Faithfulness, Repentance, and Salvation / Fidelidad, Arrepentimiento y Salvación

The First Reading today can be a little confusing for those of us who haven’t been reading the book of Isaiah in context. Isaiah is a prophet of God who is constantly calling God’s people to repent of their wicked ways and return to the Lord.

In this excerpt, Isaiah is sent by God to speak to Ahaz, the King of Judah. Ahaz and his people are fearful because their land is under attack. Their hearts  trembled, “as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind.” But God sends Isaiah to tell the King and his people to be courageous and remain tranquil. Through the words of Isaiah, God reveals to Ahaz that their enemies will not triumph over them, but stipulates that Ahaz must be faithful to God. “Unless your faith is firm,” Isaiah tells him, “you will not be firm.”  The book of Isaiah goes on to show that Ahaz and the people of Judah are not faithful to the Lord! Judah is eventually conquered by the Babylonians and taken into captivity.

In the New Testament, God the Father sends not just a prophet, but his only son Jesus Christ to make it clear to all of us that we can be delivered from all of our fears—we can experience safety and freedom—if only we will respond with faith. Not the kind of faith that merely says, “I believe,” but the kind of faith that God wanted from Ahaz. A faith that demonstrates our willingness to forsake our own misguided ways and faithfully follow the One, true God.

In today’s Gospel passage from the book of Matthew, we see that Jesus is clearly expecting a radical response to the miracles he has performed which so often accompany His invitation to repentance and salvation. “Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!… I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.'” 

Jesus couldn’t be more clear. Life and death are hanging in the balance for the people of Chorazin and Bethdsaida. The same choice is given to us. What do we want? Life or death? Will we repent? Will we demonstrate that we believe by returning to the worship and service of the One true God? 

It is God’s mercy that speaks to us in these passages of scripture. Let’s truly repent of our sin, while there is yet time, and allow the Holy Spirit to renew us and change us. By choosing God’s ways over our own ways we can live in freedom from fear and experience authentic peace and eternal salvation.

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La Primera Lectura de hoy puede ser un poco confusa para los que no han estado leyendo el libro de Isaías en contexto. Isaías es un profeta de Dios que llama constantemente al pueblo de Dios a arrepentirse de su maldad y volver al Señor.

En este pasaje, Dios lo envia a Isaías a hablar con Acaz, el Rey de Judá. Acaz y su pueblo tienen miedo porque su tierra está bajo ataque. Sus corazones temblaron, “como los árboles del bosque se estremecen con el viento”. Pero Dios envía a Isaías a decirle al Rey y a su pueblo que sean valientes y permanezcan tranquilos. A través de las palabras de Isaías, Dios le revela a Acaz que sus enemigos no triunfarán sobre él, pero estipula que Acaz debe ser fiel a Dios. “Si tu fe no es firme”, le dice Isaías, “no serás firme”. El libro de Isaías continúa mostrando que Acaz y el pueblo de Judá no son fieles al Señor. Al final, los babilonios conquistan a Judá y lo llevan al cautiverio.

En el Nuevo Testamento, Dios Padre envía no a un profeta, sino a su único hijo Jesucristo para dejarnos claro a todos que podemos ser liberados de todos nuestros temores, podemos experimentar seguridad y libertad, si tan solo lo respondamos con fe. No el tipo de fe que simplemente dice: “Creo”, sino el tipo de fe que Dios quería de Acaz. Una fe que demuestra nuestra disposición de abandonar nuestros propios comportamientos equivocados y seguir fielmente al Único Dios verdadero.

En el pasaje evangélico de hoy del libro de Mateo vemos claramente que Jesús espera una respuesta radical de los milagros que ha realizado que frecuentemente acompañan su invitación al arrepentimiento y a la salvación. “Jesús comenzó a reprochar a los pueblos donde había hecho la mayor parte de sus grandes obras, ya que todavía no se habían arrepentido. ‘¡Ay de ti, Corazín! ¡Ay de ti, Betsaida!… Te digo que será más tolerable para la tierra de Sodoma en el día del juicio que para ustedes.'”

Jesús habla muy claramente. La vida y la muerte penden de un hilo para la gente de Chorazin y Bethdsaida. Nos da la misma decisión a nosotros. ¿Qué queremos? ¿la vida o la muerte? ¿Nos arrepentiremos? ¿Demostraremos que creemos volviendo a la adoración y al servicio del Único Dios verdadero?

