The Liturgy of the Magnificent Easter Vigil

Holy Saturday…

A day of quiet and calm. A day of intimacy and hope.

A day when all creation sighed in exhaustion after witnessing the sorrowful and tragic events of Calvary the day before.

A day when the earth trembled as it held the sacred Body of the Savior as it lay in the silent darkness.

A day of waiting….

The liturgy on Holy Saturday, the magnificent Easter Vigil, teaches us the divine art of waiting. We wait in the dark around the Easter Fire, usually shivering in the early spring evening for the service to begin. We wait as the Paschal candle precedes us into a darkened church and our tiny candles gradually become a sea of lights punctuating the shadows. We wait for everyone to take their place before the lovely Exultet is proclaimed in song. And then finally we wait for the reading of the Gospel of the resurrection as the Liturgy of the Word “takes us by the hand” in the words of Benedict XVI and walks us through the whole trajectory of salvation history. If your parish proclaims all the readings for Holy Saturday Liturgy there will be seven Old Testament readings and one from the Epistles in the New Testament.

As these readings follow upon each other, one after another, I feel that in some way I take my place in the long centuries of creation waiting for redemption as I look through the “scrapbook” of memories and miracles, of suffering and assurance that is the heartbeat of the Liturgy of the Word of the Easter Vigil. Story after story is read from creation through the promise made to Abraham and the miraculous freeing of the Hebrew slaves as they raced across the path made by the Lord for them through the Red Sea, to the prophecies of how God has chosen Israel, making with them a covenant, inviting them to fidelity, through to God sorrowing over his unfaithful people to whom he promises a new heart and a new spirit. 

Every baptized person stands in this arc of salvation, this mysterious longing of the Father’s heart for our return to him. We are baptized into Christ’s death and rise with him.

In the Easter Vigil, the readings assure us with the unmistakable echoes of a Father’s heart: “I love you. All of this was for love of you. I have always stood by my covenanted people and I will do so forever. I will stand by you. Even if you walk away. Even if you are weak and wobbly in your love for me, I will love you. You do not need to be afraid.”

And lastly, the community breaks out with joy as we celebrate the Baptisms of those who have waited many months of preparation. I always feel more complete as we welcome them among us, each of us holding them spiritually to our hearts.

If you have never been to an Easter Vigil, someday give yourself that gift. Don’t wait any longer!

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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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Behold The Wood Of The Cross

Lent has come to an end; it ends when the Mass on Holy Thursday begins and we enter into these three holy days (“Triduum”), which are the summit of the Liturgical Year, unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. The Triduum begins with the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper and ends with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday.

The number 40 always signifies a preparation period, and the 40 days of Lent have been a preparation for us to enter into these holy days and also a preparation for our own participation in Christ’s mission in the world.

On Good Friday, we are invited to look deeply into the Passion and Death of Jesus, to look at his final Word, his final Gifts, his final Suffering. We must look at his suffering face, which should lead us to his suffering Heart; we must look at him, and not look away! In the agony of Jesus we really see that the enemy is real, that sin is real, that the wages of sin is death, and that our redemption comes at great cost. God redeems us, not by patting us on the head and telling us it’s all fine, but by taking on the whole mess of us – our sinfulness, our brokenness, our pain, our sorrow, our loss, our fear, and our aloneness – and lifting it up on the Cross. And as the Israelites in the desert had to look up to the serpent to be saved from its poisonous venom, we are directed to “look on him whom we have pierced,” to be saved from the certain death which is the result of our sin.

We look up to Christ nailed, immobile, suffering, suffocating, surrendering, pouring himself out, offering himself fully to the Father, so that we might be saved. “The collapse of the opened Heart is the content of the Easter mystery” (BXVI). He is betrayed for our betrayal, scourged for our sins of the flesh, crowned for our pride, bearing the weight of our sin to free us of the burden, crucified to show us what Love looks like. Love takes on suffering for the sake of others, without counting the cost. Love sees first the good of the other. On the Cross, Jesus was thinking of you and me, and he was willing to bear the whole horrific humiliation and execution so that we might be with him in the joy and glory of the Father. Forever.

