Standing for Truth

Today’s Gospel is short, only 2 verses. When I first read it I thought to myself, “Now what in the world am I going to write about for this Gospel?! There’s nothing there!” But there is so much packed into these 2 short verses. 

In today’s Gospel, we hear what seems to be talked about a lot less than Christ’s miracles and His gathering of followers. We hear that His mission was not always easy. Throughout the years He spent preaching and performing miracles, He encountered countless people who rejected Him. Many thought that Christ was crazy, that he was “out of his mind”. Despite sharing the Truth of salvation, He experienced harsh criticism and condemnation. 

In the same way that Christ was mocked, ridiculed, and shunned for telling those around Him the Truth, so too do we risk being mocked, ridiculed, and shunned for our belief in the Truth. Yesterday (and throughout the month of January), all over the country hundreds of thousands of people marched for the rights of unborn babies. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recognizes today as a “Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children”. Those who stand for the dignity of human life in the womb are met with the same ridicule and the same bitter criticism that Christ faced in the Gospel.  

St. John Paul the Great encouraged us in our mission of protecting the dignity of human life at all stages: “Never tire of firmly speaking out in defense of life from its conception and do not be deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination. Christ is with you: be not afraid!” In saying “Christ is with you”, John Paul II did not mean merely on a spiritual level, although that is true too. Christ is with us in our battle to share the Truth about human life. He endured the same derision for speaking the same Truth. 

May we find great comfort in uniting our suffering and the mockery we endure to that which Christ endured. In times of sorrow and frustration, may we seek His Holy Face and be reminded that He has already won the battle and place our hope and trust in Him. 

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: https://www.cathopic.com/photo/4498-toda-vida-vale

Pray and Live with Confidence

What hope we hear in the readings today! 

In the First Reading, John encourages us to pray confidently because we have assurance of eternal life. But is it really that easy? In whom is our confidence? Ourselves? Certainly not! John’s answer is “If we ask anything according to God’s will, He hears us.” (emphasis added by author) Not only must we be confident in the promises of our Father, we must be confident that He wills that which is truly best for us. It is when we can fully trust Him that we are able to conform our wills to His, and it is through that conformity that we gain confidence in prayer. 

As we move to the Gospel, we hear an excellent example of someone who submitted their will to the will of the Father, humbled himself before the Lord, and was greatly exalted: St. John the Baptist. What can we learn from St. John the Baptist? In short: “He must increase, I must decrease.” John the Baptist knew that it is humility that allows us to place our lives in the hand of God, and that, by being humble, we will be raised in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. Pride is often considered the deadliest of sins and the root of all other sins. It is pride that turns us away from God in our times of need. It is pride that allows us to take credit for our accomplishments and for our good deeds rather than giving the credit to our Creator. Recognizing the reality of our humanity before God, John the Baptist says, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.” Everything we have, everything we are is a gift from God. When we live our lives with this at the forefront of our minds, we are better equipped to pray with confidence. 

May we pray with the confidence, intentionality, trust and selflessness of which John speaks. Like John the Baptist, may we surrender our will to the Holy Will of God and allow Him to fulfill the wonderful plan He has for us. For it is in humbling ourselves before Him that we will be raised to glory with Him.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: remehernandez, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/18254-oracion

The Martyrdom of the Holy Innocents

Today, on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, we remember the massacre of young boys in Bethlehem by King Herod the Great in the time of Jesus. Herod orders the death of innocent children out of envy, anger, and fear. He does not want His dynasty to end and allow a new Kingdom to come about. Herod’s heart was closed to the Kingdom of God and evil only occurs when we, God’s creation, close our hearts to Him, our Creator. In His attempt to prevent the will of God, Herod kills the most innocent of God’s creations, fails in his attempt to kill Jesus, and shows the world that the will of God can be accomplished despite man’s sinfulness. 