Es la misericordia de Dios la que nos habla en estos pasajes de las Escrituras. Arrepintámonos verdaderamente de nuestro pecado, mientras aún haya tiempo, y permitamos que el Espíritu Santo nos renueve y nos cambie. Al elegir los caminos de Dios sobre los nuestros, podemos vivir libres del temor y experimentar la paz auténtica y la salvación eterna.

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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Three Persons in One God

Today is Trinity Sunday. The First and Second Reading, as well as the Gospel, all speak to the reality of the Trinity. The First Reading foreshadows what we will come to understand more deeply through the person of Christ and his apostles in the New Testament. Namely that the Trinity is three persons in one God…existing from all eternity. 

“Wisdom” in Proverbs 8:30-31 it says: “I [was] beside [the Lord] as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the human race.” 

Wisdom foreshadows the Holy Spirit. The phrase “…playing on the surface of the earth” brings to mind the “wind” referred to in Genesis 1:1, which at the dawn of creation “swept over the waters.” 

This personification of wisdom also foreshadows the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, the Word made flesh: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things came to be through him, and without Him nothing came to be.” 

The concept of the Trinity, three persons in one God, who has no beginning and no end, is mind-boggling. If you have ever tried to explain the triune God to a young person or a person who has never heard of it, you will know how intimidating such a task can be. There is no easy way to explain the Trinity. Maybe that’s because there is no way to explain it, period! We can explore it intellectually, but we will always fall short. The Godhead is simply too big for our finite minds to comprehend. 

When one of my children was 7 years old, I heard her talking out loud to herself while she was slowly raking leaves into a huge pile in our front yard. “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” she said meditatively, “Three persons in one God.” 

Yes, the doctrine of the Trinity is a great mystery! But even little ones can be sure that it is true, because it has been revealed to us by Christ Himself and, for 2000 years, has been taught by His Church. Happy Trinity Sunday!

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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Gazing on the Face of the Lord

When my daughter was little, she had a soft, pink and white baby blanket which we called “Mimi.” I wondered where this term for her blanket had originated and thought perhaps it came from “Me…me,” which is the way a one-year-old might say, “I want my blanket, please give it to me.” My daughter especially sought her “mimi” when she tired or distressed. Taking hold of it, she would nuzzle it to her cheek, stick her little thumb in her mouth and snuggle down in her crib. She would quickly fall asleep, knowing she was safe and secure. 

There are phrases from Scripture that are just like a security blanket. We can “take” them and “snuggle down” with them in peace and tranquility. Today’s response from the Responsorial Psalm is one such verse. “The just will gaze on your face, O Lord.” 

If we are willing to slow down and take the time to meditate and pray with this verse, it can teach us and shape us, comfort us and strengthen us. We can nestle down into the innermost places of our hearts and ask the Lord to show us His face. We can use our imagination to contemplate his countenance; to be transformed by his gaze as we gaze upon him.

In the Canticle to the Holy Face, St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote a moving reflection on the face of Christ. This is an excerpt from her poem: 

Thy Face is now my fatherland, —

The radiant sunshine of my days, —

My realm of love, my sunlit land,

Where, all life long, I sing Thy praise;

It is the lily of the vale,

Whose mystic perfume, freely given,

Brings comfort, when I faint and fail,

And makes me taste the peace of heaven…

My rest — my comfort — is Thy Face.

My only wealth, Lord! is thy Face;

I ask naught else than this from Thee;

Hid in the secret of that Face,

The more I shall resemble Thee!

Oh, leave on me some impress faint

Of Thy sweet, humble, patient Face,

And soon I shall become a saint,

And draw men to Thy saving grace.

So, in the secret of Thy Face,

Oh! hide me, hide me, Jesus blest!

There let me find its hidden grace,

Its holy fires, and, in heaven’s rest,

Its rapturous kiss, in Thy embrace!

St. Thérèse clearly loved to meditate on the face of Christ! 

Gazing upon the face of Jesus means contemplating everything about Him, which mysteriously reveals to us who the Triune God is and who we are. It draws us into a relationship of love with God that transforms us, sometimes in painful ways, but never stops offering us the peace, joy, and security we crave.

Let’s take the time today to “snuggle down” in God’s presence and “gaze upon the face of the Lord!” 

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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Becoming Part of The Story

In today’s First Reading, St. Paul recounts a short history of God’s chosen people. St. Paul knew that telling this story to the Jewish people in the synagogue would help them to understand how Jesus Christ was their long-awaited savior. Christ was the climax to the story! The more we Catholics of the 21st Century also come to know the history of the Israelite people and the beginnings of the early Christian Church, the more our own faith will make sense. And the more we will want to respond to God’s overtures of love, becoming part of the story ourselves. 

