Conversion in Unexpected Places

As a mother of three children, the desire to pass along my faith to them is great within me. When they were younger, it seemed easy. We attended Mass as a family, read the Bible and saint stories, attended VBS, and even discussed faith during dinner. Then, two of them became young adults, and the line from today’s Gospel, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place” (Luke 4:24), took on an entirely new meaning for me.

The methods employed to share my beloved faith no longer applied. My words no longer held merit, and discussions at the dinner table, well, they took a new turn I never expected. Like so many other mothers who watch their child drift from the church or experience a crisis of faith, my heart began to break, and some days the tears flowed. My prayers for the right words doubled, but none came (and least not yet). 

Then I, like so many disheartened moms before me, discovered St. Monica, the mother of the wayward son turned Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine. She, too, cried many tears and was consoled by a bishop who told her, “the child of those tears shall never perish.” That child of whom the bishop spoke was the same who once prayed, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet,” and whose conversion came about through an unexpected verse in scripture and the counsel of a holy man, St. Ambrose. 

Although St. Monica was relentless in her desire to see Augustine turn to God, going so far as to follow him to Milan secretly, it was not her words that ultimately brought about his remarkable change of heart and turning toward God. Monica’s example not only brings me great hope but clued me into something I’d not yet considered. Although I have no doubt Monica’s prayers fueled her son’s incredible conversion, it was the words of another who ultimately made the difference. My prayer and tactic, if you will, have been altered after studying these remarkable saints. I now beg the Lord to send my sons their own St. Ambrose and ask, if it be His will, that I may be St. Ambrose to someone else’s “fallen away” child. 

As today’s First Reading illustrates, the healing, change, or conversion may not come in some great flash or a dramatic tumble from a horse (aka St. Paul). It most likely will have its source in the ordinary, like Naaman, who expected some grand gesture to heal his leprosy. This story also harks to the lesson learned from Monica and Augustine, the source of change might not be the mighty king but the lowly, faithful prophet. We must, as Psalm 130:7 reminds us, “hope in the LORD, I trust in his word; with him, there is kindness and plenteous redemption.”

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Allison Gingras works for WINE: Women In the New Evangelization as National WINE Steward of the Virtual Vineyard. She is a Social Media Consultant for the Diocese of Fall River and CatholicMom.com. She is a writer, speaker, and podcaster, who founded ReconciledToYou.com and developed the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women (OSV).   

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The views and opinions expressed in the Inspiration Daily blog are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Diocesan, the Diocesan staff, or other contributors to this blog.

In The Vineyard

How has your Lent been so far? We’re just over two weeks into this liturgical season so it’s a good time for us to pause and evaluate. How are your chosen sacrifices going: strong or have you given up already? Or maybe you’re on the cusp of giving up? How’s your prayer been? What about your almsgiving? 

In the spirit of full honesty, for me, Lent has been a struggle from the very beginning. I had high hopes for this season (maybe too high) and they pretty much all came tumbling down almost immediately. I’ve still kept up with my chosen sacrifice of giving up Netflix but everything I had envisioned for prayer has been flipped upside down and turned around. 

Today’s Gospel also presents us with a great opportunity to evaluate where sin has entered into our life, seeing how Lent itself provides a great opportunity to rid our hearts of sin to make more room for Christ. 

There is a consistent theme of greed among the tenants of the vineyard. They wanted the produce all to themselves, which is why they killed the two groups of servants. Eventually, they also killed the landowner’s son in order to acquire his inheritance. 

Maybe you aren’t greedy to the point of killing someone but greed is a vice that can have a tight grip on our hearts. Do you tend to want more, more, more, even if you know what you have is enough? Do you thank God in prayer for the things that you have? Have you thanked others for the things that you have received from them or are you always wanting more from them? Is your pursuit of the material goods and things of this world more important to you than your pursuit of your relationship with God? These questions can help us begin to examine our consciences when it comes to greed as well as lead us to consider the other vices and sins that may be present in our lives. 

