What’s Your Secret?

Today is the memorial of Saint Angela Merici  (and my wife’s birthday.) Perhaps you have heard of Saint Angela or know very little about her. One of our daughters that writes a blog here attended and graduated from Brescia University a few years ago that was run by the Ursuline Sisters. That order was founded by Saint Angela Merici, which is the oldest women’s order on the planet.

Saint Angela seems to be a secret in the church, at least in the USA. She grew up in Italy during a very difficult time. It was also the time of Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop of Milan. Angela was a friend of the very rich and the very poor.

I used the word secret because Jesus used that word in today’s Gospel. Jesus was rapid fire in his talk today! First, he asks if you put a lamp under a bushel basket or a bed? Then, “nothing is secret except to come to light”. And, “anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.” Then, “take care what you hear”. In a way, Jesus is telling us what to do and what not to do.

When I read the word secret, I flashed back to two things. First, many years ago someone told me that I should make a general confession. I wasn’t even sure what that was. I prayed about it and followed through on the Feast of Saint Ambrose. Gulp! It was a very difficult thing to do! It is revisiting one’s past sins and telling them to a priest in confession. Now I know if those sins were confessed before then they are in the past and do not need to be resurrected again. I’m still not sure if it was the right thing to do, but so be it.

The second thing is when we belonged to Saint Jude Church, we would have a Men’s Retreat every January. If you have never been on a weekend retreat, then you are in for a surprise! Jesus walks into the retreat whether you are ready or not. (A Cursillo is a good example. Try it, you will like it.) During those retreats, we always had confessions. Our attendees were from very young adults to the elderly. Saturday evening seemed to be the time when the Holy Spirit really did some work. We had one gentleman that hadn’t been to Reconciliation in over 30 years. The joy was overwhelming. His secrets were totally forgiven. He was a new man.

So I ask you, do you have secrets that should have been confessed by now? This is a great time to bite the bullet and to just do it. Saint Angela was a dear friend to many. She had heard their secrets as she counseled them. I’m sure she led them to the nearest priest to be absolved of the darkness that they had carried for so long. I am sure you all have heard of Divine Mercy. It is free,  and it is waiting for you in the confessional.

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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The Soil of Our Souls

If you’re like me, you probably can’t even count the number of times you’ve heard or read today’s Gospel, Mark’s version of the sower and the seed. That familiarity with the parable puts us in a polar opposite situation with the Twelve Apostles. “We get it, we get it. Good soil — fruit; bad soil — withered,” our minds might be saying, not understanding how or why Jesus’ closest followers had to ask him what the story meant.

Yet, Jesus’ response to us, I think, would be exactly the same as it was to his disciples. To paraphrase: “Don’t you get it? If you don’t get it here, how will you get any of my teaching?” Because responding out of familiarity, “We get it” seems to be just what he’s warning against. We think we know, so we let the teaching get snatched away, or let it wither, or let it get choked by other worldly concerns, including our own arrogance that “We get it.”

Looking at it like that made me realize, while the four types of soil can be seen as four types of people, four types of hearts our Lord is looking to penetrate, they also can be seen as four varying stages in our own hearts and our own faith journeys. Anyone who has ever been to a retreat, Cursillo, spiritual conference or other faith-filled event can’t help but leave it thanking God for how much they have been moved and changed and enlivened. God forbid on the drive home we see a broken-down car on the side of the road or a homeless person panhandling on the corner and we give them no thought at all. Or someone cuts us off and we’re quick to scream loudly. Fertile ground and a rocky path, right there in the same heart.

The key, Jesus tells us, is hearing the word and accepting it. In the context of the parable, the seed is sown in the soil of our souls. Accepting it, then, is the tending of that seed and that soil, becoming our own gardeners to make sure that seed bears fruit that is thirty or sixty or a hundredfold. We have to have an active role in the process, the accepting, the nurturing, the cultivating, developing and sharing of that which has been given to us.

