Parables Of Truth

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was unable to see what seemed so obvious to you? This can be a frustrating experience. One way to open their eyes is to offer them a chance to accept an idea and THEN apply it to the current situation; you might hold out a different example to help them see what you see. This is what Jesus does in his parables.

In today’s Gospel, the disciples ask Jesus about this. He has just spoken to the crowd about the seed and the sower, and the disciples ask him why he speaks to them in parables. Jesus answers that many cannot see or hear the full truth because of their stubborn hearts. He further reveals that when we let go of our stubbornness and are freely open to the truth, we receive more and more, so that we are rich in grace and truth!

The thing to keep in mind is that Jesus never runs out of ways to communicate truth to us. The infinite creativity of God and the unfathomable mercy of God mean that we are given chance after chance, opportunity after opportunity, to begin anew to open ourselves fully so that we can see and hear what the Lord is communicating to us. He keeps teaching, keeps saving, keeps forgiving, keeps loving. Our blindness and deafness are no obstacle for Him; only our willfulness and stubborn selfishness can keep His light from shining for us, in us, through us.

We can’t out-run his merciful love. We can’t out-sin His loving mercy.

Let’s begin anew right now. Let’s ask the Lord to show us where we have neglected to open ourselves to Him, and then ask for the grace to let go of all that keeps us in darkness. And then, let’s boldly ask the Lord to shine the light of his truth and grace in every darkened corner so that we are at last his true disciples.

Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at or on Facebook @summapax.

Do The Right Thing

“They’ll do the right thing if I have to drag them kicking and screaming all the way!” Ever said anything like this? I know I have and if you are like me, we are in good company with St. James whose feast day is today. James and John (in Matthew, it is their mother who approaches Jesus; in Mark, it is the brothers themselves) desire to be at the left and right hands of Jesus; the positions of power for those who know the King. They are looking to be in the positions of authority when Jesus comes into his kingdom. A clue to how they see using that authority, comes in St. Luke’s Gospel, when the Samaritans did not welcome Jesus, James and John ask Jesus if he wanted them to call “fire down from heaven to consume them.”

This phrase, “if I have to drag them kicking and screaming,” came up in an argument with someone I admire and respect recently. We were having a rather heated discussion about how to lead a team to “do the right thing.” Our goal was admirable. We were discussing a plan for how to become more open, to go out of our comfort zone to reach out to others.

But somehow, for all our good intentions, we got lost. I mean really lost. The Good Lord knows I have used this exact same phrase more than a few times in my years as a school or parish leader. But somehow hearing it in this context shocked me as surely as if I had touched a live electrical wire. Within 2 days, someone else made a very similar comment to me about bringing people along, even against their wishes. I get it, I have been so sure that I knew the right solution that I just had to get others to see it my way to make it all work out. Just follow my plan and all will be well.

The Samaritans reject Jesus, so James and John plan to rain fire from heaven to make them change their minds and accept Jesus.

Jesus rebuked them and today’s reading rebukes those of us who attempt to use power or authority to overpower others. Jesus shows us that true leadership is humble. The purpose of leadership is to serve. Leaders who follow Jesus must first strive to be servants. Leaders who follow Jesus are not to impose their will on others, but to create opportunities for others to encounter our living God and to find their purpose in serving His will.

We humans, leaders included, are earthen vessels. We are fragile, afflicted, perplexed and persecuted. And that is a good thing! It is precisely because of our fragile, afflicted, perplexed, and persecuted state that God can be glorified. “Indeed, everything is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”

Of all of today’s readings, it is the Gospel Acclamation that pierced my heart. “I chose you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.”

Whatever my plans are, it is God’s plan that will bear fruit that will last.

Even when we find ourselves in a leadership position, God’s plan is for us to be servants. In order to serve Him, we must serve one another. In order to serve Him, we must serve those who look to us for leadership, we must serve those who lead us and we must even serve those with whom we flat out disagree. This is certainly antithetical to how the world views leadership. James and John were looking for power in the kingdom they thought was to come. Jesus shows us that his kingdom is already here and he has chosen us to go forth into the kingdom and bear fruit through humility and charity.

Heavenly Father, Please send your Holy Spirit to inspire me to lead with humility, to remember in order for my plans to bear fruit, my plans must be your plans, and your plans always include serving first. Help me to do, not just the right thing, but to do your thing. Amen. Glory to God.

