Worth Revisiting: Worn and Weathered

Physically and mentally exhausted, and having just navigated through a harried drive home I slumped through the door. Admittedly this extroverted people loving person was not in the mood to be in community for the rest of the evening. Yet, since being a wife and a mother total isolation is never a true viable option, I needed a plan b. Unfortunately I had determined, this master plan would have to wait as dinner would not make itself.

As I worked, however, I began to reflect on the days prior and just how I had found myself in this unpleasant state. I had allowed project deadlines, emails and unexpected conversations to wear my customarily sweet disposition down its foundation. Truthfully, I was beginning to feel much like the weathered statue of Mary that sat in my backyard looked. Though clearly resembling the beautiful image of Mary, time and environment had chipped her exterior paint and weathered parts of her revealing a rough texture underneath. Well loved and remaining a figure of grace, humility and faithfulness she had endured many a New England winter. Accordingly, she needed a new coat of paint and a grotto again and I could not help but see that I too needed the same.

“For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock” Psalm 27:5

This is when I remembered my spiritual director’s advice.

It’s ok, in fact necessary, for each one of us to take time away to get away and be with God. Scripturally, time and time again we see Jesus seek this respite to pray, connect and renew with his Father. (Mark 1:35, Mark 14:39Luke 5:16 , Matthew 14:23 , Luke 6:12) And while I am certain he considered the apostles good friends, perhaps he also needed this time to discern how best to lead them given their unique personalities, gifts and limitations.  Whether it be a desert, mountain top, or seaside the demands of the world around us compel us to find this space in the midst of our daily life.

We, like Jesus, need this time to care for our soul so that we can begin to love others as God loves us.  While the conversation might entail a good deal of self righteous complaining, without a doubt I usually discover moments where I have missed the mark that day. Things said or thought out of frustration instead of prayerfully considering. Instances where I lacked compassion or allowed the circumstances to steal my joy and peace.

Yet, God does not seek us to remain in a state of desolation over these misgivings but in prayer is there to guide us to learn and discern. Here God speaks, a burning flame reminding us how very much we are loved and his promise to always be with us. Lovingly leading us from a darkened state of exhaustion and frustration, to an openness to assent to the life he has planned.

“Today Father I seek to rest in your embrace. I offer up all of my concerns, irritations, sorrows, hopes and fears. I know that you can handle all of these and oh so much more. A brokenness made beautiful and whole. You love me as I am, yet call me to an incredible life in You. Thank you Father, for this time to be recreated anew. Lead me now to serve you with a renewed purpose and a spirit of joy!”

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Saying Yes When You Should Be Saying No?

Today, perhaps you find that you had  much rather be saying yes to the many things that come your way than even contemplating the word no. Maybe, you do so out of a well intended desire to please others, or the thrill  from successfully multitasking a multitude of tasks. And still, though your yes may result in a benefit for yourself, your family, friends, or community does not mean that it is still the answer that God may have intended for you to give.

This is not an easy message for us as Christians, who are trained to offer our time and talents to the service of those placed within our care. We take the scripture from Romans 12 urging us all to present our bodies as a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” and neglect to heed the verses to follow:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Discernment isn’t an add on when we find ourselves confused as to what path to take but it is essential in every choice we make. Even those opportunities which are in themselves good and promise to be fruitful. Take a moment to consider, if you will, whether you are inviting God into each of your decision making moments or just some of them. If not, why not?

Pride

Ah, yes..that clever and insidious sin of pride. It creeps into even the smallest of places leaving us thinking foolishly that we are the only the only ones that can complete a task or the best one to do so.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

Thus, inevitably we must prayerfully discern why we feel that our yes is needed and be careful not to take on a project out of pride. But wait..you mean someone else might be called to take on a challenge, or be given gifts to fit the purpose?

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another..” Romans 12: 1-21

We are not being asked to do it all ourselves but in fact, are to call forth the gifts in our brothers and sisters to build up the body of Christ. Those around us do not always see their own gifts and releasing our own prideful motivation allows God to move others into action. It also permits each one of us to glimpse God actively at work as the best human resource manager and project manager for this world in which we live in.

People Pleasing

So, maybe we do not feel we are the best qualified, are already over committed or not really inclined to take on a task but do so because we would like to say yes to the person who has asked. This is not a good motivation either yet admittedly is an easy trap for the kind hearted Christian. In parish ministry we often find the same people being called upon time and time again. They want to be helpful and usually are, but offer a yes when honestly it should be a no. Then later, burned out and tasked beyond reason they leave serving because there simply is no more to give. Recognizing your own need to renew and refill is a valid and essential reason to say no. While initially difficult to do, as well as an adjustment for the one asking it may be the right answer. In making space for quality  prayer time and detachment from the reaction or approval of others we can begin to see that  God’s approval is the only one that matters.

