What Makes You Think That You’re So Special?

I have the good fortune to work in an office that is on the same grounds as a Catholic retreat center. Because of this, I often come into contact with a lot of great Christ-centered wisdom. This past week, a woman was staying in one of the rooms below my office and I talked to her when I walked into work, on my lunch breaks, and then when I left work. Over these short, passing conversations, I felt the Lord calling me to take the time to talk with her, to truly give her my time, so one day before leaving work, I knocked on her door to chat. 

This woman shared with me that nearly six years ago, she was given another shot at life. She suffered an embolism that should have killed her, or left her with only 6 months to live, but instead, the doctors working her case considered her a miracle. 

She knew it was a miracle. She knew it was a miracle because as soon as she was given her diagnosis, she prayed and immediately felt peace. Enough peace to make jokes with the nurses as she was life-flighted from one hospital to another. She knew it was God and it changed everything. 

Still…she told me that there was someone in her life, someone she considered a good  friend, that told her, “What makes you think you’re so special that God would want to save YOUR life?” At first, it hurt her to think that her friend didn’t think that she was special. Then it hurt her heart even more when she realized that her friend didn’t know that she was also so special that God wanted to save her life, too. 

This woman’s realization is something I have not been able to stop thinking about. How many times have I failed to realize that I am so special that God wants to save my life. In fact, He sent His only Son to be arrested, ridiculed, crucified, stabbed, and ultimately face death… all to save me. All to save you

As we prepare for the Easter Triduum, let us stop and marvel at the fact that our God, our Father, loves us so dearly and wants to save us so badly, that Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice… and then CONQUERED THE GRAVE for our sins! He wants to wash away the shame, the fear, the sadness, and all we have to do is say “yes.”

So forget “What makes you think you’re so special that God would want to save your life?” because the better question is “What makes you think that an all-loving, all-powerful God wouldn’t want to save your life?” God is calling us. By name. So why don’t we listen this time?

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Pennsylvania. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various Catholic articles in bulletins, newspapers, e-newsletters, and blogs. She continued sharing her faith after graduation as a web content strategist and digital project manager. Today, she continues this mission in her current role as communications director and project manager for Pentecost Today USA, a Catholic Charismatic Renewal organization in Pittsburgh. 

Be Better

We are in the middle of Holy Week, people! Less than a week until Easter! Less than a week until we commemorate the greatest gift of all! Is your soul refreshed? Are your hopes and desires getting you a step closer to heaven? Can you feel the deep waves of forgiveness pulling you into God’s great ocean of peace?  

If your answer is without a doubt yes, then please, do tell me your secrets. I feel like I have done my best to be prepared for the memorial of Jesus’ resurrection, but I wouldn’t say that I’m 100 percent heaven-ready. Luckily, God understands that we are not perfect by default and has given us the Bible as a tool to use.

As I read over today’s first reading, it sounds like just the kind of quick guide that I need. I have a tongue, so I should speak to the weary. I have ears, so I should listen to the true word of Christ. My body, though beaten by people that make fun of me and scoff at my beliefs, has the Lord God at my side to hold me up. Going into the responsorial Psalm, we ask, “Lord, in your great love, answer me,” as we admit to being weak, picked on, an outcast, insulted. We praise him because we are thankful, but our thanks must go further than just words. It should be evident in our actions.

As Catholics, we must understand that we will always have more to strive for. Our God challenges us in everyday situations to step up and live out our faith, whether it is with the people around us or in our own hearts. Instead of seeing our faith as a burden or as an annoyance (because sometimes we do), we should instead see it as an opportunity to become a better person. Instead of trying to please our critics, society, or our parents, we should try to become someone our heavenly Father would be proud of.

So if your Lent didn’t go as planned, know that it’s okay because it is a journey. As you attend each Mass this Holy Week, ask God for what you need. Ask Him to bless your body with the skills and strengths you need. He wants you to succeed and is willing to give you the tools because He wants nothing more than to be in communion with Him in heaven. It is a simple matter of who you want to be and if you are willing to work on it. Do you want to be better? Will you allow your Lenten sacrifice to carry on after Sunday and continue to bring you closer to God? Or will you allow Jesus’ Lenten sacrifice be for nothing?