For the past two weeks, I have been giving the middle school children in our parish religious education program an overview of salvation history. As we began the lesson, I read to the children a one-page excerpt from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I did not mention the title of the book, nor did I give any explanation about what was happening in the story. The children had mixed responses to what I read: some wanted to hear more of the story, some were not really engaged, and several were excited, because they had read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and recognized the story.

I proceeded to draw a correlation between the children’s various reactions and our reactions to the stories from the Bible or the teachings of the Catholic Church. I explained to the children in a simplified way that unless they understand the big picture of salvation history, the things they hear and learn about their Catholic faith may not resonate with them. They will have no context in which to put new information, and they may even miss or misunderstand the life-saving Gospel message.

As the lesson went on, it became clear just how scattered the children’s understanding was. We started by discussing Creation, the Fall, and God’s first promise that he would send a redeemer to restore us to a loving relationship with Himself. At one point, an intelligent youngster exclaimed, “Now, wait a minute! Jesus is God? I thought he was God’s son!” 

We also talked about God’s continued faithfulness to His chosen people, even when they were unfaithful to Him. We discussed the fact that, throughout the Old Testament, God was setting the stage for the Redeemer to come and fix our sin problem. His plan was to restore us to a relationship with Him and to make us temples of the Holy Spirit. Finally, I referenced the role of the Catholic Church and the Sacraments, established by Christ to help us know and live the life to which God calls us.

As I taught this class over the past two weeks it became more clear to me that children and grown-ups alike need to learn about the big picture of salvation history a number of times and in different ways in order to allow it to penetrate into our hearts and minds.

When, in today’s First Reading, St. Paul preached to the Jewish people, they already had a deep sense of their own history. It didn’t take them long to start making connections about who Jesus was. Now, as Catholics, the history of the Jewish people has become our history, and we are privileged to learn it, along with the history of the early Christian Church. We are invited to respond to all that God has done for us and to become part of The Story. And we can encourage others to do the same!

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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Finding the Fullness of Faith

Today’s Gospel reading is from the beginning of Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse. As we will see in the Gospel readings over the next few days, Jesus makes it more and more explicit that eating His body and drinking His blood in a mysterious, yet very real and physical way will bring us eternal life. He also makes it clear that He “will not reject anyone who comes to [Him.]” The Eucharist, which Jesus established in John 6 and at the Last Supper as the sign of the New Covenant, is intended for everyone.

When my husband, Patrick, was a freshman, he attended a college that was faithful to its Catholic identity, though he himself had left the Church. My husband’s radical faith in Christ was clear to everyone who knew him, but the longer he was a part of this dynamic college community, the more he was drawn to the faith of his childhood. Yet, one of the issues he continued to struggle with was believing in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

At one point, he and his roommate had been hosting a visitor to campus, and as the young man was leaving their dorm room to attend Mass, he invited my husband along. Patrick politely declined. After the visitor left, Patrick prayed, “Lord, you know my struggle with the Catholic teaching about the Eucharist. If it is really you in the Eucharist, please show me.” As he prayed, he heard a knock at the door. Patrick opened the door to see that the young man had returned. He asked Patrick, “Are you having trouble believing in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?” My husband murmured something  non-committal, and the young man simply said, “Just keep praying. God will show you.” 

This compassionate young man, recognizing that my husband had a profound relationship with Christ, could have let my husband continue his faith journey as an evangelical Christian without mentioning the Eucharist. Instead, he stepped out in faith, wanting Patrick to experience all that Christ had for him. 

Perhaps as Catholics we sometimes forget that the Eucharist just the way we “do church.” It is the way that Christ himself desires us to be united with Him.  Our Lord wants everyone to believe in Him, and He invites believers to eat His body and drink His blood, so that we might have eternal life.  This reality shocked the people Jesus was speaking to. It may shock those to whom we speak. Nevertheless, we should not be afraid to invite others to explore the wondrous mysteries of the Holy Eucharist.

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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God’s Plan for You

As I sit down to write this reflection, my daughter-in-law is in labor! Like the servant in the passage from today’s First Reading, our grandson is known by God, even in the womb of his mother. The same God who brought this little boy into being at the moment of his conception has a unique purpose and plan for his life. Praise God!

And our loving Father has a plan for each one of us as well. We mustn’t doubt it.

