Are You Blessed by Faith?

Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The answers varied from a prophet to John the Baptist. He then asks the question each of us should carefully contemplate our answer to, “But who do you yourselves say that I am?”

Who is Jesus in your life? Simon Peter knows He is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Remarkably not by the words of man but through God—from heaven above.  For this proclamation, Jesus responds to Peter, “Blessed are you.” In the Scriptures, we meet others, who were likewise referred to as blessed for believing the revelations of God. At the Visitation, Elizabeth cries out to Mary, “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

To the no longer doubting Thomas, Jesus says, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” There seems to be a pattern emerging of how one becomes blessed. It is not through some heroic deed but through faith—the kind that comes from the heart and not through the eyes. I long to be known as blessed, to imitate the trust exemplified in Mary, Peter and Thomas, not superhuman actions but acts of incredible faith.

The author of Hebrews illuminates the meaning of faith, writing, “Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen…By faith, we understand that the world has been created by the word of God so that what is seen has not been made out of things that are visible.” Then, one by one, he shares the power of and the remarkable results to be someone living by faith. 

By faith, they received approval from God and his righteousness. By faith, they found heaven and were taken into the presence of God. By faith, they could do the impossible. By faith, they were saved and not condemned. By faith, they were called out of a place and into their inheritance, into the Kingdom of God. Hebrews 11 unfolds blessing after blessing of living your life by faith. Although considered people of old, their legacy is ours as daughters and sons of a Heavenly Father. By faith, we, too, by simply believing, can do great things for the glory of God and have the resolute assurance of the promises of Christ.

How do you answer Jesus’ question?  Who do you say Jesus is? Do you believe what you read in the Gospels? Do you believe the prophets, do you trust what you feel in your heart, laid there by the power of the Holy Spirit? Do we need to be like Thomas and touch Jesus’ wounds, or can we be blessed because we believe, although we do not see? Like Mary, we can choose to believe that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken by the Lord. Lastly, like Peter in today’s Gospel, we too can be blessed by proclaiming with our lips and from our hearts that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the son of God, our Savior and Redeemer.

Contact the author

Allison Gingras works for WINE: Women In the New Evangelization as National WINE Steward of the Virtual Vineyard. She is a Social Media Consultant for the Diocese of Fall River and CatholicMom.com. She is a writer, speaker, and podcaster, who founded ReconciledToYou.com and developed the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women (OSV).   

Feature Image Credit: Demetrio, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/443-sagoma-virgen-maria-

Following Christ

Sometimes when I read the Twelve Apostles’ names, my mind wonders what did Jesus see in each one of these men that drew him to invite them to be his followers? Did Jesus see a light in their eyes or hearts, even Judas, which gave him hope in the role each would play in the establishment of his Church here on earth? Furthermore, what did these twelve men perceive in Jesus, which caused them to leave everything and everyone behind to follow?

What does Jesus see in me? I, too, am invited to “come and see,” as the Apostles were. I, too, am called to “follow Him.” To pick up my cross daily and accept the invitation to be one of his disciples. Through the gift of hindsight, the written Gospels, and 2000 years of tradition, the choice for us would appear easier. The first disciples responded with incredible faith. Yet, maybe it is equivalent to the faith we show in assenting to follow an unseen God?  Regardless, how blessed are all who allow Jesus to breakthrough into their lives and come to Him.

Every encounter I have with Jesus Christ, be it in reading Scripture, receiving or adoring the Eucharist, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or as I sit in prayer with my Lord and Savior, I know I am never the same person again. Even brief encounters with His grace change and strengthen me.

With simple words, Jesus “summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.”   Some Apostles come by direct invitation from Jesus, yet others begin to follow after an invitation from another whose heart burns from their encounter with Jesus. Regardless of how you come to first know of Jesus, it is only through experiencing Him directly that you truly choose to follow. That brings me to my second pondering on the calling of the Apostles. What did they see in Jesus which led them to remain and abide with Him? 

I can’t imagine what those early days were like, as they traveled alongside and listened to His every word. Never before spoken words, sometimes baffling and even frightening, yet knowing in their heart this was their long-awaited Messiah offering redemption and salvation.

What I love so much about the Scriptures—they are not just accounts of what happened two thousand years ago, but they are truth and light for each of us today. Each lesson shared by Jesus still teaches and inspires you and me. Jesus makes promises not only to those within His earshot in the Holy Land but also to us. At times, I may be a little “Doubting Thomas” looking for evidence or proof for myself; however, I do believe Jesus to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. With my whole heart, mind, and soul, I have come to know and believe there is no other way to the Father than through His Son, Jesus Christ. Today, I reaffirm my decision to “come and see” and always follow Him.

