Superpowers?

When I was a child preparing for my first confession, it seemed to me that Jesus had “superpowers” in the Gospel stories I heard. I was amazed that the people walking down the street at the same time as Jesus saw an ordinary man, and they would even argue with him. But then he would, like all superheroes, engage his superpowers at just the right time, and in just the right way. His power is never destructive or, well, overpowering, but it is dazzling just the same.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses several of these powers. The Pharisee says something to himself – thinks something in his mind – and Jesus REPLIES to his thought! Not in a condescending or reprimanding way, but in an inviting way. He asks a question so that Simon can think a NEW thought, if he chooses. Jesus knows that his thought is negative and judgmental: “Doesn’t Jesus know what kind of woman this is?” In place of that, Jesus gently encourages the Pharisee to look beyond superficial appearances and look to the heart. In place of judgment, Jesus encourages the Pharisee to understand mercy. The Pharisee is busy mentally condemning the sinful woman and Jesus’ lack of prudence, and Jesus gently points out that in many ways, the woman is more generous and loving than the Pharisee.

Jesus expresses another “superpower” in this scene when he turns to the woman and tells her that her sins are forgiven. The others at the table are astonished at this bold statement. How can he forgive sins?! Only God can forgive sins! Exactly. Jesus is making clear Who He Is, if they will accept it. He is here to “make all things new” – our hearts and minds, our actions and our relationships. He is here to heal and enlighten and invite each of us to a new thought, a new way of seeing, a new way of being.

In the Church, He does this in a direct way through the sacraments. We are baptized into the Body of Christ, into his very life in the Trinity. We become one with him when he gives himself entirely to us – and we give ourselves entirely to him – in the Eucharist. And when we fall short, like the woman who was a sinner, we go to the confessional where he says the same words to us that he said to her: “Your sins are forgiven…go in peace.” These are the words that free us anew and set us on a renewed path. Let us pray to be filled with the same loving gratitude for the gift of mercy and peace that emboldened the sinful woman to weep at Jesus’ feet and cover them with kisses and precious ointment!

Jesus, I trust in You!

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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/.

The God of Surprises

When men are ordained, they often return to their home parish to celebrate their first Mass and preach, so that the community from which they were called can rejoice with them at the beginning of their ministry as priests. It is a wonderful and joyful moment.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus goes to his hometown to give his first sermon. It didn’t go so well.

What was in his Heart as he read the scroll and sat down to teach? “The eyes of all… looked intently at him.” Surely, Jesus looked intently at them, perhaps even eagerly. He came to his hometown to begin his preaching and to share the Good News with them first; he says clearly that he is the Messiah Isaiah had prophesied. His beautiful and loving discourse moved them to be “amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”

But things turn sour when he tells them the full truth: that the grace and salvation of God are for ALL people, Gentile as well as Jew. They become furious, even trying to hurl him over a cliff. But it is not yet his time and his mission is not yet fulfilled, so he mysteriously “passed through the midst of them and went away.”

Jesus reveals to the world that God loves all, and that the full truth is what makes us fully free. It is our own narrowness and selfishness and prejudice that keep us (and others) confined in false notions and prisons of propaganda. For the Jews of Jesus’ time, the falsehood was that only THEY were privy to God’s love and mercy, and that the letter of the law was enough to make one righteous. They had convinced themselves that the Messiah would come with mighty vengeance and kingly authority and vindicate them from the oppression of pagan political power. They were not open to a different narrative, and certainly not open to the possibility that Joseph’s son – so familiar to them – was worthy of supernatural faith.

Prejudice and familiarity are great obstacles to the deep humility and loving faith needed to be truly open to God’s grace! If we block out possibilities because we think we know, or our hearts fall into routine or boredom, we are not open to the beautiful surprises of grace. We fail to see them, we explain them away, or we attribute them to something else. God doesn’t stop working in our lives, but we stop seeing Him at work!

So it is good to ask the Spirit to show us where our blind spots are, where our narrowness or selfishness is blocking the light of God at work in us and in the world, and what we can do right now – today – to be more open to the fullness of truth. We can pause with Christ to see where our own notions might block our ability to see the full Truth. Then we are closer to being fully free.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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/.