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Pennsylvania. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various Catholic articles in bulletins, newspapers, e-newsletters, and blogs. She continued sharing her faith after graduation as a web content strategist and digital project manager. Today, she continues this mission in her current role as communications director and project manager for Pentecost Today USA, a Catholic Charismatic Renewal organization in Pittsburgh. 

God’s Plan for You

As I sit down to write this reflection, my daughter-in-law is in labor! Like the servant in the passage from today’s First Reading, our grandson is known by God, even in the womb of his mother. The same God who brought this little boy into being at the moment of his conception has a unique purpose and plan for his life. Praise God!

And our loving Father has a plan for each one of us as well. We mustn’t doubt it.

Often, we are tempted to judge the worth of our lives by very different standards than the standard God has for us. Like the servant in this passage from Isaiah, we often toil and strain and feel as though we have spent all of our strength, just to experience defeat, loss, or rejection. We wonder what purpose our life has and doubt whether we are making a difference.

We can and will make a difference if we follow the example of Christ, the ultimate servant of God, whose faithfulness is prefigured in today’s First Reading.

First, we need to be in tune with what God the Father wants for us every day. The goal is to do His will. Jesus spent time in prayer, communing with the Father and strengthening Himself to do the Father’s will. If we are doing what seems good to us, but not really submitting ourselves to God, we might experience worldly success, but eventually we will realize how shallow that kind of success is. It may even be dangerous to our souls.

The second way we must imitate Christ is by faithfulness and perseverance. For many years, Jesus worked, lived, and suffered just like any person of His day before radically pouring Himself out in public ministry. Finally, our Savior gave every drop of his blood to do the Father’s will and, as He hung naked on the cross, all of His effort, His entire life, appeared to be in vain.

In our own ways, we too experience “failure,” as we strive to live as authentic Catholic Christians. Seeking to do God’s will, we may try to start a business, write a book, or enter religious life. Years of effort and sacrifice may pass with little or no positive results. Think of the couple who loses a child. Or a parent who raises his or her children in the faith, just to see them reject a relationship with God. These “failures” can make us feel that all of our effort to radically follow God’s will is pointless. 

We can’t always see what God is doing, but He is always working marvelously for those who are faithful. When Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, He brought about the greatest come-back victory of all time! 

We must believe that if our priorities are in order, and we are constantly seeking to do God’s will, our Easter Sunday will come. We will rejoice with an endless joy when we realize what God has done in and though us. In the words of St. Catherine of Siena, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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Christ Is Truly Present

Today is Palm Sunday. In the Gospel, we read about the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. At the table, Christ took the bread, raised it, and said to His Apostles: “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And then He took the cup, saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.”

This was not the only time Christ said something like this to His followers. In the Gospel of John, He told them: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

As Catholics, we believe in transubstantiation—that through the priest, God really does send a miracle at every Mass. The bread and wine become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.

Christ did not say that He wanted the bread and wine to just be mere symbols of Him. He told us that they are His body and blood. He told us that He is the living bread. In fact, His birth in Bethlehem foreshadowed this, as the name Bethlehem literally means house of bread.

It is an awesome privilege and blessing that we, as Catholics, can receive Him every single day—if we are free of mortal sin.

Yet, a 2019 Pew Research survey tells us that just one-third of Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ. Why is this? It’s because they have not been properly catechized.

So what are we to do? First, we understand and believe. Second, we teach—our children, our families, our friends, and our fellow parishioners. We must all take it upon ourselves to speak up and defend Christ in the Eucharist.

Christ gives Himself to us to nourish and renew us, but we must be worthy of this wonderful gift. How do we make ourselves worthy? We must be free of all mortal sin. This isn’t a suggestion. This is part of our Catechism, which teaches: “Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive Communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.”  

Anyone who has committed a mortal sin and who has not sought forgiveness in the confessional should not present himself for Communion until he has been to confession. This is so because God has given us the most phenomenal gift imaginable—Himself. 

