Authentic Love

Me: “Hi, Sweetie, can I help you find a spot?”

Second Grade Sweetie: “I know why you call me Sweetie.”

Me: (feeling slightly panicked) “Why?”

Second Grade Sweetie: “You can’t remember my name.”

As a teacher, I hang with kids. A lot. I am very familiar with the awkward moments when children, from the purity and authenticity of their hearts, call us adults out. We think we are being polite or socially smart, and they call us right out. They can take one look at us and know if that smile on our face is genuine. And they don’t mind telling us.

Jesus calls us to love our enemies. My husband and I have an oft repeated conversation about the relationship between love and like. Jesus calls us to love our enemies. He doesn’t say one word about liking them. Liking someone relies on our emotions. It is how we feel about them. St. Thomas Aquinas defines love as willing the best for the other. Love is an act of our will. It isn’t simply happy-smilely hearts and flowers, it is a choice, a decision to act in the best interest of another.

Jesus takes us outside our fickle emotions. It is easy to love those who love us first. It is easy to want the good for those who want the good for us. What is much, much harder is to will the good for those with whom we disagree, those who act in ways we don’t choose to act.

We can’t simply be nice either. It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment to love by only imitating the divine model. (CCC 2842) Although initiating the actions of Jesus is a good first step, love isn’t simply what we do on the outside. There has to be a vital participation from the depth of the heart. We aren’t just called to do the right thing. We are called to allow ourselves to be molded into the image of the one who is goodness, truth, and beauty. That means our hearts of stone have to become living hearts formed “in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God”. We have to be authentic in our love.

The first reading guides us in what this looks and sounds like. The Corinthians had become caught up in worrying about the right and wrong way of doing things. Among the debates was whether or not it was acceptable to eat the meat offered to the pagan idols. Paul’s response doesn’t worry too much about the idols, false gods are no god at all, so what does it matter? What matters is the result of their actions. If eating the meat leads another into sin, therein lies the problem. Paul is incredibly blunt, if eating the meat causes another to sin, then he won’t just give up the meat offered to the idols, he will give up all meat. Loving those who believe differently from us, acting for the good of another is that important.

Sacrificing meat to idols isn’t an issue we see today, but we see many other idols in our society. It is easy to find examples of the idols of fame, wealth, and worldly success. We see around us those who sacrifice their families, their sense of self, their time, their bodies. There are plenty of divisions in our world. There is plenty of pressure to be part of “us” and not “them”. First Jesus and then St. Paul, guide us to act outside of all that. If our actions lead another to sin, then it is time we change how we act. We are called to allow the Holy Spirit to work on us from the inside out so that when we love, it is authentic. It is a love which wills the good of the other, and is willing to work for that good.

My prayer for us today is that we may love like little children so our smiles reflect our hearts, and our insides and outsides may both be formed by the Holy Spirit in the holiness, mercy, and love of God. May God bless you.

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Sheryl O’Connor delights in being the number 1 cheerleader and supporter for her husband, Tom who is a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Kalamazoo. They are so grateful for the opportunity to grow together in this process whether it is studying for classes, deepening their prayer life or discovering new ways to serve together. Sheryl’s day job is serving her community as the principal for St. Therese Catholic School in Wayland, Michigan. Since every time she thinks she gets life all figured out, she realizes just how far she has to go, St. Rita of Cascia is her go-to Saint for intercession and help. Home includes Brea, a Bernese Mountain dog and Carlyn, a very, very goofy Golden Retriever.

Rejoice!

In today’s Gospel reading we hear the Beatitudes. Christ tells us, “Blessed are you who are poor…who are now hungry…who are now weeping…when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man”. Then he tells us to “Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!” That feels hard to do: leap for joy in the face of persecution or poverty or hunger or despair. I know most of the time when I’m experiencing any of that, the last thing on my mind is joy. But then, looking back on those times of sadness or persecution or any other type of hardship, I realize how much easier and how much more fruitful my thoughts and prayers would have been had I allowed myself to empty my heart of everything but God. For it is only in Him that true happiness and joy are found.