While wearing many hats, Sheryl O’Connor is the wife and study buddy of Thomas O’Connor. Not having received the gift of having their own children, their home is filled with 2 large dogs and their hearts with the teens and youth with whom they work in their parish collaborative. Sheryl is the Director of Strong Families Programs for Holy Family Healthcare which means her job is doing whatever needs to be done to help parents build strong Catholic families. Inspired by the works of mercy, Holy Family Healthcare is a primary healthcare practice in West Michigan which seeks to honor the dignity of every individual as we would Christ. Find out more at

The Good Shepherd

“Shepherd your people with your staff…” As I read these initial words of today’s first reading I recall one of my favorite images of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. I love looking at the sheep all around Him, each with their own attitude and personality. A newborn lamb is perched precariously on His shoulders, so proud of the fact that he was the one chosen to be held by the Lord. Another walks in front of Jesus, head held high as if leading the way. Another walks meekly alongside Him, just content to be close to Him. Another looks up at Him trying to gauge what He’s thinking. Another looks to the side, constantly aware of his surroundings in his attempt to protect Jesus. Yet another trails behind with his nose to the ground, just following the crowd, apparently not even realizing he is in the presence of the Master.

As I amuse myself musing over the sheep, I realize that we, His flock, are not much different. Some of us are proud, others confident, others meek, others curious, others protective, and others clueless.  We are all so different, yet we are all so loved.

As the middle child of a large Catholic family, I often sought individualized attention from my parents, wanting to be the “special” one. I worked hard to get good grades in order to earn their approval. I helped my dad with projects around the house to earn his praise. I wanted to be good at everything I did. Perhaps I longed to be that baby lamb held on the Lord’s shoulders, thinking this was the best place to be, the place for the privileged or the “especially loved”.

I’m pretty sure we all long to be loved this way, many Gospel stories sure seem to confirm it, but the good news is that in Christ, we all can! In fact, Jesus speaks to this in today’s Gospel.

“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.” (Matthew 12: 48-49)

He confirms that not only one person has the privilege of that close mother-son relationship, nor do only a handful enjoy the tight-knit friendship of brotherhood.  As long as we are doing His will, we can all have that closeness, that intimacy. In God, each of us is truly and individually treasured and loved in the way our heart desires. So maybe I am that special baby lamb after all, and so are you!

Tami Urcia is wife and mother to her small army of boys. She works full time at Diocesan and is a freelance translator and blogger ( and She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances, and finding unique ways to love. Tami spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time outside with the kiddos, quiet conversation with the hubby, and an occasional break from real life by getting a pedicure or a haircut. You can find out more about her here.

Contemplative Prayer In An Impatient Culture

“Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ He said to them in reply, ‘An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.'” Matthew 12:38-39

Have you ever finished a time of prayer and realized that all you did the entire time was ask God for things? And maybe even worse than that, you didn’t have the faith that it would really happen. I know I have struggled with this a lot in my prayer life. The Scribes and Pharisees struggled with this today in the Gospel.

Petition is an important form of prayer, but the Catechism outlines five total forms of prayer that we should be aware of to draw closer to Christ.

These forms are adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise. I am going to try this week to focus more on contemplative prayer which involves adoration. Just sitting before God and adoring Him because He is. Let’s ask for this grace together. Amen.

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

For His Name’s Sake

The Lord is my Shepherd… but sometimes I wonder what He wants. And why He is leading me where He is. In late 2015, life was good. My relationships were good, my professional life was ok; things were generally stable.

“for his name’s sake.”

And then God prompts, “You need to get tattoos.” That sounded like the stupidest thing I could have done; particularly because my relationship with my parents, which was previously rocky, was then harmonious. They don’t care for tattoos, so it didn’t make any sense in my mind to get them. But God kept pressing me until one day I finally found myself in a tattoo parlor.

“for his name’s sake.”

Flash-forward a couple of months; I got my second tattoo which is the ninth station of the cross. It is placed on my inner left forearm. I put it there so people will see it! When you first get a tattoo, you’re excited about it and can’t stop looking at it. But then after a while it is easy to forget about. There have been a number of occasions where I was sitting casually resting my arm (and unintentionally showing my tattoo) when people would see it and assume I was a person of faith (which they are right). Each time, I ended up having an edifying conversation with them about life, faith and the Church simply because they saw my ink.

“for his name’s sake.”

Never would I have assumed that tattoos could be a bridge for a relationship and present an opportunity for evangelizing.

Go where He leads you.

“for his name’s sake.”