So, today, as we think about that Last Supper and Christ’s sacrifice, let us not only thank Him for that sacrifice but for the gift of Himself in the Eucharist at every Mass. 

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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.

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Love and Mercy

“Return to me with your whole heart; for I am gracious and merciful.” (Joel 2:12-13)

Let us be filled with joy, forever gracious because of the kindness of God. Our God is a God of Mercy. The mercy of God does not condone sin but rather, compassionately recognizes repentance. By His offering Mercy to Us, it is required that we also offer Mercy onto one another.

By human nature, we tend to be self-centered, and probably most of us have difficulty forgiving others when we are wronged. Or at least, finding faults in others rather than ourselves, just as is noted of the Pharisees in the Gospel reading. Is there someone today you can think of recently who has offended you in their actions or words?

Yet, as Christian disciples, we are expected to put judgmental feelings aside at the service of our relationship with Christ.  Instead, God asks us to love and pray for one another, particularly those who are in most need of forgiveness, such as our enemies. Not only this, but we must also learn to forgive ourselves as well for mistakes, for we are all first products of God’s creation and love for mankind.

With such realization, we can grow in holiness, emulating Christ and allowing Him to shine in us and fixate on our “pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus”, the prize of eternal life through His glory.

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Dr. Alexis Dallara-Marsh is a board-certified neurologist who practices 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.

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Lent is a Time for Learning

The division that Christ brought into the Jewish community of his time is sometimes startling, especially because Jesus’ teachings exhort us to be peacemakers, meek and humble of heart. The strife Jesus caused reminds us that Christianity, while it brings a kind of unity which goes beyond the natural, can also cause great division. 

The build up to the arrest of Jesus has been taking place in the daily Mass readings the past few days. In the Gospels, the tension is rising as we see some of the Jewish leaders taking umbrage at the things that Jesus said and did. In today’s Gospel reading, they argue amongst themselves concerning Jesus. They have trouble reconciling cultural Judaism with His hard sayings and His radical claims. If the religious leaders in this story had a true understanding of the Old Testament and what to look for in the Messiah, they would not have argued about who Jesus was.

Modern day Catholics sometimes experience this same kind of division because we disagree about who Christ is and what he teaches. The fact that we live in a society that is often at odds with our beliefs makes us even more conflicted and confused. 

Recently, I was helping to prepare a 2nd grade class for First Reconciliation. One girl was amazed to learn that what society calls right and wrong does not always match up with God’s definition of right and wrong. There are many adult Catholics who are also unaware of the discrepancy. There is, for example, a general consensus  that cheating another person in business is wrong, but how many people still believe that “marriage” between couples of the same sex is wrong? Those who want to preserve the traditional meaning of marriage are now persecuted, but Catholics can easily fall into the trap of believing the way the world around them believes as well.

So how can we know the teachings of Christ, that we might know what is truly right and wrong and stop arguing amongst ourselves? The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a good tool to learn what the Church has taught since the time of Christ. 

If we are unsure what our Church teaches and why, we should try to find out. There are plenty of good resources to help us, and Lent is the perfect time to learn more about our faith in order to stand as a unified Church living in Christ’s love. 

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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Do You Want to Be Well?

In today’s Gospel reading, we see Jesus heal a man who had been sick for 38 years. To the man, Jesus asked, “Do you want to be well?” And when the man answered in the affirmative, Jesus told him to pick up his mat and walk.

We often wish everything could be that easy for us when we pray. We want Christ to give us that yes, to tell us that we will be healed, that our ailments will go away, or that our prayers will be answered. But sometimes that just isn’t the case. 

Sometimes we hear a no from God—and no is a difficult word to hear, especially when it’s the answer to a prayer we so desperately desire. That no can be heartbreaking. It can be devastating. That no can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. It may even lead to the person wondering if God cares about him. How many times have you heard people say that God didn’t answer their prayers so He must not exist? They mistakenly believe that He didn’t answer them, when in fact He just said no. Because of this, they begin to lose faith.

Instead of becoming firmer in their resolve, instead of trying to determine the reason for the no, and instead of trusting in God’s goodness, many people dismiss Him. They feel rejected by Him, so they reject Him.