So take time to not only evaluate how your Lent is going but also to examine your heart. Confession opportunities abound during the season of Lent – do not be afraid to approach the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this penitential season. 

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Erin Madden 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. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

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A Life Of Prayer With Psalm 1 And Beyond

How do you pray? How do you talk to Jesus?

I have always found it so hard. In this world and age, we are so distracted by the activity around us, it is hard to focus on finding inner peace and conversing with Christ.

Too many times instead we rely on the resources and comforts of our Earthly life: money, security, worldly pleasures.

But in contrast, today’s First Reading states “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh.” And what follows is, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream”.

Psalm 1 paints a beautiful image of a source of life, water hydrating and nourishing our soul. The Psalms are actually one of my favorite sections of the entire Bible, as they always seem to so eloquently capture the true emotions of a relationship with God, both the ugly and the beautiful, through nourishing and vivid visuals. In the simplest of terms, they provide an easy foundation to teach us how to pray.

Inspired by today’s readings, I invite you to reflect on how you sustain everlasting life through prayer and conversation with God. With prayer comes inner peace and calmness similar to that of a river stream flowing tranquilly or the air we breathe or the sunlight we feel.

Please pray for the suffering, the lonely, the scared, and the rejected, so that they can know the peace and joy that is Jesus Christ who will be present through all our trials to hold and embrace us. Pray for all the souls in Purgatory, especially those who have no one to pray for them. Please pray for all souls, living and deceased, that we may find the love of Christ as the foremost meaning to life, and that we can accept His love in all we do today and always.

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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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Be a Ninevite

The Jewish people had been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a Messiah. They memorized Scripture, kept all of the Mosaic Law, repeated the stories and traditions so that on the day of the Messiah’s arrival, they would be ready. More than ready, they would be the people God called them to be! Jesus comes, the Messiah is truly present among them, and what happens? Not everyone recognizes him. Worse, those thought to be the most religiously “in tune” are the ones who are the most critical. 

Jesus pushes his audience with today’s teaching, and he pushes us as well. He draws our attention to the Ninevites, an Old Testament people who lived lives of wickedness and debauchery. God sent a reluctant Jonah to preach to them so that they could repent. When Jonah finally got to them and began his work, they recognized the truth of his words and the whole city repented and changed their ways. Jesus points to the wisdom and insight of the Ninevites. They heard words of truth and acted upon them. Yet here was Jesus, Messiah and Chosen One, in and among people trained to hear his words of truth, being questioned and doubted. 

When I consider Jesus’ words, I find myself wondering how often I expect a sign from Jesus. Do I ask him to prove himself, his faithfulness, his love? Do I make bargains with him, “I’ll do X but only if you do Y.” Do I question his presence with me or in the Eucharist?

We are blessed, privileged to know the full story of salvation. We know the Paschal Mystery, the mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. We have the words Jesus said, the things he did, the promises he made. What further signs could we want? 

Even with all that Jesus gave us, still we doubt. As you journey through this Lenten season, take some time to reflect on your trust in Jesus’ promises. Are you like the Ninevites, who recognized Truth when it was preached to them? Are you like the Pharisees, seeking signs when you already have everything you need? Somewhere in the middle? Take heart and trust in the Lord. He is with you, providing you with the Holy Spirit to face any challenge, walk any distance, until you meet the Father in heaven. 

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

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The Power of God’s Word

The First Reading today always makes me think of the power of Sacred Scripture. Words which, though penned by various writers in various times and circumstances, are ultimately authored by God Himself! 

Ever since I was in high school, the Scriptures have captured my imagination. That was thirty-five years ago when it wasn’t common to see Catholics read and study the Bible on their own initiative. Thankfully, today there are many Catholics who know that the Bible is a Catholic book—compiled and disseminated by the Catholic Church and preserved and interpreted for over 2,000 by the same Catholic Church!