During the week, Matthew Juliano is a mentor for individuals who have developmental and intellectual disabilities. On the weekends, he is a drummer for Full Armor Band. You can find more content by Matt and his band at

Hope In A Name

“And in his name the Gentiles will hope.” – Matthew 12:21

“I plead with you! Never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” – St. John Paul II

Hope is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen”, “a person or thing that may help save someone”, and “grounds for believing that something good may happen”. Within these definitions we can see the Creator in each and every one of them. Christ’s resurrection gives us a desire for His return and our full union with the Lord in the Kingdom. Christ was sent by the Father to save us through His love and the gift of the Holy Spirit. God’s promises provide us with the grounds for trusting that He will come for us and that we are called to eternity with Him. Even amidst the gift of Christ’s sacrifice, all of these witnesses of God’s love through the Trinity, and the promises that God keeps and will continue to keep it can be difficult to keep hope in sight.

The past few years have been a crazy ride. My life has drastically changed for the better, and has been full of great excitement. Although God has done and continues to provide such great blessings in my life (and the lives of those around me) I can feel a loss of hope in the small daily moments due to life’s struggles. It can be difficult for me to keep in mind all of the blessings when something tough in life comes my way, in which I feel as though I am being robbed of hope and joy.

I have such a gift in the fact that God brought me home to the Catholic Church over three years ago, as I now know I can continue to call upon the name of Jesus to maintain my hope and joy in this life. While the Lord has brought many great gifts into my life, I often feel hopeless in that I am unsure if I can handle it all. Marriage in October to my best friend is one of the joys that God has called me to as I live out my vocation to love. Teaching special education is an additional way He calls me to love His children. For the next two years I will be enrolled in graduate school to further my teaching skills to better support my kiddos in the classroom, hoping to foster independence for each of them by God pouring love upon them through me.  

While at times I may feel overwhelmed by my desire to grow in love for all of the people in my life, at times feeling as though I am not equipped to handle it all, calling upon the name of Jesus brings hope in many ways: the unconditional love and friendship of my fiancé, the positive relationships built with my students, and the support of many loved ones. Ultimately the name of Jesus whispers hope to my soul. Amidst the craziness of life, including the joys and the sorrows, I am reminded of God’s continual presence in my life when His name crosses my heart throughout the little moments of each day.

I encourage you to call upon the name of Jesus. When you feel a need to pray, but don’t have the words, say His name and trust in the hope that He promises with His peace and love. Be encouraged that He has you right where you should be, that His plans for your life are perfect, and that these times are helping you to grow in trust of His love and in hope of His promises.

Nathalie Hanson is a special education teacher and a joyful convert to the Catholic faith 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.  Nathalie is engaged to her best friend, Diocesan’s Tommy Shultz, and she is beyond excited to become Mrs. Shultz this October. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at

I Know This Place – I’m Home

Have you ever contemplated your death? Sat quietly and wondered what it would be like? I have. I have had thoughts of missing my life here on earth; thoughts of missing those I love. I’ve even thought about not being with my Sophie — she’s my cat! How human of me, so entrenched in this life that I often forget that beyond this life is something far better, far more beautiful; that the “missing” will not be there. After all, I’ll be in the presence of God. There will be no missing of anything, no further questions to be asked or answered. Just pure joy!

Isaiah tells us today of Hezekiah’s impending death. Hezekiah was scared and so afraid of dying and felt abandoned by God after his life of faithfulness to God.  When he was told he would die, he turned his face to the wall and wept bitterly! God heard his prayer and intervened and spared his life – this time.  We know that someday Hezekiah would die, as must we.

It is natural to be a little scared of death. We don’t know how or where it will happen. What we do know is, as faithful Christians, where we are going. We are all going to be with the God who conceived of our existence from the time of creation and longs to have us back with him.  This is the great promise of Jesus, confirmed by his Resurrection.

But here’s where the speculation comes in. What will heaven be like? Have you ever wondered, while thinking about the next evolution of your existence – earthly life to heavenly life? How often have you heard someone say “heaven will be like the best golf course, ever! And I can play all I want”.  Or “I’ll be able to see all my favorite football games, with the best seat ever!”.  I’ve heard many more. It makes for a good chuckle because we don’t know and have not the capacity to even imagine the glory of heaven.