But when God does say no, we must have hope that He is following that up with “Trust Me. I have something even better planned.” This trust leads us to understand that, no matter what, He is also telling us, “Do not worry; I am right here with you through this. I’ve got you, and I will never let go.”

We may never understand why God has said no to the things we pray for, especially if—in our eyes—those desperate prayers are for good and holy things. So we pray more, we talk to God, we ask for understanding and guidance, and we allow His will to be done. We ask for His protection against a world that wants us to believe that He doesn’t exist and against people who chip away at our faith telling us that “a good God wouldn’t allow bad things to happen to good people.”

We ask for the fortitude to understand the difference between God’s perfect will and God’s permissive will. We ask to feel at peace with His decision, knowing that someday we will find clarity.

And we ask for help in understanding that God will make us well, just as He did with the man who had been sick for 38 years; it may just not be in the time or the way that we had hoped or thought. 

But rest assured, when we follow God’s laws, remain faithful to Him, and put our trust in Him, He will make us well. 

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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.

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Jesus, I trust in you!

I have always found it challenging to “stay positive” while simultaneously acknowledging the harsh realities of life. I want to be a person of hope and joy, but I also realize that I can’t help make the world a better place unless I open my eyes to its troubles. Today’s First Reading provides a beautiful meditation, not only about the hope we have for the future, but about God’s awareness of our plight here and now. 

I remember one circumstance in particular in which I was overwhelmed by the potential for evil in this world and was tempted to despair. My husband and I were traveling across the country with our five children, all under the age of 10. It was late at night, and we stopped in a rest area that looked dark and dangerous. My husband took the four oldest into the restroom, and I climbed into the debris-strewn back seat with the baby. Tired and vulnerable, and possessing an overactive imagination, I started worrying about the safety of my children and the horrible things that can happen to children. I succumbed quickly to these dark thoughts and found myself crying in frustration and anger. Though I have had a close, trusting relationship with the Lord since I was a child, I have often struggled to accept the suffering of the innocent. Why Lord? Don’t you care? Why must these evils go on and on?

As I continued to cry out to God in my heart, I shifted my feet which were resting awkwardly on a number of children’s toys and blankets on the floor of the car. My movements triggered something, and a muffled tinkling tune penetrated the dark silence, “Jesus loves the little children…all the children of the world…” 

I paused and let that reality sink into my consciousness. My prayers reached the only conclusion that brings any peace…Jesus, I trust in you!

Today’s First Reading reminds us that God knows what we are suffering. He knows that things are far from perfect. By taking on a human form, Jesus Christ entered into the mess with us in order to experience, confront, and redeem the mess. Furthermore, this is not the end. This is not “all there is.” In a little while, He will make things right and all that we yearn for and hope for will come to pass in the new heavens and the new earth. In the meantime, we live on in Christ, who forewarned us that we would have many trials in this world, but to be courageous, because he has overcome the world. (See Jn 16:33)

Our deepest instincts tell us there is an Author of life and He is all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful. But we do not have the mind of God and we cannot fully understand His ways.  The more we unite ourselves to Him, the more we will trust in His ability to bring good out of evil. We will also find abiding joy, knowing that it won’t be long before the One who sits on the throne will makes all things new. (See Rev 21:5)

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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Are You The Father?

We are all familiar with today’s Gospel, The parable of the prodigal son. The Gospel is a little long, but please take the time to read it again, slowly and reflectively, allowing the Lord to speak to you. I have read it many times and each time I see something new.

If you put yourself into the story, who are you? If that thought has ever occurred to you, you may be surprised at where the Lord puts you! Are you the father, the youngest son, the oldest son, people along the way, or the servants? 

The younger son is the one we remember the most. He’s the rebel, making demands on his father that the son doesn’t deserve. Can you imagine such a thing? Most of us have or have known someone that has a rebellious son. The way to handle a rebellious son is easy. We have two choices: to boot him out or to suck it up. Right?

