Inspecting Our Insides

Does your outside match your inside? Actions, as they say, speak far louder than words. We reveal so much more of ourselves by our behavior than from what we say. However, even if we sometimes fool the world, we can never hide the truth from God. No wonder today’s Gospel calling out the Pharisees is paired with Psalm 139, particularly the responsorial refrain, “You have searched me and you know me, Lord.” God’s knowledge of us goes so far beyond searching, for He has created us. He knows every hair on our heads, our comings in our goings, and our inner beings. What good does it do us to even attempt to hide from God? What objective do we hope to accomplish? If we believe in Him, should not our whole being become a symphony of pleasing Him? Every moment in harmony with the life of grace and holiness His love calls us to?  Through sin and temptation, we can fail, we can fall, we can even attempt to evade, but regardless of what we do, because of what He did, we are never lost. Even if we become unwittingly whitewashed tombs, God is there to rescue our souls with the vivid color of His grace.  On the outside, a perfectly crafted faithful avatar to show the world, but inside we rail against many of God’s teachings. “Hypocrites,” Jesus calls the Pharisees. Looking at your life, do these harsh words apply to who we have allowed ourselves to be? Do our Christian insides match our outsides?  You search me, and you know me, Lord. You know there are days I struggle to attend Mass or even to pray. You know, my battle with gossip and judging, and all the sins I continually bring to my Confessor. You know I doubt, fear, and forget some days to bring these weaknesses to you in prayer—perhaps even bordering on despair in my wrestling with the world or my current circumstances. Alleluia. You loving God, never leave me without hope. “Whoever keeps the word of Christ, the love of God is truly perfected in him” (1 John 2:5). May you find more of you and less of me the next time you search me, God. May my insides match more closely the outside, especially that image of me who longs to love and live like you. 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).   

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The views and opinions expressed in the Inspiration Daily blog are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Diocesan, the Diocesan staff, or other contributors to this blog.

Hearing Anew

Spend any amount of time in the Scriptures or attending Mass, and you may be tempted to let your mind drift during the readings with the misleading rationale, “I’ve heard this all before.” While that is likely (and hopefully) true, do you take into account that each time hearing the Word of God, you are not the same person who heard it the last time? With every passing of each day, especially if we take to heart the call for daily conversion, we are a new creation in Christ. Between the first time you heard this passage in John’s Gospel until today, many things happened, skewing how you perceive the message. You are older, perhaps wiser, and experienced many simple and profound moments that continue to shape you and your relationship with Jesus.

Look with renewed eyes at John’s Gospel. Ask for wisdom and grace to hear and discern what wisdom or blessing God has for you today. Here are a few passages from John 6:1-15 to contemplate:

  • “Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.” When a Rabbi sat down, his students knew to gather near because he was about to teach, as a Rabbi always taught from a seated position.
  • Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Jesus’ instructions for the people to recline placed them in a posture that prepared them to receive God’s blessings. Here the blessing would soon be bread and fish to satisfy the hunger of all present and a powerful prefiguration of the True Food; He will come to satiate far more than our physical hunger.
  • “Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining.” During the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes, we hear what should be familiar words to the faithful. The taking, blessing, and breaking of bread all with a heart of thanksgiving to God—a formula we see again when Jesus institutes the Eucharist.
  • When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” The disciples filled twelve wicker baskets with the remnants. All those present, reclined, and trusting were satisfied with still an abundance left over. Truly, God’s generosity cannot be matched or depleted.
  • “Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.” Jesus, though indeed King, withdrew to avoid the people’s actions because His Kingdom is not of this world. The people wanted Him to attend to their physical needs; however, He desired a far more critical calling to care for their spiritual well-being. Again and again, we see Jesus withdraw to make time for prayer, quiet contemplation, and time along with the Father, an example we can also learn from and emulate.

What new things did you notice in reading today’s Gospel? What words or actions touched your heart or intrigued you? Where do you see God speaking to you, teaching you, maybe even challenging you? Are you willing to come closer, recline, listen, and be fed by Jesus? 