Today is also the feast day of St. Peter Claver who spent his life ministering to slaves in Cartagena. Thousands upon thousands of slaves were traded through Cartagena and St. Peter Claver, to the best of his ability, provided food, medicine, and drink to those who needed it. He chose a life of poverty, hunger, and persecution in order to serve those who had no choice but to live that way. St. Peter Claver is an example of why we should rejoice when we experience hardship: our reward will be great in Heaven!

May we always unite our own sufferings with those of Christ on the Cross and allow ourselves to open ourselves fully to His love and His mercy. Following the example of St. Peter Claver, may we rejoice in the face of poverty, hunger, despair, and persecution.

St. Peter Claver, pray for us!

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Do Not Be Afraid

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid…”

Right now I am afraid. Where I once had meaningful work, now I am in a liminal space where I can’t hide in what I do. The world is uncertain. The safety of loved ones is in jeopardy. And my emotions are on a roller coaster that I cannot understand no matter how much I try to stuff what is happening to me into some pre-made psychological explanation.

I’d love someone to talk to. Someone outside the situations in which I live where I could pour out my heart. I struggle with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and the radical emotional ups and downs that are part of the illness. I want to hide. Hide the shame of not having it all together. Hide the humiliation that comes with loss and replacement and transition. At story lines changed…. At personal images cracked…. At the uncertainty of how it will all turn out… At the weakness exposed in my surrender to the Lord…

These words, the images they evoke, the feelings they express are way larger than the situation I am living calls for. But everyone knows what it’s like when we can’t seem to fit what’s happening in our lives into the previous plan we’ve had for ourselves and others.

The Gospel today offers a lifeline for times such as these when they happen to us. Joseph was in such a dilemma. The plans he had made with Mary, the expectations, the idea he had of her and the image he had painted in his heart for the rest of his life suddenly no longer made sense in the face of the inexplicable and undeniable fact that Mary was with child.

It is part of our responsibility as adults to plan, to project the future, to prepare for it. We think we know who we are and what God is asking us to do and we do our best to make that happen. And at the very moment when we feel sure, secure, pleased with ourselves, the plans break down, mercifully so.

As beautiful as Joseph and Mary’s plans may have been, and they remain in the secret conversations they must have had, they were based on what they knew and wanted at the moment they made them, and on what they believed God wanted of them.

At our birth, however, God’s pristine plans for our good and his delight are imprinted in our destiny. Again and again I have to remind myself to let my plans go in order to let the eternally-desired destiny willed by God for me to unfold.

Today is the feast of the Nativity of Mary. There is a long venerable tradition since the sixth century of celebrating the birth of Mary, the mother of Jesus, the woman who, in the words of Augustine, “is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley.”

Joseph, at the words of the angel and the desire of God, dropped his plans and expected future in order to perfectly conform their life together to the mystery that had been inscribed in Mary since her conception.

“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel
,

which means “God is with us.”

This saint chosen to play such a key role in the story of salvation solicitously looks after each of us as he looked after the Son of God. Joseph teaches us to sing the “Let it be as you will” in a patience that waits for the storm of emotions to subside, suffering to deepen into union, and love to raise us up in spirit. The solitude and slowly transformative work of grace in these difficult situations carve out our greatness of spirit.

So today, if you are wondering what your life is meant to be—or that of someone else you care about—if carefully laid plans or self-images are falling apart, look back to the moment of creation and birth. The Trinity sang a song over you, has a plan for you, desired you, delights in you even now and will forever. The breaking apart of all we think should be is often the divine path back to the source of our own beauty, call, and happiness.

Ask Mary and Joseph for the courage to say your own Fiat—Let it be….

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Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey. Website: www.touchingthesunrise.com Public Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/srkathrynhermes/ For monthly spiritual journaling guides, weekly podcasts and over 50 conferences and retreat programs join my Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/srkathryn.