We have had glimpses of heaven, however, whether we recognize them or not: the birth of a child; laughter of children at play; looking into the yes of someone you love; the gentle touch of a hospice nurse; the wrinkled face of an old one, aged with faith and grace; the unconditional love of the pet who calms and comforts us; the gatherings of family and friendships shared; the tears of sorrow and the laughter of joy; random acts of kindness by strangers;  the splendor of creation that surrounds us; the beauty of the Liturgy and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Yes, we’ve glimpsed heaven many times, in God’s way of preparing us to go home. A little simplistic? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Listen to the words of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, from his book The Gift of Peace:

“Many people have asked me to tell them about heaven and the afterlife. I sometimes smile at the request because I do not know any more than they do. Yet, when one young man asked if I looked forward to being united with God and all those who have gone before me, I made a connection to something I said earlier in this book. The first time I traveled with my mother and sister to my parents’ homeland of Tonadico di Primiero, in northern Italy, I felt as if I had been here before. After years of looking through my mother’s photo albums, I knew the mountains, the land, the houses, the people. As soon as we entered the valley I said, “My God, I know this place. I am home”. Somehow I think crossing from this life into eternal life will be similar. I will be home.”

God Bless.

Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager here at Diocesan, is currently a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. While at St. Thomas the Apostle, Grand Rapids, Jeanne was a Lector, Cantor, Coordinator of Special Liturgies, Coordinator of lectors and, at one time, chair of the Liturgy Commission. In a past life, secretary/bookkeeper at the Basilica of St. Adalbert where she ran the RCIA program for the Steepletown parishes. And she loves to write! When relaxing, she likes reading and word puzzles.

The Comfort Of His Sacred Heart: Rest

Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew tells us the inner comfort of the heart of God. When I read Jesus’ words, “My yoke is easy, and my burden light”, I couldn’t help but chuckle.  Jesus’ words are in no way funny, but this Gospel passage always reminds me that when I was a child I did not understand it correctly. I thought Jesus was describing Himself as an egg! An egg you can scramble or enjoy over- easy.  No one ever explained to me the difference between “yoke” and “yolk”.


Although eggs are a great source of protein given to us by God, Jesus is talking about a “yoke”.  A yoke is defined by the Webster dictionary as, “a bar or frame that is attached to the heads or necks of two work animals (such as oxen) so that they can pull a plow or heavy load”.  Jesus gave these analogies to the Jewish people during this time because they automatically knew what he was referring to.  They could visualize this yoke as it meant work.  Yokes placed upon animals were heavy and burdensome.  It’s interesting that something that has to do so much with labor is used by Jesus to explain the rest He desires to give us.


First and foremost, Jesus tells us to come to Him. This requires an action of opening our hearts and to genuinely seek Him, to come into His presence. He wants to give all those who are overworked and overtired a time of rest. He wants us to stop from the crazy busy schedules and errands. He knows that we need rest. His yoke is not one of more work. A relationship with Him is not another errand or duty to mark off our checklists.  It is a relationship of love that comforts, restores, and rejuvenates.


This passage in its simplicity is a comfort to me.  Jesus speaks to us of rest and if you’re like me- we automatically desire to receive it. We’re tired. We want a break. We want some rest.  The heart of God is meek and humble. He has a heart that is not burdensome or destructive. His heart is a place of comfort, a place of rest.  His Sacred Heart wants you to come and rest with Him today. Snuggle up in His Sacred Heart today. He wants to give you His heart and His rest just as much as you want to receive it.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. 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 bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Daughters And Sons Of The King


There are a series of short oracles or prophesies, which are called the “hoy” oracles, because each one begins with the word “hoy” or “Ah!”. Sometimes translated as “woe”, the “hoy” at the beginning was meant to be an attention grabber.

The prophets, with Isaiah as one of the greats among them, repeatedly try to get the attention of the Kings of Israel. They point out again and again their infidelities and their failure to fulfill their responsibility to defend the weak and maintain justice for all their people.

In today’s reading from Isaiah, the prophet, speaking for God, describes how he is using Assyria to punish the people of Israel. This is common in the Old Testament, to credit or blame God for natural disasters, victory or defeat in war and to blame afflictions on sin.

A fuller definition for oracle is a prophecy which is ambiguous and obscure. That means we have to go digging, there is more to this than what is found on the surface.

The Catechism helps. Divine providence is the “dispositions by which God guides his creation towards perfection”. (CCC 302) God didn’t create the world complete and perfect (remember that perfect doesn’t always mean without flaw, it can also mean complete or whole). The world is on a journey towards its destiny and God is the not only the source of the sojourn but an active guide along the way. Scripture is very clear that divine providence is not some abstract, absent creator, divine providence is clear and immediate, God cares for all, from the least to the greatest events of the world and its history, (CCC 303)

“And so we see the Holy Spirit, the principal author of Sacred Scripture, often attributing actions to God without mentioning any secondary causes. This is not a ‘primitive mode of speech,’ but a profound way of recalling God’s primacy and Lordship over history and the world and so of educating his people to trust in him.” (CCC 304)

The Kings of Israel fell out of relationship with God and become satisfied with their own power among men. They were not faithful to God or the people around them. As a result, their kingdom was at risk and other kings take advantage and conquer them.