This has always been a difficult celebration for me to understand. Why would God allow something so evil and so tragic to happen? And why would we celebrate this event? In preparing to write this reflection, I came upon a beautiful passage: “The Holy Innocents died in Christ’s stead so He could die in ours.” It was in reading this that I realized we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents for the same reason and in a similar manner, that is solemn, as we celebrate Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection during Holy Week. Although God does not will evil and although evil is a result of man’s sin, God can still do His will through the evil that persists in our earthly world. We celebrate the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents because, in a profound way, during their very short lives they were able to do that for which all of us should strive: die for Christ. It is because of the Holy Innocents that we have the privilege to know, love, and serve Our Lord, Jesus Christ. The deaths of the Holy Innocents, and Herod’s ultimate failure in his attempt to kill Jesus, brings to mind the verse from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “O death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory”? There is no sting of death; there is no victory of Hell. Christ has already conquered death.

Important to contemplate, as well, is the fact that Jesus did not enter this world to the sound of trumpets and praise. Rather, He entered this world with only His mother and father present, in a lowly manger. Very soon after His birth, His family fled to Egypt in exile. From the beginning, His life was not easy and He and His family were faced with persecution. So what do the lives of Christ and those of the Holy Innocents tell us about our lives? They are not meant to be easy. It is inevitable that living a life for Christ will bring about persecution and hardship. But there is hope!

We hear about that hope in John’s epistle. He tells us that Christ is the Light that came into the world. In order for Him to light the darkness of our lives, we must accept Him and we must live in His truth. When we bring Christ into the darkest corners of our lives, He dispels all our darkness and we are able to live in His Light. 

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: geralt, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/all-saints-christian-holy-faith-2887463/

The Humility of Christ

Today’s Gospel Acclamation is one of my favorite verses in the Bible: “Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” In this verse from Corinthians, we are reminded of the way Christ sacrificed Himself for our sake. He humbled Himself – He took on the poverty of humanity – in order that we might share in the richness of Heaven.  

This verse, which prepares us for the words of the Gospel, also reminds us that, in His humility, Christ Jesus allowed us to know His heart intimately. In the Gospel, Christ is calling us to follow in His footsteps, humble ourselves, and let Him know our own hearts intimately. The question is: How do we do that? Well, if we listen to this particular Gospel, we get the answer! We must be faithful in small things because that shows that we will also be faithful in big things.

I think the bigger question, at least for me, is: How do we do this in our everyday lives? I think the small things are the things we don’t think about: When we wake up and take a minute to thank God for allowing us another day, when we put something away that our spouse or our children left out, when we say a short prayer at the sound of an ambulance siren, when we smile at a stranger. All of those things are small ways in which we can show the love of Christ to others. Those things all create a habit of virtue which then allow us to do the big things: Go to Mass without hesitation not only on Holy Days of Obligation but other days as well, go to confession regularly, challenge the ones with love to be faithful, improve our prayer life, actively seek further knowledge in the faith. When we are faithful in the small things, we learn how to be faithful in the big things. When we allow the light of Christ to shine through us in our everyday lives and in our everyday interactions, we can truly live out the saying: “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words when necessary”.

May we continually humble ourselves at the foot of the cross so that we may gain the richness of Heaven and be united in Christ with great joy.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: Policraticus, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/10564-miada-cristo-cruz

John Paul the Great and the Love of Christ

What a joy and blessing it is to write a reflection for the Memorial of St. John Paul the Great! Today’s reflection will be on the optional set of readings for JPII’s Memorial.

In the Gospel we hear Christ ask Simon Peter three times if he loves Christ. Each time, Simon Peter responds by saying, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”. Christ then tells Simon Peter to take care of His flock. In celebration of St. John Paul the Great, I thought I would read some of his writings for inspiration for this reflection. In an address to young people about the meaning of vocation, he said, “Do not be afraid of the radicalness of His demands, because Jesus, who loved us first, is prepared to give Himself to you, as well as asking of you. If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.” This reminded me so much of the Gospel reading. Christ asks Simon Peter three times if he loves Christ, not because He doubts Simon Peter, but as an indication that He will ask much of Simon Peter. He knows that Peter will deny Him. But He also knows that Peter will build up His Church, work for the conversion of souls, and instill hope in those he encounters. Simon Peter knew that his love for Christ would entail a great deal of suffering. He also knew that through suffering Christ would bring about true joy in being united with Him in Heaven. 

The Responsorial Psalm is “Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.” JPII did exactly that. He was the most travelled pope in history, visiting about 130 countries during his pontificate and about 600 cities outside of Italy. He began the tradition of World Youth Day, reaching millions of youth around the world. In a similar way to St. Peter, St. John Paul the Great brought the world together through the love of Christ. 

St. John Paul the Great, like St. Peter, humbly led the people of God to greater conversion and greater love of Christ. I think JPII was so well loved because he so beautifully radiated the love of Christ. He was able to do so because of his own faith and love of God. He taught us that when we fully love Christ and give our hearts to Him, we are trusting Him to care for us. 

I’d like to end with one of my favorite reminders from Pope John Paul II: “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us”. 

St. John Paul the Great, pray for us!

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: Moises Becerra, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/10017-pidiendo-intercesion-san-juan-pablo-ii

God is Faithful

In today’s Gospel Christ is warning His disciples (and us) to practice what we preach. It is not only through our words that we can deny Christ; through our actions—and even through the things we choose not to do—we can deny God. Christ’s words are not just cautionary, they are encouraging as well. He reminds His disciples that we do not have to rely solely on ourselves when speaking of the Truth and of faith in God. The Holy Spirit Himself will guide our tongues to say the right thing. When we are faithful to God, He is faithful to us. 

We are also reminded of that faithfulness in the First Reading in God’s covenant with Abraham. Even in times of human failure, when man’s side of the covenant was not kept, God remained faithful. God knew that despite Abraham’s failings, he had put his full trust in the covenant He made with God so God kept His promise and made Abraham the father of many nations. He remains faithful to us because of His love for us. 

How often are we faithful to God in our words but don’t support those words with our actions? How often do we ask God to give us what we think we need but don’t turn to Him in moments of true despair or forget to praise Him in moments of true joy? May we always remember that it is by His love for us that we are saved from our sins. 

Sts. Hedwig and Margaret Mary Alacoque, pray for us!

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: dodo71, https://pixabay.com/photos/stained-glass-window-church-6358716/

Hearts United In Christ

“And blasphemy, the sin against the Holy Spirit, is the one unforgivable sin…because it comes from closing the heart to God’s mercy which acts in Jesus.” -Pope Francis

Today’s Gospel has always stumped me. Why would the Pharisees think that Jesus, who is driving out demons, is driving out demons through the power of…demons? In response to the Pharisees’ questions and thoughts, Jesus asks them this very question. He tells them that if demons are driving out demons, it means that Satan’s kingdom is divided. Christ says this to emphasize the importance of not dividing the Kingdom of God. When we do things in the name of Christ, we must make sure that what we are doing is in line with God’s will. God wills for us to expand the Kingdom of God and bring more people to Him. We can’t do that, however, if we are not submitting our own wills to His holy will. 

In the Gospel Christ tells us, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” When we are not faithful to the truth of God’s word and when we do not trust His will, we are working against His Kingdom. Our goal should always be to bring more people to know God’s love and mercy. Christ also tells us that when our hearts are not fixed on Him, we are left open to the influences of the enemy. When we guard our hearts against evil, we are more able to open ourselves up to the will of God and put our complete trust in Him. 

May we guard our hearts against evil, and in doing so, may we unite ourselves evermore to the heart of Christ which is love and mercy itself.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: Angie Menes, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/24709-misericordia-dios

Poor in Spirit

“Like billowing clouds, like the incessant gurgling of the brook, the longing of the spirit can never be stilled”. (St. Hildegard of Bingen)

I love this group of readings! Especially the Responsorial Psalm with the Gospel. We repeat the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!” right before we hear of Christ’s followers. His followers were not perfect people. Mary Magdalene had seven demons driven out of her, there were other women who had been cured of sickness and evil spirits as well. These were women who wanted to be healed, and who had been healed by the love and mercy of Christ. Our tendency when we hear “Blessed are the poor in spirit” is to ask “Why would I want to be poor in spirit? Doesn’t that mean I lack faith?” Quite the opposite, actually. To be poor in spirit is to recognize your own spiritual poverty before the Lord. It is to recognize the need for God and the need for His love and mercy. So indeed, blessed are those who recognize their need for the Lord and live their lives in pursuit of unity with Him! 

The First Reading tells us how to be poor in spirit. That is, we are to avoid anything which goes against the teachings of Christ, we are to avoid riches so as not to distract ourselves from the pursuit of holiness. Instead, we should be seeking “righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness”. We should follow the example of Christ who, in his ministry, exemplified righteous anger, devotion to the Father, faith in the Father’s plan, love for all people, patience with his followers, and gentleness with those to whom He interacted. 

May we, like Christ Himself as well those who followed Him while he was on earth, put our full faith and trust in his love and mercy.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: Os Filhos de Maria, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/22422-holy-spirit

The Birth of Our Mother

“Let everything, mundane things and those above, join in festive celebration. Today this created world is raised to the dignity of a holy place for him who made all things. The creature is newly prepared to be a divine dwelling place for the Creator.” -St. Andrew of Crete

Today we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary’s birthday! Although the Bible does not tell us anything about Mary’s birth, Tradition names today as the day we celebrate her birth. As St. Andrew of Crete says, it is a day which deserves to be widely and greatly celebrated! It is because of the birth of Mary and because of her “yes” to the will of God that Christ became man. St. Andrew calls Mary’s womb a “…divine dwelling place for the Creator”. I often think of how wonderful Mary’s parents must have been to raise a child who so willingly and unquestioningly said “yes” to God’s will. Her childhood home must have been filled with love, grace, and faith. Her parents, Tradition gives us the names Joachim and Anne, fulfilled their role as parents in teaching her the faith. 

In today’s Gospel we hear both the genealogy of Christ and the story of the angel appearing to Joseph to tell him the Good News that Mary was carrying the Son of God, “Emmanuel” in her womb. The genealogy, while sometimes difficult or even boring to read, is important because it shows how Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of a Savior. He is the One for whom Israel had been waiting. Because of Mary’s “yes” to the plan of God, God is truly with us in the person of Jesus Christ. Today, I am especially grateful for Mary’s “yes” to motherhood and Joseph’s “yes” to fatherhood for it is through this Holy Family that we are able to share life with Christ. 

May we, in imitation of our Holy Mother Mary, say “yes” to Christ in every moment of our lives. May our lives be a reflection of His so that those around us may come to know Him through us.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: Daniela, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/18361-ella-es-mi-hermosa-madre

The Rocks of Faith

Today’s Gospel has always really stuck with me…especially the first part (up until “…whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven”). I know a big reason for this Gospel sticking with me is that I had to memorize it for one of my high school theology classes. At the time I’m sure I was frustrated that I had to memorize so many words for what felt like no reason. But now thinking about it, I realize how often I refer to this passage in my own personal faith as well as in conversations with others. In reflecting on the two readings for today–the first from Numbers and the Gospel from Matthew, I think I’m coming to understand the passage from Matthew more… I’m sure my high school theology teacher is somewhere saying, “See, Dakota, I told you it wasn’t all for nothing!”

In the reading from Numbers, we hear of Moses’ disobedience. To be completely honest, it wasn’t until someone pointed it out very recently that I understood how exactly Moses disobeyed God in this instance. It’s subtle. God’s command was to speak to the rock in order for it to produce water. Instead, Moses strikes the rock in order for it to produce water. Although it is subtle, Moses’ action makes evident his lack of faith in God’s power and God punishes the disobedience by not allowing Moses to enter into the Promised Land with his people. 

In the Gospel we hear Simon Peter’s profession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is after this profession that Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock upon which the Church will be built. The Church, in her wisdom, pairs the story of God bringing forth water for Moses through a rock and the story of Peter being the rock in order to show us that we can choose a path of disobedience or obedience. It also shows us that God can enact good despite man’s sin. Even though Moses did not follow God’s command, God still gave the Israelites water. Even though Peter denied Jesus, our Church is founded upon the leadership of Peter. God’s will and God’s power are not confined by human or earthly limitations. 

Personally, when I’m not putting my full trust in God it’s because I’m doubting His power or His will: “How could He possibly make this situation better?” “Why would God want this?” When we fully place our trust in His power, we are able to also submit ourselves to His will. When we do that, we no longer have doubts in why things are happening because we trust that God is enacting His will in our lives. 

May we always have faith in the power of God. May we also look to our Mother Mary as our hope and intercessor because it was her “yes” to God’s will that brought about the Incarnation!

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: Fr. Fernando, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/11872-llaves-reino

Good Soil

In today’s Gospel we hear Christ’s explanation of a parable that I’m sure we’re all familiar with: the Parable of the Sower. 

He explains that the four different types of soil are representative of four different types of people. The seed that falls on that path but is stolen away is the person who does not understand the Gospel so the Evil One steals what was taking root in the person’s heart. The seed that falls on rocky soil but is scorched by the sun because it has no roots is the person who hears the Gospel and is blessed with great joy but soon falls away because of persecution. The seed that falls among the thorns is the person who hears the Gospel but is preoccupied by worldly things and does not live or share the Word. The seed that falls on good soil is the person who hears the Gospel, understands, lives it, and shares it with others. 

We will all encounter each type of soil, each type of person in our lives. Perhaps we will even act as the sowers and talk to each type of person about the faith. But we will also encounter each type of person within ourselves. 

How many times have we heard something in Scripture, in a homily, or in a talk and not understood it? Do we ask someone more knowledgeable than us to help us understand or do we forget it and not give it a second thought? That’s the seed falling on the path.

How many times have we gone on a retreat and been so on fire with the Holy Spirit and for our faith while we’re there, but then as soon as we return to our ordinary, daily lives and to our routines and the fire dies out a little bit? That’s the seed falling on rocky soil.

How many times have we been afraid to share our faith at work or in our communities? Or how many times have we not paid attention in Mass because something else was on our minds? That’s the seed falling among the thorns. 

But how much joy do we find in sharing the Gospel with others? How often do we find great joy and peace in participating in the Sacraments? What does it feel like when we recognize Christ in others? That’s the seed falling on good soil. 

We are all capable of throwing seed on the path and of being the rocky, thorny, or good soil. If we acknowledge that we don’t understand everything, recognize what our thorns are, and when we have a tendency to shy away from the faith because of persecution, then we are able to overcome those obstacles and replace the thorns and rocks with good soil. 

Today is the feast of St. Bridget of Sweden and I encourage you to read about her life! May we, following the example of St. Bridget, pray for Christ to do His will through us and pray that we may sow seeds of faith in good soil in which the faith is planted.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: Ric Perezmont, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/18501-sembrador

The Faith of Paul

In today’s Gospel we hear of Jesus returning to His native place and preaching in the synagogues. Those he encounters, however, doubt and question Him. Mark recounts that “…he was not able to perform any mighty deed there…” and “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” Jesus’ inability to perform any mighty deeds is not a testament to His lack of power or strength, rather it is a testament to the peoples’ weakness and lack of faith. The miracles Jesus performed, be they small or big, were not just His way of proving that He is the Messiah that was sent to heal us of our sins. They were also proof of the faith of those who believed in Him.

The Second Reading stands in contrast to the Gospel in that St. Paul shows tremendous faith whereas the people of Jesus’ native place show a tremendous lack of faith. In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he writes “…I am content with weakness, insults, hardship, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” I think this can be a difficult passage to understand and to digest. St. Paul turns his suffering, the thorn in his flesh, into a means for praising God! He sees his suffering as an opportunity to take refuge in God and His strength. It is Paul’s faith in Christ that allows him to be content with weakness and persecutions. 

It’s easy to read these two readings and recognize that Paul is the one to whom we should look as an example of faith. But how often do we reject Christ in our own lives? How often do we expect Him to perform great miracles in our lives but do not have the faith that He actually can or will? How often do we grow angry at God when we suffer rather than recognizing our suffering as an opportunity to unite our suffering with His?

May we be like St. Paul who, in his suffering, turned to God in humble prayer and allowed the strength of Christ to work through his weakness.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: Yael Portabales, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/2845-estatua-san-pablo-extramuros