The 40 days of Lent prepare us for these great Three Days, which lead us through this Suffering of Love to the silence of Holy Saturday, and then through an empty tomb to the Octave (8 days) of celebrating the Resurrection – liturgically, Easter Sunday is eight full days, through and including Divine Mercy Sunday, the culmination of Easter Day. Today, we look on the suffering and pierced Heart of Jesus; on Divine Mercy Sunday, we celebrate the outpouring of mercy through that very Heart! 

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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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A Word on Vocation

The word vocation comes with a lot of baggage. It tends to bring to my mind old posters of seminarians, half of whom have dropped out by now but the poster remains, or conjures up ideas of job, work, occupation, etc. It’s one of those words similar to stewardship where we have made it mean so many things, that it almost means nothing. It is stretched thin in its general form but at the same time so focused in its particular form that it becomes exclusive to a specific group. 

Today I want to focus on the first reading which perfectly summarizes both stewardship and vocation. 

“Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spreads out the earth with its crops, Who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk on it: I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”

What can we take from this? First, God is the creator of all things. Anything we have including the breath in our lungs and our family and friends is all due to God being Gift. Next, we see that we are called. This calling comes from God and fits with the gifts God has given us. What is the calling? To be a light to the nations. 

John Paul II realized this well when he said, “The fundamental vocation of every human person is to love.” Our general vocation is to love, our particular vocation is how God has called us specifically to do it. While I was discerning the priesthood in seminary, one of the most helpful things I was told was that our vocation is the way that God has called us to get to heaven and bring the most people with us. 

Now, most people reading these posts are probably thinking that you are already well into the particular vocation that God has given you. Maybe you don’t need to discern this part, but I think we all could breathe fresh air into our vocations with the general vocation of love. I like to think of this in terms of Jesus going into the desert. As we are in Lent, we contemplate how Jesus knew his particular vocation, but he took time to pray before entering into his public ministry. 

With all the focus we have on self help and care I think it’s important to use these models for our vocation as well. If stewardship is using the gifts God has given us in service, then first we must work on our relationship with God, then take this grace and apply it to our gifts, and finally we will have the power needed in order to be a light to the nations. Lent is the perfect time to try this model out. Let’s pray for the gifts in order to be a gift to others and fully live out our calling to love. 

From all of us here at Diocesan, God bless!

Tommy Shultz is a Business Development Representative for Diocesan. In this role he is committed to bringing the best software to dioceses and parishes while helping them evangelize on the digital continent. Tommy has worked in various diocese and parish roles since his graduation from Franciscan University with a Theology degree. He hopes to use his skills in evangelization, marketing, and communications, to serve the Church and bring the Good News to all. His favorite quote comes from St. John Paul II, who said, “A person is an entity of a sort to which the only proper and adequate way to relate is love.”

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God is Good, All the Time!

I’m sure your mother told you many times as you were growing up: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I have even found myself reminding my own children the very same thing. Yet as an adult I find myself struggling over and over again with keeping my mouth shut. 

I admit it, I am such a groaner! I wish my kids would behave such and such a way, I wish so and so would stop this or that, why does that person have to do that? etc. etc. 

I remember one year I gave up complaining for Lent and let me tell you, I spent a lot of time in silence! 

And although I consider myself a generally happy person, I can always find something wrong with something. 

One thing that I have found that really helps combat this bad habit is an attitude of gratitude. I find that if I am appreciative of people, their thoughts, words and actions, and of things as gifts from God, I have much less to complain about.

In today’s Gospel we hear about the Jews who had seen what Jesus had done and began to believe in Him. We are told that a few of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. They saw his wondrous deeds and heard his insightful teachings and yet they went to complain about him! How sad…

Because of this one act of gossip, Jesus could no longer go about in public and he realized his time was drawing nigh. Surely a great sadness overtook him. 

 What a call to us all to be appreciative of our Lord and all his works in our life, no matter how great or small. His works show us that he is God and show us how much he loves us. 

Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to spend a whole lot more time in silence when I have nothing nice to say, and a whole lot more time talking about how good you are. 

