Comfort in His Word

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is sharing with his disciples that if they know Him, then they know the Father. Philip goes on to say, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” I’m glad that Philip said this, for it is why Jesus expands on the fact that He and the Father are one. He shares that the very words He speaks are not on His own, but with the Father, who dwells within Him. Jesus goes on to say that whoever believes in Him will do even greater works since He is going to the Father. He said that whatever you ask in His name, He will do so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. He said, “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”

What does this good news mean for you and me today? As I’m sure you know, there is much suffering, fear, and unknown going on in this pandemic. Personally, the unknown aspect can really get to me. I’m someone who loves having a plan or an idea of what the future can or should look like. I constantly have to remind myself that God is in control as I loosen my grasp on these plans or ideas of life, especially during this year of 2020. When I reflected on this Gospel passage and how it is good news today, I found that Jesus is comforting us in His word. He expands upon the reality that He is completely united to the Father and anything we ask in His name, He will do it. Does that mean He will give me anything I ask for? I’m not too sure about that, but I know He gives us what we need. So today, what do you need? Comfort, strength, courage? Ask for a particular need or grace in His name. We can trust that His Word is true. He is faithful to His promises, and He always comes through for us.

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

Proclaiming the Goodness of God

“It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” In the First Reading, this was Peter and John’s response to scribes who told them never to speak of Jesus again. In the Gospel Reading, we are told of Jesus’ first appearance to Mary Magdalene, the woman whom he had driven out seven demons. She automatically went to tell everyone what she had seen and heard. Then we hear of Jesus appearing to two of his companions in the country, who also went out to tell others. Later, we hear of the Eleven were at table when he appeared to them. He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” 

The question for today, is it impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard? This command to go out and proclaim the good news is not just for those in Scripture, but it is a call to each of us today.  We too are called to share the Gospel, the good news to all people! What shall we say? I believe we’re called to share how Jesus has been good to us. During this pandemic, through whatever season you’re in, times or trial or celebration, we are called to share the goodness of the Lord. This morning I listened to this song by Bethel called Goodness of God. I want to encourage you to give it a listen and reflect on all the ways Jesus has been good to you throughout your life. May it be impossible for us not to speak of His goodness, that is what we have seen and heard in our own lives. May we have the courage and grace of the Spirit to go out and proclaim this good news to every creature. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3t6CdeiN1M

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

Surely it is not I, Lord?

When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”

As we read today’s Gospel, we find the beginning story of Judas’ betrayal. He seeks out the chief priests and says to them, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”. Thirty pieces of silver are his reward. The story goes on to the Twelve celebrating the Passover with Jesus. He tells them that one of them will betray him and the eleven answer, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”. Judas answers, “Surely, it is not I, Rabbi?”

Yes, Judas betrayed Jesus. Yes, he lied to Him, too, at the Last Supper. But what does this have to do with us? Well, I think all of us know the story of Judas Iscariot. We know it and shake our heads as we hear how he chose the love of money over loving Christ. We know how his story ends, and it breaks our hearts. I believe Jesus calls us to ask, when have we responded, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”. Have there been times in your life where you have chosen the silver? This is definitely unique to each individual person, but where have you betrayed the Lord? Where have you said no to His love or to the prompting of His Spirit? I know for myself, I can look at Judas and feel much sorrow for him. He loved the silver more than he loved the Lord. I can also look into my own heart and reflect on my own sins and mistakes throughout my life and pinpoint all the times that I, too, loved something more than I loved the Lord. In this Holy Week, may we turn our hearts with true repentance back to Jesus. May we love Him more than anything or anyone in our lives. We know the story, and we know that Judas could have written a different ending to his story if he had repented. May we do what Judas did not, may we run back to the Father and be embraced by His love and mercy. I pray that we all embrace the cross and resurrection in a new way this Easter, that we may receive the love and mercy He longs to give us. Amen.

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

Rooted in His Ways

In Today’s Responsorial Psalm, we hear that if the law of God is in your heart, your steps do not falter. It states that the LORD helps them and delivers us from the wicked and saves us because we take refuge in him.

In Today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus say that “From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within, and they defile.” Jesus is calling it all out today, and it is good that He does! He is sharing with us the importance of reflecting and examining the depths of our hearts and minds; it is there that the evils He listed can live. We must be careful to guard our hearts against these things but also to remember the Psalm today. How can we make sure our hearts do not fall into these temptations? By setting the law of the Lord in our hearts.