Contact the author

Allison Gingras works for WINE: Women In the New Evangelization as National WINE Steward of the Virtual Vineyard. She is a Social Media Consultant for the Diocese of Fall River and CatholicMom.com. She is a writer, speaker, and podcaster, who founded ReconciledToYou.com and developed the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women (OSV).   

Feature Image Credit: Created by Author on Canva

well

Do You Want To Be Well?

Do you ever feel like you are just waiting for someone to lift you into God’s healing waters?  What if once cleansed of your ailment, you could return again and again for further assurance of healing, a spiritual refresher?

In today’s Gospel reading from John, we read about a man crippled for over 38 years.  He has long been waiting to experience the healing power of God. This Gospel not only challenged me to consider the remarkable healing power of Christ but also His compassion and mercy.

The Gospel of John, Chapter 5 begins:

One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?’”

The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”

After reflecting on this conversation between the man and Jesus, it occurred to me that there are aspects of my finances dependent on my employer, my health reliant on my doctor and my spiritual well-being conditional on my priest; ultimately the most important dependency is on Jesus.  It is not that my faith in Jesus negates the need for the others: each is an integral part in attaining that particular well-being I desire.  With Jesus, as John’s Gospel illustrates, so much more is possible, including the miraculous:

Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.

Immediately the man became well,

and picked up his pallet and began to walk.

There is Always More with Jesus

At first, today’s Gospel appears to be all about the physical. However, as so often happens when we encounter Christ, there is always more.  We see Jesus’ desire for a deeper connection with us.

After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”

We see this same occurrence with the man lowered by his friends through the roof to be healed by Jesus.  We see again and again how in healing physical maladies, Jesus demonstrates the authority given to him by God. It is this same power that allows him to forgive sins.  

A Personal Analogy

For the last ten months I have been battling Eczema on my hands.  Eczema is an incurable and chronic ailment. I feel so defeated with those words – incurable and chronic.  There are days when the itch or pain is almost more than I can bear.  In those moments, I am reminded of the long suffering people seeking Jesus’ healing in the Gospels.  Jesus uses their suffering and healing to teach those healed as well as those witnessing the healing,

I prayed for an insight into my current condition.  It was no coincidence that I would have today’s readings to ponder.

Comparing Reconciliation and Chronic Illness

There are remarkable similarities between the eczema on my hands and the sin on my soul. Both need healing. For my hands there are remedies such as medicines and creams; for the soul there is the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I saw other connections:

  1. The root cause can not always be determined and can lay dormant within somebody for years.
  2. To eradicate it one often needs to investigate deep into oneself to discover the root of the issue.
  3. It is often painful, uncomfortable, embarrassing, and can create anxiety.
  4. In order to be properly healed you need to see a physician.
  5. The longer you put it off that visit,  the more unnecessary suffering you will endure.

I often feel embarrassed and ashamed of my hands and want to hide them, much like being caught in the shame or guilt of sin and wanting to hide from God.  Covering up (either my illness or my sins) does no good in bringing about healing.  My external healing means exposing the skin to the healing properties of the sun, transforms them from broken and useless to whole again.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation, through the healing grace of the Son, radically transforms my soul, healing my spiritual brokenness, making me whole again.  

Broken Skin, Broken Relationships

The hardest part of losing full use of my hands has been communicating with my daughter.  She is profoundly deaf and our family uses American Sign Language to communicate. Since my hands started to bother me last June, I have sometimes felt as if I trying to talk with laryngitis. I am acutely aware that I don’t speak to my daughter as often as I should or as thoroughly due to this. I lament that my disease has, at times, robbed me of the close relationship my daughter and I are privileged to enjoy.

To be fully healed like the man waiting to be lifted into the healing waters, I must be willing to accept the love and mercy of Christ.  When I avoid the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my communication with him is strained, like trying to sign with crippled hands or speak with no voice.  This great authority given to the Son of God is the same bestowed upon our priests through Jesus. We don’t have to wait to receive this healing. While our desire may be physical health, Christ desires so much more for us.

Christ is asking you right now, “Do you want to be well?”