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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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Everlasting Life

The readings for this last Friday of Lent really cause me to pause and take a good honest look at my thoughts, words and deeds.

The First Reading speaks of terror on every side and vengeance. The prophet Jeremiah prays for the Lord to save him from those who would denounce him, persecute and prey on him. Jeremiah wants the Lord to be his champion against his foes and the wicked.

The Gospel scene is of the Jews gathered in the Temple of Jerusalem for the feast of Dedication also known as the Feast of Light or Hanukkah. In the previous nine verses, John 10:22-30 Jesus has a very blunt conversation with those gathered that “the Father and I are one.” Because of this, the gathered Jews want to stone Jesus for blasphemy.

They, the Jews who had seen the miracles, who heard Jesus speak and teach in the temples wanted to arrest and kill Jesus for blasphemy, not for his works or his teachings on faith.

What’s been causing me distress is the punishments that the prophet and the Jews in the Temple wanted: death. This is on my mind as I examine how I really feel when someone harms me with words or deeds or inactions. Do I really want that for them? Do I have a beam in my eye?

I believe Jesus is the Lord, that life is sacred. How is hatred an option or a death punishment correct?

In the world today there is so much hurt, want of retribution, punishment for the sake of making another suffer: that is not just or merciful.

Lord, I believe your words are the words of everlasting life. Even from the cross you forgave those who mocked, persecuted and killed you. Help me to understand your ways. Help me to forgive as you did, to live as you did, to love as you do. Amen

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Beth Price is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She is a Secular Franciscan (OFS) and a practicing spiritual director. Beth shares smiles, prayers, laughter, a listening ear and her heart with all of creation. Reach her here bprice@diocesan.com.

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Glorifying

In response to those who skeptically ask him who he thinks he is, Jesus talks about glory. He tells them that he does not glorify himself, but it is, in fact, his Father who glorifies him.

What does it mean to glorify?

At Sunday Mass (except during certain liturgical seasons), we pray the Gloria, echoing the angels at the birth of Christ: “Glory to God in the highest… We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you…” What are we even saying?

“The glory of the Lord” means God Himself as He is revealed in His majesty, power, and holiness. In the Old Testament, He expresses His glory in mighty deeds and by speaking to Abraham, Moses, and the prophets. In the New Testament, glory also means a manifestation of the Divine – majesty, truth, goodness, etc. – as seen in Jesus, the Incarnate Word.

The glory of God consists in the way His perfection and power are manifested and His love and goodness are communicated by creating. God creates with a purpose; creation has a destiny. What is our destiny? What are we created for? Himself. God created us for Himself. From His infinity, God gives life, and from His fullness we have all received. We (and the world) are created to the praise of his glorious grace (Eph. 1:5-6). “The ultimate purpose of creation is that God ‘who is the creator of all things, may at last become all in all, thus assuring his own glory and our beatitude” (CCC, 294).

All creation reflects the wisdom and perfection of God just by being; a flower blooms, a lion roars, waves beat against the rocks, all glorifying God. Among all the myriad beauties of creation, humans are the only creatures who can praise God’s glory by consciously acknowledging His goodness and love. We are the great “Amen” of creation. And then, we can share in God’s glory by this “Amen,” by acknowledging the divine goodness, praising Him for Who He is, and acting accordingly!

Jesus makes clear that he has brought glory to the Father by finishing the work he was given to do: “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which You gave me to do; and now, Father, glorify me in Your own presence with the glory which I had with You before the world was made” (John 17:4–5).

God has made us for Himself, and our glory is found in glorifying Him because by worshipping Him as our highest treasure, we become the best we can be and help heal the rupture of sin in the world. When we live the way God created us to live and acknowledge His glory, we in turn are glorified by Him!

And so, when we at last sing the Gloria again at Mass this Easter, let’s sing it with our whole being: “We praise You, we bless You, we adore You, we glorify You! We give You thanks for Your great glory!”

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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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Your Salvation History

When you look at the Old Testament as a whole, it’s a beautiful piece of literature that weaves between several different genres and styles, all culminating in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament. It is the beginning of salvation history with all its ebbs and flows, valleys and mountains. It doesn’t take a scripture scholar to see the levels of human depravity intermixed with moments of spiritual growth, which makes it easy to wonder, “Why were the people in the Old Testament so messed up?”