Is your heart rooted in His ways? Do you make a regular examination of conscience? If not, do so today. May each of us look at His commandments and see where we may be failing. Perhaps you haven’t gone to confession in quite some time; maybe it is time to go and receive His mercy again. Let us remember that He helps and delivers us from evil; He saves us because we take refuge in Him. Be not afraid; He longs to give you His love and mercy today.

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

Arise

In the Gospel reading today, we hear of two miraculous occasions of healing. The story begins with a father seeking out Jesus for the healing of his daughter, who is at the point of death. Immediately, he falls at the feet of Jesus and states that if Jesus lays His hands on her, she will be healed and live. As Jesus goes with him, He travels among the crowds. A woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for 12 years had heard about Jesus and believed, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” She reached out and touched His cloak and immediately was healed. Jesus asked who had touched his clothes, and the woman fell down before His feet and told him the whole truth. Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction”. A man comes to tell the father that his daughter has passed away. Jesus assured him, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” He goes on to enter the house and tells his daughter, “Talitha Koum,” which means “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”. She arose immediately.

Throughout this Gospel, we encounter witnesses of great faith. The young girl’s father automatically proclaims great faith in seeking Jesus and believing He could heal his daughter. He most likely has never met Jesus before but has heard of him. He doesn’t come before Jesus with a lukewarm question of, “Can you try to heal my daughter?” No, He believes with his whole heart that He can do this. The same goes for the woman suffering from a hemorrhage, she had not met Jesus, but had heard of Him and believed in His power that even touching his cloak, she would be healed.

I was sharing with a friend about this Gospel, and we discussed, “Why doesn’t God do this still today?” We hear tons of tragedies that happen day in and day out. Why doesn’t Jesus just miraculously heal people now? Honestly, I’m sure there are many healings that have happened for people throughout the world, and it does still happen today. But why does God spare some and not others? I don’t know, but I believe we must hold to faith and trust like those in the Gospel today. Falling at the feet of Jesus with faith and trust, that those we have lost may arise too. That they arise to new life with Him, in the ultimate destination, life everlasting.

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

Light in the Darkness

It’s easy to see the darkness in our world today; it is pretty apparent with one click to turn on the news. I’ve heard many people say they don’t watch the news because it’s always bad news and they’d rather watch a station that only shares good news, why doesn’t that exist yet? Well, in the Gospel today, we are reminded that there is a light in our dark world. He is the one who came and is ever-present still today.

After hearing that His cousin, John the Baptist, was arrested, Jesus left for Capernaum by the sea in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. He fulfilled the prophet Isaiah, “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”

Following this fulfillment, Jesus begins Galilean ministry, He proclaims. “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” and he shows that He is this Kingdom of God here on earth. He shows that He is the light through his public ministry. He travels throughout Galilee teaching, preaching, and healing many. People witnessed these miracles and encountered Him. He began to have a following, “His fame spread to all of Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.” Those who witnessed miracles and encountered Him followed Him.

As Catholics, we believe that Christ is still our light in the darkness, but do you believe that He can still perform these miracles today? He is still present to us and illuminates our lives now, even in this dark world. He is present and capable of doing all the things He did in the Gospel in or lives today as well. Where in your life today do you need His light? What parts of your heart are darkened? Do you believe that He can heal what is broken and make you well? May we remember to “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

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

Intimate Communion

Recently, I was at a Marriages of Grace Cana Night, a nonprofit organization in my diocese that hosts a talk for married couples. There were couples of all ages, newlyweds, and those who have been together for a lifetime. The Bishop spoke at this event, and he shared some advice with all the spouses.

He said how important communication is, the simple and vital need to talk to one another. He shared that in his experience, he’s seen that once spouses stop talking to each other, marriages fall apart. He said that this is true in the vocation of priesthood as well; once a priest stops praying, stops talking to God, his vocation can fall apart. I believe what Bishop said that night was true, but I would add that once spouses stop praying, that is a problem too.

Why does prayer weigh so heavily on all vocations? We hear today in the First Reading from the Gospel of John that “No one who remains in Him sins.” This is where we are to live and breathe is in Christ alone; apart from Him, we cannot live as His children. John shares at the beginning of this passage by speaking to our identity as God’s children and how that truth changes us to be more Christ-like. He starts off by saying, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” We are not God’s children because he created us; we are God’s children because of the immense love the Father has bestowed on us.

He goes on to tell us that the world does not know because it does not know God, but because we are “God’s children now,” we shall be like him in the future. This is the hope of our Christianity, though we do not know the time or the hour, we know that when it is revealed, we shall be like him. This is the hope we must anchor our hearts to the truth that here on earth, we must live as He lived. He goes on to tell us that “everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.” The journey of holiness requires the desire and will. The desire to make yourself pure as Christ is pure is not enough. It’s the starting point, but it requires an act of the will to choose a life of purity. He goes on to say, “Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him, there is no sin. No one who remains in him sins; no one who sins has seen him or known him.” No one who remains in him sins.