Paul reminds us in his salutations to Timothy and Titus how the seed sown by Jesus is planted in us today, 2,000 years later. “Timothy, my dear child,” he says, and “Titus, my true child in our common faith.” Faith is handed down to us in close, personal relationship. Our parents, priests, teachers, catechists, spiritual directors; the writings of saints baring their souls; the epistles and Gospels and prophets and psalms. With the Holy Spirit’s help, these personal connections transmit the love of God through our Lord Jesus Christ down through time and space to our very souls. Now it is up to us to tend the soil of our souls, to accept the seed planted there and make it bear much fruit. And what do you do when you have fruit, abundant and overflowing? You give it to others.

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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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On The Conversion (And Transformation) Of Saul/Paul

Saul becomes Paul. Are they the same person? Yes and no.

We know that Christ has come to make us a new creation. He makes the whole world new, and each of us new. He proclaims in today’s Gospel that his disciples will do things that were hitherto unheard of, like driving out demons, speaking new languages, overcoming poison, and healing the sick.

And we know that when Saul was knocked to the ground surrounded by a brilliant light and the voice of Jesus asked him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” he was never the same again. Blinded and humbled and stopped in his tracks from arresting followers of “the Way,” Saul was profoundly changed. So profound was this change that on recovering his strength he immediately began to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God!

He is made new. In one moment, his cramped and somewhat self-righteous zeal for the Jewish faith has him chasing down Christians to arrest them. In the next moment, his radical new (Christian) self is worshipping with them and proclaiming the Truth of Jesus Christ. He is, in essence, a new creation. Even though he is the same man, he has been made new.

Did he receive a new name? Actually, he didn’t! We often think he did (and Jesus DID sometimes re-name people) because when we first encounter him in Acts he is called Saul, and we know him as Paul. Like many people in the Bible, he had two names: Saul was his Hebrew name, but he was also known by his Roman/Latin name, Paul. It seems he began to use his Roman name because it was the name the Gentiles would have been familiar with, and he felt called to preach to the Gentiles.

But he was certainly made new in Christ Jesus, as we all are!

We may not see a bright light or get knocked to the ground, but the Lord is always calling to us and always coming to us! He wants to convert our hearts and transform them to be like His Holy Heart, so that we become love, like Him. Where are the points in your life that God has stopped you in your tracks, prevented you from doing something, or changed your course? Has God ever blinded you by His Presence, given you a word or a question, directed your heart in a surprising direction?

There are many ways that God uses to confirm us in the faith and invite us into His glorious will for us. On this celebration of the Conversion of St. Paul, let’s ask him to help us make the small and large changes that will make us truly new in Christ.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Father Rob), and four grandchildren. She is President of the local community of Secular Discalced Carmelites and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio. Currently, she serves the Church by writing and speaking, and by collaborating with various parishes and to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is www.KathrynTherese.com

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Blasphemy Against the Spirit?

Our Gospel gives us an opportunity to address one of the more confusing passages in Scripture: “‘Amen, I say to you, all sins and blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.’ For they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’” (Mark 3:28–30). We must keep in mind that Our Lord means what He says and He does not contradict Himself. We have to wrestle with the hard sayings, and every difficulty in Scripture can be solved, even if we do not yet have the tools to do so.

So, what is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? St. Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the Church, summarizes the issue neatly. In his Summa Theologiae (II-II, q. 14), he mentions the interpretations of Sts. Athanasius, Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome, John Chrysostom, and Augustine, holy Fathers of the Church.

All but St. Augustine interpret blasphemy against the Spirit as literally speaking a blasphemy against the Third Person of the Trinity, namely by attributing His work to Satan. This is what the Jews did in our Gospel. Jesus had been performing miracles by His own power, glorifying God, but the Jews called Him possessed, saying that He was casting out demons by Satan’s power. In reality, Jesus performed miracles by the power of the Spirit. But the Jews said that the Spirit’s work was Satan’s work, gravely offending God.

