If You Can’t Say No, You Can’t Say Yes

What is freedom? The world’s idea of freedom is an absence of restraint so that we can do what we want, when we want, in the way that we want. But reason tells us that this is a false “freedom” that simply makes us slaves to our whims and emotions and selfishness (like toddlers, really). True freedom is the power to say yes to what is good and true and beautiful, and realize the profound potential in each of us, to enter into the great adventure that is God’s calling in our lives.

Most of us feel that we could be better people, but something is holding us back – some habit, some wound, some lack of understanding or talent. We could be so much more, but our fallen nature finds itself stuck in a mediocrity that has us comparing ourselves to others and wishing for more. We are not fully free to be what we sense we could be.

Can “truth” set us free? Only if what enslaves us is “not truth,” right?

Freedom is not just the ability to make any choice at all. Freedom is the potential we possess to reach the excellence we long for by intentionally choosing what is in accordance with the truth. This is why we must abide in God’s word and walk in truth in order to be truly free.

This is the message Jesus gives the Jews in today’s Gospel. He tells them the truth will set them free, but they do not understand, because they do not think they are enslaved in any way. Jesus tells them that everyone who sins is a slave. A slave of sin. Because sin is an act against truth, a choice against truth. They are slaves to sin because his word has “no room” in them. They are filled with their own ideas and their own pretensions, their own understanding. They have no room or patience for the ideas and words of this itinerant preacher who is turning their way of life upside down and stirring up trouble.

The freedom God gives us is so complete that we are free to say NO to Him. Because if we can’t say “no,” we can’t really say “yes.” A forced YES is meaningless.

What must we do to be truly free? Jesus tells us the way to walk as children of the Father: if we accept Jesus’ word (which comes from the Father), we will be his true disciples; in following him, we will come to know the truth and be truly free.

Freedom is in the heart and spirit, even when we are not physically free (whether from illness or circumstances or disability or quarantine!). If we carry the love of the Lord in our hearts and desire His will and the good of others, we remain in the truth and in profound interior freedom.

It is this profound freedom that gives true meaning to our YES.

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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/.

Do You Want to be Well?

“Do you want to be well?”

This may seem like a crazy question to someone who has been ill for 38 years. Why did Jesus ask it?

The lame man’s answer may give a clue. He does not say yes. He shifts the problem to the circumstances around him: he has no one to put him into the healing pool, which was said to cure the first person to enter it when the water was disturbed. He is alone. No relatives or friends to help him.

Perhaps, having been alone and sick for so long, he had simply lost hope. He was accustomed to his aloneness and his inability to get into the water. His solitude and situation had become familiar and somewhat comfortable. He went to the pool where he might be cured, but without any real hope that it was possible for him. His difficult rut had become his permanent reality in his mind.

Jesus stirs up a new possibility by looking at him and asking, “Do you want to be well?” Do you want to change? Do you desire something new? Because something new demands something of you! Are you ready for this? “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”

Jesus never forces himself or his way on us. We must desire it. That is why he tells us elsewhere to ask, seek, knock in order to receive. We have a responsibility to direct our desires and our hope toward the good and true and beautiful, toward God’s will for us, toward true happiness in Christ. This demands something of us. We must be willing to leave some things behind, to encounter the Truth in Christ, to embark on the spiritual adventure of grace.

Jesus tells the healed man and us, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.”

In order to love, we must leave behind our grudges.
In order to serve, we must leave behind our pride.
In order to be whole, we must leave behind our woundedness.
In order to walk with Christ, we must leave behind our own ideas and agendas.

Do we want to be spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically well? Do we want to be true followers of Christ? Are we willing to open ourselves fully to all God wants to pour into us and through us? Are we ready to be well?

What do we need to let go of?

During this time of social isolation (a friend called it “the lentiest Lent”!), we have the opportunity to spend more time in prayer and reflection. Let’s imagine Jesus himself looking us in the face and asking, “Do you want to be well?” and ask him to show us what our true answer is. And then he can begin to set us 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/.