When we are in intimate communion with the Lord, we will not fall into the temptation of sin. When we are apart from Him, it’s much more challenging to face temptation. When we are apart from Him for a long period of time, we may forget that we even seen Him or knew Him at all. Today, let us reflect on where we are in our relationship with Christ, our Lord, are you remaining in Him? Or do you need to come back to Him? Let us remember our true identity today that we are His children because He loves us.

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

A Righteous Man

One of my favorite things about St. Joseph is the fact that he never speaks in Scripture, yet we can learn so much about the man he was. In today’s Gospel, we can learn a great deal about the integrity of his character, the strength of his faith, and his will of obedience.

One of the first facts we learn about Joseph is that he is a righteous man, meaning he is virtuous. He does what is right, even when it is hard. We are told of his righteousness in regard to his decision to quietly break off his engagement with Mary. It states in Scripture that he was “unwilling to expose her to shame.” For context, the shame the author is referring to does not mean the shame one might have today of embarrassment or gossip. Historically, if a woman of their time was pregnant outside of marriage, it meant death. Mary would have been stoned to death, and yes, she knew that when she said yes to bearing Jesus. The mere fact that Joseph was deciding to leave her quietly was to protect Mary and the child’s life. What love he must have had for Mary, that he wished no harm upon her.

We learn that an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him not to fear taking Mary as his wife and into his home. This shows us that perhaps Joseph was scared to do this, scared to take Mary as his wife when he didn’t know whose child it was that she bore. I’m sure he experienced confusion and fear in this situation. The angel assures him not to fear and tells him the truth that the Holy Spirit has conceived this child within her, and he is to name him Jesus. Since Joseph was a good and faithful Jew, he probably knew the prophecy that “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.” Joseph shows strength in his faith and obedience to God’s will, for when he woke, “he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.”

I don’t know about you, but St. Joseph inspires me. He inspires me in the call of trust. Like Mary, Joseph had to trust God completely. He had to trust that what he encountered in his dream was real and was God’s will for him. He had to trust that he was called to be the foster father of Jesus, the husband of the Mother of God. He didn’t say “why me?” or doubt. In the act of trust came his free will to choose. He chose to do as the angel commanded. Today, let us call up St. Joseph to guide us in integrity, trust, and obedience, to whatever God commands us to. May we know, like Joseph, that the Son of God, Emmanuel, is with us. May we welcome Him into our homes with trust and obedience, like St. Joseph.

St. Joseph, the Worker
St. Joseph, Husband of Mary
St. Joseph, Foster Father of Jesus
St. Joseph, Patron of the Dying
St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church
St. Joseph, Patron of Fathers
St. Joseph, Patron of Immigrants
St. Joseph, Illustrious Son of David
St. Joseph, Splendor of Patriarchs
St. Joseph, Chaste Protector of the Virgin
St. Joseph, Zealous Defender of Christ
St. Joseph, Most Pure
St. Joseph, Most Obedient
St. Joseph, Mirror of Patience
St. Joseph, Terror of Demons,
Pray for us!

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

The Telling of Jesus

In the First Reading today, we hear of the wondrous deeds of Elijah, re-establishing the tribes of Jacob. In today’s Gospel we hear about prophets telling the coming of Elijah and John the Baptist, but none of these are as important as the telling of Jesus. We are reminded in the Gospel acclamation to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths: All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” 

With hearts of longing this advent, let us cling to our Responsorial Psalm of today, “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” How has your advent been so far? Have you asked yourself if you’re ready for Christ to come again? 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year… the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming” (CCC 524). How strong is your desire for His second coming? The prayer of the Responsorial Psalm is a perfect way to ready our hearts this Advent, asking God to help us turn to him. Pleading for Him to show his face to us. May we all encounter Christ in a new way this Advent, keeping our eyes open to see Him in our daily lives as we continue to wait for Christmas and for Him to come again.

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

Eyes Set On Heaven

In today’s Gospel, Jesus informs us that those who are married here on earth will no longer be given in marriage in Heaven. He shares this information with the Sadducees as they asked Jesus whose wife a woman with seven husbands would be in the resurrection. Here, in Jesus’ answer, we find our universal vocation. The vocation of communion with God in eternal life.

This story is beautiful as it reminds us of the ultimate goal of marriage, to get your spouse to Heaven! That is the whole purpose of the sacrament of matrimony and should be the foundation of marital love. This story also makes clear the beauty and superior vocation of Holy Orders/ Religious Life, men and women who have chosen to live out this reality here on earth — giving themselves body and soul to God, in full service of the Church. Jesus goes on to tell the Sadducees that God is “not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

St. Paul offers much comfort and encouragement in his letter to the Thessalonians in the Second Reading today. He reminds us of the Lord’s love and grace that will “encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.” How fitting for him to encourage us in this way. Each person’s vocation, Holy Orders, Religious Life, Matrimony, or Single, are reminded that our deeds and words must be for God. He goes on to say that not all are faithful, but the Lord is. He encourages prayer so that the Lord may “strengthen you and guard you against the evil one. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.” Whatever your vocation is this day and whatever it may be in the future, may we all set our hearts on the universal call of holiness. May we receive the graces of strength and endurance as we fight for holiness with our eyes set on Heaven.

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

Freedom in Humility

When looking up the definition of humility, I came across two different responses.  It was first defined as a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness. The second definition states, freedom from pride or arrogance: the quality or state of being humble. Whenever I think of this topic, I think of my good friend Stephen. We met in college and throughout our friendship, I began to realize that Stephen’s definition of humility followed the first definition. Whenever someone would affirm him or acknowledge his gifts, he would hang his head low and so “No, no, no. I’m not (fill in the blank)”. He was nervous that if he received these compliments and praises that he would not be “humble”. As a good friend, I called him out on this wrong definition of humility. He began to work on it throughout the year and as he did, he began to change. By the end of the year, there was a new sense of joy, peace, and humble confidence in him. He finally understood that humility doesn’t mean ducking your head low and rejecting or denying your own goodness. If one is truly humble, there is a sense of freedom. A freedom from the sins of pride and arrogance. When others would compliment or affirm something he said or did, he now responded with “Praise God! Thank you.”

In today’s readings, we hear the Gospel parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee thanked God for not making him like everyone else and recalls all the holy things he did. The tax collector only focuses on himself, beats his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ We are told at the end of the Gospel that the tax collector was justified, not the Pharisee. The Pharisee was comparing himself with others, this is not true humility. True humility is looking into the inmost depth of one’s own heart, not focusing or comparing the tasks of everyone else. Jesus said, “for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

We can learn more about humility from the Second Reading.  St. Paul writes to Timothy that he has been poured out in sacrifice. He recalls that he has competed well, finished the race, and kept the faith. He states that everyone abandoned him, but asks that it not be held against them. He finishes his letter giving credit to the One who made all these things happen. “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength so that through me the proclamation might be completed…The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever”. St. Paul doesn’t take credit for the good things he has done, but instead, gives all credit to God. This is the example of true humility, not denying the good that has been done, but praising the fact that it is only possible through God! 

I hope that as you continue to do God’s will in your life, you recognize that He is the source of all glory and remember that or whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

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

Divine Healing

I recently got the chance to meet an incredible Healing Ministry that is doing the Lord’s work in my diocese. If you are unfamiliar with prayer teams like this, the focus is on the Holy Spirit, and they simply pray with you and for your intentions, spiritual or physical. Having gone to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, I am pretty comfortable with charismatic prayer and was truly blessed by my experience with this prayer team. Lately, I’ve become more interested in the topic of God’s healing.

This week I hosted a FORMED series at my parish on the Eucharist, Presence: The Mystery of the Eucharist. After watching the first episode, I invited everyone to share their thoughts and reflections. A man named RV prophetically shared on the reality of God’s power. The fact that God transcends time and science at every consecration of the Eucharist is similar to an explosion that just happens throughout the world at different times every single day. We went on from these words to thinking about God’s bigness and smallness. These questions were meant to be wrestled with and that’s we did.

In today’s Responsorial Psalm, I was reminded of this great might. “Making known to men your might and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom. Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.” In the Gospel today we hear the reality that we will be sent out like lambs among wolves. I’m sure each of us can understand that analogy in our world today. But what struck me is that Jesus didn’t tell us to grab some armor for protection, but calls us to bring peace. “Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’” There is no need for armor because God is with us in all things and because of that there should always be a sense of peace coming from faithful Christians. His last mission he gives to the disciples is to “cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’” He gave the power to His disciples to physically heal the sick and proclaim the truth that the Kingdom of God is at hand. In all seriousness, do we believe that God can heal us today? Do we believe that the Kingdom of God is at hand right now in this very moment? I do and I hope you do too. Today, may we wrestle with the reality that God can do what you think is impossible. Whether He does it or not, He can. May you experience the healing that you desire, if it be His will. Amen.

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