If You Can’t Say No, You Can’t Say Yes

What is freedom? The world’s idea of freedom is an absence of restraint so that we can do what we want, when we want, in the way that we want. But reason tells us that this is a false “freedom” that simply makes us slaves to our whims and emotions and selfishness (like toddlers, really). True freedom is the power to say yes to what is good and true and beautiful, and realize the profound potential in each of us, to enter into the great adventure that is God’s calling in our lives.

Most of us feel that we could be better people, but something is holding us back – some habit, some wound, some lack of understanding or talent. We could be so much more, but our fallen nature finds itself stuck in a mediocrity that has us comparing ourselves to others and wishing for more. We are not fully free to be what we sense we could be.

Can “truth” set us free? Only if what enslaves us is “not truth,” right?

Freedom is not just the ability to make any choice at all. Freedom is the potential we possess to reach the excellence we long for by intentionally choosing what is in accordance with the truth. This is why we must abide in God’s word and walk in truth in order to be truly free.

This is the message Jesus gives the Jews in today’s Gospel. He tells them the truth will set them free, but they do not understand, because they do not think they are enslaved in any way. Jesus tells them that everyone who sins is a slave. A slave of sin. Because sin is an act against truth, a choice against truth. They are slaves to sin because his word has “no room” in them. They are filled with their own ideas and their own pretensions, their own understanding. They have no room or patience for the ideas and words of this itinerant preacher who is turning their way of life upside down and stirring up trouble.

The freedom God gives us is so complete that we are free to say NO to Him. Because if we can’t say “no,” we can’t really say “yes.” A forced YES is meaningless.

What must we do to be truly free? Jesus tells us the way to walk as children of the Father: if we accept Jesus’ word (which comes from the Father), we will be his true disciples; in following him, we will come to know the truth and be truly free.

Freedom is in the heart and spirit, even when we are not physically free (whether from illness or circumstances or disability or quarantine!). If we carry the love of the Lord in our hearts and desire His will and the good of others, we remain in the truth and in profound interior freedom.

It is this profound freedom that gives true meaning to our YES.

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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/.

Desert Times

Uncertainty. That seems to be the only constant nowadays. Times are uncertain and have been for a little while now. What I write today, Friday, March 27, will not be the same on the day this blog post is published, Tuesday, March 31. What is going on in my home state of Ohio is not the same for readers from (insert state name here). But, yet, we all share similar experiences, thoughts, and feelings about this COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us are working from home. Our children are doing online distance-learning. Our cupboards are stocked with essentials, and grocery store shelves are bare. We are worried about our own health and the health of those we love. We can list the COVID-19 vs. common cold vs. flu symptoms. Our eyes have been glued to our screens anxiously waiting for the latest information, whether it be from social media, news media, or straight from our governors’ mouths.

I see similarities in these times and these feelings to today’s first reading from the Book of Numbers. The children of Israel, their patience, being worn out by the journey compares to us being sick of “social distancing” and quarantine. There is complaining. We see complaining all over our social media feeds and probably hear it enough with our own ears in between the four walls of our houses. Lacking food or water compares to the empty shelves we see when we go shopping, looking for the bare necessities to get us through this time. COVID-19 could be the seraph serpents that are biting the people, many of whom died. And, yes, of course, we have been praying that this virus comes to an end, much like the Israelites prayed that the Lord take the serpents away from them.

While we are all sharing similar experiences, readers, one thing we also share, another link we have in common, is our faith. This faith may be a source of comfort to you during this time, or it might also be struggling in the face of darkness, like everything else in the world. It may be easy to see Churches locked and public celebration of Mass suspended as a sign of despair and of hopelessness – that God has abandoned His people in the midst of crisis. Brothers and sisters, we are in the midst of Lent. Yes, liturgically and in the sense of dates and the calendar, but also literally.

We are in the desert, side-by-side with the Lord. We hunger and thirst for an end to this terrible illness, for the opportunity to hug our family and friends and, most especially, for the Eucharist. And we can take a small bit of comfort in knowing that Christ hungers and thirsts for these things right alongside us. The Lord does not want suffering, sickness, and death. He does not want to be torn apart from those that He loves, and He wants to be present with us and to us in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. For all these reasons and more, not wanting to spend life without us, God sent His only Son into the world to become human and redeem humanity through suffering and death. This is what we prepare our hearts for during Lent. This is what we are preparing our hearts for in this time of pandemic-induced crisis. Our greatest desire is for certainty, for hope, for joy, and for light. We desire the Easter Resurrection that is to come, and we will rejoice again at the Table of the Lord. We will rejoice in social gatherings and groups of our families and friends.