After reading today’s Gospel, I think not. In fact, not even close! This parable (remember Jesus tells the story) says the father was generous and gave his younger son, half of his estate. That is so far from what we were taught to do. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around that thought of generosity!

Yet, the Father (God) did exactly that. The younger son took off and in no time squandered the money in various places and was broke. He had nothing. To make matters worse, a famine struck. The country that he was in was so bad that no one had much of anything. Did you notice, nobody gave him anything (except corn pods)? He hit rock bottom.

Apparently, his feet still worked, so he headed back to his father’s house. He had time to review what he had done and by the grace of God became remorseful, very remorseful! He begged forgiveness from his father. Once again, his father broke out with great generosity! It was party time because his youngest son was home! So, if we put the face of God onto his father and we have a similar son or daughter could we be so generous? I am praying that we all can learn a great lesson when it comes to love. Perhaps we would have to go against some of the modeling displayed in our families and use God’s favorite word for love, agape. It means unconditional love. To love, even if we are not loved. Wow, What a concept. Let’s all try it!

Serving With Joy!

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Deacon Dan Schneider is a retired general manager of industrial distributors. He and his wife Vicki have been married for over 50 years. They are the parents of eight children and thirty grandchildren. He has a degree in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. He was ordained a Permanent Deacon in 2002.  He has a passion for working with engaged and married couples and his main ministry has been preparing couples for marriage.

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Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner

The tax collector in today’s Gospel prays a prayer very similar to the Jesus Prayer held so close to the hearts of our Orthodox brothers and sisters.  As Luke tells us Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the interesting thing is both men know their true selves, and they both speak it in their prayers. The Pharisee says he is not greedy, dishonest or adulterous. He fasts and pays his tithes. His examination of conscience determines he does what he is supposed to do. More power to him, right? Not so fast.

The tax collector, on the other hand, prays simply that he is a sinner and begs for God’s mercy. He does not list any sins; he does not speak them. He knows them too well. He keeps his distance and cannot look up to heaven, whether through shame or sorrow. He beats his breast, not from pride but from remorse, repentance. He prays, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

The contrast with the Pharisee is obvious. This man takes his position. There is a place that is his in the temple area, and he goes there. But then Jesus says something that I do not believe is just the turn of a phrase, I see it as very deliberate: The Pharisee “spoke this prayer to himself.” Jesus did not say he prayed to God. The Pharisee spoke the prayer to himself. And suddenly we know that Jesus is speaking across the two millennia since, directly to us. Do we pray? Or do we pray to God?

Close to our Catholic hearts is the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus taught us. We learn it at a young age, we pray it often, multiple times a day if we take part in the Liturgy of the Hours. But all too often I ask myself — or, probably more accurately, the Holy Spirit gives me a poke — am I praying these beautiful, meaningful words from our Lord, or am I just reciting it because I know the words by heart? God have mercy on me!

In our First Reading, Hosea might be talking to Ephraim and Judah, but he’s speaking to me: Your piety is like a morning cloud. I have every intention of being holy, but as the day wears on, that holiness burns off, not because of what happens during the day, but because of my reaction to it. When there is conflict or criticism or distress, I can choose the holy path, we all can. But do we? Do I? O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Today’s readings are a perfect wakeup call for the middle of Lent. We try to deny things from our lives in a spirit of repentance, but that can’t be the whole story. God desires love, not sacrifice. So if we’re giving things up to free our hearts of them, we need to fill our hearts with something else, and that obviously is love. Then, the sacrifice has meaning and worth, because a heart has changed.

The Orthodox will tell you that the Jesus Prayer is very simple, but also that it is a long and difficult path. Its statement of faith and plea for help are easily said, but to commit to those simple words can take a lifetime. Faith is a journey. Communion with God is a process. What better time and place to start than here and now? Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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Mike Karpus is a regular guy. He grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, graduated from Michigan State University and works as an editor. He is married to a Catholic school principal, raised two daughters who became Catholic school teachers at points in their careers, and now relishes his two grandchildren, including the 3-year-old who teaches him what the colors of Father’s chasubles mean. He has served on a Catholic School board, a pastoral council and a parish stewardship committee. He currently is a lector at Mass, a Knight of Columbus, Adult Faith Formation Committee member and a board member of the local Habitat for Humanity organization. But mostly he’s a regular guy.