We too are royalty by virtue of our baptism. We are the sons and daughters of not just a king, but the King. We have a share in the joys of the kingdom and the responsibility of being a member of the king’s family. Just as Isaiah challenged the kings of old, we are asked: how are we fulfilling our responsibility to defend the weak and maintain justice? Do we become so enamored of our own work and success that we fail to value others? Are we guilty of infidelity to God or just as bad, infidelity to our responsibility to our fellow men; especially the vulnerable among us?

Before we start feeling hopeless and like it is all too much, we can’t possibly do it, the Gospel reading gives us our promised guidance for the journey. Jesus says, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” Jesus isn’t talking about those who are childish, but those who are childlike; those who have a childlike faith; open and humble. He is talking to the poor in spirit who accept and rely on God’s providence.

God transcends all human knowledge and experience. Try as we might, all of our efforts to understand him, fall short of the reality. But the humble believer will see the face of God in Jesus Christ, who is the perfect (complete) image of God, the Father. And as St. Mother Teresa liked to remind us, we see Jesus Christ in the faces of those in need around us.

As daughters and sons of the King, we are royalty, and with that comes a great responsibility to further our Father’s kingdom. But he isn’t asking us for grand gestures or to win dramatic wars, rather he is asking us to be poor in spirit, to rely on him. We are to love and care for one another. “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” (Mother Teresa)

Today’s Gospel reading ends with: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Acceptance of our royal role, of our Father as our King depends on the Father’s revelation; and this is granted to those who have childlike humility and are open to receive it.

Ah-hoy! Now, that is worth our attention.

While wearing many hats, Sheryl O’Connor is the wife and study buddy of Thomas O’Connor. Not having received the gift of having their own children, their home is filled with 2 large dogs and their hearts with the teens and youth with whom they work in their parish collaborative. Sheryl is the Director of Strong Families Programs for Holy Family Healthcare which means her job is doing whatever needs to be done to help parents build strong Catholic families. Inspired by the works of mercy, Holy Family Healthcare is a primary healthcare practice in West Michigan which seeks to honor the dignity of every individual as we would Christ. Find out more at

Faith Keeps Hope Alive

The readings today are harsh. In the Gospel, Jesus is reproaching the towns in which many of his miracles had been done. Many of those in the towns did not repent and change their ways.

They saw people healed, heard his parables and teachings, tasted the wine changed from water yet they did not believe.  His practices fell on deaf ears. They harden their hearts to his voice.

How many times have I done that in my own life? I cannot even count the times I’ve mentally checked out at Mass and not paid attention to the liturgy of the Word or the liturgy of the Eucharistic sacrifice right before me. How many times have I heard about someone with a life ending illness or accident be miraculously healed, that I write off as a misdiagnosis or just a medical team supporting those involved in the process. I’m skeptical and sometimes cynical about many situations. Is it possible that the owner of an object that just went by me on a flatbed, totally unrecognizable as a car, survived with minor injuries? How are 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued after almost three weeks from a flooding cave in Thailand?

The answer for me is simple, because of faith. We choose to believe because of our faith in the healing, saving power of God. Faith helps guide and inspires us to dream and do the seemingly impossible or take the next small step in an arduous situation. Faith keeps hope alive.

Take a look at the language in the catechism that speaks about the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Listen to the song Aware by Salvador: ‘Make me aware. Help me see that everything I am is not all about me.’ Let us not to harden our hearts to your voice Lord, in those things seen all around us. Let us grow in the virtues of faith, hope and love.

Beth Price is a Secular Franciscan (OFS) and spiritual director who has worked in several parish ministry roles during the last 20 years. She is a proud mother of 3 adult children. Beth currently works at Diocesan. You can contact her at

Jesus IS Lord

You might be scratching your head or recoiling in dismay when you read or hear the Readings for today. Isaiah’s word from the Lord is jarring: “Trample my courts no more! Bring no more worthless offerings; your incense is loathsome to me… When you spread out your hands, I close my eyes to you; though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood!” Yikes. This is God’s Old Testament reaction to the sin and disobedience of his Chosen People.