A City On a Rock

Caesarea Philippi was built like a fortress on a rocky cliff; it seemed a city secure from all invaders. It is here that Jesus chooses to openly reveal himself and his plan for a secure City of God – the Church – to his disciples. He poses a question, and Simon Peter (who is already a “mouthpiece” of sorts) states clearly: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”

Jesus recognizes the blessing in his answer, because it could not come from Peter’s own deductions, but only from the Father Himself. And right there, as Peter – in all his weakness and stubbornness and rashness, but also in his sincerity and generosity – proclaims Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus proclaims Peter the Rock on which the Church will be built. This Church is to be the community of believers, the preserver and sharer of the Gospel, the Bride of Christ. It is to endure until the end of time, and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” It is to Peter and this band of fishermen (and a tax collector), with all their foibles and confusions, that Jesus entrusts this important work and the whole people of God.

To safeguard the Truth and give believers confidence in the magisterial/teaching word of the bishops of the Church (in spite of the many weaknesses of those leaders), Jesus gives Peter, the first pope, the “keys to the kingdom,” with the power to bind and loose in the name of heaven. We hear about the “key of the House of David” in today’s reading from Isaiah: “when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.” The authority to “bind” refers to the one in ancient Israel who was master of the palace. The authority to “loose” refers to the authority of the leader of the synagogue to expel or reinstate people from the community to preserve its religious and moral integrity. These are the powers Jesus gives to his Church; Jesus does not say this to all the disciples, but only to Peter, because there must be a single voice, not a multiplicity of voices. The one Voice of authority in the Church is found particularly in the person of the pope, who is to be the servant of all.

What a consolation this is! Throughout the centuries, while many theological battles have raged, even while men with questionable moral lives were elected pope, even while the Cardinals argued over the validity of elections and there seemed to be more than one pope (!), no pope has ever spoken un-Truth ex cathedra. The dogmatic statements of the Church have stood firm, never contradicted by a later pope.  Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would remain with the Church, so that we can be confident in all the Church officially teaches and allow it – and the Scriptural Word of God – to guide our lives.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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/.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know, So We Need Each Other

Sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. Sometimes, we don’t know that the way we are reaching for our goals is hurtful to others or ourselves, or even that our goals are short-sighted or wrong-headed. Sometimes, we are making objectively bad choices but we don’t know. Someone must tell us.

Jesus instructs his disciples to reach out always in love, go after the “lost sheep,” and work in ways that protect the dignity of the person AND the integrity of the Community. He tells them (and us) to gently and privately point out the fault of another. Why? Because we ARE our brother’s keeper, and we have a responsibility to help them see the fullness of Truth so that they can reach the Heart of the Father. We can and must do this, not because we are better than they are or because we have the right to judge the state of their hearts or souls, but because they are part of the same Body of Christ, and their good is the good of all. Good individuals build good communion.

What if they reject what we say? Jesus tells us not to give up on them, but to invite one or two others to speak to him with you, so that he might be persuaded by the witness of others. Why? If you’ve ever been involved in an “intervention” with someone who is suffering addiction, you know how powerful it is to have several people pleading lovingly and holding up the truth to one who is unable or unwilling to see it. This is also the case when the situation involves spiritual danger rather than physical danger. When confronted with several testimonies, rather than one, it is harder to avoid seeing the full picture.

What if they still refuse to hear us? Jesus says to “tell the Church.” Why? After being called out in love to see the wrong in our choices, it is sometimes necessary to bring it before an authoritative voice, one who has the “grace of office” to speak in the name of the community of Christ’s Body on the issue. Incidentally, this passage also indicates clearly that Jesus came to establish a Church with a visible structure and men whose word has authority: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”! This is to protect the integrity of the community.