Often, we are tempted to judge the worth of our lives by very different standards than the standard God has for us. Like the servant in this passage from Isaiah, we often toil and strain and feel as though we have spent all of our strength, just to experience defeat, loss, or rejection. We wonder what purpose our life has and doubt whether we are making a difference.

We can and will make a difference if we follow the example of Christ, the ultimate servant of God, whose faithfulness is prefigured in today’s First Reading.

First, we need to be in tune with what God the Father wants for us every day. The goal is to do His will. Jesus spent time in prayer, communing with the Father and strengthening Himself to do the Father’s will. If we are doing what seems good to us, but not really submitting ourselves to God, we might experience worldly success, but eventually we will realize how shallow that kind of success is. It may even be dangerous to our souls.

The second way we must imitate Christ is by faithfulness and perseverance. For many years, Jesus worked, lived, and suffered just like any person of His day before radically pouring Himself out in public ministry. Finally, our Savior gave every drop of his blood to do the Father’s will and, as He hung naked on the cross, all of His effort, His entire life, appeared to be in vain.

In our own ways, we too experience “failure,” as we strive to live as authentic Catholic Christians. Seeking to do God’s will, we may try to start a business, write a book, or enter religious life. Years of effort and sacrifice may pass with little or no positive results. Think of the couple who loses a child. Or a parent who raises his or her children in the faith, just to see them reject a relationship with God. These “failures” can make us feel that all of our effort to radically follow God’s will is pointless. 

We can’t always see what God is doing, but He is always working marvelously for those who are faithful. When Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, He brought about the greatest come-back victory of all time! 

We must believe that if our priorities are in order, and we are constantly seeking to do God’s will, our Easter Sunday will come. We will rejoice with an endless joy when we realize what God has done in and though us. In the words of St. Catherine of Siena, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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Lent is a Time for Learning

The division that Christ brought into the Jewish community of his time is sometimes startling, especially because Jesus’ teachings exhort us to be peacemakers, meek and humble of heart. The strife Jesus caused reminds us that Christianity, while it brings a kind of unity which goes beyond the natural, can also cause great division. 

The build up to the arrest of Jesus has been taking place in the daily Mass readings the past few days. In the Gospels, the tension is rising as we see some of the Jewish leaders taking umbrage at the things that Jesus said and did. In today’s Gospel reading, they argue amongst themselves concerning Jesus. They have trouble reconciling cultural Judaism with His hard sayings and His radical claims. If the religious leaders in this story had a true understanding of the Old Testament and what to look for in the Messiah, they would not have argued about who Jesus was.

Modern day Catholics sometimes experience this same kind of division because we disagree about who Christ is and what he teaches. The fact that we live in a society that is often at odds with our beliefs makes us even more conflicted and confused. 

Recently, I was helping to prepare a 2nd grade class for First Reconciliation. One girl was amazed to learn that what society calls right and wrong does not always match up with God’s definition of right and wrong. There are many adult Catholics who are also unaware of the discrepancy. There is, for example, a general consensus  that cheating another person in business is wrong, but how many people still believe that “marriage” between couples of the same sex is wrong? Those who want to preserve the traditional meaning of marriage are now persecuted, but Catholics can easily fall into the trap of believing the way the world around them believes as well.

So how can we know the teachings of Christ, that we might know what is truly right and wrong and stop arguing amongst ourselves? The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a good tool to learn what the Church has taught since the time of Christ. 

If we are unsure what our Church teaches and why, we should try to find out. There are plenty of good resources to help us, and Lent is the perfect time to learn more about our faith in order to stand as a unified Church living in Christ’s love. 

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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Jesus, I trust in you!

I have always found it challenging to “stay positive” while simultaneously acknowledging the harsh realities of life. I want to be a person of hope and joy, but I also realize that I can’t help make the world a better place unless I open my eyes to its troubles. Today’s First Reading provides a beautiful meditation, not only about the hope we have for the future, but about God’s awareness of our plight here and now. 

I remember one circumstance in particular in which I was overwhelmed by the potential for evil in this world and was tempted to despair. My husband and I were traveling across the country with our five children, all under the age of 10. It was late at night, and we stopped in a rest area that looked dark and dangerous. My husband took the four oldest into the restroom, and I climbed into the debris-strewn back seat with the baby. Tired and vulnerable, and possessing an overactive imagination, I started worrying about the safety of my children and the horrible things that can happen to children. I succumbed quickly to these dark thoughts and found myself crying in frustration and anger. Though I have had a close, trusting relationship with the Lord since I was a child, I have often struggled to accept the suffering of the innocent. Why Lord? Don’t you care? Why must these evils go on and on?

As I continued to cry out to God in my heart, I shifted my feet which were resting awkwardly on a number of children’s toys and blankets on the floor of the car. My movements triggered something, and a muffled tinkling tune penetrated the dark silence, “Jesus loves the little children…all the children of the world…” 

I paused and let that reality sink into my consciousness. My prayers reached the only conclusion that brings any peace…Jesus, I trust in you!

Today’s First Reading reminds us that God knows what we are suffering. He knows that things are far from perfect. By taking on a human form, Jesus Christ entered into the mess with us in order to experience, confront, and redeem the mess. Furthermore, this is not the end. This is not “all there is.” In a little while, He will make things right and all that we yearn for and hope for will come to pass in the new heavens and the new earth. In the meantime, we live on in Christ, who forewarned us that we would have many trials in this world, but to be courageous, because he has overcome the world. (See Jn 16:33)

Our deepest instincts tell us there is an Author of life and He is all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful. But we do not have the mind of God and we cannot fully understand His ways.  The more we unite ourselves to Him, the more we will trust in His ability to bring good out of evil. We will also find abiding joy, knowing that it won’t be long before the One who sits on the throne will makes all things new. (See Rev 21:5)

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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The Power of God’s Word

The First Reading today always makes me think of the power of Sacred Scripture. Words which, though penned by various writers in various times and circumstances, are ultimately authored by God Himself! 

Ever since I was in high school, the Scriptures have captured my imagination. That was thirty-five years ago when it wasn’t common to see Catholics read and study the Bible on their own initiative. Thankfully, today there are many Catholics who know that the Bible is a Catholic book—compiled and disseminated by the Catholic Church and preserved and interpreted for over 2,000 by the same Catholic Church!

If we are interested in knowing God and want to hear his voice, the Scripture is like Aladdin’s cave.  A veritable treasure trove of truth, wisdom, and knowledge.

As I have traveled the course of my life, reading Scripture and trying to understand it with the mind of the Church, I have learned to depend on God’s Word more and more. One of the ways Scripture has gained practical application in my life is in spiritual battle. As Christians, we know we are in a spiritual battle at all times. We are constantly being tempted to selfishness, pride, despair, and various other sins. When we use the Word of God to fight our own human weakness and to come against the evil forces who tempt us, we tap into a unique and awesome power. As God Himself says in today’s reading, “[My word] shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”

When we are feeling vulnerable, there is supernatural power that comes from declaring, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) If we are tempted to doubt God’s providence, there is supernatural change that we can experience by reminding ourselves to, “Rejoice in the Lord, always. I shall say it again: rejoice!…The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all…” (Phil 4:4-6). And when our children are bombarded by the godless ideology of our day, we can teach them to memorize “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8). As the next generation begins to engage in the spiritual battle, we must equip them with supernatural weapons.

Recently, as my petite, faith-filled mother-in-law was dying from cancer, I knew that she was tempted to fear. I posted a verse of Scripture from the book of Daniel where she could read it every day. Even when she was unable to see it or to speak, I would periodically recite it to her. “Do not fear, greatly beloved, you are safe. Be strong and courageous.” God’s words. Words to help us die. Words to help us live!

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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Jesus, Our Teacher

Today’s Responsorial Psalm is taken from Psalm 119 which repeatedly mentions the commands of God, the statutes of God, the Word of God. So often we want to have God in our lives, but we aren’t too fond of his teachings, or at least not all of them. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus and his apostles are utterly exhausted, unable to even find the time to eat, but when Jesus observes the crowd that has gathered to see him, “…his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”

Sometimes Jesus healed bodies, but he always wanted to heal souls. One of the primary ways he did this healing work was to teach and to preach. To explain to his friends and to the crowds how the commandments were to be lived out in their everyday lives. Jesus knew that if the people of his time could only understand that God’s laws were designed to help them to thrive, they could find the healing they craved and avoid destructive pitfalls. The same pitfalls we modern day folk create for ourselves by doing things our way instead of God’s way. 

And good, kind Jesus didn’t pull any punches. He set the bar high, exhorting his listeners to forgive enemies, to honor God’s purpose and plan for marriage and sexuality, to serve the poor and the needy. Sometimes they were even asked to leave everything behind and literally follow him. Knowing their weakness, he promised to send them the Holy Spirit so that they could do what he commanded them to do! (Aka without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible!) 