St. Augustine interpreted blasphemy against the Spirit as final impenitence, which is the refusal to accept the mercy of God. According to Aquinas, this can happen through despair or presumption. In despair, we think ourselves unworthy of God’s mercy and resign ourselves to Hell, never daring to ask forgiveness for our shameful sins. In presumption, we think ourselves too good for God’s mercy, never stooping to ask forgiveness because we think we are perfect. Either way the result is the same: a direct offense against God’s mercy or justice, and death in the state of unrepented mortal sin.

These interpretations are not mutually exclusive, but St. John Paul II emphasizes Augustine’s interpretation in his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Dives in Misericordia (part II, section 6). There he describes the “unforgivable sin” as unforgivable by its very nature, since it rejects the salvation offered to us through the Holy Spirit.

Whether we side with either or both interpretations, this shouldn’t be an issue for most of us. Chances are that if we are reading this, we are in the habit of turning to God for His mercy and confessing our sins in the confessional. However, it is always good to be on our guard against despair, presumption, and calling God’s good work evil. It can be easy sometimes to think that we are either too far gone or too good for God’s forgiveness.

(On his feast day, I’d also like to recommend St. Francis de Sales, another Doctor of the Church. His Introduction to the Devout Life is incredibly practical, and his section on ordinary temptations (part 4) is especially helpful.)

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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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A Year Acceptable to the Lord

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus went into the synagogue and read this passage from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

He then looked at all those who sat listening to Him and proclaimed: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Wow! We hear that and we feel excited. But the people listening then were astounded—so astounded that they became furious. They drove Him from the temple believing He had committed blasphemy. But we know that He did not. We know that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the promises in the Old Testament. 

As Christ said, He was sent to “proclaim liberty to captives.” We desperately need this liberty, for we are all ensnared and held captive by something of this world—our jobs, our friend groups, social media, the news, even our phones. We allow these things to take the place of Jesus in our hearts and minds. We allow these things to fill us, and often they fill us with anger, resentment, anxiety, sadness, or more. 

But Jesus is here—and has always been here—to free us from the chains that come with these things. He doesn’t just fill us, as these things do, He brings us joy, peace, love, and harmony.

Nothing of this world can do that. Sure, many can bring happiness, but happiness is fleeting. Happiness doesn’t last. But a joy in Christ lasts. 

So let us take time to reflect on how we spend our days. Where is our focus? Are we spending so much time watching the news, playing on our phones, or scrolling through social media that Christ becomes secondary in our lives? Are we letting the world fill us with an anger that threatens to destroy the joy we have? 

Because of sin, our world is broken. This should—and often does—bring us sadness, but it’s a sadness we must not dwell upon. Instead, we must turn this sadness into an awareness that only loving and God-centered actions can effect the change we need in this world.

So, as we begin this new year, let us allow God to liberate us from our captivity and truly make this a year acceptable to the Lord. 

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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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Standing for Truth

Today’s Gospel is short, only 2 verses. When I first read it I thought to myself, “Now what in the world am I going to write about for this Gospel?! There’s nothing there!” But there is so much packed into these 2 short verses. 

In today’s Gospel, we hear what seems to be talked about a lot less than Christ’s miracles and His gathering of followers. We hear that His mission was not always easy. Throughout the years He spent preaching and performing miracles, He encountered countless people who rejected Him. Many thought that Christ was crazy, that he was “out of his mind”. Despite sharing the Truth of salvation, He experienced harsh criticism and condemnation. 

In the same way that Christ was mocked, ridiculed, and shunned for telling those around Him the Truth, so too do we risk being mocked, ridiculed, and shunned for our belief in the Truth. Yesterday (and throughout the month of January), all over the country hundreds of thousands of people marched for the rights of unborn babies. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recognizes today as a “Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children”. Those who stand for the dignity of human life in the womb are met with the same ridicule and the same bitter criticism that Christ faced in the Gospel.  