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Trust In And Through Mary’s Fiat

My word of the year is “fiat.” When I saw that word pop up on my phone screen, I froze. Instantly, I was scared of this word. Why? Because of today’s Gospel. 

Through Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel, she uniquely participated in salvation history by completely abandoning herself and her will over to the will of God. It was so much more than a simple yes. Mary’s complete and total fiat called her to be the Mother of God, to witness her son’s Passion and death and so much more – talk about some pressure!

I started to worry about what this word fiat would mean for this year of youth ministry, for my life, for my relationship with God, for everything. Just as quickly as the fear came, though, it started to settle. Sure, I was still scared but it was a healthy fear, an exciting fear – the kind of fear where you leap into action. I knew I truly wanted to live this entire year as a fiat. I also knew that God was extending me a special invitation – to trust Him in all things, just as Mary did 2,000 years ago. 

Trust doesn’t work like a light switch, though. We don’t just flip the switch and suddenly begin to trust in the Lord. It’s something that takes practice, a habit we have to grow in. So how do we do that?

One way to grow in trust is to continuously turn to the Lord in prayer – because how can we trust someone if we don’t know who they are? Prayer is where we spend time with the Lord and share our hearts with Him. It is where we grow in relationship with Him and come to know who He is.

Prayer is also a very Marian thing to do. Before Mary gives her fiat, she is troubled by Gabriel’s greeting of “hail favored one” and she ponders in her heart what it means. When Jesus was missing in the temple for three days and He responded that He must be about His Father’s house, Mary kept those things in her heart. But she didn’t just keep them in her heart, she shared them with the Lord and so was able to trust Him in every moment. Mary prayed so that she could give her fiat again and again all the way up to and after the cross. 

Today, we have the opportunity to trust the Lord with whatever is on our hearts. Turn to Him in prayer, give whatever is on our hearts over to Him and grow in trust. And if we don’t know where to begin, we can look to Mary – Mary who pondered all things in her heart, Mary who models perfect trust and abandon when she says, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” 

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Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions as a full-time youth minister and a freelance sports writer.

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Rules Matter

We are halfway through Lent if my math is correct. I checked with my math teacher, deacon husband – I counted correctly!

The words of Moses and Jesus hang together quite well today. They are about the rules. They matter. They are given to us for reasons. Following the rules will give us wisdom and intelligence that others will take notice of and appreciate this in us. The commandments of God are not to hold us back, but to give us freedom. They are parameters within which we are to behave. Following the commandments will give us rewards. For the Israelites, it meant land. For those of us who follow Jesus, it is salvation. 

For both, it means relationship. With God and His Son. We are created in and for relationship. One of the relationships highlighted in both readings is that of parent and child; greater and least. Adults have a responsibility to teach the truth to children. And we do this with our words and actions. “Do as I say and not as I do” is a phrase that has no place with people of faith. And while it is obvious that adults teach children, when Jesus says “greater” and “least” it can also be in reference to those with differences in knowledge about the faith.

Are our thoughts, words and actions aligned with the commandments? That is the question I ask myself as I think and pray with today’s readings. And not only in matters of faith, but in our daily life. Then, what are we teaching others? Punishment for leading yourself astray is one thing, but when you lead others astray you incur a greater one. 

The commandments are meant to guide and lead us to a full life in Jesus Christ. As we continue in our Lenten observances, remind yourself why you follow the commandments. And if you have fallen away from your initial Lenten plans and sacrifices, begin again or make new ones that reflect your current situation.  

Contact the author

Deanna G. Bartalini, M.Ed.; M.P.A., is a certified spiritual director, writer, speaker and content creator. The LiveNotLukewarm.com online community is a place to inform, engage and inspire your Catholic faith. Her weekly Not Lukewarm Podcast gives you tips and tools to live out your faith in your daily life.

Feature Image Credit: Bournes senruoB, https://unsplash.com/photos/xCwPC-Vmhsg