Happy Easter-Love is the Reason!

He is Risen!  Alleluia!  These are joyous days!   We have to be careful that we don’t think that since Lent and Re-routing are over that it is time to get back to “normal” life.  “Normal” life, whatever that is,  is over.  Jesus has given us new life in Him and reasons not to be afraid!   Jesus said to his disciples (He says to us) in today’s Gospel,  “Peace be with you. But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” (Luke 24:36-39)

Jesus is standing with all of us. He never abandoned us.  He is standing in our homes and in our work place and and He is asking us to be a witness of what we have just experienced during this past Holy Week.  We were present for the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, we shared in his sorrow and passion on Good Friday, and we laid Him in a tomb on Holy Saturday.  But as night fell, we began to celebrate our awakening of the hope in the Resurrection.  We witnessed new disciples come into the church and declare that they wanted to be baptized with Christ and be brought into communion with the church through the Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation.  We were present there as witnesses and supporters of our new brothers and sisters in Christ.  On Easter Sunday, we rejoiced in the Resurrection as Jesus called us to a new life to be with Him forever and to bring others to Him.  Holy Week was a week full of emotions because we were there!  We felt and experienced all of it.

Every Sunday, we are called over and over again to share in the Last Supper, to renounce our sins and reflect on the passion, and to share in the Resurrection of our Lord by telling others of the difference He has made in our lives.  Easter allows us to commit again to be disciples of Jesus.  Every Sunday, we are called to commit again to be disciples of Jesus.  After Lent, we should be different.  After every Mass, we should be different.

Two years ago, my husband spent Holy Week in the hospital dying from cancer.  We intimately shared in the passion of our Lord that week.  Watching someone you love go through tremendous suffering  is unbearable and yet, through that suffering, you learn to love deeper.  On Easter Sunday morning, I arrived at the hospital after the sunrise Mass, to find out that he had fallen in the middle of the night and had broken his shoulder.  He wouldn’t let the hospital call me because he didn’t want me to worry and lose any more sleep.  “No greater love has a man, than to lay down his life for his friends.”  The kids and I  sat with him  as he told our doctor about how our Lord had risen today and had died for our sins.  I was so proud of Brian that day, and a little bit jealous that he could so freely express how much he loved God.  He was so happy and he spoke like an excited child.  The doctor, out of great respect, sat and listened to every word Brian said.   In that moment, all of our sins and wounds, both as a couple and as individuals were forgotten, and all I could see was this beautiful man who brought people to Jesus in his own way–in the way that God called him to personally do it.

There is no one right way to bring others to Jesus.  He has called each of us in our own unique way to spread the Gospel.  No one is exempt from the calling. There is no sinner that is exempt from the calling.   The calling is not just for priests and nuns.  The calling is for all of us–to go out and joyfully share the Gospel with everyone.  We are called to be “beautiful” as Fr. John said in his Easter Vigil homily (find it at olgcparish.net) because it attracts others to Jesus.

In these days of Easter,  let’s go out as true apostles and share the goodness, the Truth, the beauty and the ultimate reason for our joy!

Good and Gracious Father,

I find myself today filled with intense happiness.  I am grateful for the love you have for me. This was a Holy Week like no other. So often during Lent and Holy Week, the Evil One can get on my back and in my head, but not this year! Thanks be to God!  I am open to whatever you want me to do.  Let every celebration of the Eucharist be a reminder of your great love.   You are not a tyrant God. You are a God of love.  Help me to be a light to the world.  Help me to be the face of Jesus and to see the face of Jesus in everyone I meet. Rejoice! ! Christ is Risen! Alleluia! 

(I will be continuing this blog in some format–stay tuned!)