What if they reject the word of the Church? Jesus says that it is then necessary to separate ourselves from them (at least until they are ready to listen and live according to God’s Word). Why? Because we absorb the attitudes and actions of others, and the constant presence of opposition drains our psychological and spiritual energies for good. Today, we would say we need to “establish boundaries”. That does not mean we cast them out, stop loving them, or give up on them. We cannot sacrifice the integrity of the community to them, but we can continue to pray.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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/.

Making Our Way Home

This is a short but somewhat confusing Gospel, wherein Jesus seems to casually dismiss his own family, even his own mother! “Who is my mother? …. Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Was he disregarding the closeness of Mary, his own mother? Was he just speaking in hyperbole to get everyone’s attention? Did he just want everyone to feel like a big, happy family?

None of those. The “key” to understanding is found in the Alleluia antiphon: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him.” These words are taken from John 14, one of the most fully packed chapters in the Gospels; Chapters 14-17 are known as the Farewell Discourse given by Jesus at the Last Supper. In that discourse, Jesus expresses over and over again the unity of love between the Father and the Son, in the Spirit; he expresses several times the mutual indwelling of God and each baptized person who remains in the state of grace.

He goes to prepare a place for us, “that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14: 3). And where is Jesus going? To the Father, to the Bosom of the Father: “I am in the Father and the Father in me” (Jn 14:10). That’s where we are created to be also: in the very heart of the Father, as His true children, in Christ.

And how do we get there? By lovingly keeping the commandments: “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…If a man loves me he will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:21,23). “Our home.” God’s dwelling is with us; with us, God is home. And we are at home with God!

Toward the end of this long discourse (well worth reading over and over again!), just before they all leave for Gethsemane, Jesus addresses the Father directly, with some of the most profound words of Scripture, asking that “all may be one; even as thou, Father, are in me and I in thee, that they also may be in us… (Jn 17:20). God in man, and man in God, as ONE.

Jesus’ deepest desire is that we are all united as true members of his Body, that we all may enjoy the infinite and perfect love of the Father, as the Son has for all eternity! Jesus’ deepest desire is that we enter into the very exchange of love of the Trinity, where Jesus IS, as true children of the Father!

If we keep Jesus’ command of love, we remain near as his “brother, and sister, and mother.”

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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/.

What Do I Want?

What is the most important thing for you today? What do you look forward to? What is waiting for you when you finish the work that must be done, the thing you are eager for?

Today’s liturgy reminds us over and over again that what should be most important for us, what we should look toward, what is good and necessary for us is the Good Shepherd, Who saves and gives peace to those who seek him above all else!

The Entrance Antiphon recalls that God’s “right hand is filled with saving justice” and the Collect asks Him to fill those of us “rescued from slavery to sin” with “holy joy”.  The First Reading from Hosea and the Responsorial Psalm are all about those who did NOT rely on the One God, instead, building their own idols and sacrificing to them, as if they could expiate sin: “the Lord is not pleased with them. He shall still remember their guilt and punish their sins”.

In contrast, Matthew’s Gospel shows Jesus curing the sick and preaching the Good News to eager crowds. While the Pharisees reject him and accuse him of being in league with the devil, the people long for his healing presence; they are “troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” He reminds his disciples that the people have a deep need, more vast than they can fill, as Jesus tells them to pray for laborers to serve them. The Church is to be the continued presence of Christ the Good Shepherd to his troubled sheep, and they will find peace and salvation when they seek Him as their highest good.

But we sheep are prone to erect idols, which stand between us and God, though we don’t call them that. Adam and Eve did not consider the idea of being like God an “idol,” yet it separated them from God. And the Enemy has continued to use the same tactic all throughout time: distract us from the ONE GOOD by promising ultimate fulfillment in ANOTHER GOOD. These are rarely made of silver or stone, and we do not offer burnt sacrifices to them, but we all suffer the same temptation: we all want to be happy and peaceful and fulfilled, so we aim for whatever seems to promise that, erecting a kind of “idol” in our hearts and minds.

One way to see what we idolize is to consider what takes up most of our time, or what we long to do besides the thing we are doing, or what we are working to achieve that fills our minds. What is the thing we rely on to “make us happy”? Idols can be ideas, people, activities, goals, material goods (I think of these as the “5 P’s”: popularity, prestige, power, prosperity, pleasure), anything that we reach for with more eagerness than we reach for God.