 

Allison Gingras, founder www.ReconciledToYou.com (RTY);and host of A Seeking Heart on BreadboxMedia.com weekdays 10 am ET.   Allison is an writer and inspirational speaker.  She is a contributing author in “The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion” and the “Created to Relate” Journal and Author of the CareNote from Abbey Press entitled, “Being a Good Enough Parent”.  She presents the Catholic faith lived in the ordinary of everyday life through her experiences and humor.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

forgiven

When You Need to be Forgiven

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment…

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.  (Mt 5:20-26)

In 2010, when I first decided to offer Seeking the Peace of Forgiveness retreats, the intention was to focus on my many experiences of forgiving others.  The first retreat was booked for August 2010, and I was busy preparing: asking for prayer support, reading various books – including Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach by R. Scott Hurd (Pauline Books and Media) as well as increasing my time in Eucharistic Adoration.  I was confident in my ability to help participants learn how to forgive. My arrogant confidence would soon be refined, as God quickly and profoundly reminded me of the other side of the forgiveness coin – when you are the one who needs to be forgiven. 

The first lesson came in July, during Vacation Bible School (VBS).  My family and I had participated in VBS at our last two parishes.  My children went first as campers and then later as volunteers and leaders.  In 2010, after recently adopting a little girl from China who was deaf, I retired from any administrative roles and was going as a parent and ASL interpreter for my daughter, Faith. My teenage sons had been volunteered to help, which was not a popular idea especially when it meant getting up at 7 am during summer vacation.

The first day, we were running very late. I was tired, stressed and happened to not be feeling well that morning – all things I could have easily used as excuses for what was about to happen.

We arrived late,  greeted by a group of not-so-friendly parents at the entrance, which I quickly learned was actually the line to enter the building. There was lots of noise and confusion, along with whining from my ‘teenage cherubs’ that added to my preexisting crabby condition. I finally got to the check-in and the hard-working volunteer (who was also the director), handed me a blue t-shirt indicating my Kindergarten daughter had been placed in the preschool group and … I LOST IT!

This was my first opportunity to travel through the VBS stations and I looked forward to sharing that experience with my daughter.  I wanted her to be with children her own age, even though  her language and maturity level were definitely on the younger range. I was NOT patient, nor charitable or kind with my words. The woman’s eyes welled with tears, and she offered to move my daughter to another group. Feeling overwhelmed and just wanting this experience over, I grabbed the t-shirt, mumbled, ‘”No, it is fine”, and off I went to join the main group in opening prayer and song.

After some angry ASL interpreting to the joyful, upbeat VBS welcoming songs, we were escorted into the preschool room. Immediately, I knew I had made a horrible mistake. We entered a room full of absolutely wonderful children, including two little girls, who like my daughter, had special needs. My daughter instantly fell in love with them, her fellow campers and the absolutely remarkable teacher. I instantly knew God’s plan for Faith was WAY better than mine.

At that moment I knew I had two choices. I could put my tail between my legs, find that volunteer, who was merely giving of her time and talent for the spiritual well-being of the children of our parish, and apologize. Or I could hope she’d not gotten a good look at me in the somewhat dark hall that morning, and go upon my day like nothing happened.  Praying for the strength, I decided to search her out and ask for forgiveness. It is never easy to admit when we’ve been a complete nincompoop but I knew it was exactly what I needed to do. Difficult, yes.  Embarrassing, absolutely, but no more than my behavior that morning! Her response was an immediate acceptance of my apology; she lit up with gratitude and surprise. She confided that I was not this first parent to treat her that way during VBS week; however I had been the first to ever come back an ask forgiveness for doing so. I am so glad I did, because this wonderful woman has became one of my most cherished friends.  

Days later, I received a startling email from an old friend, that I had inadvertently hurt a year prior.  Despite numerous attempts to atone and reconcile for my stupidity, her email confirmed those attempts had been to no avail as she was still angry with me and “would be for the rest of her life”.  While this hurt tremendously, but there was a great lesson to be seen in these two parallel encounters.

In both cases, I made terribly inconsiderate, hurtful choices.  In both situations, I offered a sincere apology.  One forgave, the other did not.  From the reconciled relationship has come more blessings than I can count, including a ripple effect of women growing in their faith after the VBS volunteer joined my bible study and invited others to do the same.  

The other relationship remains severed.  While my attempt to reconcile were not accepted, I did what Jesus asked of me in Matthew’s Gospel; I now feel confident approaching the altar blessed by the one who accepted my apology while forever holding the unforgiving friend in my heart.

 

Allison Gingras, founder www.ReconciledToYou.com (RTY);and host of A Seeking Heart on BreadboxMedia.com weekdays 10 am ET.   Allison is an writer and inspirational speaker.  She is a contributing author in “The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion” and the “Created to Relate” Journal and Author of the CareNote from Abbey Press entitled, “Being a Good Enough Parent”.  She presents the Catholic faith lived in the ordinary of everyday life through her experiences and humor.