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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Blog Tour: A Storyteller’s Guide to Joyful Service

Joyful Service by Tone Agnesi

I consider myself so privileged to know Tony Agnesi both as a colleague and friend as well as to be invited to share my thoughts on his latest book A Storyteller’s Guide to Joyful Service. In our conversations with one another, we have truly been given a camaraderie in ministry. A treasured community whereby we not only speak but listen to God at work within one another’s life and in the lives of those whom we serve. Tony’s gift is that he not only recognizes God’s grace daily, but is able to convey this awareness and call to action in an engaging and relatable way.

Towards the beginning of my own call to lay ministry those around me would often ask  why. Why would you choose to use your education and talents where there is little to no pay and even less recognition? Aren’t there other ways to give of your time? Where these questions fail, however, is in their inability to assess the immense value in the unseen or to quantify the joy that servant ministry provides in a complete surrender to God.

“Joy is an abiding sense that God is in control..it is a gift that grows out of faith, gratitude, grace and love, the delight in being alive”. Tony Agnesi

The difficulty is that while many of us, as Christians, have no problem understanding the source of our gifts as God, we are still reluctant to hand over the reins to Him to use as He sees fit.  We seek happiness but fail to realize that we are not the orchestrators of that happiness. Rather, as Tony so wonderfully articulates,

“God has been using people as instruments since creation and you can participate simply by checking in for duty.”

And though undoubtedly you will still experience challenging times in your life, seeing God’s grace in the lives of others lays the foundation of trust for the work ahead in your own. This can be as simple as the witness of a silent prayerful gesture “of gratitude and humility” raised to heaven that ultimately “restores your faith in humanity”.  Or, it can be that graced awareness that God is asking to not only your gifts but your challenges to inspire change in the lives of others.

To serve and not count the cost…

A lofty dream you say? So some might very well think of sainthood. Quite often we place the saints on ornate gilded pedestals ignoring the reality of the lives that they had. It isn’t that their path was easy or that they were created with greater tolerance and fortitude. It is that they ceased to strive to do it on their own. Relying on Christ, they offered both success and failure to put to God’s use. And more often than not, it was in their own challenges and failures that God’s glory was the most beautifully revealed. For, in seeking God’s plan for your life, as Catherine of Siena is often quoted, you can fully “be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” with love and holiness. Alternatively, Tony notes, “a lack of action will cause us to be consumed in a fire of indifference” .

This re-gifting is essential in our discipleship for it demands a free will offering. Our choice- to recognize the Creator and giver of all gifts and our conscious decision to give our yes to His will in our lives and in the world. Then even those things we do in the course of our normal day, not typically viewed as ministry, become tools in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ.  As Tony remarks,

“We are called by Our Lord to go and make disciples of those we meet, and by example bring them into an understanding of our faith. We are called to live the faith by our words and actions.”

In doing so we may just see the difficulties we experience as the very stuff that God is using to grow us as disciples ourselves and come to know the amazing joy that God has to offer!

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Joy

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Joy is such a desired virtue and yet so often we settle for poor substitutes or temporary glimpses of happiness. Where is joy to be found and what is required of us? Let’s take a walk with the saints and soon-to-be saints today..

The following are my top 15 quotes (in no particular order) on joy.

  1. Joy does not simply happen to us-we have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday. Henri J. M.Nouwen
  2. ” Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.” — St. Philip Neri
  3. Peace begins with a smile—smile five times a day at someone you don’t really want to smile at all—do it for peace. So let us radiate peace…and extinguish in the world and in the hearts of all men all hatred and love for power. — St.Teresa of Calcutta
  4. “And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst.”― Pope FrancisThe Church of Mercy
  5. Be humble, be simple-bring joy to others.― St. Madeline Sophie Barat
  6. Joy is very infectious; therefore, be always full of joy..it is a net of love by which you can catch souls.. ― St.Teresa of Calcutta
  7. The secret to happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that he in his goodness sends to us day after day. ―  Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
  8. Jesus is happy to come with us, as truth is happy to be spoken, as life to be lived, as light to be lit, as love is to be loved, as joy to be given, as peace to be spread.
    Saint Francis of Assisi
  9. “People are made for happiness. Rightly, then, you thirst for happiness. Christ has the answerto this desire of yours. But he asks you to trust him.  Pope John Paul II (World Youth Day 2002)
  10. “Joy is the most infallible sign of
    the presence of God.”
    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
  11. How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts. —Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel (261).
  12. Once, when I was praying, Jesus pervaded all my soul, darkness melted away, and I heard these words within me: You are My joy; you are My heart’s delight. From that moment I felt the Most Holy Trinity in my heart; that is to say, within myself. I felt that I was inundated with Divine light. Since then, my soul has been in intimate communion with God, like a child with its beloved Father. Saint Faustina
  13. “Laugh and grow strong” — St. Ignatius of Loyola
  14. “You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. You will know. You will know when it’s right.”
    ― Dorothy Day
  15. “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us”-Saint Teresa of Avila