Despite the constant temptations, we know that only God can give us what we long for: freedom, joy, real peace, and eternal life.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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/.

The Father Knows All Your Needs

Before the world began – before God spoke creation into existence – we were CHOSEN. Chosen BY God, chosen FOR God.

“God chose us in him before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph 1).

Before the world began – before the Spirit hovered over the waters – God considered the possibility of each of us, decided on us, chose us to exist, desired us to be part of His amazing creation.

God willed each of us to BE. And His will is love.

Even more astounding, He RE-created us in the Blood of His only-begotten Son, through whom and for everything was created.

“All things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:16).

We were each made THROUGH Christ and FOR Christ, to remain IN Christ. And if we are IN HIM through Baptism, we are also children in the bosom of the Father, a child held close, held near, held dear.

“All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made… to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become CHILDREN OF GOD” (John 1).

We are children of God! Jesus tells his disciples in today’s Gospel that “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Of course, He does. We are His. We belong to Him. We are His children. He made us and loves us, with all of our gifts and gaffes. He knows everything, from the number of hairs on our head to why we threw a tantrum when we were in diapers to what we need today to be radiant in His grace. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He alone can provide all we need to become what He creates and calls us to be. He IS love, and He loves us, and He provides all we need.

We are God’s children, born of love and loved by Him, begotten by Him in our faith in Christ, abiding in Him in our love for Christ and for one another.

“If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us… Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 Jn 4-5).

Our belonging to God is eternal and irrevocable if we choose to do the hard work of loving as He loves.

Everything contrary to this is a lie of the Enemy of our souls.

We belonged to God before the world began. We will never stop belonging to Him. He knows all we need even before we ask, and His Fatherly desire is for us to put all our trust in Him as His children so that He can provide everything for us.

What is beyond the power of God? Nothing.
What is hidden from God? Nothing.
What can separate us from God’s love? Nothing.
What then can we fear? Nothing.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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/.

The Truth is Utterly Amazing

The daily readings now turn to the Gospel of Mark, and in today’s Gospel, the Pharisees have been sent to Jesus “to ensnare him in his speech,” to stir up controversy, to use his own words against him.

They lead up to their question by praising his truthfulness and objectivity, exposing their own hypocrisy, and trying to ensure that he will be sincere and straightforward. Then they pose what seems to be a perfect question, one he cannot answer without stirring up trouble: should they pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Yes or no?

If Jesus says yes, then he is condoning the demands of Rome, responsible for the subjugation of the Jewish people. He will lose favor with the Jews who resent the Roman occupation.

If Jesus says no, then he can be accused of rejecting the sovereignty of Rome and encouraging others to act against Caesar. He will be effectively exposed as a rebel against Rome.

These Pharisees are sure they have come up with the perfect question, that they have outwitted Jesus at last, that they have created the perfect trap. Yes or no? Of course, Jesus sees through their question and IS straightforward, but not in answering their question. Instead, he calls them out by asking, “Why are you testing me?”

He asks that a denarius (the usual daily wage paid to a workman at that time) be brought to him. Then he answers their question with a question (as he often does): “Whose image is this?” It is, of course, the image of Caesar, who was often worshipped as a god. Then Jesus gives the answer that utterly amazes them: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

He has sidestepped the false dichotomy they had proposed. He reframes the issue and recalls the listeners to their primary responsibility. It is a statement and a challenge: We are in the world and must observe our duties in the world, including paying our taxes; but we are made for heaven and must observe our duty to God with even more attention! The coin is made with the image of Caesar, and so it should be given back to Caesar; WE are made in the image of God, and so we should give our whole selves back to God.

Living in the world, we must be constantly reminded that our primary responsibility is to the God of Love, who chose us in Christ before the world began (Eph 1). Before God spoke creation into existence, we were chosen, desired, and willed by God!

Today, let us meditate on the truth that we were born “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of GOD” (Jn 1:13) and we must set our minds “on things that are above (where Christ is), not on things that are on earth” (Col 3:2).

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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/.

The Advocate is Sent

As Jesus is preparing to offer himself completely for love of the Father and for us, he takes a moment to prepare his disciples also. He opens their eyes to the truth that his mission is not ending with his death, but is only beginning: the Church is born from his outpouring on the Cross, and the Spirit of truth will be sent to assist the disciples in this ongoing mission.

Jesus warns them now of the difficulties and confusion that will come so that these difficulties and persecutions will not cause them to doubt or second-guess their mission to bring truth – to bring Jesus – to all the world. The “Advocate,” the Spirit of truth, is sent BY Jesus FROM the Father to testify to the truth of Christ. This Spirit remains with the Church throughout time, ensuring that it will remain faithful no matter the circumstances.

History has proven this to be the case. Every kind of human wrong and evil have touched the Church, and yet it remains standing as the beacon of truth: wars, persecutions, heresy, greed, confusion, sin; all of these have had their grip on the members of the Church and hierarchy throughout history, and yet the Church has never succumbed. Never has the Church made an official declaration (ex cathedra) that is not true. 

Never has the line of succession from the Apostles themselves been broken. Through all the failures and confusions of the fallen humans that make up the Church, the Bride of Christ has continued to bear the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world, and transform cultures. This can only be the work of grace, the gift of the Spirit.

From the preservation of literacy in Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire to the founding of universities; from the great art Christianity has inspired to the sacred music of composers like Vivaldi, Mozart, and Beethoven; from the elevation of women and protection of widows in ancient society to the valuing of all human life, including orphans; from the contributions to the legal system to the commitment to opposition to any form of racial or ethnic segregation or prejudice; from the staggering contributions of the Jesuits to science to the heart-rending charity of the Missionaries of Charity to the sick and the poor; the Church has brought the light of Christ and the creativity and freedom of the Spirit to every human endeavor.

Disciples are sent to bring truth to the world. This does not happen only in organizations or saints or systems. It happens every day through each one of us. Each day, we walk in the newness of the Spirit, we walk with Christ, we walk as children of the Father, bringing God’s light to every darkened place. Where is God sending each of us to gently challenge with His light and peace today!

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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/.

Filling all of Time and Space with Love

In John’s Gospel, this is the final public teaching of Jesus; immediately, the narrative moves to the Last Supper and Passion. So it makes sense that this would be a summary of Jesus’ message. And what is it?

The whole passage points to the FATHER. If we want to understand who Jesus is and “what makes him tick,” we must understand him in relationship with the Father.

Who is Jesus? The one sent by the Father. Yet, though he has been sent by the Father, he is ONE WITH the Father (“whoever sees me sees the one who sent me”). The Father and the Son are one, yet distinct, and in his human nature, Jesus obeys the will of the Father perfectly.

Why did he come from Heaven into the world?  To be our light, so that we might not remain in darkness. He did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. The word he speaks will condemn those who reject him. Why? Because Jesus’ words all come from the Father, “who sent me and commanded me what to say.” Jesus never speaks on his own, never does his own thing, never tells his own tale: “What I say, I say as the Father told me.”

This is the lesson here: what moves and guides and energizes Jesus is his love for the Father. He is, in a sense, a reflection of the Father. Yet, as Son, he orders his whole life in loving obedience to the Father. This LOVE OF JESUS FOR HIS FATHER is the key to understanding Jesus’ mission and how we are to participate in it.

Jesus’ love for his Father is a desire to glorify Him in all things, to offer his entire self for love of the Father, and to draw each one of us into this love. This love for the Father is most clearly understood when we look on the Son offering himself completely to the Father on the Cross; and this same offering is made anew at each Mass so that we can each participate in this loving sacrifice. Jesus’ love for the Father is so strong, so deep, so overflowing, that he wanted to fill the whole earth and all of time and eternity with love. And the way he does that is by pouring himself out through time and space through each one of us, through his entire Mystical Body.

Like Jesus, we must love the Father with our whole heart and soul and being; his will must be our bread. We must love the Father on behalf of those who do not know or love him and invite them into his love. We must love the Father in union with Jesus so that he is glorified through us. We must love the Father to the point of sacrifice, and eventually to a complete outpouring of ourselves in love, so that we say with Jesus, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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/.

This Saying is Hard

In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus says the hard saying: “Unless you eat of the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you.”

These words, if we think about them, are still hard to hear, because they go beyond our reason and understanding. We ask, as the Jews did, “How can this be?” How can it be that God is present under the appearances of Bread and Wine in the Eucharist?

Jesus knows it is hard, but he also knows it is not the only hard thing for us to accept with our human minds and hearts. “Does this shock you? What if there are even more shocking things? And yet, this is Truth, this is Spirit and Life if you believe it. You have to see with the heart to understand this; you have to open your spirit to the limitlessness of my love and desire for you to begin to grasp this; you have to accept that my ways are not your ways, and that I am not limited by human understanding. If all that I am and all I long to do for you were to fit into the confines of your skull, I would be very small. But I am Who am. Before Abraham was, I am. I am infinite and eternal. And I can do things that you cannot grasp, except with the heart.”

Jesus wants us all to open ourselves radically to His Truth and His Love, just as he wanted to Apostles, his close friends and collaborators on earth, to accept all he had planned for them. And he knew it was hard for them (especially before Pentecost) and so he asks them, as others are walking away from him in disappointment: “Do you also want to leave?” He does not try to explain it all right now, he does not plead with them; he merely poses the question. And Simon Peter, often the first to respond, does not assert that they all understand or that this is easy for them to accept. He makes an act of faith, a sign of his willingness to accept whatever Jesus tells them, beyond reason and understanding: “You have the words of eternal life…you are the Holy One of God.”

What about us? When the things that we use to make sense of things stop making sense, to whom do we go? Are we open to all that the Lord longs to give us, even when we don’t understand the reasons, or see how it will go, or why it will be good? Do we walk away from the Lord in search of something that will satisfy our reason? Or do we remain with Him in trust, even when things make no sense to us? With Peter, we can say, “We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God,” and remain with Him in loving trust.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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/.

Have You Been Born Again?

No matter how much we learn or study, no matter how refined our culture or advanced our science, these are still bound to earth and limited by our human limits. It is grace and the indwelling of the Spirit of God that free us and allow us to understand and judge with right judgment, to love freely, and to participate fully in all God desires for us.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that “unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God,” to which Nicodemus (who seems to take this literally) replies, “How can a man once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus explains, “Unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”

We have two “births” then: a physical birth from our mother’s womb, and a spiritual birth from the baptismal font of Mother Church. It is this second “birth” that opens for us the door to the Kingdom of God. “What is born of flesh is flesh,” Jesus says, “and what is born of spirit is spirit.” Our physical eyes see the physical world; we need spiritual eyes to “see” the spiritual realities. It is necessary for us to be “born of water and Spirit” in order to participate in the life of the Spirit, which is the life of the Trinity – the Family of God!

How does this happen? It is mystery. As mysterious as the source and direction of the wind, but the effects are obvious in a person.

This is not to draw an artificial division between our flesh and our spirit, or make “spirit” the opposite of “body” – we are embodied souls, physical and spiritual! This is, rather, to help us see that we cannot remain simply on the level of the “flesh” but must turn our attention to our eternal souls; we cannot simply be content to take care of the body, but we must be attentive to the spirit. The Spirit Jesus speaks about comes “from above” and is sent by the Father: the Holy Spirit.

In the Holy Spirit, we are called and empowered to live IN Christ, not just near Him, not just next to Him. John’s words at the beginning of his Gospel give insight to this: “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were not born by natural generation nor by human choice nor by man’s decision but of God” (Jn 1:12-13).

Is sacramental Baptism enough? To be born again in Baptism is the beginning, but we must continue to grow in wisdom and spiritual stature and in favor with God! Let’s pray during this Easter season that God will complete the work He has begun in us and bring us to full maturity in the Spirit!

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father 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/.