Judging other cultures against ourselves and making the conclusion that we are not so bad is something human beings do best. But instead of reading the Old Testament with a detached view of an ancient people, I propose we read it in light of our lives today. We all have a “salvation history.” Points of encounter with God that help us along the sometimes confusing and overwhelming terrain of life that we often try to navigate alone until we cry out for the navigator. 

Imagine for a second the story of Exodus. The Israelites are finally freed from slavery and on the journey to the promised land. They have God by their side to protect and guide them through this magnificent pillar of fire. Moses is speaking directly with God on their behalf and leading them closer to the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham. Yet, even with God being so completely present and merciful, they turn away and worship the golden calf. Their fallen humanity rears its ugly head and causes them to turn to something else instead of God. Contrast that with the story today, where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (which are by far the funnest names to pronounce in scripture) would rather face a horrific death than even begin to think about worshipping the golden calf. Look at how far the human race has come between these two small stories. 

So the question I think we all should be asking, especially during this time of Lent, is where am I in my salvation history timeline? Where are you? Sometimes we will feel the mountain top experience where we feel like we are growing in faith and getting closer and closer to God. Other times we may feel like we are struggling in the spiritual life and need some sort of a spiritual epipen. And finally, sometimes we know we have turned away like the Israelites did with the golden calf. Although our own personal salvation timeline may have ups and downs, one thing remains consistent. The source of our salvation is constantly there. 

Take a second right now and take a deep breath. Relax. Allowing yourself just a minute to push out the noise and distraction of the world. Close your eyes and count 30 breaths. Slowly breathing in and out. With each breath just simply say something like “come Holy Spirit” or “Jesus I trust in you.” 

We do not stop enough throughout the day and remember the reality that God is with us and he is helping us on this journey, at least I know I don’t. This form of prayer has greatly helped me in moments where I need to remember that God is with me, just like he was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walking amidst the flames. Be encouraged by his presence today and may it guide you through the ebbs and flows. 

From all of us here at Diocesan, God bless!

Tommy Shultz is a Business Development Representative for Diocesan. In this role he is committed to bringing the best software to dioceses and parishes while helping them evangelize on the digital continent. Tommy has worked in various diocese and parish roles since his graduation from Franciscan University with a Theology degree. He hopes to use his skills in evangelization, marketing, and communications, to serve the Church and bring the Good News to all. His favorite quote comes from St. John Paul II, who said, “A person is an entity of a sort to which the only proper and adequate way to relate is love.”

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True and Lasting Peace

As you read, my family and I are on a much needed vacation. After dealing with illness, childbirth, and stress at work over the past year we were so ready to get out of dodge. 

It’s amazing what a change of atmosphere can do for the soul. All the normal worries of the daily grind seem to disappear. You can breathe easy for a while, enjoy the scenery, eat some tasty treats and simply BE. No dishes or clothes to wash, no floors to sweep, no toys to trip over. 

Yet no matter how much we may look forward to these fun days of R & R, they never seem to last, do they? We always have to go back home, back to work and back to our routine. The vacation in itself can grant us only a momentary, temporary peace of mind. Why?

Because true peace comes only from God and the gifts that the Holy Spirit grants us. If we are not living in him, but rather for the next passing pleasure, our peace will always be fleeting. 

Recently I had a conversation with my 7-year-old, who frequently begs me over and over to buy this or that toy or stuffed animal or video game. He seems to always want something, and if I get it for him, he soon wants something else. I had to have a serious talk with him about consumerism and the fact that Jesus is the only source of true peace and happiness. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the Pharisees: “I am going away and you will look for me…” If only we truly sought out Jesus, who is about to suffer and die for us, more than things! If only we were truly saddened by the thought of Jesus “going away” even for a split second of our lives! 

Lord, help me to understand the incredible significance of your presence in my life. Help me to miss you when my thoughts are not with you. Help me to yearn only for you, not for pleasures that do not satisfy the soul. Help me to seek lasting peace in your most Sacred Heart. Amen.