With

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Wit & Wisdom: Joy

 

Joy is such a desired virtue and yet so often we settle for poor substitutes or temporary glimpses of happiness. Where is joy to be found and what is required of us? Let’s take a walk with the saints and soon-to-be saints today..

The following are my top 15 quotes (in no particular order) on joy.

  1. Joy does not simply happen to us-we have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday. Henri J. M.Nouwen
  2. ” Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.” — St. Philip Neri
  3. Peace begins with a smile—smile five times a day at someone you don’t really want to smile at all—do it for peace. So let us radiate peace…and extinguish in the world and in the hearts of all men all hatred and love for power. — Blessed Mother Teresa
  4. “And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst.”― Pope FrancisThe Church of Mercy
  5. Be humble, be simple-bring joy to others.― St. Madeline Sophie Barat
  6. Joy is very infectious; therefore, be always full of joy..it is a net of love by which you can catch souls.. ― Blessed Mother Teresa
  7. The secret to happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that he in his goodness sends to us day after day. ―  Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
  8. Jesus is happy to come with us, as truth is happy to be spoken, as life to be lived, as light to be lit, as love is to be loved, as joy to be given, as peace to be spread.
    Saint Francis of Assisi
  9. “People are made for happiness. Rightly, then, you thirst for happiness. Christ has the answerto this desire of yours. But he asks you to trust him.  Pope John Paul II (World Youth Day 2002)
  10. “Joy is the most infallible sign of
    the presence of God.”
    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
  11. How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts. —Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel (261).
  12. Once, when I was praying, Jesus pervaded all my soul, darkness melted away, and I heard these words within me: You are My joy; you are My heart’s delight. From that moment I felt the Most Holy Trinity in my heart; that is to say, within myself. I felt that I was inundated with Divine light. Since then, my soul has been in intimate communion with God, like a child with its beloved Father. Saint Faustina
  13. “Laugh and grow strong” — St. Ignatius of Loyola
  14. “You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. You will know. You will know when it’s right.”
    ― Dorothy Day
  15. “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us”-Saint Teresa of Avila

With

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Worth Revisiting: Seeking Joy Too

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). In God alone is where we discover true joy, a wellspring that cannot ever truly be taken away.  Likewise, God’s love does not only prompt joy for ourselves,  but overflows and spills out into the lives of all of our families and communities as they too encounter its beauty in us.  It is a joy that is always new and fully intended to be shared with others!


Seeking Joy1Seeking Joy  2

(originally published on 8/19/14)

1. Seeking the joy of God..

necessitates that we recognize our own unique gifts that God has given us rather than envying the gifts that others might possess.

Each of us has been created for a purpose, though the details of which, we might not be aware of it just yet. When we want that which God has given others, then we fail to appreciate God’s gifts to us. Instead, our aim should be to strengthen the gifts that we have been given, whether it be speaking, listening, teaching, or guiding others in the call to holiness and in the mission and life of the Church. So, too, I would add, God grants additional charisms or gifts, when needed, if we remain open to the Holy Spirit and God’s will in our lives.

2. Making space for God means..

identifying that which seeks to steal our joy, and serves to distance us from God and those we love.

When we shed these things, quite profoundly through reconciliation, we open ourselves up to God at work in our everyday. Then we start seeing God too in the little things that we do that also provide countless joy in the lives of others.

3. This is what God wants for us! We were not created to live in sorrow, though we all experience this at some point in our lives. We all know that with Christ’s birth the heavens rejoiced, so too is God’s joy for each one of us. Yet, the things of this world will bring us but temporary happiness, but God’s joy is eternal. When we surrender our hearts, trust, and allow God to take the lead, we will find true joy at last.

“Let this experience imprinted in the Gospel, be imprinted in our hearts and in our lives. Let the joyous wonder of Easter Sunday radiate through our thoughts , looks, attitudes , gestures and words …” Pope Francis (Regina Coeli address, Apr. 22, 2014.)