If we are interested in knowing God and want to hear his voice, the Scripture is like Aladdin’s cave.  A veritable treasure trove of truth, wisdom, and knowledge.

As I have traveled the course of my life, reading Scripture and trying to understand it with the mind of the Church, I have learned to depend on God’s Word more and more. One of the ways Scripture has gained practical application in my life is in spiritual battle. As Christians, we know we are in a spiritual battle at all times. We are constantly being tempted to selfishness, pride, despair, and various other sins. When we use the Word of God to fight our own human weakness and to come against the evil forces who tempt us, we tap into a unique and awesome power. As God Himself says in today’s reading, “[My word] shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”

When we are feeling vulnerable, there is supernatural power that comes from declaring, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) If we are tempted to doubt God’s providence, there is supernatural change that we can experience by reminding ourselves to, “Rejoice in the Lord, always. I shall say it again: rejoice!…The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all…” (Phil 4:4-6). And when our children are bombarded by the godless ideology of our day, we can teach them to memorize “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8). As the next generation begins to engage in the spiritual battle, we must equip them with supernatural weapons.

Recently, as my petite, faith-filled mother-in-law was dying from cancer, I knew that she was tempted to fear. I posted a verse of Scripture from the book of Daniel where she could read it every day. Even when she was unable to see it or to speak, I would periodically recite it to her. “Do not fear, greatly beloved, you are safe. Be strong and courageous.” God’s words. Words to help us die. Words to help us live!

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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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Final Preparations

As a child, this day seemed to drag on and on. Sure, we tried to fill the time by boiling eggs and coloring them, helping Mom with final Easter preparations or going to the store to get the ham, but nothing seemed to fill the void. The anticipation of Easter Sunday was enough to pull me through, but I remember thinking that this was the only day that God was dead. He was gone. He wasn’t there. He was absent from the tabernacles throughout the world and I just felt so empty.

This is it. In just a few hours, many of us will be participating in the Easter Vigil Mass, the high point of the entire liturgical year. We will walk through history, from Creation to Salvation. Candidates and Catechumens will be brought into full Communion with the Church. We will sing a joyful Alleluia for the first time in over 40 days.

But what can we do with ourselves in the meantime? How do we fill this day of seemingly endless waiting? Perhaps silence and simplicity are the best answer. Today is not quite as sad and solemn as yesterday, since we know the end of the story, but it is still a day of preparation. Our Lent is coming to a close, but we have these last few hours to focus our minds and our hearts on the incredible mystery that we are about to experience.

Perhaps the very first line of the creation story sums it up best for us: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Isn’t that what the Resurrection is all about? God coming into our darkness, our sinfulness, our fallen nature, and filling it with light?

Yes, it can be just as simple as that. Christ is our light. And on that Easter morn he broke the natural rule of every life ending in death and showed us that we could live again. Darkness does not have to prevail, will not prevail, because the light of the Resurrection is more powerful, and it overcomes.

I cannot fathom how bright that Easter morning must have been. Surely it was intense! Yet instead of blinding, it was revealing. And although it may take a while for the eyes of our souls to adjust to the light, we eventually come to grips with its reality. Death is not the end. Christ has died so that we might live. What an incredible 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 her parish, 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.

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The Merit of Suffering

Good Friday is the darkest day in history, but it is also a day of hope. God has been crucified, but He will rise before long. We know that he will soon rise, but today is a day of solemn grief. The Savior of the World has been handed over to men to be scourged and killed.

We hear the culmination of the Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah’s prophecies. Jesus is “crushed for our sins, pierced for our offenses”. We hear his cry in the Psalm: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The Son of God experiences the depths of loss, ridicule, and pain. He takes on the weight of our sins.

But this suffering is not all darkness: it bears fruit. Not simply in the sense that it is the occasion for Jesus to show His glory. Christ’s suffering itself is fruitful: “Because of his affliction he shall see light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear” (Isaiah 53:11, my emphasis).

