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!)

 

 

 

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.

Week 10-One Way

Psalm 56:3- “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

A couple of weeks ago, Fr. Pierre’s homily took us through some of the non-negotiables of being a disciple. I can’t help but think about how we can compartmentalize our lives–how I can compartmentalize my life. I still haven’t turned in my card–not because I don’t think I am a disciple. I haven’t turned my card in because I am not sure I have been the disciple God has called me to be and I want to take more time to pray on some areas of my life. Most areas of my life I have given to God. A few, I have not been able to give up the reins. I know what they are and some days I give them to God and some days I take them back. In the areas that I take back, I know this is where I can have the greatest impact in making disciples of others. And, I, as a disciple, am called to help make more disciples. This card has given me the opportunity to intentionally reflect on where I need to grow in maturity as a disciple. I don’t want to be a check the box disciple– I have done that in my life already. As a widow, I know I can help other widows/widowers know Jesus, as well as anyone who is faced with a life transition. I am even confident in the way that Jesus wants me to do this. I just haven’t done it out of fear of failure. I think re-routing has been chipping away at my fears. Loving God has never been risky, but accepting that God loves me no matter what–that has always been hard for me until recently. That’s because I am trusting Him more. God has allowed me to catch a glimpse of the happiness He brings when I allow Him to love me, when I live as a true disciple in the unique way (as a widow) that he is calling me to do that right now. I am praying that we can all find what God is calling us to do to bring more of our brothers and sisters to Him.

Heavenly Father,

I know you know all my fears, all of my doubts, all of my hopes and all of my dreams. I also know that you have your own hopes and dreams for me. I am pretty sure I know what they are because I have spent enough time talking to you about them! Help relieve my fears so that I might hold nothing back when it comes to bringing others to you. You have started great work in me–you have started great work in all of us. Allow me to let go of all that is not from you. In theses last few weeks of re-routing, help me to be intentional in contemplating what you are asking of me. Don’t let me stand on the sidelines. Give me the courage to get in the game and play it well. Brian, I ask for your intercession as you know me like God knows me. Tonight I pray for our nation. I pray for all of my friends and family. Tonight I pray for a special intention. Please hear my prayer. Amen.

Week 9-You-Turn

Blogging about Re-routing has forced me to look at these past 9 weeks and look at myself in ways that have stretched me. It is so easy to go through the motions of this life. If you want to live this life as an intentional Christian, it is impossible to just go through the motions and be successful. The Christian life is hard. It involves a decision. My will makes it hard. Every day it is hard because of the world we live in. I was talking to someone after daily Mass last week and she said that when you follow Jesus your family tends to think you are crazy and that there is something wrong with you because you need Jesus so bad. I can totally relate. Honestly, it would be much easier to live the way the world wants me to live–to just soak up all the good times I can, to not worry about whether I am going to heaven or hell, to live for myself, to only worry about the next restaurant I am going to, or the next shopping trip. That would be easy to do in this world, but it is so unfulfilling to me. I know that the world could numb me with counterfeit relationships, and material pleasures, but I want so much more. There is not true happiness living this way. I often hear this in prayer–“You can do this the world’s way, or you can do it MY WAY.” Fr. Prentice challenged us in his homily to surrender to Jesus unconditionally “no fine print, no hidden clauses.” We were given cards to make a commitment to surrender our lives to Jesus. I get what Fr. Prentice said, “Love cannot be forced. We have free will-that’s the way love works.” No one will force us to turn in a card. No one can force us to love, just as no one can force us to be wicked. We can decide. Will I turn in my card? I will because I believe in the love of a heavenly Father that is pure and true. I believe He wants what is best for me, and, I believe He allows me to struggle so I might grow. I don’t want to go through the motions of life–I want to be intentional and I want to surrender.

At an Alpha course that we have for engaged couples in our parish, we talked this week about how God guides us. One thing I felt compelled to share with these couples is that there are actually 3 people in this relationship-the man, the woman, and God. When a couple can surrender to each other in goodness and surrender to God at the same time, life is good. There is peace. I know this from experience. Does it mean that there are no challenges in life? Of course not! It just means that there is Someone walking the path with me–always–who is loving and merciful, who knows all my pains and wounds and who wants me to be happy. That’s exciting and it is worth the struggles because when you desire what is real, and what it is pure, there is an interior freedom that comes from living in union with God.

