Sudden Freedom

On this Feast of St. Matthew, we acknowledge all the Apostles – those specially chosen by Christ to lead the Church he came to establish for the salvation of all! In a particular way, of course, we look at St. Matthew himself, and the Gospel he wrote records his own calling.

We only know the details provided, which are few, so we are prompted to ask:

Could Matthew have been following him at a distance for some time or was this the first time Jesus ever saw Matthew the tax collector? If so, what did Jesus see in Matthew that prompted him to say, simply, “Follow me.”? What was moved in Matthew that prompted him to simply get up and follow?

We know that tax collectors did not have the esteem of the people, as the demands on them forced them to put demands on others! Perhaps there had been already a slow, gnawing discomfort in Matthew already, in which the counting of coins had lost its luster. Or perhaps that direct encounter with the Lord of Life shone so suddenly and startlingly and brightly in his heart that the coinage that made up his life was suddenly seen as nothing. In either case, it seems he left it all behind in that moment and then held a banquet to celebrate his new freedom in Christ.

This banquet – in which Christ was eating with “tax collectors and sinners” – outraged the Pharisees, who would have seen such persons as a contamination of their purity. Jesus, always rising above the fray, points out that he has come to heal the sick, to call sinners, not the righteous. The implication is that we must first recognize and acknowledge our own need for healing before we can avail ourselves of the medicine of mercy and grace.

How do you identify with this Gospel? With Matthew, who left everything immediately when he was called? With the Pharisees, who cannot yet see how love bends down to those in need? With other sinners at the banquet who are somewhere in between, benefitting from mercy but not sure they are ready to follow this controversial rabbi?

Wherever we are, let us allow the Lord’s words to resonate through our lives and shed their light on every situation: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

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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

It is God Who Changes Us

Do you ever feel like certain aspects of your life are like the song that never ends? Never-ending diapers, never-ending cooking, washing, drying, never-ending home improvement projects, drywall, mud, sand, paint. It just goes on and on and on. At times I think I’m going to drop from sheer exhaustion and other times I think I would be bored out of my mind if I didn’t have anything to do.

I wonder if the first disciples felt the same way. After Jesus rose from the dead and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they were told to go out to all the world and spread the Good News. Now that is quite the task! My diaper changes and drywall projects are like a drop in the bucket compared to going out to the WHOLE world!

Yet that is what we are called to do. Be a good example, live a holy life, teach our children, be a light to those around us… Today’s First Reading invites us to “set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. [A]ttend to reading, exhortation, and teaching.” That’s a pretty tall order! But Jesus never promised that following Him would be easy.

Perhaps the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dine with him thought the sinful woman who interrupted their dinner was like the song that never ends. Surely he rolled his eyes at her repentance because he knew “what sort of woman” she was. “She’ll just keep sinning over and over again,” he thought to himself. “She’ll never change.”

The Pharisee had no clue who he was dealing with, who Jesus truly was, and how powerful his love is in the changing of hearts. I am often guilty of the same. I feel like I’m stuck in a rut in both my everyday life and in my spiritual life, and I am so tempted to believe that things will never change. Yet the life of a Christian is all about transformation. We should not stop learning, changing, and growing in our walk with the Lord. But above all, we should not allow ourselves to fall into despair and believe the lie that we CAN’T change because the One who changes us is our all-powerful God.

So I invite you to join me today in asking God for a renewed faith, hope and love so that he may say to us, just as he said to the sinful woman who showed him such great love, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

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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 and, runs her own blog at and has been doing Spanish translations on the side for almost 20 years.

Our Teacher

After reading the Gospel for today, I told my husband, “Now I know why they called Jesus ‘Teacher’. This reading feels like a day in my life!”

Now hear me out–I’m not saying that by being a teacher I’m somehow privy to Christ’s inner life. Nor am I saying that Jesus was “just a teacher”. But I do understand Jesus’ words to the crowds. Just the other day I gave my students (high schoolers) a homework assignment and all those who completed the assignment thoroughly, which was everyone, received a 10/10. When I told them it was a participation grade they grumbled and said, “But Mrs. Pesce, we worked so hard on it and found the right answers and the right answers didn’t even matter!” So, because of their valid complaints, the next assignment I graded based on how many questions the students answered correctly. Needless to say, there were not as many 100% marks. When they received their grades, my students grumbled and said, “But Mrs. Pesce, the homework was sooooo hard. Can’t you just give us participation points because we did the assignment?”

We, like children, do the same with Christ. It seems as though we are never satisfied. How many of us have asked for “signs” from Christ that we are doing the right things with our life? That our career is the “right one”? The right one for us to be making a difference in the world, the right one for our families, the right one to make us a happy person, the right one to help get us to Heaven. Then, when we receive that “sign” that yes, we are doing the right things with our life, we are not satisfied. Why? Because Christ told us, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (MT 16:24) and doing that is not easy. Carrying a cross, suffering patiently, denying ourselves is not the “sign” we want from Christ.

After Christ tells the crowds of their hypocrisy He says, “But wisdom is vindicated by all her children”. Didn’t He just reprimand us for acting like children? I think we need to read that passage with an emphasis on the word “all”….But wisdom is vindicated by all her children. When we act alone, when we feel alone, when we put our trust in ourselves and no one else, we stray from God and we are left unsatisfied. But it is the Church, the beautiful, mystical Body of Christ that will get us to Heaven. It is all the children of wisdom, through prayer and sacrifice, that will journey with us to the Heavenly Kingdom.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO is studying for her Master’s in Spanish, and loves her job as an elementary school librarian. 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

Moved with Pity

Think back to the last time you prayed. Maybe it was a few minutes ago, or maybe it’s been a few days. You might have knelt down on a very used kneeler in a church before our Lord or made the sign of the cross laying comfortable in bed. There are many different ways to pray, but all too often, I think we approach prayer as if it’s a grocery list.

We make a list of the things we have done wrong to ask forgiveness for and the things we want to happen that we ask in petition. I know I am guilty of this where I think through the list and pray on each item as if it’s passing on a conveyor belt. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if it becomes our only form of prayer, I think it turns God into someone who doesn’t truly care.

We can pray through our list of items and make sure we don’t forget anything with the thought that if we forget one, God won’t hear it. We pray over and over for the same things, not seeing God work in our lives because we are so hyperfocused on our list. We get frustrated at the meticulous planning it takes to talk to our God.

I hope I’m not the only one who has done this in the past. The reality is that we can use prayer as a litmus test, “If God doesn’t answer this specific petition in the way that I desire than He is holding out.” But what about the things we don’t pray for? What about the miracles that happen every day in our lives without any petition from us? God is working in our lives every day, and he is often moved to compassion and pity for us, just like he was in the Gospel. You notice, they didn’t ask for healing. It was Christ who was moved to heal.

We have a loving God. He has a perfect will and knows what is ultimately best for us. Sometimes in prayer, we don’t know what is best for ourselves, but God always knows, and it’s in those moments that he goes beyond our prayer and is moved to help us. I invite you today to take a moment and put aside the list. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your heart and show you all the ways today that God has been moved to pit for you. That He has done miracles in your life. That He does care. When we focus on the reality of the love of God, our prayer is renewed because it’s no longer a list or a chore but a love letter to our God. From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!

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Tommy Shultz is a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan. In that role, he is committed to coaching parishes and dioceses on authentic and effective Catholic communication. 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. Contact him at

Love Your Enemies

My father and his family lived through the German occupation of France in World War Two. For the duration of the war, uniformed strangers lived—literally—in his home, told him where he could and couldn’t go, dictated everything about his life. His sister was arrested for Résistance activities and executed; his mother’s health deteriorated; his education was interrupted. No one had enough to eat, it seemed, ever; and everyone lived in fear, all the time.

I think about his experience whenever I read anything that touches on the Roman occupation of Judea and Galilee because as horrible as all my father’s stories were, the fact is France was occupied for four years. Judea was occupied for three hundred.

So it’s not altogether surprising that centurions show up in the Gospels—and in the Acts of the Apostles—with some frequency; an occupying force requires a permanent military presence to quell resistance. But what I do find surprising is the portrayal of these military figures, which is almost exclusively positive. Perhaps when an occupation goes on for generations, it becomes a way of life for many. Certainly, in today’s passage from Luke, there is an easy and ordinary relationship between the Roman centurion and the Jewish elders.

Think about it: this occupier sends the leaders of the very people he’s occupying to speak to Jesus on his behalf—to give references, as it were, that he’s a good person and has been a good patron of the Jewish people. (Even then, it seems, building projects could curry favor, for they were quick to point out this centurion built the Jews’ synagogue!)