What does this mean? We know that there is a purpose in suffering, but how do we understand that suffering itself can be fruitful, regardless of the result? This is one of the greatest mysteries of our Faith, and it is placed before us on Good Friday.

Jesus Christ freely accepted His Passion, knowing the pain that it would cause Him. He endured the harshest treatment, never losing His peace and never complaining. He knew that He would endure the greatest suffering of all — great because of the pain, infinitely greater because of the sacrilege.

Our Lord did this of His own free will, even in His fully human will, firmly resolving to be conformed to His divine will in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew full well that He would endure great suffering, and He also knew that it was this that would best atone for the sins of man. If a true man suffered the penalty of sin with the infinite merit of God, the curse would be broken. Our sin, though its guilt can be forgiven, nevertheless merits divine punishment. The suffering itself pays the price. 

This is one key truth of suffering. Our suffering is a participation in the Cross. Of course, we need to know what exactly the suffering of Christ on the Cross was meant to accomplish to understand what this means. Being united to Christ’s sufferings means that our sufferings are done in expiation for the sins of men. We are pierced for others’ (and our own) afflictions, just as Christ was pierced for ours. Through His salvific work, our own sufferings bear fruit.

There are many other reasons for suffering, more than could be described in a blog post. But for today, let’s focus on one more reason. For all of the explanations we can give, we never really come to terms with suffering. It never ceases to be painful. However, even in our most difficult times, we can fall back on the firm conviction that Jesus suffered. Not only did He suffer, but He suffered greatly. He suffered the worst pain of all, and did it confidently, preserving His dignity and choosing not to spurn any of it. Though we may not always understand, Jesus Christ will always be with us in our sufferings. That was His choice. Today we celebrate that choice and join Him on Calvary.

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David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

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Saving Sacrifices and Service

It’s no coincidence that Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Passover meal. Nearly every part of the Passover is a foreshadowing of Christ’s saving sacrifice.

The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt; humanity is enslaved to sin. The blood of a lamb without blemish is what saved them from death; the blood of our sinless Savior saves from final death. The Israelites were to keep the lamb with them before sacrificing it; Jesus dwelt among us before His sacrifice. They were instructed to eat the flesh of the sacrificed lamb; Christ instructs us to eat His flesh in the Eucharist, and it has become a perpetual institution.

John’s Gospel, interestingly enough, does not include a direct account of the institution of the Eucharist, as the other Gospels do. Some say this is because he addresses the Eucharist in John 6. In any event, in the washing of the disciples’ feet, perhaps Christ is calling us to join in His sacrifice in our own way. None of us will ever be blameless as Jesus is, but we can sacrifice and serve others to help them bring about God’s kingdom, as He did. We can become more Christ-like by humbling ourselves in the service of God.

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J.M. Pallas has had a lifelong love of Scriptures. When she is not busy with her vocation as a wife and mother to her “1 Samuel 1” son, or her vocation as a public health educator, you may find her at her parish women’s bible study, affectionately known as “The Bible Chicks.”

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Be Attentive

Today is “Spy Wednesday,” the day that Judas betrayed Our Lord. Our First Reading and Psalm speak eloquently of the Suffering Servant of God, the Messiah, who will come to save His people from their sins. He will bear beatings, insults, and ultimately death, but will do so willingly, ready to accept anything to accomplish the will of the Father. We have been hearing these prophecies from Isaiah all week, and we will continue to hear them through Good Friday.

It is good to reflect on just how humble and confident the Lord must have been to allow Himself to be betrayed, beaten, abused, insulted, stripped, and killed so mercilessly. Today, however, I want to focus on Judas Iscariot. Why would he betray Our Lord? This is a good question on its own, but for Judas it is all the more baffling. Why would he betray Jesus Christ, whom he walked with for years and saw as a friend and master?