 

 

 

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Week 13-Toll Road

Like every day, today’s Gospel is speaking to each of us.  “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  (Matthew 26:14-25).  He is not talking to the empty space in the pew next to me. He is talking to me and He is talking to you.  How often do we want to focus on the sins of others instead of our own sins?  I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of Mary with some friends at church this morning.  There was a time when I would have been embarrassed to admit that I have never prayed these before because I didn’t want to be judged by other “holier Catholics.”  I have learned over the years that there is no “select” group of Catholics.  We are all on the same journey, many of us with the same struggles.  The only difference I can see in people is whether we have each made a decision to be a mature disciple or not. To be a mature disciple, we all have to face our own sinfulness sooner or later and repent–sometimes, again and again. We all have to understand that we have been a Judas– we have been a betrayer.  I need to understand that every time I sin, I am pounding the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet.  Jesus is not a statue on a wooden cross.  Jesus came in the flesh and my sins have driven nails into His flesh. Think of the person you love the most, or maybe the person you don’t love the most.  Whether friend of foe, could you really drive nails into their hands and feet,  spit in their face, and mock them?  Are we really capable of this? The answer is “yes.”  And the appropriate response is:  “I am so sorry. Can you ever forgive me?”  Jesus answers: “I forgive you”, even when we can’t.  This is love.  Forgiveness is the highest form of love. Everything else we think is love is not love.

Given that this week is Holy Week,  I can’t think of a better time to reflect on the price Jesus paid for our sins.  In Re-routing,  we were asked to divide our life into segments and write down all the sins from those time periods.  I have done my list and I am sure there are sins that I have forgotten, but it is amazing to me the sins you don’t forget.  I can remember sins from as early as the 4th grade when I made my friend eat a chocolate chip cookie made out of sand because I thought it was funny or stealing my best friends earrings because I wanted them.  As we have grown older, our sins most likely became more serious  or as we have matured, we have become more serious about our sin. The first pass at listing my sins was easy and made me cringe just to write them on paper.  The second pass I have yet to do, but, I am going to use this Holy Week to dig deeper. I have this hope every person who is still sitting on the fence about turning in their commitment card to live for Jesus, will make the decision to not just “check a box” to be a “holier Catholic”, but, instead will make a decision in their head and heart to be a missionary disciple.

Heavenly Father,

I am so undeserving of all the gifts that you have given me.  I can not properly express my gratitude for your mercy,  your love and your compassion.   Everything I have is a gift from you–my friends, my family, my money, my time, and my talents.   Why have you been so generous to me when I so often choose to put nails through the hands and feet of Jesus?  Forgive me, Lord.  I know that you love me.  I know that you did this for me. Give me the courage to surrender completely every day.  Give me the courage to listen to your voice.  The voice of a loving Father who doesn’t want me to despair, but wants me to  have hope in the Resurrection.  Help me to reject sin.  I choose to walk in the Light.  I choose to run back to you when I stumble because I know you will pick me up again and again.

For the rest of this Holy Week,  I pray for all the people in my life that are gifts to me.  I pray for each of them to know your love as a good Father. I pray that no matter how far away they are from you that they will come back to you.  Amen

Week 12-Border Crossing

“Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.  Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” — Romans 12:9-12

Let love be sincere” This passage has been on my mind all week, although, I didn’t really know it. This was one of those weeks for me that was filled with a-ha moments, or God moments as I like to call them. One of these moments was last night watching the Passion of Christ at our church. Last time I watched the Passion of Christ, I was very focused on all that Jesus was enduring for me as a sinner, but as I watched it yesterday, I viewed it through the eyes of a mother, through Mary.  Perhaps all this talk of border crossing had me focused on Mary’s great trust in the Father and the amazing love she had for her son.   I could see the agony in Mary’s eyes as she watched her son being scourged, watched her son fall, watched her son suffer unimaginable pain and torture-“hate what is evil”  Yet, I also sensed an inner peace in her, a surrender that abandoned all control to our heavenly Father..“hold onto what is good”  

Often, it is uncomfortable to cross the border because we are afraid of what might be on the other side.  Maybe we are afraid of losing control of our life. Maybe we are afraid of what others will think of us.   As much as we think we know ourselves, God knows us better because he made us. He knows what we desire and what we need.  He gave those needs to us. He knows what I need and I trust Him.  Trusting God doesn’t mean I don’t do anything–trusting God means I actually might have to do things that make me uncomfortable. I actually might have to cross the border!  Trust can be hard  because we have all had human experiences that have weakened our ability to trust. “There is no fear in trust”—this is what I keep hearing and have been praying with all week. Through all the suffering that her son endured, Mary trusted.  From the day she immaculately conceived, she trusted. Till the day of the death of her son because of our sins, she trusted.