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

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The views and opinions expressed in the Inspiration Daily blog are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Diocesan, the Diocesan staff, or other contributors to this blog.

Jesus

While thankfully not a leprosy sufferer, I have dealt with eczema for many years, including a severe bout on my hands that left them virtually unusable. At their worst, swollen with horrendous peeling, I kept them hidden out of embarrassment. 

Many nights, I lay in bed, tears streaming down my face with the same prayer on my lips, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” During that time, and even now, when I read today’s Gospel of the leper, my heart stirs with empathy and a strong kinship. 

Unlike the leper, my prayer would take years to be answered, but in God’s perfect timing, and according to his loving will, my hands were eventually, miraculously healed completely.

Like the leper, I knew the healing power found in Jesus. While I longed for physical healing, what I found instead was profound spiritual healing. During the three years of battling this particular eczema flare, I learned some of the most valuable lessons of my life. And, inadvertently, my story too glorified God, as so many people ended up walking alongside me in witnessing my suffering, prayers, and eventual healing. Without intending to, I became a model for humility and trust as I needed to rely on people for basic needs and watched my vanity melt away as my worth tied more closely to my faith than my appearance. 

During this time, I learned the true healing Jesus offered was forgiveness for my sins, that the cleanliness I longed for more than anything was inside my soul. A doctor may help me find healing for my hands;  but only my Lord and Savior can bring healing to my soul. Remarkably the Lord revealed many similarities between the eczema on my hands and the sin on my soul. While doctors offer diets, creams, and medications for my hands, Jesus offers the Sacrament of Reconciliation for my soul. While the medicines took years to work, the sacrament’s grace came instantly and in full healing force!

Other similarities I recognized between battling chronic illness and habitual sin:

 

  1. The root cause cannot always be determined and can lay dormant within somebody for years.
  2. To truly eradicate it, one often needs to investigate deep into oneself to discover the root cause of the issue.
  3. It is often painful, uncomfortable, embarrassing, and can create significant anxiety, and usually, we try to hide it, thinking that it will make it unnoticeable.
  4. To be adequately healed, you need to see a physician, and for each, nothing beats the Divine Physician.
  5. The longer you put it off seeking help for the condition, the more unnecessary suffering you will endure. 

No suffering we endure can match that which Jesus took on for us. As today’s Gospel Acclamation reminds us, “Christ took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.” Jesus does wish to make us all well. Like the leper, before we ask anything, we should also pay Jesus homage. My praises come not for what He will do for me but for the ultimate gift He has already given. 

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

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The views and opinions expressed in the Inspiration Daily blog are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Diocesan, the Diocesan staff, or other contributors to this blog.

What Will I Leave Behind to Follow Christ

I have a lot of crazy things to bemoan. Most were embarrassing or even downright stupid: such as smoking, swearing, skipping school, driving too fast, bullying the poor boy that sat in front of me in math class. The world meant everything; I wanted my peers to embrace me as I worked toward acquiring the latest and greatest material things. It feels as if my entire teenage years were spent trying to fit into some specific group or place.

While perhaps these activities are typical at that age, they were still dangerous, absolutely awful, and in the end, downright sinful.  Yet, I didn’t care; I suffered from an earthly, misguided tunnel-vision.  I worried only about what I could see, without a thought beyond this realm or of the eternal consequences of my behavior. Leaving it all behind to follow Jesus never entered my mind; that life seemed dull and hollow—if it was even real.

In my teens, I longed for what was below. I cared what other people thought of me. I sought acceptance and approval from my peers, whatever the cost. It was an incredibly egocentric period, yet ironically a time filled with uncertainty and insecurity. 

My dreams included marrying someone rich but also being rich and famous myself. I read Cosmo and Tiger Beat magazines and strived to look as model-like as possible and judged and scorned those who did not. At parties, I sought the most popular people to impress and joined the ridicule of those not in that group. My validation of worth came from the world’s view, and being someone of significance in the eyes of family and friends, even strangers, enveloped my whole being.