St. John Paul the Great encouraged us in our mission of protecting the dignity of human life at all stages: “Never tire of firmly speaking out in defense of life from its conception and do not be deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination. Christ is with you: be not afraid!” In saying “Christ is with you”, John Paul II did not mean merely on a spiritual level, although that is true too. Christ is with us in our battle to share the Truth about human life. He endured the same derision for speaking the same Truth. 

May we find great comfort in uniting our suffering and the mockery we endure to that which Christ endured. In times of sorrow and frustration, may we seek His Holy Face and be reminded that He has already won the battle and place our hope and trust in Him. 

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

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A Modern Day Apostle

Do you consider yourself to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Although clearly not one of the twelve, do you see yourself as an apostle? Do you show others God’s love, mercy, and hope like those first chosen by Christ? The word apostle translates into one sent on mission. Have you discerned the mission God has set you apart for, something only you can do that in some way brings the Good News to others? A mission possible by living in the light of Christ, never crushed or discouraged by circumstances, that trust in Him alone. 

An apostle has been summoned, called, or appointed to preach, bearing some responsibility to proclaim the Gospel. A summons can be defined as an urgent demand for help—being called upon for specific action; how you answer will look different for everyone. For me, this call became my profession—leaving behind one career to embrace a new one as an evangelist. For others, it may look more like sharing the faith at home, parish, or community as a volunteer or simply living the Catholic faith in a way to reflect Christ to others.

Discipleship needs to be rooted in grace found compellingly through prayer, Scripture, and participation in the sacraments. Before appointing the twelve to be sent out preaching, Luke (6:12) reveals that Jesus retreated to a time of silence, alone with the Father, and spent all night praying.

God has entrusted the message of reconciliation to each of us, making us ambassadors just as he did the first apostles. It is a participation in the mission of Christ not just to watch others about the work of God but alive, fully engaged, and active within it ourselves. We fulfill our baptismal promises to profess the faith by sharing the faith handed down or discovered by us. Our contribution to preaching the Gospel can be as simple as how we live our lives, whether in our homes, parishes, family, or communities. 

 As often accredited to Saint Francis’s, preaching does not always involve words but, more importantly, our actions and how others see us. God, out of pure love, brought you into being. In an abundance of his love, we exist. Created to know, love, and serve him; however, as the Scriptures teach, the greatest of these is always love and how we choose to love Him. God gives us the freedom to accept or reject a life of faith. The first apostles accepted the call to come and follow—to grow nearer, pick up their crosses, and embrace the gift of salvation through Christ. 

So, do you consider yourself an apostle of Jesus Christ? How will you demonstrate God’s love, mercy, and hope like those first chosen by Christ? Will you accept the invitation to the mission God has for you? In humble obedience to give yourself, your life, to Him who loved you into being. To say along with the Psalmist, “Be exalted above the heavens, O God; above all the earth be your glory!”

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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.

What Does Your Boat Look Like?

This past weekend we celebrated my 7 year old son’s birthday. It was an emotional one for me because I realized that we very well could have been mourning on this day instead of rejoicing. I am so grateful to my merciful Lord and the Doctor who had the courage to perform a risky surgery so that my son could still be with us. 

I ask myself why we are so “lucky” (ie. blessed) and so many other families are suffering. I could name a handful of local young Catholic families with several children who have lost a mom or a dad in the past six months. Whether it be from an accident, a freak illness or some other unexpected cause, these kids are now growing up without a mom or a dad.

Sometimes these thoughts make me weary and together with my daily tasks and taking care of an infant, exhaustion sets in. At these times I feel like I can relate to Jesus in today’s Gospel.