Becoming a Fresh Batch of Dough

Sometimes we are capable of things we never thought humanly possible. Sometimes we have to push ourselves beyond our limits, beyond our comfort zone and power through. Sometimes feeling tired is just the beginning and utter exhaustion seems to have no end.

My husband and I are two months into a top-to-bottom renovation project on our current home. An old 1930’s 2-bedroom, 1- bath ranch was transformed by my father over the years into a two story home with an auxiliary unit above the garage. My husband and I bought it five years ago and have torn down walls, stripped off every last bit of wall paper, painted almost every square inch, redone 75% of the flooring, created a main-floor laundry, divided one large bathroom into two, engineered two bedroom closets, replaced walls and ceilings, put up built-in shelving, scoured the basement, put in central air, and the list goes on…

How fitting that today is Labor Day. And while I would love to say that it has been a labor of love, in all honesty it has been more like a labor of blood, sweat and tears…literally. With 4 small boys to take care of as well as the everyday chores, most of our work is done after they are in bed. We set small goals for ourselves and work for three or four hours each night. It has been a daunting task, but I can finally say that I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our to-do list is getting smaller and the house is looking amazing. Oh, and did I mention we just moved over the weekend? I’d better get to un-packing!

This whole venture has been an attempt to try something completely new for our family. We are going out on a limb, taking a risk, hoping for the best. Today’s reading states: “Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough…” I love this! We are literally clearing out everything, purging, tossing and giving away. We hope to get more involved in ministry, live a more simplified life, listen to God’s voice in a quieter atmosphere. We hope the dough of our hearts will rise and the work of our hands, will “feed” those we encounter, beginning with our own family.

What is God calling you to clear out? The reading speaks of immorality, wickedness and pride, but what is it that you struggle with personally?  Perhaps it is forgiveness, confronting someone you really need to have an honest conversation with, or going to confession. Only you know what kind of spring cleaning your heart needs.

Once you take that step, that leap of faith you will truly be able to “celebrate the feast … of sincerity and truth”.

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Tami Urcia grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. She spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, studying theology and philosophy, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Western Kentucky. She loves tackling home improvement projects, finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby and finding unique ways to love. She works at Diocesan, is a guest blogger on CatholicMom.com and BlessedIsShe.net, runs her own blog at https://togetherandalways.wordpress.com and has been doing Spanish translations on the side for almost 20 years.

God, Grant Me The Courage To Be A Watchman

Today’s first reading is a struggle – warning others, speaking out against faults and wrongdoings, being brave rather than cowardly. I have always been one who prefers shying away from confrontation. There is so much to be overwhelmed by in today’s world: from politics and racial tensions to the sick and the poor, it is much easier to look the other way and ignore all the injustices and wrongdoings surrounding us.

When I was younger, I would toss and turn at night over worries such as being rejected by a crush. I would never put myself out there. Not in a million years. To this day, even with my closest loved ones, I frequently struggle with the same fears of rejection. This is not the least evident in my religious faith. Wearing a t-shirt with a faith-based message, or reminding my family about our Sunday obligation, I struggle with accepting it if I’m laughed at or ridiculed.

While having the courage to speak up can be scary, it’s often meant to come from a place of love, not of shame or of proving one is right. Today’s second reading tells us to love each other; that love is “the fulfillment of the law.” So to follow the law, we need to speak out from a place of love when we see something wrong.

Also, when we love someone, we want what’s best for them. Sometimes this means shining a light on a hard truth that one needs to accept, or the reality that they need to do something difficult to find peace and grow. When our confrontation comes from wanting the best for someone, we might be able to reframe it as an act of charity and grace rather than as a scary thing, making it easier for us to follow through and “put ourselves out there.”