For those who are feeling distanced from the Church – as someone who works for a local parish, let me be the first to tell you – the Church is adapting. The Church is overcoming. The Church is finding new ways to reach its flock. Many individual parishes have started recording or streaming Masses for their faith. And if your parish hasn’t gotten there yet, I can guarantee you that they are working on it. They are desperate to meet you where you are at – which is at home, “social distancing” and under quarantine. Other parishes have already reached steps even beyond that, with Eucharistic holy hours, Bible studies and discipleship all taking place in the digital realm. The Pope has brought the worldwide community of the faithful together at appointed times for prayer – the rosary, the Our Father, the Urbi et Orbi blessing, and probably more to come – for the eradication of this virus and healing for those affected by it.

The Church will be there, waiting for you when we are able to return. We just need to be patient until we can get to that “Easter morning.” May we return with much rejoicing, with a heart that has been sufficiently prepared for the moment and with great faith in the hope of Jesus Christ.

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Erin 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.

Now More Than Ever

“Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil; for you are at my side.”

Psalm 23 has to be the most well know psalm ever written. And how appropriate that it would show up as our Responsorial Psalm in today’s readings. The world is traveling through a “dark valley” right now, wondering if it will ever find its way out. But I believe for many of us, the lack of Masses or any other Christian services is a dark valley in itself. We feel disconnected from our worshiping communities, and perhaps even from the Lord in the Eucharist. What we need to remember is that Our Lord does not distance himself from any of us, just because we can’t gather in the church or any large group.

As with many of you, I have always had a great love for this psalm, and have always used it in times of trouble, sorrow, doubt, pain, loss, or illness. It gives comfort. It uplifts. It so beautifully tells us of a God who is always looking after us, always looking for us when we need him most.

As we fast approach Easter, with all services canceled, we may find ourselves feeling as if the church has abandoned us. When in any of our lifetimes have we experienced this? When? We haven’t. And as with all uncharted territory, we are trepidacious in moving forward.

Open your bible to Psalm 23. Read it every day. Read it several times a day and let the words of comfort swell in your hearts and souls and then move on to the rest of your day. If you get a little down or feel somewhat claustrophobic, reread it. It will not, just as Our Lord will not, let you down.

“He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.”

I wish all of you courage. Courage to move forward toward the far end of this dark valley that will soon open up to those verdant pastures of hope, comfort, and peace. All will be well!

God Bless.

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Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

Risen, Body and Soul

One of my favorite books growing up was, “We Thought We Heard the Angels Sing.” It’s the heart-wrenching true story of a group of soldiers during WWII who were stranded on life rafts in the Pacific Ocean for weeks. Throughout the story, some of them die, some come very near to death, and some find God out there on those rafts. I always wondered what it would be like if you experienced something like that, but it never changed you on the inside. If your body came near to death and was miraculously saved, but it had no effect on your soul. I wondered if that was possible. This brought me to the thought that it would have been better to die out there lose to Jesus than to live without a relationship with Christ. This brings us to today’s readings.

These readings speak about the beauty of resurrection, not only of the body but of the soul. We need this message of resurrection now more than ever. Lent is always difficult because it’s a waiting period before we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. This year, Lent has been particularly difficult, as we hear and witness so much pain and suffering around us. With a massive pandemic like this, it’s easy to ask for physical healing, but this is also a great time to ask the Lord how we need to be saved spiritually, how we need to be spiritually resurrected.

Most parishes are still offering confessions during this time, with proper social distancing measures in place. If we are willing to quarantine for weeks for the health of ourselves and others, how much more should we be willing to do for our souls? Maybe it has been a while since you have been to confession. Maybe it’s a terrifying aspect of the faith to confess your sins to someone else. I don’t know where you are at in your relationship with God, but I do know that we are given a chance to be made new at every confession we make.

If you are unable to make a confession during this time, then I encourage you to make a perfect contrition. Perfect contrition is where we ask God for forgiveness not because we are scared of hell, but rather, because we are sorry we have hurt God. This is a time that we can make sure we are healthy physically by taking necessary precautions, while also taking necessary precautions to make sure we are spiritually healthy as well. The closer we get to God during this time, the stronger we will be when we make it through.

I want to share this Youtube video of a song from the popular musical, “Dear Evan Hanson.” I like to listen to the words as if God is singing to me. He wants to give us His mercy; we need only to ask. God Bless you during this time!

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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.

A Time of Germination

In today’s Gospel, we are brought face to face with a plethora of opinions about Jesus. There are those who think he is the Messiah. Those who think he is just a guy from Galilee. Some are afraid of him. Others worry he will upset their place in politics.