Judas was a Zealot, a member of a radical Jewish sect that sought to overthrow the Roman government and encourage the Messiah to come forward and lead the insurrection in the process. Many Jews thought that the Messiah would hold secular political power. The Zealots thought that they could help the Messiah achieve victory. Iscariot, Judas’ surname, gives away his Zealot sympathies. This is a title meaning “dagger man,” referring to the Zealots who would carry daggers at all times.

Over the course of Jesus’ ministry, it’s likely that Judas became disillusioned. Somewhere along the line, it became obvious to him that Jesus did not want political authority, at least not in the sense that many of the Jews thought that the Messiah would. He did come to rule and to lead, but in a very unexpected way. Judas may have hung around because of Jesus’ holiness, or simply because he wanted to get back at Him later. Either way, he remained until his betrayal, the fatal move.

Judas’ betrayal was a result of his failure to pay attention to Our Lord. He expected one Messiah, got another, and couldn’t stop and consider that he might be the misguided one. Later on, he understood his error, but was too crestfallen to make amends. Instead, he took his own life, crushed by the weight of his sin.

Job presents another way for us. He too had a misguided view of God. Though he was always righteous, unlike the sin-prone Judas, he too thought that God was different than in reality. Job, afflicted by Satan, expected the Lord to give him a comprehensive explanation. Instead, the Lord says that Job simply can’t understand: “Who is this that darkens counsel with words of ignorance? Gird up your loins now, like a man; I will question you, and you tell me the answers!” (Job 38:2–3).

In the end, Job repents in dust and ashes, admitting that God’s ways are unfathomable. He was attentive, and by listening understood that the Lord’s ways are greater, much more marvelous than his. He allowed God to change his perspective in a radical way, and humbly accepted the consequences. Let us do the same this Triduum, attending to the Lord and allowing Him to transform our lives, even if it means giving up what we might want from Him. On Good Friday and beyond, we will see Him surpass even our wildest expectations, giving the ultimate explanation for suffering.

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David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

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The Glory

What is the glory of God? How do we glorify Him? How is God glorified in us?

Here at the beginning of Holy Week, we read in the Gospel of John that as soon as Judas left the Last Supper, Jesus declared, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him…”

This does not seem to correspond to our ideas of glory, which probably include greatness, power, bright lights, and myriads of angels singing polyphonic hosannas. At least, that’s what we see in art and cinema, and our imaginations can be flattened by these ideas. We can also have “flattened” ideas about Christ’s suffering and death! Because the crucifix is familiar, and the truth that we are saved by it is repeated so often, we can lose sight of the reality of the life of the Lord and the way it transformed our lives!

Jesus truly came from the Father, setting aside his glory, to dwell among us and act and teach and willingly suffer to save us! Jesus laid down his life so that we might be truly alive, and so that he could please his Father by fulfilling His will for our eternal life. The Catechism tells us that “The world was created for the glory of God.” Not a glory that insists on its own gloriousness, but a glory that delights in pouring out immeasurable and infinite LOVE.

As we ponder the Passion this week, we must ask for the grace to see anew that God is glorified by Christ’s (and our) loving obedience. As Judas sets out with determination to betray Jesus, the Way of the Cross is set in motion, and it is this Way that glorifies the Father because it demonstrates the Son’s total loving obedience: Jesus passed onto his disciples the living truth of the Father, and then “humbled himself and became obedient, even unto death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).

Jesus’ self-gift is more than words; his love for the Father is more than words. It isn’t enough to say, “I give myself completely to you.” Complete self-giving is demonstrated when we pour ourselves out (in time, energy, attention, and love), not when we talk about how generous we are. I can say that I love you, but you know it’s true when I set aside what I want to help give you what YOU want. I can say I would give someone one of my kidneys, but it is only words until I have the opportunity to submit myself to surgery! Words must be proved by action.

Jesus prayed in the Garden, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” On the Cross, Jesus proves that his words are true. It is by his complete immolation on the Cross that Jesus fulfills the Father’s will wholly, without reserving anything for himself. It is this complete self-gift, for love of the Father and for us, that glorifies Jesus, and the Father in him.