Finally, confrontation can even involve self-reflection, recognizing our own faults and sins. “Hardening not our hearts” against His voice helps refine our love for Christ. The Litany of Humility (https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/devotions/litany-of-humility-245) has always helped keep me grounded. Christ reminds us that it is the lowest of the low who will be first in His kingdom. We are taught over and over the importance of loving others rather than seeking that love that we desire instead for ourselves.

Ultimately, we must never be afraid to break open our hearts in front of others for Christ. The life of a Christian is often going to be messy. If we’re not suffering alongside Christ, we are not giving our all to Him. We must take up our cross, and not hold back nor be ashamed. The Lord is worth so much more than the sum of our fears and doubts. And in the end, He does not demand much at all.

Solely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

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(co-written by Samantha Costanzo Carleton)

Dr. Alexis Dallara-Marsh is a board-certified neurologist who practiced in Bergen County, NJ. She is a wife to her best friend, Akeem, and a mother of two little ones on Earth and two others in heaven above.

Sabbath Rest

The Pharisees are at it again – trying so hard to catch Jesus “in the act,” committing some sort of crime for which they could bring Him down. This time (much like every time), they think they’ve got Jesus since He and his disciples are picking grain on the sabbath.

The sabbath is supposed to be a holy day, a day of rest where no work is done. Clearly, picking grain “goes against the rules” and so the Pharisees question Jesus yet again. And, yet again, Jesus has a response, rooted in the Old Testament and pointing back to David.

Today’s whole Gospel reading revolves around the Pharisees’ misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the sabbath, its rules and how to observe it. For me, today’s Gospel also raises the question about our personal understanding of the sabbath.

Most of us can probably name and recite the Fourth Commandment: “Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.” When translated to the modern day, most of us would probably explain that commandment as being, “Go to Mass every Sunday.” Whether or not we do, indeed, go to Mass every Sunday (outside of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, of course), is a topic for another blog post on another day.

Let’s dive a little deeper into this idea of sabbath, though, and head all the way back to the beginning of the Bible to do so. In the Book of Genesis, chapter 1, God created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh. Why? Not because God was tired from all the hard work of creation. No, the seventh day of rest was intentional. God could have created the entire world in six hours or six seconds but He didn’t. The Hebrew word for seven is “sheva” which is also the Hebrew word for covenant. God was creating a covenant with his creation and the sign of His covenant was the sabbath day, a day of rest.

Also in the story of creation, God created man on the sixth day. Man’s first full day on the newly created earth is a day of rest. Before work, before anything else, man rested. The end of the creation cycle, that seventh day of rest, is the same end for which God created man – to rest with Him and in Him, to live in that original state of holiness in the garden. We still have that same end today, to rest with God and in God and to live in a state of holiness in the eternal garden of heaven.

So the question is – how seriously are you taking the sabbath? Are you spending intentional time with the Lord? Are you slowing down and keeping Him at the center of your day, as the priority? If not, it’s not too late to begin.

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Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still hopes to use her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.

Light Of The World

The Gospel reading today says  “…the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” Lk 5:35

It certainly feels like it’s been a time of fasting. Our church, family, school, local and national communities are still grappling with the pandemic and its effects on many of the systems that are part of daily life. The last five months have not been like any others in recent history.

The good news is some things never change. God is always with us. He loves each and everyone of us unconditionally. He is waiting for us to turn to Him. We can receive Jesus spiritually, at any time throughout the day. My favorite prayer for spiritual communion is from Blessed Solanus Casey

Dear Lord, please come to me in spiritual communion.

Send your Body and Blood gushing through my veins.

Send your love into my heart, my soul and my mind.

Lift me up to your bosom and infuse me with your Divine Love. Amen

The first reading today reminds us that we are stewards and servants of God. We are not to “make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts.” We are the ones who are called to share His light in this world because we are filled with the light of His life.

As we head into this Labor Day weekend I have two items for reflection. Please listen to Jesse Manibusan’s song We are the Light and ponder these words of St. Francis of Assisi: “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”

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Beth Price is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She brings a unique depth of experience to the group due to her time spent in education, parish ministries, sales and the service industry over the last 25 yrs. She is a practicing spiritual director as well as a Secular Franciscan (OFS). Beth is quick to offer a laugh, a prayer or smile to all she comes in contact with. Reach her here bprice@diocesan.com.