Reflect:

Is there a decision in my day today that I might not be needed to say yes to? Have I invited God into the task? Would others be better served by my no?  

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Motherhood: This Miracle of Love

“Before you were conceived, I wanted you. Before you were born, I loved you. Before you were an hour, I would die for you. This is the miracle of love.”
― Maureen Hawkins

When you truly think about it, motherhood never promises praise or perfection either in our children or in ourselves. So why do we answer this call, why do we choose this as a vocation in a world that encourages self-fulfillment over self-denial, and control over surrender? Though we may begin will idealistic stirrings, we soon realize that the sacred trust from God that we have been given, in each tiny creation, will both challenge and surprise us at every turn.

I remember so clearly the awe I had at watching each of my children discover and embrace the world around them. Eyes wide, and undaunted they crawled, walked and sprinted headfirst. All the while, I would busy myself trying to remove the obstacles or better still to caution them to be mindful themselves of what might lie ahead. In truth, here was this unbelievable glimpse of myself captured in a diminutive frame and operating under a completely different guidance system! And the more I sought control, the more I realized how little I actually had.

“The future is not in our hands. We have no power over it. We can act only today— for  yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is yet to come. We have only today. If we help our children to be what they should be today, they will have the necessary courage to face life with greater love.” St. Teresa of Calcutta

This is where God stepped in on my own journey both as a mother and a child of God. Suddenly, I realized both the infinite love my heavenly Father had and how he sought to guide me as well. Mistaken for self-sufficiency and decisiveness, the desire for control had me operating much like my bruised knee toddler when things went wrong. Likewise, what I longed for was the joy of knowing that when I ran, whose arms I was indeed running towards.

As a small child I remember my own detailed oriented mom, in frequent prayer. In small moments of silence, the front seat of our car would be suddenly transformed into a chapel, and her spirit restored.   “What are you doing Mom?” , I asked one day. In failing to answer me immediately, I became even more curious. “Wait.”, she said, holding up her hand. Opening her eyes and turning towards me she smiled, “Just needed to pause and talk to God a bit.” And in that instant whatever she had been worrying about was gone. She knew that her motherhood and sanity depended on these talks.

In my own vocation of motherhood, I too have taken to quiet, enduring interludes of prayer to ferry away concerns, and renew me in my day. What I can’t change or handle Christ can, and like the very best of friends is happy when I call on him. Rain or shine, I know that I am neither alone or without hope. Today,  I have let go of being the perfect mom and in exchange have invited perfection itself to work in the beautiful mess of life.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Where We Are Meant To Be

Lately, I have found myself marveling once again at the way God can lead us in our ordinary day if we are receptive and listening. Whether it be an unplanned event, conversation, or the bedside of a friend- unimaginable grace and surprises await when we simply say yes to God’s movement in our day. Sometimes even God will give our souls an extra nudge to encourage our lazy spiritual dispositions when it is particularly important. Perhaps most amazing is when your examen leads you to realize that, because you had in fact listened, you had been truly blessed.

Before I lay down to sleep one night last week, I heard so clearly in prayer how God had intended the following day to go. Admittedly, I had wanted to sleep in the next day but God was asking me to listen. So, having hurried to make it to Mass I slid in a pew near the back with communion pyx in hand. From that moment on, there was such peace, and intentionality found with everything that I was encounter that day. To no surprise, I ran into someone who I hadn’t seen in a year who had unexpectedly thought of me that morning and decided to go to Mass. Then was the hospital visit for a very dear priest friend of mine, who despite the circumstances remains a fountain of peace and inner joy. As we spoke and prayed the Our Father together I could not help but wonder who was receiving the greater blessing, him or I.

Throughout my day, that God had planned, there were many more sacred moments that had I been recalcitrant I indeed would have missed. Whatever you do, you cannot go wrong by turning over your day and giving God the lead. Below is a prayer that echoes this idea of receptivity and discernment and can be especially fruitful first thing in the morning.