And the thing is, this passage from John doesn’t resolve the dilemma for us. We are left to make up our minds as to which opinion reflects our heart.

Here we are, just over halfway through Lent, in a crazy, mixed-up, upside-down world where every day we are asked to decide what we believe is true and the role we will play in the common good, and now, the Gospel brings us an example of more confusion? I can get that from Facebook, thank you very much!

But wait, what if that is exactly the point? What if, in a world of confusion, we are being called to be a beacon of perseverance and stability? What if, when all those about us are losing their way, we become even more committed to The Way?

What a relief! This means I don’t have to get it all at once. I don’t have to figure out what is happening in our world. I don’t have to have all the answers, because I know the one who does. I know which opinion reflects my heart; I belong squarely with Jesus. Believing in Jesus isn’t just something I say; it becomes part of who I am. The same me who feels so inadequate to lead, who isn’t sure about much right now, is transformed by God’s mercy. I can think beyond how what is happening around me impacts me to seeing how I can impact how all this affects others. I can choose to take this time of enforced slow down as an opportunity to open myself up to God’s grace and allow him to replace my heart of stone with his own heart. I can take time for phone calls. I can write letters. I can finish my nephew’s long-awaited quilt. I can slow down the prayers with my husband so that they aren’t a hurried part of a morning routine but a true reflection of my soul. I can make my bed in the morning and polish my sink at night. All those little things I have sacrificed at the altar of doing other important stuff is now the heart of my days. And in those little things, I feel Christ’s peace and connect with the Father’s mercy even in the midst of so much unknown.

In this time of deprivation and withdrawal, let us be like germinating seeds, soaking in the moisture and nutrients so that when we break through the soil and reach the sun again, we will be ready to thrive.

“Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance.”

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Sheryl 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.

New Priorities

As I write, the governor is on live shutting down our state. Many have already succumbed to the quarantine, and surely the rest of the country will follow soon. People keep saying we are living in unprecedented times, and surely that is true, but my mind keeps wandering to other unprecedented times.

What about the people of Israel that wandered in the desert for 40 years? What about those who survived the flood? What about those who lived through the plagues? What about those who went through the potato famine or droughts or pestilence?

My husband and I were reading up on the Great Depression over the weekend. I remember my grandmother, born in early 1929, saying that a piece of fresh fruit was such a treat that she would even eat the peel of an orange. I could never imagine such a time… until now. 

While we didn’t buy into the hysteria, we did get two weeks’ worth of groceries, and it is yet to be seen whether we have enough TP. We’ll get through it, just as so many people got through other major trials and tribulations throughout history. 

We will gather strength from each other, we will help each other, we will lift each other up when we are down, and we will grasp desperately to our God and depend fully on Him. 

Many people have their theories about what we are living through. Some think it may be the end of the world. Some think it’s a wake-up call. Some think it’s all a hoax. Some think it is a gross exaggeration. Others are scared to death. 

I tend to look at it as an opportunity to turn our hearts back to God. We have gotten so off track, so self-centered, so technology-centered. And while up until now most of us still have access to the internet and our devices, I would like to extend an invitation. Turn them off. Stop checking for the latest news every 5 minutes. Stop driving yourself crazy worrying, wondering, and complaining. Be present in the moment. Spend time in silence. Still your heart. Commune with your God. We are being allowed this time to get our priorities straight, namely, God and family. 

“When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
Many are the troubles of the just man,
but out of them all the LORD delivers him.
He watches over all his bones;
not one of them shall be broken.”
(from Psalm 34) 

Let today’s Psalm assure you: The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

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Tami 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.

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places

I did something difficult this past week: I wrote my will. (Yes, of course, I should have done it ages ago; let’s take that as read.) While I am naturally hoping it won’t come into play in the near future, the truth is I have a significantly increased chance of dying now than I had a month ago. Hence the will.

Not, mind you, that I own a lot. My mortgage company and I co-own my cottage. I have a cat. That’s pretty much it—I thought. And then I got to the page where it discussed intellectual property, and I think I actually exclaimed “whoa!” out loud.

I have intellectual property. I write mystery novels. Not the Great American Novel, not even an ephemeral bestseller or two; but still, I write novels that, I am told, make for satisfying entertainment. On one hand, this doesn’t matter much, since there aren’t torrents of money coming in from them. On the other hand, who do I name as literary executor? Who is the person I trust with all my aspirations and dreams, my mistakes and my successes, my old outdated articles and my not-yet-published potential masterpieces?

Who do I trust?