I wish I could look back at my life and say these thoughts and behaviors remained a part of my immature teenage self, but alas, that is not so. Gossip, judging others, making poor choices to belong to a particular crowd would follow me throughout most of my life until I discovered the Truth. Joy came when I was finally willing to be last and strive toward heavenly rewards. 

Through tradition and Scripture, I learned that there is more, much more, beyond this earthly dwelling place, and finally allowed what is above to matter more than this world. This renewing of my mind was not easy and came with many tears, regrets, and painful confessions. Yet, it was not impossible, and the freedom and hope I now feel striving not to belong to the world are by far more amazing than anything I attempted to attain here below.

As you think about your current state of life, can you say you are more concerned with the things of Heaven? Are you rooted in the things of earth? Could you leave them behind to follow Jesus?

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

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The views and opinions expressed in the Inspiration Daily blog are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Diocesan, the Diocesan staff, or other contributors to this blog.

The Work of the Advocate

In today’s Gospel, Jesus consoles the disciples with the promise of an Advocate—the Holy Spirit. His words, “it is better for you that I go,” must have been so confusing, almost startling for those beholding the Son of God. What could be better than having Jesus in your midst? Only, I suppose, having God in your heart. In the Holy Spirit, God dwells not just among us but within, even with the gift of hindsight, that is still an incredible reality to ponder. 

Pondering the role of a human advocate may give us a deeper insight into our Heavenly Advocate. As we draw closer to Pentecost, not only understanding but also inviting the Holy Spirit into your life strengthens our faith and relationship with God. Here are three ways an advocate serves. Can you translate this into all the miraculous ways the Holy Spirit moves in your life? 

An advocate can be a support to those who feel they are not being heard. In Romans 8:26, St. Paul teaches one of the incredible truths of how the Spirit works as a support in assuring God hears our prayers:

 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”  

Even when we are at a loss on how to pray, the Holy Spirit perfects those fears, doubts, desires nestled so deep in our soul, we have no words and brings them to the Father for us.

An advocate ensures a person has the tools to make an informed decision. In our Confirmations, we receive an outpouring of gifts to guide our Christian life. The gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord each provide the guidance we need to be responsive to the will of God in our lives. The grace from living in the Spirit opens our hearts to choose good, desire what the Father desires for us, even if not done perfectly, the devoted Advocate adequately equips us. 

Jesus lays clear the Advocates work in our world, “And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me;  righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.” How often has the Holy Spirit convicted our behavior, thoughts, or even lack of action? How we respond indicates how willing we are to allow this Wonderful Counselor into our hearts. 

Wondering how you are doing allowing the Paraclete, translated into helper, into your life? Once again, we can turn to St. Paul, who offers how one measures the extent they’ve allowed the Spirit into their lives. The fruit of living in the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5: 22-23). This incredible life, Jesus promises with the Advocate, is just a simple prayer away, “Come, Holy Spirit.”

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

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The views and opinions expressed in the Inspiration Daily blog are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Diocesan, the Diocesan staff, or other contributors to this blog.

Nourished By the Bread of Life

How ironic, I am writing this reflection on the Bread of Life—the Bread that comes down from heaven, the Living Bread, and Flesh for the World—in Adoration with my belly rumbling from hunger. Although all I have to look forward to satisfying that hunger with is a gluten, dairy-free meal replacement bar, I sit eagerly awaiting my first opportunity to eat it. Even a little excited at the coming relief, knowing I will not have to suffer from these hunger pangs much longer. Anxious for this hunger to be taken away, clearly anything would suit me if I’m excited for my less than tasty meal replacement bar. I might even eat liver if that were my only option.