I long for that kind of trust. And I long for that kind of merciful love and sacrifice of Jesus within me. This Holy Week is like no other for me for many reasons. May this Holy Week be like no other for each of you so that we may all truly understand what love has done for us and the cost of that love to a Mother.  Our Lady of  Good Counsel, pray for us.

Lord,  I am so sorry for the times that I have not trusted in your love for me.  I am sorry for the times that I have withheld love from others.  There are only three things I want out of this life–to live in love, to live without fear and to prepare to spend eternity with you.   I know the only way I can do this is to “cross the border” and trust in you completely with reckless abandon. I know your love for me is sincere–there are no masks. Lord, you sent your Son  to pay the ultimate price for my sins. With arms wide open, He became vulnerable on the cross for me.  Lord, teach me to be vulnerable and open to the love of Jesus.  Mary, guide me through your Son and help me to show my children this sacrificial love. Jesus, you have re-routed my life for the better and have put me on a path that you have chosen for me.  You know what I am afraid of and yet I trust. Allow the Holy Spirit to enter me like never before.  Thank you, God.  Jesus I trust in you. Amen

 

 

 

Week 11- Do Not Enter

I sat in church this past week to be alone with Jesus. Our church has a large, beautiful, life-like crucifix in the sanctuary. To me, it is one of the most beautiful crucifixes in this area. I often find myself sitting in front of it to re-center myself. I also wanted to see if I was ready to place my card in the urn! For those of you who do not belong to Our Lady of Good Counsel, the card we received a few weeks ago at Mass says this:
“I, ____________, a repentant sinner, decide today, __________, to surrender the ownership of my life to the good Father. I renew the vows of my baptism to renounce Satan and to follow Jesus Christ more deliberately than I ever have before. Jesus, I give You my heart that You may forever set it on fire for love of You and for others. Keep my heart pure with Your perfect love so that I may entrust myself totally to You. Jesus, please use me that I might bring “one more” to You.”

I held my card for a while and I felt like I heard Jesus say, “There is no fear in trust.” How true is that? How can I have true intimacy with Jesus if I lack trust in Him? We could say the same thing about our relationships with each other. I started thinking about this: “what is the worst thing that could happen to me if I surrender completely to Jesus, if I completely trust in Him?” There is no one that loves me like this and so I could not think of anything. And, I immediately got up and put my card in the urn.
I also have realized something. In my post last week, I said I had a fear of failure. Surrendering to me means not only putting my life in Jesus’ hands, it also means (wrongly) that, all of a sudden, I need to become perfect. But, as the card says, Jesus wants the repentant sinner. Jesus knows who we are, and yet, He still wants a relationship with us. He wants to share His mercy with us and in return, He wants us to reject sin because He loves us. He wants us to be happy and to keep our life rightly ordered—however we need to do that. Do you ever look at a little child and watch them laugh and giggle? How can they do this so freely? I think it is because their hearts are pure. God delights in this kind of happiness. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). What the world thinks matters not. Our only job is to give glory to the Lord in all that we do—in our work and in our play.
As God would have it that day, I ended up reading this: “Just as we should not make good resolutions without counting on God’s help to keep them, by the same token we should not view our failures without considering God’s mercy at the same time, for as God is the only One who can help us persevere in good, so He alone can raise us up from Evil” (Divine Intimacy, p. 310).
This is good news! And, the Saints knew this, not because they were holier than any of us but because they were exactly like us and CHOSE to stay close to God in all things—even in sin, failures and temptations. The decision. Our decision. We have to eventually make one. Either we are with Him or we are without Him.

Heavenly Father,
You have shown me so much this week. You send lifeboats when we think we are sinking, but sometimes we don’t recognize the gift of the rescue. You are an amazing God who loves to shower His children with blessings. Protect my mind from the lies of the devil that I am not lovable, that You don’t want me. Help me to laugh like a child, to love like a child and serve you and others like a mature disciple. Let my work be my work and my play be my play and let them both give honor to You. Help me to always hear your voice. As we get closer to Holy Week, my heart feels heavy for all the You have endured for me, yet, I have hope in the Resurrection! Thank you for giving me life! Thank you for my children. Thank you for opening doors. Amen.