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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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God Will Save You

There are four poignant verses in the story of Susanna that exemplify the battle between good and evil. The two elders saw Susanna’s beauty, and treating her as an object instead of a person, they “suppressed their consciences; they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven, and did not keep in mind just judgments.” (Dn 13:9)The temptation to sin was so great they pushed aside their moral compass. They made a choice to turn from God and they paid for it with their lives. Evil won in their case. How often do we make a conscious choice away from God, knowing that what we are doing is wrong?

Susanna, on the other hand, never turned her gaze from God. She knew that to acquiesce to their threats would be safest but would also be allowing herself to enter into sin. In fighting against them, she was opening herself to punishment as it was the word of  two elders against hers. In a culture where women were not valued, this was sure to lead to her death. But so great was her love for God, she was willing to risk it all. “Yet it is better for me to fall into your power without guilt than to sin before the Lord.” (Dn 13: 23) How often do we choose God over what is easy or safe?

She prayed to God and trusted him. When she was in front of the assembly being accused of adultery in a land where the punishment for adultery is death, she called out to God who knows what is true and what is hidden. In front of her accusers, her family, and her husband she spoke the truth. How often do we trust that if we speak truth, God will take care of us?

“The Lord heard her prayer.” (Dn 13:44) He always does. Our God is good and powerful and faithful. No matter how dire the situation, we can know that he is with us, he hears us, and he never abandons us. 

Her faith saved her. In front of all the people, Daniel proved the elders were lying and Susanna was set free. Her faith also helped others because they saw that it was God’s work they witnessed and “The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those who hope in him.” (Dan 13:60)

There is evil in the world. We are tempted on a daily basis. It is up to us to choose to keep our eyes on God or to succumb to the temptations. It is also up to us to trust that God will be with us in that choice and his grace will lead us through. The Lord will hear our prayers and we can rejoice and praise him because he will save us. 

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Merridith Frediani loves words and is delighted by good sentences. She also loves Lake Michigan, dahlias, the first sip of hot coffee in the morning, millennials, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three kids. She writes for Catholic Mom, Diocesan.com, and her local Catholic Herald. Her first book Draw Close to Jesus: A Woman’s Guide to Adoration is available at Our Sunday Visitor and Amazon. You can learn more at merridithfrediani.com.

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Knowing Our Father

“The one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”

Jesus is talking about the Father, and the Jews know this; they know that Jesus is clearly stating that he is the Son of God, the Son of the Father; he is telling them clearly that he knows God, and has been sent by God. “I am from him, and he sent me.” There it is. No mincing words at this point in the mission, even if it will mean his death.

This is the very heart of Jesus being revealed to the world: the Father sent the Son, and the Son has accepted this mission in love – love for the Father, and love for us. Jesus’ bread is to do the will of the Father; the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; the Son is obedient, even unto death, death on a cross…

What about us? We are called to be transformed in Christ – not just follow all the rules or be nice and share, but to be transformed IN him, conformed TO him, become one WITH him so that we can bring HIM to others. And when we are transformed in him, our motivation and desires will be the same as his. When we are transformed in him, our hearts should be like his: oriented toward the Father, in love. When we are transformed in Christ, when our hearts are aligned with his and our eyes are on the will of the Father, we are at last empowered and freed to bring Christ to the world and the world to Christ. This is what the world is thirsting for. This is what Christ is thirsting for. When we deepen our intimacy with Christ, the reverberations of that intimacy can transform the world. The deeper the intimacy, the stronger and farther the ripples of that love travel.

This is part of what Jesus came to teach us. We are created to be arrows pointing to the Father with our lives, for God’s glory, for our good, and the good of others.

We are each alive right here and now in a world that is in desperate need. It is in desperate need that we be who and what we are created to be: we are created and called to be leaven for a world enervated and deflated by sin and selfwardness, to be salt that enhances and preserves what would otherwise rot, to be light to every darkened place. We are anointed at Baptism to be God’s priests and prophets and kings! We are sent on mission, and this culture has a huge need for us to embrace that mission. We are created to be holy, and this world has a deep need for our holiness.