But it seems he immediately has second thoughts. Perhaps he’s thinking about his role as an occupier. Perhaps he’s just falling back upon his own life experience, the set chain of command within the Roman army. He would be given an order, and he’d command those under him to carry it out; with the command came the power and resources to complete the mission. Perhaps he’s thinking about that when he sends his friends to Jesus to amend his request: he knows Jesus’ authoritative command—whether given in person or from a distance—means ipso facto that the sick slave would become well again. And the centurion, recognizing in Jesus the power and authority of the Kingdom, sees himself as too small, too unworthy to have Jesus come into his home. You can do anything; he is implicitly saying. You can even do it from afar.

Why? How is he so confident? Remember, the centurion says this at a time when even the disciples don’t understand who Jesus is. They know he’s special, but they don’t yet realize he’s divine. Peter won’t declare Jesus to be God’s Messiah for another two chapters.

And yet here is a Roman military officer, a pagan, who knows who Jesus is. It’s this foreigner who has to teach everyone else—the elders, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, even the disciples—a lesson in faith.

Somehow, it seems fitting in this surprising story that Jesus himself is surprised at the trust this centurion demonstrates. He’s amazed to find faith in a Roman that surpasses what he’s seen in anyone from Israel; this enemy soldier is a model of faith for the people of God.

As I read this surprising story, I think that maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by the unlikely places faith shows up in our own world. It could even show up in those we think of as our enemies. Jesus cares about, ministers to, and wants to bless our enemies; how do we dare turn our backs on them?

In the midst of my father’s horror stories about the Occupation, there were moments of humanity that came shining through. The Gestapo killed my aunt, but the army officers stationed in my family’s home risked much themselves to make sure she could be properly buried. When my grandmother fell ill, they lied to their superiors to get her the medicine she needed.

Jesus is clear: love your enemies, he says, because you may be very sure that God loves them, too, just as much as he loves you. We are all equally unworthy for him to come into our homes. Perhaps that common ground can open us up to others, to people who are different from us, to those we’re taught are to be avoided, feared, despised. And it’s entirely possible that, like the centurion, they can teach us something about real faith, too.

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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

Uniting our Sorrows to the Cross

My heart has been deeply compelled to draw closer to Our Lady as of lately. As a convert to the Catholic faith, it has taken me a long time to get to this point, but I finally feel a strong devotion to her that I am excited to see grow ultimately into a deeper relationship with Christ.

Why do we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15? We celebrate it today because yesterday, September 14, is the feast of the Holy Cross. Mother and Son share feast days next to each other as a way of demonstrating the devotion that Our Lady had to Jesus throughout His life and even at the foot of the Cross. She stayed with Him and never left His side, enduring the sorrows of His passion that pierced her heart.

What can we draw from Our Lady as she weeps for Jesus? We can learn to pray for a heart that is sorrowful for the things that hurt Our Lord looking down from heaven. We can offer to quench Christ’s thirst for souls through prayer and use of our spiritual charisms in the service of others. Ultimately, we can sit at the foot of the cross and gaze upon Jesus, sharing the greatest love story with anyone we encounter as we go back out into the world.

Facing the sorrows and trials of this life draw strength from Our Lady. Christ gave her to us and gave us to her. Ask for her intercession in your joys and trials – she wants to know us deeply and will lead us into greater communion with Jesus. Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at

Do You Trust Me?

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
Because by your Cross you have redeemed the world.

The other day, my Pastor was sharing how he studied Greek in his undergrad seminarian years. He loved it because it allowed him to read and understand Scripture in a deeper way. One single detail that he shared has left me pondering this Gospel in a different way today. He shared that the word “believe” in the Greek language, can actually be closer to the word “trust” in English. He shared that throughout the Gospels, when Jesus asks, “Do you believe in me?” It can be a closer translation that Jesus is saying, “Do you trust me?”.

In our First Reading today, I feel for the Israelites as they moan and groan throughout their journey. They’re tired and starting to doubt, asking the question “why?”. In this moment of despair, it’s obvious they were losing trust in God. They did not trust in where they were being led and full of complaints… If we’re honest, we’ve all been there. We’ve all hit the human points where we ask God why and our “patience is worn out by the journey”, just like theirs was.