Prayer for Choosing a State of Life

From all eternity, O Lord, you planned my very existence and my destiny. You wrapped me in your love in baptism and gave me the faith to lead me to an eternal life of happiness with you. You have showered me with your graces and you have been always ready with your mercy and forgiveness when I have fallen. Now I beg you for the light I so earnestly need that I may find the way of life in which lies the best fulfillment of your will. Whatever state this may be, give me the grace necessary to embrace it with love of your holy will, as devotedly as your Mother did your will. I offer myself to you now, trusting in your wisdom and love to direct me in working out my salvation and in helping others to know and come close to you, so that I may find my reward in union with you for ever and ever. Amen.

From Finding God in All Things: A Marquette Prayer Book © 2009 Marquette University Press.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Witness the Resurrection

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:10

There is a moment at the Easter Vigil where the whole atmosphere seems to be transformed from tranquil, dim and somber to one of joyful euphonious illumination. It was here that this scripture found me and resonated the joy present for these women. The austere mournful mystery of the tomb revealed not as defeat but as Christ’s victory over death, and we as witnesses to that certainty. And in an instant, with feet set on the path and my heart filled joy I yearn to share the Good News to everyone I encounter. “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” As Archbishop Fulton Sheen would say,  our testimony is but

“to tell people about the life and death of Christ. Every other approach is a waste.”

And yet..why don’t we?

With dishes done, and our family dissipated we can so easily let our Easter promises rest at the close of the day. Yet, the fact should not escape us, as Catholics, that Easter comprises a entire season. A period of 50 days beginning with Easter and concluding with Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Where, we are then sent forth to the ends of the earth to continue our witness to others of the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives today.

For, “modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. St. Pope Paul VI

And what about when we experience opposition from others to our witness?

Should that be a reason for our idleness or should we through prayer and perseverance continue to run the race? St. Maximillian Kolbe knew where the real battle lay, and what was found in Christ that no one could take away or refute.

“No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?”

So as each of us goes forward this Easter season we must as the disciples did, search our hearts and allow the presence of the risen Christ to comfort and strengthen us for reception of the Holy Spirit.

Pray:

Lord, we are overwhelmed at the depth of your love and mercy for us- all the way to the cross. We stand amazed as we gaze at the empty tomb and wonder what you would have us do in the days ahead.  Yet, you have not left us alone. Your victory you share with us as well as your cross. Please let our joyful encounter be our sincere prayer and sacrifice as we seek to witness the truth of your glorious resurrection. Amen.

Peace,

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Soulful Struggles

“What’s healthy for my soul on a given night depends a lot on what I am struggling with more. Am I …losing vitality, energy, hope and graciousness in my life? Or, conversely, am I full of life and energy but so full of it that I am falling apart, dissipating, losing my sense of self” Fr. Ron Rolheiser, Wrestling with God

Though it may come as a bit of a surprise, and simply as a part of our human condition, we may wrestle with this soulful struggle more times than we care to admit. Somewhere between the need to have our soul enkindled, and all the while not burning out ourselves we are seeking to live out our divinely created purpose in this world. Innately our souls, made in the image of our Father, mutually comprise compassion and a desire to give endlessly and yet yearn for a greatness beyond our human limitations.

We can see this in countless ways daily in each of our lives. Perhaps in the parent who gives selflessly albeit happily to their vocation as mother or father and yet has other God given gifts that await discovery and use. Or, in the person who has achieved a position of success in this world and still struggles with how to truly give of themselves. Hardened to the concerns of others, who through prior hurt or circumstance, has now become unable to share their soul with another. Even still, we see it more often in the  sometimes obscure choices that we encounter each day. In small innocuous ways, we are challenged in our ability to walk with one another and still find the strength to do the more that we are called to be.

And it isn’t that that all of these are choices between good or bad. Quite often, it is a choice between two competing “goods”. Do we help the neighbor whose husband recently entered assisted living and can no longer maintain her yard? Or do we spend the afternoon at home to recoup after a hard week at work? Do I get to work early to get ahead, or do I attempt to make daily Mass today? How do we prioritize or discern amid these competing desires?

Prayer. Known to be the greatest recourse of sinners, prayer is the lifeline that we have to tap into God’s will for our lives. It is a place where we are made aware of the need for love, hope and renewal in our lives but also where we receive the energy and fire to pursue that will daily. And while we may think we would like to have it all figured out, that beautiful mystery intrigues us and demands our connectedness to God.

“Put God first, and everything else will follow.”

In a conversation as a young boy, my husband’s grandfather instilled in him this simple principle of life to live by. One, that has remained with him all these years when other  mantras or commitments have failed. It is to make space in your life for God’s will, to take time to grow in friendship with Christ, and to invite the Holy Spirit to guide you in decisions big and small. While weekly Mass is an essential part of the living out of our faith,  there is so much more that God wishes to be a part of. In order to hear God’s voice and receive guidance regularly, we need to make time to talk (and listen) to him.