An Old Fish Tale

This Gospel today is pretty familiar to most of us, especially if you have watched the phenomenal series, Chosen. But today I want to focus on an aspect of the story that maybe we don’t think about, and that is the fish themselves.

What was going through their mind during this whole ordeal? Here they are having a great morning and evading capture from the evil fishermen above, and all of a sudden they are caught. As they are pulled in they must have a thousand thoughts swimming through their heads. Knowing they have seen their friends go in this way and never return. Anxious as they are pulled from the water and wondering what is next for them. And then they see him, Jesus, standing there with a smile as the crowds are astonished. If I were a fish and I had the ability to understand what was going on, I hope I would be elated that Jesus picked me to help others come to know him.

What kind of fish are you? What kind of fish am I? Are we the fish that would grumble the whole time about the inconvenience of being part of God’s plan? Would we tell our other fish friends that we don’t want this to happen or that we don’t care who Jesus is. Would we even try to denounce that we know him altogether? Or would we be excited that God is using us to bring his love, light, mercy and peace into the world. Jesus asked the disciples to be fishers of men. Are we ready to take on that call, or are we just going to float through life and hope never to get caught in the plan God has for us? It’s an important question and I pray today that we all receive the grace to give a good answer when God asks it of us. From all of us here at Rodzinka Ministry, God Bless!

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Tommy Shultz is Director of Evangelization for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative and the founder of Rodzinka Ministries. In these roles, he is committed to bringing all those he meets into a deeper relationship with Christ. Tommy has a heart and a flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. His mission and drive have been especially inspired by St. John Paul II’s teachings. Tommy is blessed to be able to learn from the numerous parishes he visits and pass that experience on in his presentations. With a degree in Theology from Franciscan University, Tommy hopes to use his knowledge to help all people understand the beauty of The Faith.

We Belong To Him

I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.”

In today’s first reading, Paul addresses division among the Corinthians. He asks them, “While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and walking according to the manner of man? Whenever someone says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another ‘I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely men?” How often do we get caught up in the jealousy and rivalry of this world? St. Paul urges us to turn our attention away from the temptations, strife, and conflicts of this world and look instead toward our Heavenly Father for He is the one who, ultimately, is the cause of our growth. Although we follow priests and bishops and other holy people, they are the vessels through which God is doing His work. So even though Paul and Apollos were doing God’s work, it was God who changed hearts and minds and souls.

We see that only God causes growth in the Gospel when Christ heals Simon’s mother-in-law. Christ became man to save us from our sins. While He walked this earth, He performed countless miracles in order to show us the saving power of God. He is the one that heals, the one that proclaims the good news of the Kingdom of God. Without Him, even the holiest of men are nothing.

May we always remember that it is through God that we grow. May we always turn our thanks to Him, the one who loves us fully.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

All It Takes Is One Step

“Be quiet! Come out of him!”

I am distracted. I wake up with notifications on my phone. Thoughts about work immediately rush into my head as I pour my coffee. A load of emails greet me as soon as my computer is turned on.

Every single person can relate to getting distracted—we live in the distraction age. Before we know it, even Daily Mass can become an empty habit. The rosary loses it’s luster, and we start it only to end it. Our minds glide freely as we bounce from one distraction to the next.

If Jesus came tomorrow I would be horrified. “I’m not ready! I thought I had more time!” It reminds me of my homeschooling days when my mom and dad would come back from their date early, only to find that the house was nowhere close to being cleaned. My siblings and I would panic, throwing all we could into a closet while trying to brainstorm excuses.