 “Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. [ ] He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him.” Can you imagine how exhausted He must have been? If we have little ones, or work or daily tasks “pressing upon us” all day we just want to be left alone. We want some time to be quiet, to relax and to process. Yet, the crowds in this passage seem merciless. They were encroaching on His personal space. They were demanding. Yet, Jesus in his compassion, saw their need and did not deny them. He cured many and cast out evil spirits. 

So whenever we feel like our daily life is crowding us, pressing upon us or closing in on us, let us remember what Jesus did. He asked his disciples to ready a boat and he withdrew toward the sea. 

What does your boat look like? Where can you withdraw for some quiet time with our Lord? Perhaps you live on a lake and can gaze out on the water as Jesus did. Perhaps you have a prayer corner in your home or an office with religious images on the walls. Perhaps you have to lock yourself inside your room. Whatever it takes, don’t be afraid to get into your “boat” and withdraw with your Lord and God. 

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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 projects, finding fun ways to keep her little ones 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 over 20 years.

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Who has the power?

Two important questions: Who has the power? Who speaks for God?

Today’s First Reading and Gospel gave me great pause. They forced me to think about two questions that are as important today as they were at the time that these events took place in the life of David and of Jesus. 

Who has the power?

Who speaks for God?

King Saul, the anointed King of Israel, was responsible for leading his soldiers into battle. Instead he cowered with his army for over forty days until a boy offered to fight the mighty Goliath. 

Who had the power here? It seemed that Goliath had the raw power of size and strength. King Saul had the power of authority. David, who would be called “a man after God’s own heart,” had the power of trust in God, of truly knowing God’s heart. In the Responsorial Psalm we almost hear King David’s heart sing of his dependence on and trust in the Lord his rock:

Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
            who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war….
My shield, in whom I trust,
            who subdues my people under me….

You who give victory to kings,
            and deliver David, your servant from the evil sword.

For Saul to engage the situation with Goliath with complete responsibility he would have had to go into battle, relying on a God who was faithful and not on his own devices. He would have had to risk engaging the enemy troops even at the possible cost of his own death for the sake of securing the safety and sovereignty of the Israelites. David was absolutely sure that the Lord who delivered him from the claw of lion and bear would keep him safe while he engaged Goliath in battle. He looked not at the seeming power Goliath possessed, but at the power of God who had shown the shepherd David that he was never alone, that he couldn’t save himself, and that God would continue to deliver him.

In the Gospel, it appears that the Pharisees would have the power. They, the appointed shepherds of the people, used the man with the withered hand as a tool to trap Jesus. Their minds were set regarding what they thought about Jesus and the text says, “their hearts were hardened.” And indeed after Jesus heals the man in the synagogue that day, they join with the Herodians in plotting Jesus’ death. 

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, reaches out to heal, showing us the heart of God for us all. Jesus doesn’t change his story out of fear of the consequences for his own safety. Instead, Jesus, who does always what the Father tells him to do, enters into battle ultimately with the power of sin and darkness. Even through his death, he ultimately is victorious in the power of God. The Pharisees and Jesus would have talked about the situation in the synagogue that day in very different ways. While there was a blindness on the part of the Pharisees who had hardened their heart to Jesus and his teaching, there was in Jesus an openness, an obedience to God even unto death. Imagine sitting at table with the Pharisees later that evening, and then later around the campfire with the apostles and their Master. Two different narratives would have emerged.

Who has the power?

Who speaks for God?

JD Flynn, Editor-in-chief of The Pillar, in his article “Competing realities, ecclesial division, and ecclesial renewal,” talks about a similar situation in which we live today. “Right or wrong, we’ve learned in the past two years that before history can be written, there is sometimes a period in which wildly divergent narratives compete to account for even the most basic sequences of events.” (See The Pillar newsletter on January 4, 2022.)

There are “mutually exclusive interpretations and re-tellings at both the highest levels of government and family dinner tables” of the events of January 6, the coronavirus pandemic and vaccinations, the elections of 2020. Even Catholics are fragmented into sharply divided camps often led by strong personalities with a social platform giving competing accounts of ecclesial realities. Flynn notes that even within our family and Catholic circles we struggle with or against each other as we engage in conversations about vaccine mandates, or Vigano, or whether the parish should still be requiring masks.