God punishes them for their sins, but his anger does not last. He offers them the bronze serpent, mounted on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at it, he lived. The Responsorial Psalm states that God is merciful, forgave their sin, and did not destroy them. He often turns back his anger and does not let his wrath be roused. Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Jesus states in the Gospel today that “just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” Yes, Jesus is the Incarnation, God made Man. Our human condition is lifted up because of this. We, as human beings, are loved so radically that God gave up His only Son, so that “everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.” This is stated two times in today’s Gospel message. I would like you to change the word to trust… So that everyone who trusts in Him might have eternal life. The Israelites were losing their trust in the trenches of the journey. The loss of trust is the start of sin. May we not only believe, but trust deeper in our Lord. In the ways that seem unclear and challenging. In the parched and hungry moments of our journey, may we entrust our entire lives to Him and to His will. What does trusting the Lord look like for you? Where can you grow in trusting Him? Personally, this is where the Lord is calling me to grow and I hope in some way He is calling you to a deeper trust too.

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Briana is the Pastoral Minister at St. Mark Church in Cleveland, OH. She is also a district manager at Arbonne. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to serve the Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Consecrated in Truth

“Your word, O Lord, is truth; consecrate us in the truth.” 

Oh my goodness! Did you know there is a wikiHow on “How to Consecrate Yourself to God”? What a hoot! In the midst of a website filled with a myriad of how-to’s from “How to Dress for a Gala” to “How do dry apples” to “How to buy running shoes”, there is an actual 7 step process explaining consecration and outlining steps to Consecrate Yourself to God. Complete with pictures! (Okay, they aren’t great pictures, but there are pictures!) 

Of course, this is nothing new, because in today’s Gospel reading, through a series of three very short and seemingly unrelated parables about blind guides, teachers and disciples, and the totally icky image of a log sticking out of someone’s eye, Jesus continues doing exactly the same thing. 

According to wikiHow, “In a general sense, the term ‘consecration’ refers to the act of dedicating oneself to a specific purpose or intention. To ‘consecrate’ yourself essentially means to wholly dedicate yourself to something of greatest importance.” (

…wholly dedicate yourself to something of greatest importance… What does that look like in action for the Catholic Christian? In the first one-line parable, Jesus is speaking to those in the Jewish community who consider themselves arbitrators of the truth. It is a repeat of a calling out from the Gospel of Matthew on the Pharisees for claiming to have cornered the market on how to be holy and follow God. They saw themselves as the only ones who were really consecrated to God and others just didn’t measure up. We get the same call out when we consider ourselves superior to others because of how we live our faith. If we are consecrated in the truth, we know the truth about ourselves and who we are in relationship to God. We live in humility. 

Jesus jumps to a comparison of teachers and disciples. There is a subtlety to this statement that seems to be weakened by our language. (Sometimes English just doesn’t seem to have the proper words to explain nuances or at least my grasp of our language doesn’t, but that is another story.) Jesus is our Master, not our school teacher. Students learn lessons from teachers who come and go with specific learning goals. A Master lives with his students who are not merely pupils accumulating knowledge, they are disciples striving to live the same life as their Master. When we place knowing, loving, and serving God at the center of our lives, we don’t simply learn the stories of Jesus, we dedicate ourselves to living in the same manner as the one who is the Truth. It isn’t as much about what we can repeat as how we live. 

Finally, there is the parable about trying to remove the speck from your neighbor’s eye without removing the beam from your own. This seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Step 7 of our wikiHow on Consecration states, “Consecration is not a single, one-time-only decision. It is a way of living. When you make the decision to consecrate yourself, you must be prepared to continue pursuing God for the rest of your life…your consecration will never be ‘complete.’ You will never achieve perfect righteousness. God does not demand complete perfection, though. You are only asked to make the commitment and to actively pursue it. You can stumble as you walk the path, but you must choose to keep walking even when you do.” I love this! It is so Catholic in approach! Each day, we make our commitment to God anew. Each day, we renew our dedication to living as Jesus lived, loving as Jesus loved, serving as Jesus served. When we are doing this, we don’t have time to criticize our brothers and sisters, we are too busy living out our own consecration. We aren’t blind guides, we are partners on the path to living out our call to heaven here on earth. We are disciples together of the one who is the Truth, the Beauty, and the Good. 

May your day be consecrated in Truth. May you see Him in the Beauty around you and may His Goodness pervade every aspect of your life. 