From the time my four sons were very young, I had them learn and recite the first line of the Responsorial Psalm from today’s Mass readings, (RSVRC translation), “How can a young man keep his way pure, by guarding it according to your word.” I wanted my sons to internalize the concept that fidelity to the teachings of Christ brings a purity of heart and mind that empowers them to avoid selfishness, lust, and greed. A freedom that fosters health in mind, body, and spirit. I wanted them to recognize what is good when they see it and to have the desire to be good themselves. 

Jesus Christ, the very Word of God made flesh, is moved with pity for us and wants to teach us how to live out his commandments. When we follow his commandments—when we follow him and do whatever he tells us to do—we live in Him and He in us.

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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God is God

The Responsorial Psalm at Mass today reminds us that “a sacrifice of praise” is integral to the worship of God. 

In Psalm 116, the speaker is praising God particularly because God has listened to his prayers and saved him when he was in great need and distress. How often do  we remember the fate that would await us if it wasn’t for the salvific act of Christ on the Cross? And do we give praise to God for our deliverance? How often do we take a moment to praise God for our health, for our loved ones? Even the little blessings we experience, like a hug from a friend or a warm bed, are occasions to praise God.

But beyond what God has done for us, he deserves our prayer simply because he is God! The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God.” (2639) Though the psalmist in today’s readings has gone through hard times, he does not rail against God. He realizes that God is God, and he deserves worship; a “sacrifice of praise.”

The little vexations in our daily lives can be useful when it comes to developing an attitude of praise to God, especially when things don’t go our way.

This morning, after coming in from the frosty January chill, I made homemade hot chocolate. After whipping the ingredients into a frenzy, I popped a mug of the mixture into the microwave to heat it and to create a nice, thick topping of foam. Distracted for a moment, I turned back to the microwave to see that my cup runneth over! Hot chocolate foam was boiling all over the inside of my microwave. 

Moments of frustration like this one can train us to become people of praise! When things go awry, we can curse, we can complain, or we can say, “Praise God!” 

When my cocoa was ruined, praising God was not my first impulse! I was ticked off. I felt betrayed. I was hungry and cold, and-it-was-such-a-gloomy-day-and-I-just-went-to-Mass; aren’t I virtuous; don’t I deserve a reward!? But in situations like this, when we choose to speak out the simple words, “Praise you Lord!” with as much sincerity as we can muster, our attitude changes. We remember that, actually, we don’t “deserve,” and that we are called to love and serve God whether things go our way or not.

When we practice praising God during these seemingly insignificant moments of frustration, this kind of spiritual exercise eventually translates into life-long faithfulness and a docility to the will of God. In other words, it makes us like Christ, who, “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.” (Philippians 2:6)

The Catechism says that we owe God honor and glory “simply because HE IS,” (emphasis added by author) not because he has behaved in a way that we think God should. No matter what happens in our day, or in our life, God is God and he deserves our praise.

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

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Stay on Target

In the first Star Wars movie made, “A New Hope,” the rebel forces (the good guys) are trying to destroy the formidable Death Star. On a mission to fire a shot into its only significant vulnerable point, one of the fighter jets barrels down a dangerous trench on the surface of the Death Star—enemies following closely on his tail. Suddenly, the flyer of the fighter jet starts to panic.  His fellow pilot exhorts his comrade in a steady, firm tone to, “Stay on target!” The first pilot continues to waver, and again, his companion urges him, “Stay on target!” (Spoiler alert…they are ultimately victorious.)

Today’s gospel reading reminds me of this scene from Star Wars. It is Jesus himself who reminds us to “stay on target.”

When the world seems to be going haywire, we, like the people in today’s Gospel reading, start to ask Jesus, “When, Lord, can we expect things to be put right? How much longer can this go on?” We are assaulted on every side: sex trafficking, gender ideology, terrorism, and even the buying and selling of aborted baby parts. “How long” indeed! There are no clear answers from our Lord to this question, but he remains faithful and so should we.

We do know that “the day of the Lord” will come unexpectedly, like the flood came in Noah’s time. Jesus warns his disciples, and he warns us, that we must not become distracted. “Do not go off, do not run in pursuit” of some sort of false messiah or sensational “answer to all our problems”.

We need to focus on the basics…that never changes. We are called by Christ to be steady, to continue as his faith followers, growing in virtue, keeping his commandments, abounding in charity. In the fight against the most formidable enemy we will ever have, we must “stay on target.” As it says in the Book of Proverbs 4:25-27, “Let your eyes look straight ahead and your gaze be focused forward. Turn neither to right nor to left…” Herein lies our victory!

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

Feature Image Credit: Caro Mendoza,