It isn’t easy to live in these times of uncertainty. It can be disconcerting when we discover that family and friends with whom we ordinarily get along have very different conceptions of the reality around us. That experience is jarring, particularly in a situation in which everyone is sifting through information to determine as best as they can what is true and what is fake. What would have two years ago been an interesting conversation has turned into an attempt to convince the other of what each believes to be real, as each entrenches themselves more and more in their own camp.

Who has the power?

Who speaks for God?

I am taking away from these readings today three touchstones in living through this continued uncertain time, and I offer them for your consideration:

  1. It is reliance on God and not self-sufficiency that will give me the courage to risk being what I have been called to be, whatever may be the consequences for myself.
  2. If I use people, events or facts solely in order to bolster my own view of reality against another’s, I have to seriously examine myself if I am only increasing my own blindness and hardening my heart.
  3. Like Christ, we each live our lives within the great drama of salvation. We each have a role in the salvation God is bringing about in the Kingdom of God. Whatever I can do to keep my own attention on the larger mystery of what God is doing will help me engage with others more wisely, more freely, more lovingly.

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

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Faith, Freedom, and Pharisees

Pharisees. As we read through Mark’s Gospel, we see Jesus making enemies when he is only trying to hold out the truth to them (have you ever felt like this?). The Pharisees are the ones who hold themselves above everyone else because they know the law up and down, inside and out. And they follow the law. Scrupulously. Not just the Scriptural law, but the hundreds – HUNDREDS – of traditional interpretations of that law. In their (self-determined) superiority, they ruled over the people and in their (self-determined) self-righteousness, they looked down on all others.

This is what humans will do. Because we are fallen, and we are free. So wherever there are rules, there will be a tendency for some to act like the Pharisees. There will always be some who assure themselves that they are doing things properly because they are obeying the precise letter of “the law.” And it never ends there! For those who think and operate like the Pharisees, there will always be a tendency to nitpick the (self-determined) failures of others.

At some point on the spiritual journey, most of us become hyper-aware of “the rules” and work hard to conform ourselves, our behavior, our habits, to those rules. Saying specific prayers, attending Mass, confessing our sins, and practicing other devotions are good things! But the enemy can turn these good things into emblems of (self-determined) righteousness, and even tempt us to think we are better than others. We may even be tempted to look down on others or begin to nitpick inessential details. This is not the point of the rules the Church gives us!

If we do these “good things” just to “be good Catholics”, we are missing the essential thing. Religion is not about following rules (though the rules are certainly the guardrails that keep us on the road and not in the ditch!). All of the many practices and devotions in the Church have one essential goal: to help us encounter and love Jesus Christ, who alone is holy!

We are made to glorify HIM, and not ourselves.

The Pharisees were glorifying THEMSELVES, and not God.

In their (self-determined) righteousness, the Pharisees refused to let Jesus’ transforming love heal their hardened hearts so that their lives could open up to the unimaginably broad horizons of God’s will for them. We can do the same thing – God has given us a free will that makes self-determination possible, but what we determine for ourselves will always be so much smaller, so cramped and limited, compared to what God wills for us. Let’s determine to open ourselves and offer ourselves as completely as we can to Him, trusting that He wants more for us than we can imagine!

Lord, I give everything to you and I accept everything that You send, knowing that Your love for me is greater than my weakness and littleness, and will never fail me. Amen.

Contact the author

Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Father Rob), and four grandchildren. She is President of the local community of Secular Discalced Carmelites and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio. Currently, she serves the Church by writing and speaking, and by collaborating with various parishes and to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is www.KathrynTherese.com

Feature Image Credit: Manno, https://pixabay.com/photos/enslaved-monument-stone-figure-209565/