Likewise, we couldn’t eat but one meal a week to sustain us physically, so why would we need but one for our spiritual health?  Mass is intended to be a wellness center, not only a critical care unit when times are difficult. The Eucharist and the word of God are our lifelines, here we receive both the real presence of Christ and are given the aid to better discern God’s movements amidst our daily life. In this way, when we do struggle we can recognize that God is there, ready to get his hands dirty in the mess of life and restore the brokenness that we feel.

“Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles…
Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women, were added to them. Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats..” Acts 5:12-15

Reflect:

Where am I struggling today? Has my heart hardened to the suffering of the world, or the needs of others? Or do I neglect myself forgetting that I too am important in God’s eyes?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Journey Through the Sacraments


The other day I was having a conversation once again with a friend of mine who is the parent of a teen who was now experiencing  a conflict about her daughter’s unwillingness to attend church. Her daughter argued that she,

“does not need to go to church or receive the sacraments to experience God in her life because she experiences God in creation. Further that  church is boring and most of the people who attend are hypocrites anyway”.

This certainly is not the first time many of us have become acquainted with this perspective,  and yet how would we both address the daughter’s concerns and that of her parents?  

It must be noted that this discussion fully involves the skill of listening, even more so than providing a correct answer. Allowing each a chance to be heard, to articulate their concern is the first step in being open to consider how God might be meeting these concerns in every situation. Yet, there are theological premises here that can be invaluable in such a discussion as this.

To begin, I would say yes, we can encounter God in creation! There is no doubt that when we look at a sunrise or the beautiful world around us that God is there. We innately sense our relatedness and connectivity to the Creator of it all. Yet, this is the broadest setting in which we can experience God’s presence and action. For, in and through the church and the sacraments we are given the opportunity to visibly and intimately experience God’s grace through God’s greatest gift of Himself that of Jesus his son.

Here are tangible moments where we are met with mercy, love and unconditional forgiveness that are welcoming, nourishing and healing, felt on both personal level and in unity as a community. This is the beauty of our faith- it speaks not only to our desire for relationship with our Creator, but to our longing to be in relationship and communion with one another. Moreover, God’s offer of love, mercy and forgiveness is continuous so should our response to his offer be.

Have you thought recently about the sacraments? Perhaps you are thinking that they are simply an event to be completed once that no longer requires any new action on your part?

If so, maybe that is why your experience of church has become boring and one dimensional. Let’s take a new look at a few of the sacraments:

 In Baptism

you were cleansed, blessed and welcomed into community, with promises from your parents, grandparents and the church to help guide and support you in responding to God’s offer. Each time you bless yourself, or are making a professing of faith you are giving your response and yes to that offer of God’s salvation in your life.

In the Eucharist

we are given the opportunity to join our yes to that given by Christ on the cross. There is Christ’s offer of himself in ultimate love and mercy for us, but also we bring all that we are and do and offer it to God as well. We bring all of our strengths, and weaknesses, all of our joys and sorrows. We bring, in truth, our brokenness. Notice that I said “our” because we do this also as a community. So, when you speak of hypocrisy- we all come knowing that there are times when we have sinned and our relationship with God has suffered.

In the Eucharist we are renewing that relationship, and recommitting ourselves with our lives.  All of this requires our participation and our response. Do we look for Christ’s presence in the priest? In the people gathered? In the reading of the word, listening? In the offering of the gifts and see Christ’s sacrifice and reconciliation to us? How do we respond? Jesus took the bread, blessed, broke it and shared it with all- we are called to do the same both in bread but also with our very lives. And as such we need to be committed to dealing with hunger, poverty and justice in the world around us.

In Reconciliation

we are giving the opportunity to experience and celebrate God’s grace, love, mercy and forgiveness in our lives and in community. God isn’t as concerned with the “mistakes” but with repairing the relationship that has suffered. Jesus takes our frailties, and our  with health, peace, and hope. We are called to seek to reconcile or repair relationships, love justice, and seek peace and hope for those who have no hope.

Think for a moment about your relationship with your best friend. If you think about your relationship with God, how could this be better? Have you made time for your friendship with God in prayer, answered his calls of love and grace? Have you said sorry when you realize that you have chosen to act unloving? In those times, we don’t just hurt ourselves but our choices effect others we love and the community in relationship. Therefore, in penance we are given a chance to receive forgiveness, to show we are sorry and to repair these relationships..and celebrate as a community.