The reading today is a wake up call. What spirits or addictions have taken a hold of you? Today is the day you can make a step towards sainthood. It doesn’t have to be dramatic! Take one step in the direction of discipline. Just start with one:

  • No texting in bed
  • Jump out of bed as soon as you alarm goes off
  • No Netflix during the weekdays
  • No alcohol during the week
  • Delete the Facebook App off your phone

Once you’ve cleared your mind and opened up your schedule a bit, the next step is to fill it with something meaningful. One of the most powerful things you can do (I promise you you will hate it at first) is spend 15 minutes in silence in the morning. Instead of hitting snooze, sit on the couch and give God the most deliberate 15 minutes you’ve ever given him. Let him change you. Let him talk to you.

Once you’ve done that for a week or two, add in another thing.

  • Read the Daily Readings (the Holy Word of God) first thing when you wake up
  • Attend Daily Mass once a week
  • Pray an evening Rosary with your family
  • Increase your silent time to 30 minutes
  • Attend Adoration once a week
  • Read “The Art of Loving God” by St. Francis de Sales

Every day should be one step closer to our Lord. If we aren’t moving closer, we’re moving farther away. There is no “status quo.” The unclean spirits are always working on us, it’s always urging us towards complacency—towards sleep.

We must urge each other towards holiness! Find a friend who will keep you accountable or ask your spouse to keep you honest in your efforts of purification.

If you first thought is that you can do it on your own, that’s okay. We call that pride. That’s a tricky one.

Here’s a template for you:

“Hey _________, I read a mediocre article that encouraged me to give up ___________. I want you to keep me accountable, because I want to take my faith to the next level. Is there anything I can help YOU with?”

If we aren’t struggling in some way, chances are we’re not growing. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s through suffering that we become Saints. Saint’s don’t let themselves be ruled by comfort and pleasure.

I’m praying for you! We’re in the good fight together.

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Patrick produces YouTube content for young Catholics on Catholic Late Night and Overt TV. He loves using humor to share the Truth of the Catholic faith with anyone who will listen. He currently resides in Chattanooga, TN and is a parishioner at The Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. Patrick graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville with a degree in Communication Arts and a minor in Marketing.

The God of Surprises

When men are ordained, they often return to their home parish to celebrate their first Mass and preach, so that the community from which they were called can rejoice with them at the beginning of their ministry as priests. It is a wonderful and joyful moment.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus goes to his hometown to give his first sermon. It didn’t go so well.

What was in his Heart as he read the scroll and sat down to teach? “The eyes of all… looked intently at him.” Surely, Jesus looked intently at them, perhaps even eagerly. He came to his hometown to begin his preaching and to share the Good News with them first; he says clearly that he is the Messiah Isaiah had prophesied. His beautiful and loving discourse moved them to be “amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”

But things turn sour when he tells them the full truth: that the grace and salvation of God are for ALL people, Gentile as well as Jew. They become furious, even trying to hurl him over a cliff. But it is not yet his time and his mission is not yet fulfilled, so he mysteriously “passed through the midst of them and went away.”

Jesus reveals to the world that God loves all, and that the full truth is what makes us fully free. It is our own narrowness and selfishness and prejudice that keep us (and others) confined in false notions and prisons of propaganda. For the Jews of Jesus’ time, the falsehood was that only THEY were privy to God’s love and mercy, and that the letter of the law was enough to make one righteous. They had convinced themselves that the Messiah would come with mighty vengeance and kingly authority and vindicate them from the oppression of pagan political power. They were not open to a different narrative, and certainly not open to the possibility that Joseph’s son – so familiar to them – was worthy of supernatural faith.

Prejudice and familiarity are great obstacles to the deep humility and loving faith needed to be truly open to God’s grace! If we block out possibilities because we think we know, or our hearts fall into routine or boredom, we are not open to the beautiful surprises of grace. We fail to see them, we explain them away, or we attribute them to something else. God doesn’t stop working in our lives, but we stop seeing Him at work!