In Christ, we must strive to do God’s work God’s way, God’s will for God’s glory!

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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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Christ’s Testimony

In our day to day lives, we hear a lot of testimonies. All we have to do is turn on the television or go to YouTube and we see an advertisement with a celebrity promoting something that will make our lives better: skincare, a workout regimen, a new computer, a vacation, etc. Some of those advertisements are powerful and convincing; I often find myself envying the clear skin or relaxing life of whatever celebrity is in the advertisement! But in today’s Gospel we hear the most powerful, convincing, and important testimony the world has ever needed. We hear Jesus testify that He is the Son of God, sent by the Father.

Many people who encounter Christ question His testimony: how are we to believe that He is truly sent by the Father? Jesus tells them that by witnessing His actions, they are also witnessing proof that He was sent by the Father. It is not his words, but the works He performs that bear witness to His mission. After saying this, Jesus condemns them for seeking praise from others rather than seeking the praise that comes from God. The praise of others is fleeting and devoid of meaning whereas the praise of God is eternal and life-giving. 

When we perform works in the name of Christ, we should follow His lead. The intention behind our works should not be self-seeking. Rather, they should be selfless. In the same way that Christ became man for our sake, so too should we sacrifice our time, our treasure, our talent, our love, and our hearts for the sake of His Kingdom. 

As we continue through our own Lenten journeys may we remember that our sacrifices are for God, not for ourselves or others. May we follow Christ in His journey to Calvary, keeping in our hearts the love of the Father.

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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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I Will Never Ever Forget You

In today’s First Reading, the Servant of the Lord is announcing freedom to the Jewish exiles in Babylonia: “In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you; and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people….”

There is no way to overstate the crisis the exile in Babylon was for God’s people. They had been deprived of their homeland and had been stripped of everything that had given them their identity. There on the banks of the streams of Babylon they must have wondered how God could truly have been God if he had let the Babylonians defeat them, desecrate the temple, and force them to leave the land that had been promised to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Were they now forgotten by God? Would he ever remember them? Would he save them? Did God still love them? Could they ever trust the Lord again?

The conversations of the people of God in Babylon are similar to the conversations whispered in the homes where we’ve isolated far from our churches and from everything that had been “normal” about our life. We might have said with Zion: “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.”

Isn’t it too late now for God to show up, after loved ones have died, livelihoods lost, children affected by years of education interrupted? After millions across the globe have suffered indescribable loss. The Jewish people in Babylon must have wondered also at this prophecy spoken by Isaiah:

Thus says the LORD:

In a time of favor I answer you,
            on the day of salvation I help you;
            and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
            and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
            on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
            nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
            and guides them beside springs of water.

As we one by one continue to reshape our lives, we might wonder why the Lord didn’t “comfort his people and show mercy to his afflicted” by stopping the pandemic in its tracks before the damage across the globe had been done.

Our lament is as sorrow-filled and pitiful as the songs sung by the exiles who hung up their harps, refusing to sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land.

I hear such kindness in the final words of this First Reading. God understands his people’s tears, their loss. He listens to the confusion and hurt of his people who, because of their infidelity to the Lord and their choices to align themselves with other nations instead of trusting in him, had been carried off into exile by these same nations. God doesn’t correct their theology with reminders about how good he is, how faithful, how ever present. Instead, he evokes the image of tender love that is at the very foundation of every human life, an image that means warmth, safety, nourishment, a generous life poured out that a child might live.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; We say with them:  my Lord has forgotten me.”

Can a mother forget her infant,
            be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
            I will never forget you.

Take a deep breath, my friend, and allow yourself to share your true feelings and fears with God. Wail and rail if you must. Be honest with the Lord in every way. And then receive his arms that surround you with a mother’s love, this God who pours out his life and tenderness in absolute fidelity to us forever. Let these words wash over you again and again, “I will never forget you. Never. Ever. My child. I could never be without tenderness for you.”

Contact the author

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.

Feature Image Credit: RebeccasPictures, https://pixabay.com/photos/hands-infant-child-family-love-6831944/