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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/.

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Give Christ the Best of You

In the Gospel reading today, we read of Jesus’ visit to the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. As Jesus sat, Mary anointed His feet with an expensive oil and then wiped them with her hair.

Judas Iscariot became upset by her actions, but Jesus told him to leave Mary alone, for He understood what she was doing.

She was giving her best to Christ.

Imagine having Christ over for dinner. Imagine Him by your side to talk with, to eat with, and to laugh with. He was a friend to these three siblings, but they knew He was much more than a friend. They understood that He was the Messiah. And Mary treated Him as such. She gave the best of what she had to Him.

We can learn so much from this Gospel and from Mary’s actions. God has given us many blessings; in return, we must give Him our first fruits—the best of what we have.

What does that mean? It means that we must put Him first and foremost into our days. It means that we don’t forget about Him all day and remember Him two minutes before we drop into an exhausted sleep. We take time for Him. 

Upon waking up, we say a prayer of thanks. During the day, we pause to pray for others, to talk to God, and to thank Him for the blessings we have. We set aside time in the evening to pray. We make sure that, for this amount of time, we are not distracted. We talk, and we listen.

In addition, we make time throughout our days to perform acts of kindness for people—even if these acts are small. They could include a simple gesture like holding an elevator for someone, smiling at someone, or paying for the person behind you in the fast-food line. Or they could include larger and more time-consuming acts like teaching CCE or volunteering at a homeless shelter or a crisis pregnancy center.  

Remember that Christ taught that, in doing for others, we also do for Him. So everything we do for the people around us, we do for Our Lord. 

And all of these things we do for God and for others show our love for Him.

God’s love for us is infinite. In fact, though we try, we cannot even imagine the depth of His love. As Christians, it is our duty and our responsibility to imitate that love and to show it to others. 

Putting Christ first and doing good for others is giving Him the best of us. 

And for this, He is surely pleased.

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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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Be Not Afraid

I have always found it hard to pray. To find the words. And so recently I have become invested in studying the Psalms, as the Psalms give the words and prayers bestowed to us by God Himself. How moving in particular is today’s Psalm, which strikes such a chord deep in our hearts!
 
Ps 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
 
In today’s reading, we should note that just before Psalm 23, undoubtedly the best known of all the Psalms, is Psalm 22. I recognize now that Psalm 22 and Psalm 23 are complementary. Christ experienced to the very fullest both the human suffering of Psalm 22 and the love, peace and security of His Father in Psalm 23. Today’s Gospel notes the striking of the shepherd so that the sheep will be dispersed, but just after reminds us to not have our faith be shaken. It is through the difficult times that God can make his glory most magnified.
 
I attended a session this evening that reviewed the significance of hope. Particularly this year in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The speaker noted that the joys of Easter Sunday could not exist without first having the sorrow of the Passion. He also noted that the most common words of Christ in the Bible are to “Be not afraid”. Today’s readings remind me of the importance of steadfast prayer; to hold onto God through all times, both the good and the bad. It is because we are in darkness that we can strive to leap towards the light. The speaker also noted that the most common miracle Christ performed was in fact, curing the blind. This includes the physically blind but I would also think of all us who were spiritually blind in the dark. 
 
In further researching Psalm 22 and Psalm 23, I also came across quotes including, “A more complete picture of Christ’s work probably can not be seen anywhere else in the Old Testament.” And another that noted Psalm 22, The Suffering Shepherd; Psalm 23, The Good Shepherd; Psalm 24, the Great Shepherd! How powerful that we come in a full circle from the readings of the Old Testament to that of the fulfillment of the New Testament through that of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and love for us, his precious sheep.
May the love of Christ be shown unto all during this most sacred week of the year. God bless you all.

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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.

Feature Image Credit: Damir Spanic, https://unsplash.com/photos/BBERnAZGNYIutm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink