Leave our Quarreling

It seems that everywhere we look there is strife among kinsmen, just like in today’s First Reading. Whether it be jealousy, hurtful words, constant comparisons, or simple differences of opinion, so many things can cause division. In the case of Abram and Lot, it was wealth. They had so many possessions they couldn’t live together. There were quarrels… over what? Hey, your sheep are grazing on my grass! Your turkeys are squawking too loud! Your tent flap is hitting my tent flap! The sun is reflecting off your gold and hurting my eyes…!

Doesn’t it all sound so ridiculous? If we allow ourselves to fall into that trap, we can find little things to argue about all day long. We can allow conflict to eat us up, ruin our relationships and turn us into disgruntled souls. Or, we can choose simplicity, positivity, and love.

Thankfully, my family has never had to worry about wealth. Since I was a kid, we were a middle-class family that watched every penny to get by. I was delivering newspapers by age 8, babysitting by age 11 and bought my own CD’s, Chap Stick and cars. Anything that wasn’t food, shelter, and clothing I purchased with my own nickels and dimes.

Now I have a family of my own, a small army of little boys, and we are living pretty close to the same blueprint. We live in the house I group up in, my sons go to the same Catholic School I did and they are also learning hard work and responsibility. We live on one income and spend as much time outdoors as possible. Sure, they fight over toys, perhaps their version of “wealth” but there are no video games, no tablets, and only one family TV. They wear clothing shared among their cousins and their sporting equipment comes from thrift stores and rummage sales.

I realize that perhaps we are an oddity in today’s society. We don’t ask Alexa what the weather is like each morning or even let our boys hold our phones. We drive old cars so we really don’t care if they have one more dent from a stray soccer ball. We don’t keep up on the day’s news or the latest sports headline. We just live. Food, clothing, shelter. Throw in a few dozen activities to keep the kiddos moving and we’re all set until we crash into bed at the end of each day.

Perhaps a bit too simplistic, but the less you have, the less there is to bicker about. The less you have, the more silence there is to just be. The less you have, the more you can reflect on all that God wants you to be. Looking at life from this perspective, we begin to see the wisdom of evangelical poverty.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” ( Mt 7: 13-14)

May God grant us the grace to leave our quarreling and our ‘riches’ behind in order to be one of those few who find that narrow road that leads to life.

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Tami grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. She spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, studying theology and philosophy, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Western Kentucky. She loves tackling home improvement projects, finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby and finding unique ways to love. She works at Diocesan, is a guest blogger on CatholicMom.com and BlessedIsShe.net, runs her own blog at https://togetherandalways.wordpress.com and has been doing Spanish translations on the side for almost 20 years.

Call Me John

I’ll be the first to tell you: I had no idea that today’s feast day existed until recently. Hold off for a minute before you Google the answer.

A few days ago, I was sitting at my desk writing feast days and solemnities into my summer calendar (because feast days = great social media content #youthministrylife) and I saw today’s date in white on the USCCB website. So I started thinking …

What in the world is celebrated on June 24? Assumption? Nope, that’s in August. Ascension? That was earlier in the month.

Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. A solemnity. Wow. What was I missing?

Think about what we celebrate on Christmas – the Nativity of the Lord. John the Baptist is in elite company when it comes to the liturgical calendar.

There is so much beauty in today’s Gospel reading. Picture for just a moment being in Elizabeth’s shoes as she awaits the birth of her child. Any parent can testify to the joyful anticipation in that stage of life and that feeling had to have been magnified one hundred fold for Elizabeth. She had hoped and prayed for a child for many years and did not conceive until she was barren. Knowing her age, there also might have been a quiet sense of fear, of not wanting anything to happen to her little one before the end of her pregnancy.

Once John was born, it was an event to be celebrated as neighbors gathered together and rejoiced. The Lord had shown such kindness and mercy toward Elizabeth which was so evident, how could you not give thanks?

Eight days later, many of those same people, I would imagine, came together to circumcise the child and give him a name, presumably that of Zechariah. Yet Elizabeth declared that the boy would be named John, which confused the crowd. They then turned to Zechariah himself, assuming that he would overrule his wife and follow the tradition of keeping the child’s name in the family. Unable to speak for himself, Zechariah stood by his wife and the word of the Lord by declaring the child’s name to be John. At once, his tongue unraveled and he was able to speak again.

Joy. Longing. Anticipation. Listening and following the Lord. Simple yet necessary reminders from this Gospel and today’s solemnity. Take them to heart with you today and for the days to come.

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Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still hopes to use her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.

Don’t Worry

The readings today have always challenged me. Each reading has hit me differently with every season of life, most especially when I had my youngest child, was in the process of changing jobs, going through my divorce, and waiting for my final annulment decree. Along the way, I‘ve added to my many weaknesses: gossip, food, shoes, clothes, my weight, hair, my word choice, doing the right thing, not doing anything…the list goes on and not much seems to be subtracted.

Many times, I have been caught up in the judgment of others and even worse, how I perceive myself. I’ve struggled with surrendering these worries to God. Even when I KNOW that God loves me unconditionally. I sometimes forget this very basic truth. God loves me as I am, with all my imperfections. He loves me no matter what season of life or challenge I may be working through.

St. Paul tells us that he spoke to the Lord about his weaknesses. The Lord said to him, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor 12:9-10).

Yet here I am again, forgetting that I am a beloved daughter of the Lord. All those worries and fears of rejection or failure still cloud my self-awareness. Being a member of the 21st century has many traps and paths to lead me astray and into doubt, away from His love. This is when I need to lean into His graces by going to Mass or confession more frequently. I can certainly spend a few moments during the day reading scripture to help me refocus my attention.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing….your heavenly Father knows that you need them all…Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” Mt 6:25, 32, 34   

I can’t travel back to the past, but I can change how I react to each situation as I go forward in life with God’s help. I can use the way I feel about my past and the things I wish that I had reacted to differently to reshape how I react to the present. This week give it a try. Look back on your past and realize that you have been taken care of by your God. Jesus himself told us not to worry. Let the worries, complaining and judgments go and trust that your heavenly Father knows all that you need; tomorrow will take care of itself.

Erma Bombeck summed it up this way in a reflection titled, “If I Had My Life to Live Over,” saying:

If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more I love you’s … more I’m sorry’s … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.

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Beth is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She brings a unique depth of experience to the group due to her time spent in education, parish ministries, sales and the service industry over the last 25 yrs. She is a practicing spiritual director as well as a Secular Franciscan (OFS). Beth is quick to offer a laugh, a prayer or smile to all she comes in contact with. Reach her here bprice@diocesan.com.

The greatest treasure my dad would never let go of

Recently I spent a week cleaning out my parents’ house with them so it could be put on the market. Typical of any family home that had been lived in for over 50 years, we had to deal with the expected accumulation of gifts, clothes, family memories, and just “stuff” that was long overdue for a trip to Good Will or to the dump. Lots of memories, loads of laughs, and even a few tears. The dulcimers that we made in elementary school in the early 70s still hung proudly on our basement walls next to a Christmas album cover of a record I had sung on when I was in my early twenties. Endless books that had fortified our faith through decades as well as the rock we had brought back from Sugarloaf mountain in Minnesota during a vacation that our family had enjoyed with my grandparents when I was twelve.

This exercise on cleaning out in order to move into a much smaller home put my parents per forza within the trend toward minimalism. Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, brought minimalism to the mainstream. This movement has inspired people, particularly millennials, to move into smaller homes, cut their wardrobes and regularly give away the possessions they aren’t actively using.

As we gradually focused what my parents would take with them to their new home, I had a clearer sense of the worthlessness of so much of what we don’t let go of along the way, even as the “worthwhileness” of even very humble objects was enhanced. For example, in a corner of one box, I discovered the two tiny wood-carved shoes that were an ornament from my great grandparents’ Christmas tree (and made sure they were in the “to take with us” box), and the plaque commemorating my grandpa’s introduction into the Softball Hall of Fame. Perhaps minimalism is so popular among the millennials because they have a much shorter memory of family history and commitment to relationships across the decades that tie people together through shared experiences of tears and joy.

No, as we worked through the rooms in my parents’ home, it was clear that this was about much more than tidying up so as to live with less. My dad let go of his easy chair so my mom could keep the rocker that had been from her mother’s home. He passed on his own mother’s china to my brother so mom could keep her mother’s china. They were decisions he made on his own and silently implemented without discussion. Even though I knew it was hard for dad to let go of the china cabinets from his mother’s home and the dining room table because they just wouldn’t fit, his greatest treasure he would never let go of was mom.

Focusing your heart on your treasure doesn’t necessarily mean looking away from “earthly” treasure. It means using, loving, giving treasure motivated by love, for love is the greatest gift and the highest treasure of all.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.

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Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey.

Website: www.touchingthesunrise.com

Public Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/srkathrynhermes/

For monthly spiritual journaling guides, weekly podcasts and over 50 conferences and retreat programs join my Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/srkathryn.

The Heart of Baptism

“What have I done with my baptism and confirmation? Is Christ really at the center of my life? Do I have time for prayer in my life? Do I live my life as a vocation and mission?”

– Pope St. John Paul II

I have always found water to be beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. One minute water can be still as glass and other times it chops and crashes against the shore. Some individuals will not step into open water, while others go swimming with sharks. I believe that water demands respect – you have to understand the elements and how they work together to impact the terrain ahead.

My great trust in the water started when I was 4, the point in time where I started to take swim lessons. I was that kid that would jump into the deep end with no fear, and so my parents wanted me to start lessons as soon as possible so that I developed an understanding of water. From these lessons, I grew stronger in the water and began swimming competitively. By the time I was 5, I started to compete in meets, and this continued for 14 years of my life. After a 9 year break from swimming, I am finally training again and competing in meets this weekend.

While I have a pretty strong comfort level in the water I still know not to underestimate its power (whether in a pool or open water). When it comes to open water settings the current and tides are major factors of how safe the water is. The weather also determines a good day for embarking on an open water journey.

Why do I keep going on about water? Well, today is the day in history that Pope St. John Paul II was baptized in Wadowice, Poland. One of the greatest saints of all time began his journey in Christ at this key moment in history, and his story is all of our stories.

When we receive God’s grace through baptism it may seem incidental to some. While we receive three drops of water in the name of the Trinity, so much is happening beyond what we can see at the moment. Our baptism signifies our joining the body of Christ, and when we join Christ on this adventure we welcome the calm and stormy seas of life – we say yes to all He wants to give us. More often than not we will be walking towards Christ upon the stormy sea, but the grace of our baptism demands that we follow Him no matter where He leads.

Our Lord is the ultimate Navigator of the waters, so much so that He can cast out demons, calm the storm, and heal the blind. He can move mountains, part the seas, and change water into wine. When we receive our baptism we embark on the seas of life that will test our faith to limits that we are unaware of in the present moment.  Do we call upon our baptismal graces in our times of doubt, fear, and hopelessness? Do we ask great things of God because He is God, and in turn expect great things to happen according to His will?

I remember being baptized when I was 21 – I was fully submerged three times in the name of the Trinity. This was a beautiful moment in my faith journey, and I admit that I didn’t understand everything that was happening within me at that moment. Looking back in time I can see the moments I called upon my baptismal promises so that I could navigate the seas of life through the various calls that God gave me – becoming Catholic, saying yes to marrying my amazing husband, and even moving to another city within the same week of getting married.

Times of consistency and times of conversion will continue to ebb and flow like a river in and out of our lives. How do we respond to these seasons? My desire is to give God my yes with all that He brings my way, trusting in the graces of my baptism and all of the sacraments. I challenge you to meditate upon the rivers of life that God has brought you through up to this point, including all of the turbulence and smooth currents. How have you responded to these times in your life – with fear, doubt, hope, or trust? How can you see your baptism and the promises God has made to you through these times in your life?

Now that I am swimming again in the pool I am learning to listen to my body and know my limits, while not being afraid to try new things. I pray that you learn from the past experiences God has brought you through and that you ultimately learn to trust Him when He asks you to stay away or enter into various waters – this is the Heart of Baptism. He is the ultimate Navigator – He will keep you safe wherever the waters may take you on your journey to Heaven and Sainthood.

“You cannot be half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all.” -St. Therese of Lisieux

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD.  Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II. She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at nshultz@diocesan.com.

Called Out

Y’all, after going over today’s readings, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more called out in my life.

Yesterday, I was backing out of a parking space of my church when a homeless man approached me. He offered to wash my windshield or tire rims for “whatever change [I] have lying around.” This man didn’t ask for dollars, just my loose change. I said that I didn’t need anything cleaned since it had just rained and was going to rain again later, but I could give him some money anyway. I looked at my change container and literally thought, I have probably three dollars in change here. I don’t want to give away my quarters. I think I have a one dollar bill in my wallet, so I’ll do that instead.

I know, I know. That’s awful. I didn’t even want to share this story with anyone because even as I type this, I feel so embarrassed and ashamed of myself for even thinking that.

How ungrateful am I that I don’t want to part with my precious quarters even though this man asked for enough to just buy a burger from McDonald’s? Instead of wanting to give him more than he asked, I wanted to round out his 87 cents so he could just barely get himself a single burger off the dollar menu.  

Well, the joke was on me. I looked in my wallet and all I had was a ten dollar bill.

When I handed it over to the man, his eyes lit up and he almost started crying. He even asked if I came to this church often because he wanted to wash my windshield for me anytime he saw my car to repay me. Of course, once I saw his face, I was glad I gave him more than a dollar or two.

Still, though, this morning, I was sad that I couldn’t buy breakfast because I didn’t have that ten dollar bill. I even called my boyfriend to complain because I didn’t have the cash to buy food. So imagine how I feel when the first reading says, “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” Not only does it say that, but it even says that “he gives to the poor.” Oh, you know, like I reluctantly did last night?

As my friend said, it was a 2×4 from God whacking me on the head. As if God saw me regretting being generous and wanted to let me know with very pointed scripture that He’s “not mad, just disappointed” in me. And we all know that is WAY worse.

So I hope y’all are able to learn from my selfish mistake. Remember that not only is God always watching, but he knows your thoughts and intentions. He does not bless us so that we can be selfish and see the poor as a burden or annoyance. Yes, God wants us to live well and succeed, but he provides so that we can share our gifts, monetary or spiritual, with others without feeling like we’re obligated to. It’s the difference between having a generous attitude and a “holier than thou” attitude.

If you find yourself struggling with this, read this prayer by St. Ignatius, these prayers, or even this one, if you’ve got the time. 

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.

Hurt People, Hurt People

Today, Jesus states in the Gospel to love our enemies.  Yup, we’re going to be talking about this today. He said to LOVE them and pray for those who persecute you. Some of you are thinking well duh, I’ve already heard this many times in my life and others of you are starting to get an achy heart or boiling blood.  I don’t know if this is just the Sicilian in me, but every time I recall a memory of someone hurting me, I mean REALLY hurting me, the blood starts to boil. I feel as though I look like a cartoon with steam puffing out of my head. As pretty as the picture I am painting for you sounds, I’ve come to a conclusion in my life that truly helps me to follow Jesus’ words and teaching.

It’s something many of you already know and some may think, “Really? That’s how you get your boilin’ blood down? Really?”  Yes, really. It’s pretty simple, but the choice to carry this truth in your heart truly does help you to love those who hate you, pray for those who have mistreated you, and love those you once called enemies. When we think to any memory of hurt, embarrassment, or hatred, there is usually a moment of US being hurt.  The moment that they did or said something that pierced our heart and we can recall or relive so quickly. What I’ve realized in my life is that I have never once been hurt by someone who isn’t already hurt.

Hurt people hurt people.

This simple phrase encompasses all the wounds of my life.  When I take a step back and look genuinely at the people who’ve hurt me, I see the truth in this statement.  Every single person who has ever hurt, abandoned, gossipped, stole, manipulated you were all people who were hurting.  When I acknowledge this to the best of my abilities- and I mean truly take the time to ponder this- I am found with less hatred.  I come to feel sympathy & prayer. Isn’t that what Jesus is talking about in the Gospel today? If you only love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

I know I’ve hurt God before.  I’ve hurt Him by the many sins throughout my life, but He looks at me with love and sees not an enemy, but His hurting daughter. When we take the time to pray about those who have hurt us, acknowledge that they too are hurting, we allow God to offer us grace.  It is grace that pulls our hearts from hatred to sympathy. It is grace that takes the viewpoint from us and our feelings to them and theirs. I ask you to truly think about that one person who has hurt you most in your life. Take God’s hand and recognize that hurt people hurt people.  This is the way God desires us to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. May you experience His grace in this endeavor, Amen.

Briana is a Catholic youth minister at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish in Cleveland, OH. She is also a nanny and district manager at Arbonne. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Longing for Spiritual Food

God communicates in different ways to different times, but the core message remains; a message of love. In the Old Testament God the Father spoke to the Prophets, in the New Testament the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and after the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles at Pentecost the Holy Spirit has been guiding us and the Church ever since.

Though we can see these real examples of each person of the Trinity working in specific times of history, every person of the trinity is present with us all throughout our lives. One of my favorite parts of the Catechism is where it says, “God is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.”

Our destiny is to share intimately in the relationship of God, but that destiny starts today. We can start to enter into that relationship here and now. The Father loves us and we can experience him through our prayer. The Son loves us through the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Spirit loves us through the Sacraments and our openness. We do not have to wait until the end of our lives for our destiny to start to become realized.

I like to think of this in relation to food. I love cooking and I love eating so most of my analogies are food based. Haha. Think of eating your favorite food. You have the taste and goodness of it instantly, but you don’t experience the fullness of it until it has been digested and used for energy. In the same way, we can taste the love of God in a very real way here on this earth, and we long for the fullness of that love to be realized at the end of time.

One time when I was on a work trip we stopped for dinner and I had these bacon wrapped dates that changed my life forever. Ever since tasting those delicious little pieces of perfection I have longed for the day when I can get back to that restaurant and try them again. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we treated our relationship with the Trinity in the same way? That we tasted God every week in the Mass and then longed for him until we could receive again. With this mindset, Mass stops being a chore and starts becoming something we look forward to every week, the same way I look forward to getting back to that restaurant. But the food God gives will give us eternal life. I know I can be more aware of this in every moment of my life.

One of the most helpful things I have heard about the spiritual life came from The Wild Goose Series. Fr. Dave Pivonka encourages us to simply say, “Come Holy Spirit,” throughout the day. This helps us not only to experience the love of God but also to help us be aware that we should long for the day when we are united perfectly with God in heaven. He longs to be united fully to us. Let us hunger for the same. From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!

Tommy Shultz is a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan. In that role, he is committed to coaching parishes and dioceses on authentic and effective Catholic communication. Tommy has a heart and a flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. His mission and drive have been especially inspired by St. John Paul II’s teachings. Tommy is blessed to be able to learn from the numerous parishes he visits and pass that experience on in his presentations. Contact him at tshultz@diocesan.com.

Everything is Different Now

Life-altering events change our perspective on everything around us, don’t they? I remember so clearly how I felt the day my mother died. I walked down the street and looked around me and felt astonished, truly astonished, that so many people were out and about and acting as if nothing had happened, nothing had changed, everything was the same as before.

For them, of course, it was. I was the one who’d felt the earth move. I was the one who could now divide my life into two halves, my life when she was still here, and my life after she’d gone. I was on the second half of that journey, the one I had to undertake alone. I knew then—and I was right—that nothing would be the same. Everything would be different forever.

I’d passed from what-was to what-is. I couldn’t yet imagine what-will-be.

Today’s first reading is about change, too, the change of transition from one way of living to another. The old order, St. Paul tells us, must give way to the new. “Everything old has passed away, everything has become new.” Before, as a community, we lived in the what-was, the first half of our journey; after Christ, we’re living in the what-is and we look forward to a future what-will-be.

In other words, everything is different now.

If grasping that change wasn’t enough—and heaven knows it should be, drawing a clear line between the past and the future is difficult all by itself!—St. Paul has more to say about it. It’s all fine and good that we acknowledge the change; now we have to live it. To enter into it. To change our lives to reflect this momentous, earth-moving event.

In other words, once we know, nothing can be the same. Everything is different.

One of my favorite writers and theologians, C.S. Lewis, explains the transition better than anyone. “It is as if there is a door behind which, according to Christians, the secret of the universe is waiting for you,” he writes. “If their claim is not true, it is the greatest fraud in history. It is obviously the job of every man to find out if the claim is true; then to devote his life to exposing this gigantic humbug… or serving this tremendous secret.”

God opened that door to us, and now everything is different. We need to serve that difference.

The letter defines what’s at the core of that difference: we are reconciled through Christ; a fundamental relationship has been changed fundamentally. One recent translation of this passage talks about a “fresh start” and “settling relationships.” Can you feel how the words themselves are filled with excitement? Accepting that everything is different isn’t about mourning what was past, but setting out on an adventure into the future, and St. Paul is clear: we’re to include everyone in that adventure. God reached out to us through Christ, and now it’s up to us to pass Lewis’ “tremendous secret” on to others.

It’s moving forward into the what-will-be with confidence, not knowing what awaits us there, but trusting that whatever it is, we won’t be alone in facing it. God will be with us, and our community of faith will be with us. Because we’ve been reconciled to him, and through him to each other, we’re never again alone. Everything is different now.

Oddly enough (or perhaps not so oddly), this is the anniversary of that life-changing event: my mother has been with God in heaven for exactly thirty years today. And as I look back on that transition, I realize that all change, whether it’s losing something or gaining something, is a reflection of the transitions we live in our lives in Christ: the what-was we once had becoming the what-is we are living now as we wait with joyful anticipation for the what-will-be.

Or, as St. Paul assures us today: everything is different now.

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.

An Antithesis of Ideas

An antithesis is a figure of speech in which an opposition or contrast of ideas is expressed by a connection of meaning through a connection of form. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stands everything we think we know on its head. He redefines happiness (Beatitudes) not for what the world thinks is happiness, but in a manner consistent with how God created us to be happy.

Following the Beatitudes, Jesus presents 6 antitheses. He uses the form, “You have heard that it was said…” “But I say to you…” to connect the teachings and to take us beyond the written word of the law to spirit or purpose for which the law was written. He even goes so far as to present the literal interpretation of the law as opposed to the purpose of the law.

The first reading also uses a connection of form to set up concepts which the world sees as opposites. The world sees affliction as a constraint against happiness. St. Paul says, we are afflicted, but we are not constrained. The world sees being perplexed as a road to despair, St. Paul says we are perplexed, but we do not despair. The world sees being persecuted as an abandonment, St. Paul says we are persecuted, but we are never abandoned. The world sees being struck down as being destroyed. St. Paul says we are struck down, but we are not destroyed. Why? We carry within us the death of Jesus so that His life may be manifested, incarnated, may live in the world through us!

We are people who don’t shy away from the crucifix. We look upon the death of Jesus and see his arms outstretched for us. We see that suffering and pain and being perplexed and struck down are not the path to despair and destruction. We look at Jesus on the crucifix and we see the power of his Sacred Heart. When we look at the crucifix, we see the incarnation, the love of God made flesh. We see Jesus’ merciful heart, wrapped in bands of thorns, on fire with the Holy Spirit.

As we pause today, part way between Pentecost and the Feast of the Sacred Heart we read about the relationship between the law and our life. Jesus shows us that it isn’t about just following the law, it is about living the spirit of the law. “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” Jesus isn’t advocating self-mutilation, Jesus is telling us that nothing, nothing is as important as love. Nothing is as important as living the rest of eternity in the presence of love itself. As we look back on Pentecost and forward to the Feast of the Sacred Heart, let us love. For in love is happiness, not happiness as the world defines, but God’s true happiness found in a heart wrapped in thorns and on fire with the Holy Spirit.

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If you catch Sheryl sitting still, you are most likely to find her nose stuck in a book. It may be studying with her husband, Tom as he goes through Diaconate Formation, trying to stay one step ahead of her 5th and 6th-grade students at St Rose of Lima Catholic School or preparing for the teens she serves as Director of Youth Evangelization and Outreach in her parish collaborative. You can reach her through https://www.ignitedinchristnacc.com/.

Faith and Charity

Today is the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church. While we know him as St. Anthony of Padua, he is from Lisbon, Portugal. Lisbon, understandably, takes great pride in being the birthplace of St. Anthony and today is their national holiday. For the days leading up to his feast day, there are festivals in the streets, parades that lead to and from different churches around the city, and posters explaining when and where prayer vigils will be held throughout the week. It truly is beautiful to witness the faith so obviously present.

The first reading reminds us that we are to bring the light of Christ to the world in the same way that He Himself has set our hearts on fire for Him: “For God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.” We as Christians know the Good News, we know that Christ is our Redeemer and it is our job to preach that to the world. It is through our words and through our deeds that those whose eyes are still veiled to the Gospel, to the Word of God will come to know and believe.

On sharing the faith St. Anthony said, “Without faith no one can enter the kingdom of God, it is the life of the soul. The Christian is one who, with the eye of the heart, enlightened by faith, understands the mysteries of God and makes a public profession.”

This public profession of faith of which St. Anthony speaks can be the way we live our lives. He goes on to talk about the importance of charity in faith. It is a great act of charity to bring others to faith. In the Gospel, Christ teaches his disciples how to enact greater charity in their everyday lives. To be charitable and kind in their words and thoughts, to be charitable and forgiving to those who have done wrong against them, to be charitable and honest in dealings with others.

May we go about our day with charitable words, thoughts, and actions so that we might enter the Kingdom of Heaven and bring others with us.

St. Anthony of Padua, pray for us!

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO is studying for her Master’s in Spanish, and loves her job as an elementary school librarian. 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.

What Makes for Greatness? Who is the Greatest?

These are questions people ask all the time because there is in each of us the desire to matter. We want to know that what we do and who we are is important and meaningful. Our deepest sorrows come from a sense of meaninglessness. We feel alone and despondent when we feel that we do not matter to anyone.

The truth is that we are made for communion, we are made for love, we are made for greatness. But because we forget that we come from God, we are returning to God, and God is rescuing us every step of the way, we often seek purpose and meaningfulness in the wrong places. Rather than seeking our true identity and purpose in God’s Kingdom, we seek to make ourselves great in the eyes of this world, among our acquaintances, on social media; sometimes, we make ourselves seem greater by making sure others seem smaller. And then we find ourselves feeling unfulfilled and un-great.

So who is truly great? In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us who will be called the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven: “whoever obeys and teaches (the) commandments.” Wait. What?

In a world that sorely undervalues obedience because it overvalues independence and personal expression, these words of Jesus are easily passed over. Obedience seems to be in opposition to the freedom and individualism we value so highly. Obedience seems to be a virtue only in children. We want children to do what they are told. We can decide for ourselves.

We need to differentiate between blind, uninformed obedience (in which a person is expected to respond in robotic fashion to every order without thinking) and mature, intentional obedience (in which we consent with our free will to follow the authority of another). The first is the obedience that puppies learn in “obedience school.” The second is the full flowering of virtue in the soul that has learned TRUST.

Like a child who trusts completely in her parents, the person who has learned to submit all in loving trust to the Father, accepting His commands as the guardrails His loving will has placed in our lives, obeys the commandments and encourages others to live within their horizons. This is not a superficial conforming of our outward actions to “fit the mold.” On the contrary, this kind of obedience goes right to the heart, to the subtle movements of our desires and motivations, as Jesus will go on to tell his disciples in the next verses of Matthew’s Gospel.

This can be a point of examination for our conscience: Do I trust the Father enough to accept His commandments fully and obey them completely? Where am I “holding back” on submitting to Him wholly? When I pause to pray, is there any part of me that I am not yet holding up to His light?

Our greatness comes from glorifying God with our lives, by living according to the Truth: that we are God’s children, and we love Him in our obedience to His Will.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Deacon Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.