In John 6, also referred to as the Bread of Life Discourse, the Lord begins to reveal to us the beauty and mystery of His giving of Himself in the Eucharist. The words that come to mind as I meditate on John 6:44-51, may be brought on by my hunger, are those from the Lord’s prayer, “give to us our daily bread.” Acutely aware of God’s goodness, that He who created me would not only take care of my spiritual needs but my temporal as well. Daily, no day left, in which He does not think or desire to provide for me. And bread makes perfect sense, as it is a food we, even us gluten intolerant people like myself, find a way to incorporate into our diets. As the Catholic Church’s Catechism (2830) states, “The Father who gives us life cannot but give us the nourishment life requires—all appropriate goods and blessings, both material and spiritual.”

It is incredible how impatient I can be when hunger overtakes me, unwilling to postpone satisfaction until something more substantive comes along. Willing to settle for imitation food instead of holding out for the real thing, even if that meant I’d have to deal with my grumbly tummy and suffer a little longer. I do this in my spiritual life as well, when I become hungry for something to quelch my discomfort, willing to accept false gods of food, entertainment, or drink. Instead of trusting in the fulfillment of the One who truly satisfies. The scraps instead of the feast. The Bread of Life gives me abundant life and the hope of eternal life, though I may need to suffer and, yes, even hunger. 

Here I sit before the True Food, in the presence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of my Lord, Jesus Christ, yet I am distracted by hunger. How many things in the world around me distract my attention from Jesus, with empty promises to pacify my discontent. However, for most, the consolation will have faded before the consumption has even been completed. My challenge is to remain eternity-minded, to look up and out for nourishment, knowing He who created me will never abandon nor forsake me and will always provide everything, material and spiritual, that I need.  

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

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All Will Believe

“What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him.” ~John 11:48

Although I have never personally met George Washington, I believe he crossed the Delaware River.  I never met Amelia Earhart, yet I do not doubt she flew solo across the Atlantic. I am not personally acquainted with Christopher Columbus; however, I trust that he sailed the ocean blue in 1492.  Why then did I struggle for so long to believe the story of Jesus? Since His ministry included performing signs, I take solace in recognizing I am not alone in this struggle.

Like the previously mentioned historical figures, the story of Jesus becomes part of history because those who witnessed it shared it.

They observed his miracles, heard his teachings, and were present for his gruesome crucifixion. Actual people saw, spoke, and dined with Jesus after his resurrection. More importantly, testimonies included “hostile” witnesses trying to squelch excitement about Jesus, who would have much preferred his legacy not continue for the last 2000-plus years. 

This epiphany of recognizing Jesus as a historical figure was a game-changer.  Understanding the Scripture and tradition in light of eyewitness accounts opened my eyes to the truth, the reality, about Jesus. As Catholic tradition holds, one such witness was the soldier at the foot of the Cross, St. Longinus.

“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.”  It is said that Longinus was nearly blind and healed when some of the blood and water from Jesus fell into his eyes. It was then he exclaimed, “Indeed, this was the Son of God!” [Mark 15:39].  This encounter converted the centurion.

How often I am blind to the truth of who Jesus is.  Witness accounts, such as St. Longinus, remind me of the reality of Jesus’ existence.  People who gave testimony, so that I may also believe. Ironically, the very ones who wanted to silence Jesus, so more would not believe, became the conduit. 

The signs Jesus performed were not just for the witnesses of that day but continue to be seen today, most especially in the Sacraments. In 2015, my family was going through a difficult time. To cope, I started taking walks around my yard and praying the Rosary. One day as my frustration overwhelmed me and I shouted to the Lord, “What do you want from me?” As I turned the corner and faced the road, a truck drove past with the word “FIDELITY” along the side.  I actually laughed out loud; this Latin-rooted word emblazoned on the side of a semi, at the exact moment I prayed for clarity, was no coincidence.  The message filled my heart with peace. Jesus asks for me to be faithful.

While I still want to be that person who believes, I am grateful the Lord knows my heart. Therefore, I gleam great joy from the Fidelity trucks, the occasional butterfly, and the homilies that appear written just for me. Those signs remind me that my faith is not misplaced, that God is real.  Even the hostile witnesses knew, if many saw these signs, they’d all believe.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.