Even Confirmation

is not an end but a challenge to go forth and to be a visible sign of the body of Christ in the world. God confirms you as a member of the body of Christ and then the response and choice is yours. It is a call to a higher standard to strive for love, mercy and peace not only within the doors of the church but in the world.

To the parents specifically, there is a challenge to be a model of faith: more than going through the motions. Also seek to encourage your child to become involved in youth and peer ministry activities so that they can experience community more fully. Participate in outreach activities together, so that they too can come to understand God’s offer and our response to care for others, to love deeply and show forgiveness and mercy.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Holy Week

The sights, sounds and scents of Holy Week that so permeate our remembrance of Easter are indeed rooted in centuries of tradition. One look around and one immediately sees layers of history and meaning in every ritual movement, prayers embedded within the hearts of a people of faith.  From the swish of the robes, to the smell of frankincense and lilies, and the lofty notes of the Exsultet sung we are drawn into the sacredness of this moment in time. More than a sign, these symbols call us to look beyond the object itself to something deeper, more meaningful, and often mysterious to be truly experienced in this same multi-layered way.

Was there one special moment that stood out for you? Did you feel the invitation to connect, to go deeper and answer God with the fullness of your heart?

After countless Triduum masses, I have found that only rarely is the answer ever the same. That is the beauty of opening yourself up to the experience of the mysteries of Holy Week again and again. Personally, I never tire of hearing the profound impressions and recollections that are taken forth from a mass. Or even the silent expression of joy or love that rests of the faces of those in attendance as they leave the doors of the church.

This all happens in spite of our best efforts, our missteps and last minute adjustments made in the course of preparation of the mass. God perfects and works through all of our faults to reach out to each person gathered in community. If but for an instant, I am certain of the unworthiness of my own efforts I am also reminded of the One far greater than myself. For that I am so truly thankful!

With that being said..those that serve for these masses carry with them the stories of errors and omissions and how God worked through all for good. One such year, due to windy weather, the option to light the Pascal fire indoors was made. Needless to say, the addition of extra isopropyl alcohol was a perfect mix to set off the silent smoke alarms, thereby alerting the fire department. The dark church, gathered for Easter Vigil, was filled with swirling red lights, and the entrance of several concerned firemen. All this unbeknownst to our beloved priest who was enthralled in singing the Exsultet and had his back to the congregation. None noted that evening that this detracted from the mass, but had in fact added to the sense of community already present.

I thought of this story as we were waiting to make the call for the fire at this year’s Easter Vigil with the promise of high winds throughout the day. Though this concern was averted, just minutes before the start of mass we found ourselves furiously working to put together more individual votive candles. The box of holders, placed near the ceiling could only be reached with the hook of the snuffer and the long arm of the priest…while standing on the counter top!

“Ministranti-ctyrak” by OndraZ

 With God’s presence as the only guarantee- through the years, I have determined these are my top 5 tips for altar servers.

  1. In serving, it’s all about what God does in the celebration of the mass. Work as if to blend into the scene. Be well rested, fed, on time, and joyful.
  2. There is a significant need for ponytail holders. Why? Because, girls, the overabundance of candles present at Holy Week and long hair do not mix well.
  3. Thurifers: Do not rest the thurible on the carpet or under the hem of the your robe. There is no need for a new martyr of the faith due to complacency.
  4. Do your best and give God the rest. Rather than becoming anxious over what you did or failed to do, let God work through it.
  5. Sing and pray- You are there to serve but it’s important that you too recognize the invitation to participate and pause for God’s voice.

With Easter Joy,

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Worth Revisiting: Entering In

Since I was small child, springtime has always been a celebration of life. This I found especially true in the South where tulips, irises, and lilies make their way early on through winter’s barren landscape.  And always so anxious to see this sight, I all too neglected to stop and befittingly reflect on the season left behind. Easter too, as a young Southern Baptist, also entailed this liturgically forward press towards life. Though perhaps not intentionally, it had become for many a celebration of the risen Christ, without the full look back at the steps that had brought us there. Amidst the shopping for the perfect Easter dress, coloring eggs, and the plan for dinner there were ample days left bereft of the journey our savior walked.