It’s impossible to reflect on Scripture without seeing it through the lens of the present moment. It’s impossible to hear the word of the Lord and not also hear it echoing through our own lives and our own experiences. So, like everyone reading this, I am aware of the challenges of living and thinking—of everything I do, in fact—in the midst of a global pandemic. How can that not influence how we hear God’s voice? Every Biblical writer looked around themselves and said, “Look at the world! What are you doing? What am I doing?” It’s a cry for the ages.

And we find ourselves taking it up anew today.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling us who he is. He emphasizes how the Jews are looking for the meaning of life in the wrong places. Their thinking cannot make the connection between what they know and who they see before them; they lack that light. And the reality that shines through this reading—and to some extent also through the previous readings, the passage from Exodus and the psalm—is that we persist in looking for meaning in the wrong places. It’s the ongoing story of humanity.

Who do we trust? In Exodus and Psalm 106, we trusted a golden calf. In the Gospel, we trust in the things that point toward Jesus—the words of Scripture, the life of Moses, the appearance of John the Baptist—rather than in Jesus himself.

There’s a country song that bemoans the singer’s tendency to be “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Isn’t that what we do when we’re looking everywhere but at God? We look at the divisions and issues in the Church and we accuse God of not taking better care of us. We create pollution in our streams and earth and ask God why he allows children in those polluted areas to die. We listen to the promises of politicians and follow them even when it means moving away from our faith. Why are we looking everywhere but to Christ?

That’s how I resolved my dilemma, by the way. I asked myself where I should be looking. I looked at the people closest to me and asked myself, who loves my work? And once I asked the right question, the answer became immediately clear; I knew right away who it should be. Who I could trust. I had broken the issue down to its most basic reality, stripped it of all the extraneous “stuff” I’d put there. I finally asked the right question, looked in the right direction.

If we ask the question, who loves me? then our answer becomes clear, too. In the words of another song, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Who do I trust? This I know.

It’s so easy in a time of chaos to let fear take the wheel. Fear makes us turn away from the right questions and the right road. Fear sows divisions and hatred among us; it helps us make bad decisions and turn to the darkness. We have to experience fear, but we don’t have to stay there. We can write our wills. We can take health and safety precautions. We can turn away from the golden calf, stop looking for love in all the wrong places, and instead rest in the love of the Lord.

This I know.

An optional prayer over the people from today’s Mass seems a fitting prayer for a time of pandemic:

O God, protector of all who hope in you,
bless your people, keep them safe,
defend them, prepare them,
that, free from sin and safe from the enemy,
they may persevere always in your love.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.

Thoughts on Waiting and Fasting

It seems the Feast of the Annunciation can often be underplayed. It has great drama, with the angel Gabriel’s announcement and Mary’s humble reply. Our thoughts may go to what we would do if we saw an angel, or would we maybe be a little proud if God chose us for such a task.

This is the day God becomes Man Incarnate. I imagine that from the time Eve was banished from the Garden, with every baby she nursed, she wondered, hoped, and prayed this would be the one to undo her sin. Is it Abel? Could it be Cain? How about Seth? But God was silent.

Through the long years, babies were born, but God was silent. We come to the story of Abraham. God promised a baby to Abraham, but again He delayed. When Isaac was finally born, God asked Abraham to give him up–to sacrifice him–incomprehensible to Abraham, but a picture of God’s love that would be shown to us. But when?

Isaac wasn’t the one, and the years marched on. Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David—all these furthered God’s plan but were not the one that Eve had longed for. The kingdom of Israel is divided, and more kings rise up, with prophets to call them back to God–even Elijah, who called down the Fire of God, is not the one. About 700 years before today’s gospel, the prophet Isaiah tells the wicked king Ahaz to ask for a sign. He will not, but God speaks and promises a virgin will be with child, and that child, her son, will be named ‘God is with us.’

The Jewish calendar numbers our year 1 A.D. as 3761 since the beginning of the world. Three thousand years since God promised he would rid the world of Eve and Adam’s sin, and restore us to his friendship. And Mary says, “Yes, I will.” No complaints about what took you so long, just yes–whatever you want, I want.

As I write, we’re a week into social isolation in the U.S. Seven days–days marked by fear, loneliness, anger, boredom–all of the things we usually experience, but without any distractions.

Masses are shut down, and Jesus seems far away. Two Sundays without the Sacrament and now not even daily Mass is allowed. How shall we survive?