We might expect to hear “nicer” words from Jesus, the Prince of Peace, in the New Testament; but in today’s Gospel he says something equally jarring: “I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law…” These words recall to the minds of his hearers the word of Micah (Micah, 7:6), who foretells the time of a breakdown in family loyalties, leaving God as their only hope of salvation.

This is where Jesus wants to lead his hearers: to put loving trust in Jesus our Savior above every created thing, including family members if necessary! How can he say this? How can he demand this? Only because Jesus IS Lord. Only because Jesus IS God, Savior, and Prince of Peace can he make extreme demands; only because his promises are even more extremely generous would we embrace his demands. He truly asks us to sacrifice our worldly goods, our family relationships, our comfort and security in this world, and even our mortal life for love of him. But in return, he promises we will be repaid a hundredfold, we will find our true selves, we will have eternal life.

If we fail to make Jesus the source and center of our lives, we are not worthy of him. He makes extreme claims on our desires and energies for one reason: LOVE. Our friendship with Christ must come before every other human relationship and pursuit, because this is the way to true joy, peace, and everlasting life, which he promises us. Jesus knows the deep desires of the human heart and spirit, and he knows that only intimacy with God can fulfill those deepest longings.

We come from God, we are returning to God, and God is rescuing us every step of the way; but every step of the way, we must choose loving trust in God and the good of others over our own selfishness, self-reliance, and security. He calls us to self-governance and obedience to the Father’s will, for love of him, as the way to true freedom of spirit. No matter what  comes to us from outside of us, the “sanctuary of the heart” must be guarded by obedience to God’s will, lit with love, and moved by the willingness to give all with complete trust in exchange for eternal life with him and with all those for whom we sacrificed.

This is the promise to which Jesus’ words and life point and draw us.

This is the way he has already walked.

And he invites us to take up our cross and follow after him, “losing” our small earthly plans and desires in exchange for his glorious and eternal life.

Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at or on Facebook @summapax.

The Greatest Gift Of Grace

If the only Catholic Doctrine question for my students was, “What is Ms. Ciancibello’s favorite word?”, than the majority of my students would get an A+ in their religion class.  As I teach a variety of ages, 3-8th grade Catholic Doctrine, I am confident that my 8 year old students to my 13 year old students know my favorite vocabulary word. We pass through this word in all the grade’s textbooks.  This word is used in cliche quotes on Pinterest, on pillows at Homegoods, and can even be taken as someone’s first name. We see this word in today’s Word, in the Scripture readings. St. Paul mentions this word as he states to the Ephesians that we have received redemption by his blood, forgiveness of sins, “in accordance with the riches of his grace he lavished upon us.” If you haven’t caught it already… My favorite word is “grace”.

Defining the word “grace” is simply the gift God gives to us of His life and love.  When we receive grace we are receiving God’s very own presence of His life and love.  It is through grace that we partake in the life and love of the Trinity! Grace is a pretty big deal and something our hearts should be craving more and more of.  St. Paul articulates to us that God desires to pour out his grace upon us. He wants to lavish us in the riches of His grace. It is by grace that we can receive redemption through Jesus Christ.  It is by grace that we can become a new creation in the forgiveness of our sins and live a life of holiness. It is by grace that we can live without blemish- without sin. Grace helps us to live out our purpose! This gift helps us to love Him and serve Him as we are called to do.

As I’ve gotten older and experienced more and more, I’ve learned what a gift truly is.  When I was a child I would honestly expect my parents to give me a birthday present. Gifts were something that were normally given on special occasions. I did not realize until I matured that no one is due a gift or entitled to anything! The biggest example of this in my own life was the moment my boyfriend (now fiance) got down on one knee.  The biggest gift of my life was symbolized in a ring, but was mainly the question of “Will you marry me?”. An absolute gift. Something I will never deserve, someone I will never be entitled to. A complete selfless gift that was given to me.

In the current preparation of discerning engagement to being engaged, I have learned much. I have cultivated deeply in my heart the understanding of a gift, and therefore a new understanding of grace.  God freely gives us grace as a GIFT. We do not deserve it. We are not entitled to receive it. He just selflessly gives it to us and proposes it to us throughout our lives. He proposes this gift of His life and His love because He simply desires to love us and to be with us forever.

It’s simple and beautiful.  His grace is constantly offered, constantly tangible, constantly a sacrificial gift. Let’s open our hearts to say “YES” to this gift of grace today.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. 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 bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese