Judge Much?

The theme across today’s First Reading and Gospel could not be any clearer – it’s all about judgment. You could ask Christians and non-Christians alike if it’s right to judge other people and you’d probably get a similar response, something along the lines of, “stop judging, that you may not be judged” (Matthew 7:2). Let’s dive a little deeper, though.

Saint Paul provides a good explanation to the Romans about  what happens when we judge one another. He first starts out by saying that we have no excuses, meaning that there are no good reasons for passing judgment on someone or anyone else. In doing so, we condemn ourselves. Why? Because we often do the very same things – we are human, we are fallen like our brother or sister on whom we are passing judgment. For example, if I judge someone for gossiping about someone else, I am failing to see the beam in my own eye versus the splinter in my brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5) because how many times before have I gossiped? Too many to count. We were not created to be judges of our brothers and sisters. Only God Himself is the just judge. 

As such, God judges based on the actions and decisions of our lives and we ourselves know both the rewards and the consequences. Let me say that again – we know both the rewards and the consequences, primarily, eternal life with God or eternal separation from Him. And, if we know the consequences especially, why do we believe that we will escape God’s judgment? By playing judge, are we considering ourselves better or more important than God? Are we trying to make our own judgment? 

Reading a little further, Saint Paul explains that it’s more than just the simple act of judging another that causes such a problem. Rather, it’s the “stubbornness and impenitent heart” and “those who selfishly disobey the truth.” At face value, those words may seem a little harsh, but if we do a true examination of the depths of our hearts, we can see those seeds in the root of judgment. It’s the stubbornness and impenitence that cause us to forget our own sins, the very same sins for which we are judging someone else. It’s the selfishness in disobeying truth by thinking that we are above God and, therefore, able to pass judgment. 

On a little more personal note, about seven years ago, God completely wrecked me when it came to the beam in my own eye of judging others. When I realized what I had done and the impact it had both on those I had judged and on myself, I wept in repentance. While I am not perfect and I constantly need to remind myself not to judge others, this experience stands in the forefront of my mind even to this day and the conscious effort to not judge others has made a difference in my life. 

“Stop judging, so that you may not be judged.”

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Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

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The Lord Provides

I love the Gospel passages when Jesus summons the Twelve apostles, gives them their mission and sends them forth. Maybe it’s because I work for the Church and can easily see myself in their shoes as I receive my mission, my vocation as a youth minister, from the Lord and am sent forth into my parish to serve the young people. Maybe it’s something different. 

However, what strikes me about this particular Gospel, is not the action of the sending forth; rather, it’s the instructions that Jesus gives them. “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.” 

Um, what did He say? Take nothing? Really? That would have been my immediate gut reaction if I was really in the apostles’ shoes. A walking stick or a second tunic probably would have been helpful for a journey such as this, let alone food and money. There is no mention of complaining or second-guessing in the rest of the Gospel passage, though. The apostles went out and did what they were told – proclaimed the good news and cured diseases. 

Jesus was trying to teach the apostles – and us, by extension – a lesson in trust, in total reliance upon Him. The apostles didn’t need to bring food or money on their journey because the Lord would provide for all of their needs, which included their physical and material needs. 

We can never learn too many lessons about trusting in the Lord. It’s something that we can all grow in, all the time, and I’ll be the first one to admit it. I know I need to trust the Lord more in my daily life, in my spiritual life, in youth ministry, in everything. Again, maybe that’s why I like this passage so much, because it invites me to grow in trust like the apostles did. I am reminded that He will provide for me and for His Church. 

As you prepare to go out on your journey, in your mission, how can you invite the Lord to provide for your needs today? For this week? A simple prayer to the Holy Spirit is a great way to start!

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Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

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What It Means To Be A Centurion

The Catholic grade school I attended had a bit of an unusual nickname: the Centurion. As a young child, I didn’t understand the significance of such a nickname. (It didn’t get much easier when I would have to spell out centurion as a cheerleader on the sidelines of a basketball game, but that’s beside the point…) Rather, I found myself wishing that we had a cooler nickname, something fierce and strong like the Lions or the Wildcats. But the Centurions? Eh. 

It wasn’t until I grew older and wiser, until I dove deeper into my faith, that I realized I was proud to have been a Centurion, in a sense. Or, better put, I was proud to have attended a school with the nickname “Centurion.” That sounds a bit odd, right? Let me explain. 

A centurion was someone serving in the Roman army in ancient times – and not just someone, but a high-ranking someone. They were responsible for commanding 100 men and also for enforcing discipline while receiving higher pay than the other soldiers. 

Now, last time I checked, I am not living in ancient Rome nor am I responsible for commanding soldiers. However, I would consider myself proud to have displayed the faith of the centurions in the Gospel. I want to be a centurion in that sense. 

In today’s Gospel, a centurion’s faith led to a great miracle. Another display of a centurion’s great faith came at the foot of the cross in the Gospel according to Matthew, when he said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” 

I don’t want to focus on the faith so much, though it is an important component of both of these Gospel passages. Rather, I want to focus on the words spoken to Jesus on behalf of the centurion, when it is said, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.” 

This is a man who knows who he is and who the Lord is. This is a man who sees who he is before the Lord. How I wish we could all see ourselves for who we are before the Lord! There is a slight problem, though, with the centurion seeing himself as unworthy of the Lord’s presence despite so desperately wanting his prayer to be answered. Jesus’ victory won for us on the cross makes us worthy, makes the centurion worthy. We are worthy to come to Him for all of our needs, great and small. Thankfully, Jesus sees past the self-declared lowly centurion and heals his slave.

Let us, first and foremost, take courage and display the faith of the centurion but may we also see who we are before the Lord and never be afraid to go to Him with our needs.  

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Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

Feature Image Credit: Ross Cohen, https://unsplash.com/photos/JC-eGxsy7Yw

Lend Your Talents to God’s Kingdom

The parable of the talents can sometimes be a difficult Gospel to wrap our heads around … but it doesn’t have to be. I think that some people can get hung up on the fact that this Gospel passage is actually about money but it can be easily applied to our natural gifts and talents as well. 

I’m going to ask you to do something slightly uncomfortable right now. Stop for a moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath and identify what your God-given gifts are. This can be an uncomfortable practice because some of us (myself included) have trouble seeing what our gifts and talents are for a variety of different reasons. However, it is a necessary practice as each of us works to build up the Kingdom of God here on earth. 

Okay, so, deep breath. I am … Fill in the blank with your gifts and talents. Here’s a few of my own, since I know I need more practice identifying my gifts: I am a strong writer. I am organized. I am a good listener. Keep your list going as long as possible. And, if you are having trouble coming up with different gifts and talents (I know I did), don’t be afraid to invite the Holy Spirit into a moment of prayer, asking him for help in seeing your gifts the way that he sees them. 

Now, reflect on each individual talent that you listed. How does this gift help me to build up the Kingdom of God? For example, I am able to use my gift of writing to build up the Kingdom of God by writing different blogs like this to share the truths of the Gospel and our faith. I can also use this gift to the benefit of my parish by writing reflections for our bulletin and for editing different publications that we might put out. 

Finally, let’s reflect on our gifts and talents in light of today’s Gospel. How can we be like the first two servants who took their five and two talents, respectively, and made an additional five and two talents? In other words, how can we use our current gifts and talents and build upon them in order to further our work of building the Kingdom of God? This might take some time to discern but I encourage you – do not be afraid of the possibilities! Through the grace of God and with the power of the Holy Spirit, our gifts can do great things in the world. 

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Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

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Making Him Known

**Due to server issues, this post was not published on 8/11/21, so we are posting it now.**

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” 

I cannot help but reflect on this line from today’s Gospel in light of how I spent the past week. I had the immense blessing of accompanying a local youth group (not even my own youth group, but that’s a different story for another time) as a chaperone for their week-long mission trip in the mountains of Tennessee. I could go on and on about my experience but I just wish to offer a few short thoughts for all of you. 

Our group was small but mighty – five teens and two adult chaperones. That’s it. There were no other groups spending the week with us either. But wait, there’s more. Our group was split in half and sent to two different job sites every day: one group of four people and another group of three. Everywhere we went, Christ was with us despite our small numbers and it was evident in the work that we did and the way we spent our week. 

A good portion of our mission trip was spent doing construction work, specifically building a ramp off of a lady’s deck. The first day that my group was on the construction site, we were blessed to spend 1.5 hours talking to the lady we were serving. We talked about a number of different things – she shared about the area of Tennessee we were in, we shared some of our experiences back home, etc. In the middle of our conversation, she stops mid-sentence and says, “You guys make me want to become Catholic.”

We hadn’t mentioned our Catholic faith to her or talked expressly about our beliefs. Yet she could still tell we were Catholic by our presence at her home, by our words and by our actions. Christ was certainly present with the five of us that day in that moment and He made His presence known!

Shouldn’t it always be that way, though? Shouldn’t people be able to tell that we are Catholics by the way we go about our lives each day? We shouldn’t have to put “Catholic” in our social media bios (#whoops, my bad) or say the words, “I’m a Catholic” for people to know who we are and in Whom we believe. 

My brothers and sisters, let’s take a good, hard look at our lives and question whether or not others would be able to tell we are Catholics. Let us make sure that Christ is present wherever we may go and that we can make His presence known to others by our lives. 

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Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

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Martha and Mary Moments

One of the newer memorials in the Roman Catholic Church, today we celebrate Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Previously, only Saint Martha was celebrated on July 29; however, back in January, Pope Francis ordered the inscription of all three saints into the General Roman Calendar. 

We are familiar with the raising of Lazarus – one of the more popular Gospel readings for funerals especially – but we can often overlook Martha and Mary in this passage. Upon hearing that Jesus is coming, Martha goes to meet Him on the journey. She leaves her home, her sister Mary and all the people who had come to comfort her over the death of her brother to go meet her friend Jesus. Note that Mary sat at home.

Surely it was Martha’s faith that prompted her to go meet her friend, as displayed by her opening words to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” She could not have known the Lord’s intentions, which He shared with His disciples earlier in verse 11 before arriving at Bethany, saying, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” Yet she had to have known that something was going to happen. Being a friend of Jesus, she had most likely heard – if not witnessed for herself – some of the Lord’s miracles and so she had faith that the same could have been done for her brother. We know how the story ended. 

Let’s take a quick look at Mary in the other option for today’s Gospel, though. Martha, again, goes to welcome the Lord but it is Mary who steals the show in this passage. Martha busied herself trying to be a good host while her sister busied herself with the Lord. Exasperated, Martha asks her friend to ask her sister to help her with the housework but Jesus offers a quiet rebuke instead, “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Both ladies in these respective passages know who the Lord is and it drives their actions. Martha goes to meet Jesus, knowing that He is a great miracle worker. Mary knows who Jesus is and so she chooses to sit at His feet and be with Him. 

Know who Jesus is and let Him drive the actions of your life. 

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Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

Feature Image Credit: Ben White, https://unsplash.com/photos/_W8jM2LOQkQ

Alive

“Are you alive in Christ?” There was a decently loud response from the crowd, a rumbling of “Yes.” 

Fr. Agustino Torres wasn’t satisfied with that response, though, and so he asked again, even louder this time, “Are you alive in Christ?” A louder “Yes” resounded through the crowd. Still not good enough, though. 

“ARE YOU ALIVE IN CHRIST?” Finally, a thunderous “Yes” rolled through the field house along with loud screaming and applause. 

This sequence of questions and responses took place last weekend at a Steubenville Youth Conference during the Sunday morning homily. There were about 1,000 people in that field house who, yes, were certainly alive in Christ at that moment. It’s hard not to be after all that had happened over the weekend. 

Fr. Agustino cautioned us, though, as we still needed to be alive in Christ after we left the conference and every day after. 

So what does it mean to be alive in Christ? Each person’s journey, their following of Christ, is going to look a little different so every person’s answer is going to be different and that’s okay. 

Generally, I would say that being alive in Christ has a few main pieces, such as: prayer, Scripture and the sacraments. All of these graces will give us the strength to be in relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ and to truly be alive in Him. 

How does all of this relate to today’s Scripture readings? I look toward the Gospel and I am reminded of some simple truths of our faith. The person of Jesus Christ, the person that we are alive in, so many people in his day sought to put Him to death because what He was teaching was so counter-cultural. Does this fact remind you of anything? As Catholic Christians, most of what we believe and teach is counter-cultural and our culture tries to cancel us – to put our beliefs to death, in a way – for doing so. 

Even as the Pharisees were seeking to put Jesus to death, many people still chose to follow Him. Many people were alive in Christ as they followed Him! 

This is a reality that we must face if we are truly to be alive in Jesus, that people will seek to pull us down. But our strength lies in the graces that we receive and in the person who is greater than all things. Our strength, our life, lies in Jesus Christ. 

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Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

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Response Required

I remember studying today’s Gospel passage all the way back in high school – my sophomore year spring semester New Testament class, to be exact. 

We obviously spent a lot of time studying the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus’ pinnacle teaching in the Gospel according to Matthew, in which He taught the disciples (and, by extension, us) on a number of different things. 

While I don’t remember every single word that poured forth from my teacher’s mouth that semester, I do remember spending a lot of time on today’s Gospel – the Teaching About Retaliation. 

Any modern-day interpretation of this passage is just downright strange and a little otherworldly. If you get slapped across the cheek, offer the other side as well? No thanks, hard pass. Why would anyone willingly offer to get slapped once, let alone twice? The other examples that Jesus offers, like someone suing for a cloak and then also handing over a tunic, just make things even weirder. 

The teachings were pretty countercultural at the time, too. Remember, the Jewish people followed the law given to them by Moses. Their law said, “‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’” meaning that if someone plucked out your eye, you got to pluck out their eye as punishment in return. 

If you read the footnote for this passage, it says, “The Old Testament commandment was meant to moderate vengeance; the punishment should not exceed the injury done. Jesus forbids even this proportionate retaliation.” 

Let’s pause and take that last statement in. Jesus doesn’t want “even this proportionate retaliation” and He certainly doesn’t want retaliation that goes above and beyond the initial hurt or injury. That must mean He doesn’t want us to retaliate AT ALL. Hence offering the other cheek or the tunic as well, the exact opposite of retaliation. 

What I think this passage offers to us today is the opportunity to reflect on how we respond when we are hurt by another person, no matter what kind of hurt it is. While we may not yet be up to the level of offering our other cheek, are we at least “slow to anger and abounding in mercy” (Psalm 145:8), remembering that our heavenly Father does the same for us when we hurt Him as the result of our sin? Or do we answer with a sharp tongue and lash out with our hurt feelings? 

After a moment of reflection, do not be afraid to ask the Lord to work within you, to invite Him into those moments of hurt and to guide your response in those moments. 

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Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

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Hope for Healing

Today’s First Reading tells a beautiful story of healing with a powerful and yet often-overlooked role player – the archangel Raphael. 

When it comes to the three archangels, Michael and Gabriel seem to get most of the attention. I mean, Michael’s job is literally to defend us against Satan while Gabriel heralded the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God. But there is very little known about Raphael … until we turn to the pages of the Book of Tobit. 

The book’s namesake, Tobit, had gone blind and suffered for years; however, he was not the only one in need of healing as a woman named Sarah had suffered many misfortunes at the hands of a demon. Both ultimately found themselves begging for death to end their respective plights. 

Enter the archangel Raphael, whose name means “God heals” or “Divine healer.” To make a long story short, with the help of Raphael, Tobit sees again and Sarah is no longer tormented by a demon. What powerful works of healing!

Not only are the angels and archangels powerful intercessors for us in times of need but they show us the mighty works and wonders of God, who can heal every affliction of ours – great or small. 

We are all in need of healing in some way, shape or form. Maybe some of us need physical healing from an illness or injury like Tobit. Maybe we are in need of mental, emotional or spiritual healing like Sarah due to wounds of sin, our fallen human nature or other evils. Unlike Tobit and Sarah, though, we should not beg for death as an end to our suffering but, rather, have hope in our Lord Jesus who conquered sin and death, hope for healing. 

We certainly can – and should – pray to the angels, archangels and saints to intercede for our healing because who better to ask God on our behalf than the ones that are closest to Him in Heaven? But that also doesn’t mean that we should stop praying and asking God for our own healing. After all, He is the Divine Physician and He wants to hear from His beloved sons and daughters. 

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Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

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Sheep Being Fed

“Simon, son of John, do you love me? … Feed my sheep.” 

Today’s Gospel has had an impact on my life for many years now … at least 13, if my memory serves me correct. 

It was 13 years ago that a newly ordained priest was starting his first assignment at my then-home parish. I had never before met a priest like him – young, full of joy and laughter and, most important to me (at the time), actively involved in youth ministry. 

Throughout his four years at my home parish, I saw the ministry of the priesthood up close and personal for the first time. I saw a man who truly laid down his life at the service of ALL of God’s people. And I was introduced to the person of Jesus Christ through him. 

My personal journey of discipleship started when I was in high school and this priest played a huge role, simply by his willingness to be present and listen to us young people. He has since continued to walk with me on my journey of discipleship, well into my adult years. While he has long moved on from my home parish, I still find myself reaching out to share joys, triumphs, struggles and burdens.

What does this priest have to do with today’s Gospel? Well, for his priesthood verse/theme, he selected the above verse from John. I still remember the day he handed us his priesthood card with that verse on the back and I can still tell you exactly where that priesthood card is. He was … and still is … the embodiment of what feeding His sheep looks like. Not only does he feed God’s sheep by offering up the sacrifice of the Mass and nourishing us spiritually with the Eucharist but also in so many other ways that would exceed my word count for this blog alone. 

Now as a youth minister, I can relate to this same verse as I strive to feed the young people of today’s Church. And, in a beautiful way, I am reminded of this task every time I step into my church building for those same words, “Simon, son of John, do you love me? … Feed my sheep” are written on an arch above the choir loft in my church. 

This call to feed God’s sheep is a call for each one of us in our different vocations and states of life. Priests are called in a very concrete and intentional way to offer up the Body and Blood of Christ for our sake. Other religious men and women are called to serve the Church in different ministries of prayer and service, etc., all of which nourish the whole Church as the Body of Christ. Married couples are called to feed their children not only physically but also spiritually as the first educators of the faith. And single men and women are called to serve the Church in a variety of different ways that share God’s love with all people. 

How are you being called to feed His sheep?

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Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

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How He Speaks

Upon first reading of, well, the First Reading, it would appear that it’s just another story of Paul sharing the Good News and building up the early Church. That’s all well and good (I mean, where would we be right now without the work of the early disciples?) but one might become more concerned with how they would pronounce the cities Troas and Samothrace instead of what they can take from the reading and they might miss this gem of a verse. 

“…and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.” 

I think we can find ourselves in two positions within this verse – that of the woman whose heart was opened and that of Paul who was evangelizing. 

Let’s start with the woman. In our fallen human nature, how many times have our hearts been closed off to the ways and words of the Lord, whether it was due to our own sin or to our own ignorance? When we sin, when we choose things against the Lord, when we choose opposite of His will for our lives, we harden our hearts and seek the voice of the world instead. Or sometimes, we seek the voice of the Lord but we box Him in with our own expectations. We fail to hear the whisper in the wind when we are looking for the boom of the lightning bolt instead. 

Fear not, brothers and sisters, for the Lord is more powerful and more merciful than we often give Him credit for. He can bust down the largest and thickest walls built up around our hearts. There is no heart that he can’t open. He can, does and will speak to us, in His own way, in His own time. 

Now let’s look at how we are like Paul. Through our Baptism, we are each given the mission to proclaim the Good News and build up the kingdom of God – the same mission that was given to Paul and the early disciples. When we are evangelizing, we have to remember that it is the Lord who speaks through us. He’s working in the hearts of both parties, the one doing the speaking and the one doing the listening, because it’s His Good News. 

What is the Lord asking you to open your heart to? What is He asking you to pay attention to this week? This month? This year? What is He asking you to proclaim in your task of evangelization? These are questions we should all consider. 

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Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions as a full-time youth minister and a freelance sports writer. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.

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Why Lent? Why the Cross?

Don’t look now but Ash Wednesday is around the corner. Are you ready for Lent? My guess is that there are some of us still scrambling to decide what it is we will give up for Lent. 

While Lent is seen as a 40-day preparation period for Easter, a little preparation is also helpful for Lent itself, i.e. evaluating our spiritual life, what is keeping us away from God that we might need to sacrifice, etc. Today’s readings serve as a beautiful reminder as to why it is that we even need a season of Lent, especially the First Reading. 

This passage from Genesis picks up right after the Fall of Man, where God confronts Adam and Eve for their actions and starts laying out the consequences: Eve will have pain in childbearing, Adam’s work will be tiresome, they’ll eventually suffer death and they’ve been banished from the Garden of Eden. 

I studied this passage numerous times in college and even spent this past summer teaching my high schoolers about it, so I could break out some heavy theology and start quoting Hebrew to explain the spiritual significance for all of us. I’ll spare you, though. What the entire Chapter 3 of the Book of Genesis really boils down to is this – it is the moment that humanity needed a Savior. 

The journey of Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection began in the very moment of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, when they eternally separated themselves (and you and I, by extension) from a life lived in union with God. There was only going to be one way that that eternal union would ever be restored: Jesus Christ had to offer his life as a sacrifice for all mankind and open the gates of Heaven for all of us. 

This is what we remember on Easter Sunday (and every Sunday) when we gather together at Mass. This is what we spend 40 days preparing for, this great moment of our redemption. Together, during Lent, we can reflect on Jesus’ unconditional love for us, shown by His sacrifice, and we are invited to participate in it through our own penance, sacrifices and suffering. 

During these upcoming 40 days and all the days after, I challenge you to examine your life through the light of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. What is holding you back from living in relationship with Him? What sins of yours did He willingly die for, so that you could be with Him in Heaven one day? Identify those things and work to root them out of your life so that, together, one day we may enjoy the reward of eternal life.

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Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions as a full-time youth minister and a freelance sports writer. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.

Feature Image Credit: Ahna Ziegler, https://unsplash.com/photos/m7U6Zk-wU4M