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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.

Recognize- Then Count- Your Blessings

I chose this specific date for a reason. For several reasons, really. Can anyone live September 11th each year without recounting the events of the Twin Towers? Today is also my Father’s birthday. He would have been 94 today. And one year ago today I injured my leg. It is still not completely healed and gives me some pain and discomfort when walking. Dates are important to us, and specific dates will cause us to remember events: some happy, some sad, some tragic. I track many things on my Google calendar, especially when those I’ve loved have died, so at least on that day each year I will not only remember to pray for their souls but will revel in the joy these folks brought to my life. March 10th for me is another special date. It is the day I took my Mom’s cat to live with me. It was just two weeks before Mom died. Her Sophie has been a comfort and a remembrance of my Mom and a little piece of her still with me. All the events of our lives are important in one way or another.

Everything that happens in our lives, all these events, can be viewed as either a blessing or a curse. It depends on how we live out our Faith as to how we are affected. Often we curse events, but later realize that somewhere in the pain and sorrow we find blessing. Easy to do with the good things that happen, not so easy with the painful.

Jesus, today, delivers a lecture about who is blessed and who is cursed. How do we understand his words? Blessed are you who are poor – really? – yours is the Kingdom of God; blessed are you who are hungry – really? – you will be satisfied, and blessed are you who are weeping – really? – you will someday laugh. How is the man standing on the street corner begging for shelter blessed? Or the person who is hungry for food or spiritual understanding, or the woman weeping for her loss or lack of security?

And conversely, to you who are rich or filled or who laugh now. Woe to you. How? How can that be? You are cursed if you take the blessings you have been given and keep them selfishly to yourself, and not realize that these “good things” of the earth were given you to then give to others. The poor man is blessed because you helped to provide meals and a place to sleep; those who are weeping will be blessed because you gave comfort and empathy and a realization that they do not have to journey alone. And if you are hated and excluded because you boldly proclaim Jesus? Are you blessed? Yes! You will someday find Jesus standing on his promise to deliver you from all the pain when you share his joy in heaven.

This is the paradox of Christianity. Be humbled here on earth, even if you have riches, and you will rejoice. Those without riches on this earth, who bear the hardship with faith and hope in Our Lord, and with our assistance, will reap the rewards of heaven where every tear is wiped away.

I pray that as you recount the events of your life, among them will be the days you realized that the Lord has given you good things even among the tragedies. I pray that of the days you will mark on your calendar of life, among them will be the days you helped another to go from weeping to laughing, hunger to fulfillment, sorrow to joy and faithfulness to the Lord to the rewards of heaven.

“Rejoice and leap for joy! Your reward will be great in heaven. Alleluia, alleluia.” 

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

Walking Closely with Christ

In today’s Gospel, we hear who Jesus named the Twelve Apostles. After calling them, they were surrounded by a great crowd of people. People from all of Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon came to hear Jesus. “Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all.” In Scripture stories like this, I tend to picture what it would be like to be there, a part of the crowd. Witnessing people who have traveled miles upon miles, weeks upon weeks, to hear and touch Jesus. The eagerness of the crowd all trying to be healed by a simple touch of his cloak. Sometimes, I wonder if we are as eager as them. Are we eager to be that close to Jesus? Would we travel that far? Not by airplanes and ubers, but by foot? This spirit of eagerness is the spirit in which we continue to walk with Him, be rooted in Him, and built upon Him. St. Paul shares with us today, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him, and built upon him and established in faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving…”

When I think back throughout my life with Jesus, I can look at faith and point out the ups and downs pretty easily. The moments of consolation and desolation, the waves of living one’s faith in our world today. Today’s reading suggested to me that I should take a deeper look, instead of just noticing the challenging times versus the easy. Where was I truly walking closely with Christ? Which moments and situations allowed me to root myself deeper in Him? What moments of grace were foundational in my faith life? Where did I build upon Him? I hope you take a moment to reflect on this call of St. Paul. Reflect on where you (by the help of God’s grace) have already done this in your life! As we continue to walk with Him, root ourselves in Him, and built upon Him, let us remember the spirit of eagerness. The spirit of wanting to be close to Jesus, just like the crowd that traveled to see Him. In our day to day choices, we choose to draw nearer. Let today be a day of eagerness and reflection as we continue to walk with the Lord.