While these same observations could be made of any of us at a given time, there is within the Catholic faith the graced gift and provision of Holy Week that allows us to enter in. It is the invitation to enter into not only the celebration of life but also into the sacred mystery of Christ’s death. From the swaying of branches and cheers of “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday to Easter we are beckoned to walk beside, and accompany Jesus on the journey ahead. From humble students of the suffering servant and participants in the first Eucharist, we are summoned to share in his anguish in the garden and keep watch. For, the enemies are pressing in and the time draws near when His sacrifice will be for all the world to see.

This incomparable spotless lamb, this gift of a Father’s love given so that we may come to know what love truly is, entreats our response. For, how can we ever truly comprehend or appreciate our redemption if we deny ourselves this time with Jesus on the way to the cross? Or the repose with Mary and John at the sight of God’s only son, crucified and suspended by the weight of the world? To do so is a privilege, one bought and paid for over two thousand centuries ago, and yet a sacred journey that we are each year implored to once again enter into.

Today as an adult, I not only joyously await the liveliness and celebration of Easter but indeed Holy Week itself. In fact, I have come to truly cherish the quiet time spent in church in anticipation before each Triduum Mass. Here I mentally walk through each liturgical motion and its significance as I pause to consider the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior. Such a incredible faith tradition we have where Christ’s presence can so fully be experienced! Please accept this gracious invitation to participate in the Triduum, from Holy Thursday, Good Friday to Easter Vigil.

Reflect:

Am I merely walking through the motions of this Lenten season? Is my gaze so fixed on the Resurrection that I am failing to enter into the mystery of Christ’s Passion and death?

Peace,

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Living Redeemed

“A pessimism of life is not Christian. It is rooted in not knowing that you are forgiven, it is rooted in not feeling the caress of God. And the Gospel, we may say, shows us this joy.” We must make “every effort to show that we believe we are redeemed, that the Lord has forgiven us everything.” Pope Francis, general audience, 12/21/17.

During Lent, as Catholics, we often speak of things given up or challenges taken on all with the intention of growing closer to God. Even the smallest thing can subtly secure a place of importance in our lives, usurping family, friends, and even Christ as the center of our lives. And at some point in our faith, each of us has felt this pull away from temptation and sin, towards God’s limitless love and mercy. Yet once aware and received, do we live it… do we live our life knowing that we are redeemed?

The first part to this you see is knowing that we are a people forgiven. Even before we speak of it, that our sin is known, but also ready to be pardoned. That though there is nothing that we can do to earn God’s grace, that it is there in anticipation -already won by Christ’s victory on the cross. Yet, part of the difficulty lies in our own struggle with forgiveness including that of forgiving ourselves. We hold onto our fears, faults and limitations and then place those upon God. Nevertheless, our God is a promise keeper and not bound by our human imaginations always ready to welcome us home.

Several years ago, I had an unexpected but similar conversation with a man then in his 50s who had stopped into Starbucks for a coffee. Noticing my t-shirt which sported one word forgiven, with forgive highlighted, he had felt compelled to ask the question. “Pardon me, but I could not help but notice your t-shirt..What is it that you could ever have to be forgiven for?”  Oh, what a conversation starter that turned out to be!

Marketing statistics note that people will read and remember a t-shirt slogan when they may not crack open a book, or even remember your name. In this case, he had looked at me, my smile and made his own presumption as to what a sinful person should look like and in general what Christianity represented. “Unfortunately, your supposition is not uncommon, I said, that as Christians we have given a false face to the incredible gift of grace and redemption. And while undoubtedly I fall short every day, I live knowing that I am loved beyond measure. How could I ever not be joyful about that? ”

With that, his look of curiosity and concern turned to a smile.  Sharing a bit of his childhood faith, he explained how life and circumstances had moved him away from church. How every time he had considered returning he had been met with an unconvincing expression of gloominess, judgement or hypocritical behavior. “Well though we are to be the body of Christ in this world, the human part of us can, at times, behave more like an amputated limb.” I quipped.  “When that happens it means that we too, even temporarily, have forgotten the love and mercy of Christ.”

Our children more easily understand what we, as adults, have made such a formidable challenge- that we are unconditionally loved. They come to us with penitent hearts and  tears but with a certain assurance too that they will be forgiven. And just as soon as they are, the sadness is replaced with joy and they are free to embrace the day and one another. With Easter upon us, let us live today with that same joy, and trust in God’s mercy, as a people redeemed, reclaimed and loved.

Pray:

“Jesus you have won the victory, the power of your life shines in me. Though I do not always live this life perfectly, I rest in knowing my life is perfected in you.  And if you send someone to me today that needs to hear this message of love and forgiveness may I reflect this light of joy in my redemption.”

Peace,

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