Tonight I pray that we will all choose, even if it is for the first time, to make that U-turn and to give all of ourselves to God.

Dear Lord,

Another day with moments of grace and moments of weakness. Some days I wish I wasn’t so aware of Your Presence because I am so often convicted of my sin. But when I sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament and you take me as I am, with all of my sins and failings, I get rejuvenated with the love you have for me. Your Spirit fills me when I live in accord with you. Help me to always choose to live in union with you and when I don’t, help me to recover quickly, because I can’t bear to not be near you and close to you. My days go better when I am aware of you. I realize how often I can get lazy when life gets overwhelming or when I don’t start the day with you on my mind and heart.

Tonight, in a very special way, I ask for the intercession of Mary, our Mother, to pray for all of the engaged couples in our Alpha group. May Mary show them the way to your Son as the reason for hope in marriages in this world. May they receive courage to withstand the temptations of the culture. I ask all of this your great name. Amen

Bridge Restored-Week 8

Last night before the Deeper Dive of Re-routing, I had several people tell me that I was behind on my blogs!   I am a little behind, mostly because life happens and I don’t take  the time to pray about Re-routing on a strict schedule like I should.   So, this morning was the first time I got to spend  time reading all of the Scripture verses from Week 8.  Just when life starts stressing me out, I realize that God’s timing is always perfect. Week 8 is all about the Bridge being restored–about understanding why Jesus became flesh, why Jesus walked this earth among all of us, why He ate with sinners, why He died for us as sinful creatures.  He did this because of only one thing– because He loved us.  And, He still loves us, even with everything that we have done or are doing right now. He is waiting for us and those we love, not just to come back to church, but to come back to Him. There is nothing that gives God more pleasure than to see His children come back home.  His arms are wide open–waiting.

I know personally that He waits.  I know that He wants to restore bridges.  He desires to restore bridges more than we give Him credit for.  I know where I was in college and the things I was doing.  Yet, I still went to church.  When I look back, how in the world could I go to church and still continue to live the way I did? I did it because I didn’t know Jesus–I knew a building. Jesus is not a building. So, here’s the good news!  My past, my sins, actually brought me back to Jesus!  Don’t take this wrong, but I tell people all the time, that I am grateful for my past sins because they have brought me where I am today. Am I completely free from sin?  Of course not. But, now I struggle, I “wrestle”, with the Lord walking right by my side.  I am dealing with life WITH Him.  He is holding my hand.  He is holding me close.  I promise you He is not just doing this for me–He wants to do this for all of us.

This last year, God has personally brought “doors” in my life, both in prayer, and, in reality, and even in several different visions that I wish I would have written down now.  I know God has been talking to me, but, this morning, I feel like I received confirmation about what  He has been trying to say to me.  I have much to share on this, but right now,  let me say that I have had doors of mercy, I have had closed doors, I have had open doors–I even have had troubles with doors.  Until this morning,  I have only thought about these doors as circumstances or things that I am supposed to do or not do, until I read John 10:7-11.  “So, Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I AM THE DOOR of the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not heed them.  I AM THE DOOR: if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   How often have we heard the last part of this passage?   Today, God wanted me to hear the beginning of that passage as well.  And, I think he wanted me to share this.    All of us have the opportunity to come back to Jesus, and  all of us have opportunities to bring Jesus to others.  Doors do several things:  They give us access, they can protect us, they can lead us home or they can keep us locked away. Don’t be afraid of Jesus, as the Door.  He doesn’t want us to live in fear of Him–he wants to give us access to Himself and He wants to protect us from the lies of the devil.  It is never to late to allow Jesus to restore  our bridges and to bring us Home.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you, thank you, thank you for constantly being there.  You are always present.  Always.  I am grateful for the peace that only you can bring.  Today I am reminded that I need to be  more attentive to your workings in my life and to constantly dig deeper.  Thank you for the people you have put in my life. Thank you for the open doors, the closed doors, and your doors of mercy.  I love you, Jesus. You continue to show me what love is.  Thank you for the mercy that you have always extended to me.  Let me always be merciful to those who need it most. Help me to be a “door” to others so that through me, people will come to know You. Amen.