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes that perhaps fasting from the Eucharist could help us to deepen and renew our relationship with the Body of Christ:

Today too, I think, fasting from the Eucharist, really taken seriously and entered into, could be most meaningful on carefully considered occasions, such as days of penance…

“A fasting of this kind…could lead to a deepening of personal relationship with the Lord in the sacrament. It could also be an act of solidarity with all those who yearn for the sacrament but cannot receive it. It seems to me that the problem of the divorced and remarried, as well as that of intercommunion (e.g., in mixed marriages), would be far less acute against the background of voluntary spiritual fasting, which would visibly express the fact that we all need that ‘healing of love’ which the Lord performed in the ultimate loneliness of the Cross Naturally, I am not suggesting a return to a kind of Jansenism: fasting presupposes normal eating, both in spiritual and biological life. But from time to time we do need a medicine to stop us from falling into mere routine which lacks all spiritual dimension. Sometimes we need hunger, physical and spiritual hunger, if we are to come fresh to the Lord’s gifts and understand the suffering of our hungering brothers. Both spiritual and physical hunger can be a vehicle of love.”

May our fast from the Eucharist bring us closer to the joys of Easter!

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Photo Courtesy of Henry Ossawa Tanner

Pamela joined Diocesan’s staff in 2006, after a number of years in the non-profit sector. Her experience is in non-profit administration including management, finance, and program development, along with database management and communications. She was a catechist in her parish RCIA program for over 15 years, as well as chairperson of their Liturgy Commision. Received into the Catholic Church as an adult, Pamela’s faith formation was influenced by her Mennonite extended family, her Baptist childhood, and her years as a Reformed Presbyterian (think Scott Hahn).

Do You Want to be Well?

“Do you want to be well?”

This may seem like a crazy question to someone who has been ill for 38 years. Why did Jesus ask it?

The lame man’s answer may give a clue. He does not say yes. He shifts the problem to the circumstances around him: he has no one to put him into the healing pool, which was said to cure the first person to enter it when the water was disturbed. He is alone. No relatives or friends to help him.

Perhaps, having been alone and sick for so long, he had simply lost hope. He was accustomed to his aloneness and his inability to get into the water. His solitude and situation had become familiar and somewhat comfortable. He went to the pool where he might be cured, but without any real hope that it was possible for him. His difficult rut had become his permanent reality in his mind.

Jesus stirs up a new possibility by looking at him and asking, “Do you want to be well?” Do you want to change? Do you desire something new? Because something new demands something of you! Are you ready for this? “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”

Jesus never forces himself or his way on us. We must desire it. That is why he tells us elsewhere to ask, seek, knock in order to receive. We have a responsibility to direct our desires and our hope toward the good and true and beautiful, toward God’s will for us, toward true happiness in Christ. This demands something of us. We must be willing to leave some things behind, to encounter the Truth in Christ, to embark on the spiritual adventure of grace.

Jesus tells the healed man and us, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.”

In order to love, we must leave behind our grudges.
In order to serve, we must leave behind our pride.
In order to be whole, we must leave behind our woundedness.
In order to walk with Christ, we must leave behind our own ideas and agendas.

Do we want to be spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically well? Do we want to be true followers of Christ? Are we willing to open ourselves fully to all God wants to pour into us and through us? Are we ready to be well?

What do we need to let go of?

During this time of social isolation (a friend called it “the lentiest Lent”!), we have the opportunity to spend more time in prayer and reflection. Let’s imagine Jesus himself looking us in the face and asking, “Do you want to be well?” and ask him to show us what our true answer is. And then he can begin to set us 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/.

A New Heaven and a New Earth

Given the state of the world today, amid the Coronavirus pandemic, doesn’t the sound of God, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, bring about a longing to change all that is happening? Oh, that we could reverse everything and start over. I don’t mean going back to the Garden of Eden. But, could we instead hope that the world, as we know it today, would revert to love, kindness, no illness, no death, no weeping, no pollution, no fears — Oh, that we could!

Isaiah speaks of a new earth. A renewal of our commitment to God and all the good we can experience when we believe and follow.

Jesus, then, in the Gospel, brings healing and wholeness to a family facing the death of a child, reminding us that Jesus IS the Resurrection and the Life.

Our lives in today’s world, as in times past, will not be free from pain, sickness, or tragedy. We cannot expect that. But what we can expect from our commitment to Jesus is the peace he alone can bring. And that peace will give us the strength to get through the toughest of times.

To all of you who are plagued by fear or troubled by what is happening in our world of 2020: I encourage you to continue to pray and hold close to the heart of Jesus.
To all of you who are plagued by fear of what is happening in our world, but do not have the strength of Faith, don’t despair. Look to someone you know is secure in Jesus, and seek the help that will bring you close to the Savior and, in the end, free of fear. You will find yourselves calmer in coping with this unknown attacking our world.

“You changed my mourning into dancing; O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks. And I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.”

God Bless

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Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.