Gospel passage, we are given the opportunity to renew our commitment to evangelization. This seems only proper in the secularized culture of today.

Jesus can and will take away the sins of the world. Our sins are great, but His power is greater. John the Baptist proclaimed this to all who would listen. He bore witness and baptized many to free them from their sins. This week is the 34th anniversary of our Supreme Court's horrendous decision to allow the murder of an unborn child at any time from conception until birth. Those who have cooperated in, supported, or been involved with the legal killing of more than 600,000,000 babies through chemical or surgical abortions in our country need Christ's mercy. Will you give it to them?

How often do I get a chance to subtly speak up for life? Do I speak properly to and about those women who are pregnant, speaking of the children as already living? These women are expecting the birth of their babies, but they already have a new family member! When I see pregnant women, do I remind my children there is a baby in their tummy, speaking loudly enough for those around me to hear? Do I encourage women to celebrate the closeness they share with their unborn child, in spite of her many discomforts?

Do I know anyone who has lost a baby due to miscarriage or stillbirth? Do I speak of and regard that family's loss with the same regard as one who has had an older child die? Most people agree it is a great tragedy for a parent to watch a child die, but we forget this applies to unborn children, as well. Holding a funeral and/or Mass for the children, sending cards of condolence, and offering prayers for the child and family are essential to healing these wounds. How do I minister to others who are in such pain?

Many thought John the Baptist was crazy. He wore a camel hair shirt and ate honey and locusts! What wild things do we do for our faith in Jesus Christ? Maybe some of our family or friends do think we are crazy for the unique way we live our lives, whether that be attending certain churches or Masses, catechizing our children, praying the family Rosary, or simply speaking of Christ in an easy way. Do I shy away from such skepticism? Or do I continue to shamelessly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and that He takes away even the worst sins? Do I love my neighbor enough to share Christ's mercy with him or her, regardless of the personal cost?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008 ~ The Baptism of the Lord

Matthew 3: 13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."


My children are fascinated by this story. My husband tells it to them over and over. I believe it proves to them that something miraculous happens at Baptisms, even without the dove from Heaven and with babies who cry through the whole rite. But, do I believe it? More singularly, do I believe my Baptism changed me? The curiosity of children surrounding baptism is pure and proper. How can I see baptism through a child's eyes?

Since I have been baptized, there is now an indelible mark on my soul, a mark that claims me for Christ and insists that I live by His teachings. Do I? Do I fully live out my baptismal call to live as He wills? What does my baptismal call mean to me?

It is fitting near the start of a new year that we examine our purpose and goals in carrying out our baptismal call to be Christ to others. How am I faring in my path to sanctity? Do I need to make corrections where I have gone astray? Are my priorities in proper order? How do I share Christ's love with those in my family? with friends? with co-workers? with strangers? Are my New Year's Resolutions all about me or are they about others?

In what ways am I continually growing in sanctity? What personal weaknesses sometimes lead me off course? What are the opportunities in my life that make it possible for me to grow closer to God on a daily basis? Most importantly, what things are (or can be) obstacles to my intimacy with Christ and service to others? Make a list of these strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and plan for how to capitalize on the opportunities and eliminate the obstacles this year.

Jesus was baptized to show us His humanity and His divinity all in one moment. The sacrament preceded his Proclamation of the Kingdom here on Earth. May we see our baptism through the eyes of a child once again and recognize that truly something remarkable happens. Let us embrace the graces given to us, so we can truly grow in holiness and greater intimacy with Christ Jesus this year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Sunday, January 6, 2008 ~ The Epiphany of the Lord

Matthew 2: 1-12

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: `And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'" Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.


I have previously reflected on the humility the Lord demands of us. In this Gospel, He is again demonstrating the high ideal of lowliness we should all strive to achieve. These three kings, wise men, magi, revered in their fields, travel miles and miles to follow a star and seek a new king. Unlike Herod, they are not concerned their kingdoms or wisdom will be usurped by a tiny baby. They only want to worship Him and pay Him homage.

How humble am I? In this new year, in what ways is Christ calling me to humble myself before His presence? Do I shudder at the thought of seeing my control over my life slip through my fingers or do I embrace each moment as God's gift, seeking God's will only? Have I surrendered my everything to Him?

In college a friend of mine wrote a song that touched me deeply. It was about the Gospel passage where the woman breaks her alabaster jar and anoints the Lord's head and dries her tears from his feet with her hair. The picture is breathtaking, as I imagine it. The chorus of her song is my biggest New Year's resolution, and I hope she won't mind if I share it with you, as well.

*from "Alabaster Jar" by Kristy Cranley & Rita Patino

Take my heart, O Lord, and break me.
Break my heart, Lord Jesus, and take me.
Open my arms and my eyes to Your will.
Here is my alabaster jar.

Sunday, December 30, 2007 ~ The Holy Family

***New Year's Resolution - update blog every week, preferably on Wednesdays :-)

Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called my son." But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead." And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."


Again, we have an amazing account of Joseph's faithfulness. According to this account, he received these messages in his dreams and the next morning, upon awaking, obeyed. When I was in college, discerning my vocation, one of our priests was known to tell young men discerning the priesthood that if they have a vocation, do not delay! I believe Pope John Paul the Great also exhorted young men this way.

How often do I delay in fulfilling God's will? Remembering the times I have felt complete peace about some decision or plan of action, have I acted immediately? Or do I wait? Do I begin to doubt if it was really from God or if I heard Him correctly? Do I begin to wonder if my own weakness will prevent His will from being accomplished? Do I believe the course is too drastic or sudden of a change for me and/or my family?

Joseph gets up after a dream and leaves one country for another. He subsequently gets up after a dream and changes his ultimate destination. Can you imagine traveling with a woman and young child, knowing He is Jesus the Lord and making such decisions? If you are a man and you can, then you are a worthy head of your family. If you are a woman, would you trust your husband if he came to you saying he saw an angel in his dream?

God speaks to us all in a multitude of mysterious ways, but most of us know the peace we feel when we hear Him speak. With the new year approaching, let us pray longingly for that peace, for that momentary encounter with the Divine, when we hear Him speak to us personally. And, let us pray for the faith and courage to obey His will without delay, turning over our human weakness to His almighty power.