So it is good to ask the Spirit to show us where our blind spots are, where our narrowness or selfishness is blocking the light of God at work in us and in the world, and what we can do right now – today – to be more open to the fullness of truth. We can pause with Christ to see where our own notions might block our ability to see the full Truth. Then we are closer to being fully free.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

Playing It Safe Is Not Our Mission

In the reading today, we see Jesus revealing his mission to the disciples: that he would die, and on the third day rise again. Peter, who was just praised and proclaimed “the Rock” for the Church, takes Jesus aside and rebukes him. “God forbid Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you”. Here, Jesus returns the rebuke: “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me.”

These words are so filled with meaning! First, we can all see ourselves in Peter. We can so easily go from feeling loved by the Lord and being champions of His truth, to suddenly thinking like the world does and not understanding God’s vision. Second, look closely at what Jesus says. Last week, Peter was proclaimed the rock which the Church would be built on. Now, Peter is an obstacle, a tripping stone on Jesus’ path. How did that happen? Peter put himself IN FRONT of Jesus (and became a tripping hazard). And while it sounds like the Lord is totally rebuking Peter and commanding him to go away, he is actually just trying to put him the right place; “Get BEHIND me”, FOLLOW me. It’s only when Peter (and we) follow Jesus, (and not try and put ourselves in front of Him), that we can call ourselves “disciples”.

And this is what we’re following Jesus into: Mission. Like Jesus, the individual missions in our life are not safe. Friends, the purpose of our life is not to live a quiet, small, safe life in a nice home in the countryside! There is more for us!

I have a friend who tells me, whenever we’re saying goodbyes, “Live dangerously”. To be honest, I’d rather not. It doesn’t sound like a great idea to live that way! You could get hurt, lose things, get yelled at by others, etc etc. But in some way, this is what Jesus means by “take up your cross”. We can also see Jeremiah responding to this idea in the first reading. He feels cheated by God! He follows God’s will for him and speaks prophetic words to people and only gets persecuted in return. He constantly preaches words of doom and gloom. BUT – he has no other choice! When he tries to keep it in, he feels a fire in his bones. He HAS to preach the truth!

What would happen if YOU lived dangerously? Will you go to the streets and speak to those who are homeless and abandoned? Will you actually give up your possessions and money, and focus instead on community and growth? Would you speak the truth in love to your co-workers, family, friends? Will you sacrifice your time and your ego for your families, and rebuild burned bridges?

In the second reading, Saint Paul tells us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, as an act of worship. He’s reiterating what Jesus calls us to do! If we’re only looking to save our own life (or just play it safe like Peter wanted to do), we’ll end up losing it anyway. But if we’re willing to lose our life for the sake of the Kingdom, we’ll find our TRUE life. We have to live dangerously, but also, as St. Paul says, live transformed, by the renewal of our minds. We can’t think as the world and as human beings do, but we must think as God does. How often do I default to a mindset of security, safety, and avoidance of risk and the uncomfortable. To live transformed is to do as God does: To deeply see others and make them feel known, to listen to the moving of the Holy Spirit, to lay down your ego at your job, in your family, everywhere; and to focus on the Kingdom.

So remember, playing it safe is not our mission.

Live Dangerously. Live Transformed. Deny yourself, carry your cross, and follow Jesus.

 

Songs for Reflection:

  1. For the Sake of the World – Bethel
  2. Called Me Higher – All Sons and Daughters
  3. Seek First – Housefires
  4. Build My Life – Housefires
  5. Champion – Bethel, Dante Bowe
  6. Fire in my Bones – SEU Worship

Contact the author

Brendan is just your average Millennial hipster: He likes playing guitar, throwing frisbees, sipping whiskey, and grooming his beard. But he also has a passion for walking with teens and young Christ-followers, hearing every person’s story, and waking up the Church. Brendan works at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Lenexa, Kansas (near Kansas City) as a Youth Music Minister, fusing together his two loves of sharing Christ and sharing the power and need for good and beautiful contemporary praise. https://www.instagram.com/brendanbeardo/