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Briana is the Pastoral Minister at St. Mark Church in Cleveland, OH. She is also a district manager at Arbonne. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to serve the Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

For the Sake of Suffering

As I read through today’s readings in preparation for this post, one phrase hit me like a ton of bricks.

Redemptive suffering. It’s a phrase you’ve probably heard before but maybe didn’t really know much about. Maybe you know the concept but don’t really understand it.

Redemptive suffering, what even is that?

Right from the beginning of the first reading, St. Paul is talking about suffering, afflictions, labors, and struggles and rejoicing in them.

We all experience ups and downs, high points and low points, periods of consolation, and periods of desolation. That’s normal human life. But do we enjoy suffering? Not particularly. In fact, one that enjoys suffering might be labeled sadistic.

(St. Paul wasn’t sadistic, by the way.)

We usually think of suffering in terms of darkness, of sin and of evil. Illness, divorce, addiction, and unemployment, among others, come to mind as modern-day sufferings. Where is the light? Where is the joy in that?

That’s where the idea of redemptive suffering comes in. When we find ourselves in the midst of suffering, whatever it may be, we can unite our suffering to that of Christ’s on the cross.

Crucifixion was the worst death sentence one could receive. Most criminals who were crucified weren’t even nailed to the cross like Christ was. Jesus’ crucifixion was the ultimate suffering for Him who knew no sin. Yet he bore our afflictions and iniquities upon Himself for our sake.

The Passion, Death, and Resurrection redeemed humanity, reconciled sons and daughters to their Heavenly Father, but that salvation is ongoing due to the Spirit’s ongoing transformation in our lives. Redemptive suffering, uniting our suffering to Christ’s on the cross, is a way of participating in the work of salvation.

How can we do that? Start with a simple prayer from the heart, directed to the crucified Christ. The Holy Spirit will prompt you with the right words for your particular suffering.

Need something a little easier than that? Maybe start by offering up your suffering for someone in the world who is suffering more than you, or make it even more personal by intentionally praying for someone in your family or a friend who is suffering.

Redemptive suffering can do something beautiful in your life if you allow the Lord to work through it and through you. Take heart, brothers and sisters.

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Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of 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.

Staying out of the Ditches

What’s with the Pharisees? Haven’t they learned by now that they couldn’t win an argument with this wandering rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth? Still, they continue to challenge him and to demand that he explain himself.

In this short Gospel, we see the preoccupation of the Pharisees with the observation of the many rules (over 600!) that had been formulated to ensure that the Ten Commandments given to Moses could be followed meticulously. Some of these Pharisees pose a question, trying (of course) to catch him in a breach of the rules: “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

What the disciples were doing was not morally wrong, but it was against one of the elaborate rules about how to “keep holy the Sabbath.” There were forty categories of activities that were defined as work, which was forbidden on the Sabbath. These many rules placed a heavy burden on a day that God intended to be full of joyful worship, rest, delight, and recreation.

Jesus “calls them out” for seemingly forgetting their own history: “Have you not read what David did?” Of course they knew this story well; but rather than engage in a complicated argument about the absurdity of the rule in this instance or even of the many rules in general, Jesus uses the story to point out that the rules are not even the supreme thing – since human rules/laws are the work of human reason for the common good, when the observance of a law is harmful to the community, that law can be dispensed.

This truth was lost in the many rules surrounding the Mosaic Law. Jesus is reminding them of the correct understanding of “Sabbath rest” and indirectly pointing to their own lack of virtue – Pharisees saw themselves as the most pious of Jews, following each rule meticulously and then parading their “virtue” before others, which is no virtue at all.
Having addressed their question, Jesus then changes the playing field by stating a startling truth: “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” As it was God Himself who gave this precept to the Chosen People, Jesus is revealing his identity as God Himself. While this certainly alarmed and angered the Pharisees, they seemed to have no argument to counter that claim.

Wherever there are spiritual rules, there will be a tendency toward a kind of “Pharisaism” that thinks meticulous observance of the rules equals true holiness. The rules are to be obeyed, but our “obedience” can easily become a kind of “Checklist of Goodness” on the one hand, or a “Badge of Pride” on the other. In reality, the rules are more like guardrails to keep us on the right road and out of the ditches.

God intends for us to travel this road in freedom, filled with the joy that comes from trusting that He Himself will provide all we need to reach our final destination: the very Heart of God.

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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