Untangle the Fibers of your Heart and Mind

We know that love is patient and kind and forgiving. We know that love is the whole law.

But in certain circumstances, we find love difficult. Especially when it comes to forgiving some offenses, some people who do not seem to deserve our forgiveness. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us a “secret” to forming a forgiving heart: we must see and acknowledge our own immense failings so that we can begin to understand the generous forgiveness that God extends to us. Once we are convicted of our own poverty and the deep darkness we experience without God’s grace, we see how much God has given us, and our hearts are enlivened anew and determined to extend mercy to others.

The Rabbinic teaching at this time was to forgive someone three times, so Peter was undoubtedly expressing something magnanimous by suggesting SEVEN times – more than twice as many! And Jesus says even this is not enough. We can never weary of forgiving others because we ourselves will never run out of reasons to be forgiven by God!

Jesus wanted us to be absolutely sure of his forgiveness, and so he made it audible in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Have we encountered the mercy of God in this sacrament this Lent? We come in humility to speak our weakness and woundedness to Jesus through the priest, and Jesus reaches down to us through that priest to make sure we know clearly that we are forgiven. Through the mouth of the priest, we hear the words of Jesus: “I absolve you from your sins…”, and we can rise up to try again. What a gift!

During this Lenten season, many of us have been given the opportunity to slow down and remain at home, away from our usual activities and events and routines, by the need for “social distancing.” This is not easy, but one way we can use this time is for more prayer, more self-examination, more spiritual reading, and a reflective re-prioritization of our usual activities.

One area to reflect upon, in light of this Gospel, is where we may be harboring a lack of forgiveness. What do I need to “let go of” in order to be free to love fully? What person irritates me or continues to act in hurtful ways? A good resolution is to pray for that person each time you feel the irritation. It can be as simple as, “Lord, I lay that situation at the foot of your Cross. Give me peace.” Then, let go of it; untangle the fibers of your heart and mind from that person or situation, so that you are freed for other things! There is no magic in this practice, but the Lord never fails to meet us more than halfway. If we resolve to move toward Him in this way, He will do the rest. And by Easter, our hearts will be more ready to encounter the Paschal Mystery.

Meanwhile, let us all pray for health and peace!

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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/.

Climbing Up By Bowing Down

“All their works are performed to be seen.” Do you know people like this? It seems they live as if a camera were constantly on, and they are always “performing.” Because their attention is only on themselves and they are marinating in compliments and attention, their company is not very enjoyable. The sad truth is that they aren’t truly happy, because they know that the compliments and attention they receive have come through subtle manipulation, not sincerity.

You may also know people who are actively doing good and serving others, but it seems they talk too much about all the good they do and fail to acknowledge the good of others. Their “good deeds” are waved like a banner of virtue-signaling to announce that others just don’t care as much as they do. They are propping up their own egos with their list of charitable works.

We have all experienced the desire for recognition, praise, even admiration; this is part of our fallen human nature. And while true good deeds should certainly be acknowledged, we make ourselves the recipient of our own “gift” if we give so that we receive praise from others! When the desire for recognition is the basis of our choices and actions, we are slaves to the opinions of others, sometimes to the point of protecting our sense of superiority by humiliating others.

Jesus came to set us free. Free from sin, error, and our dependence on the opinions of others. Free to recognize Truth, to love fully. Truly free.

He tried to win over the Pharisees and help them to freedom, but they were enslaved by their pride. So Jesus points out the dangers of their position and maneuvering: they were very attached to what others thought of them and in a position to manipulate those opinions. It was a dangerous game, and they were in a bad place. They were the elite of God’s people, but by glorying in their own sense of superiority, they blinded themselves so that they could not even recognize the Messiah among them.

Jesus contrasts this attitude with the attitude his own followers must have: to see each person as a brother in Christ, to serve all others rather than maneuvering to be served, to humble ourselves even in our good works and successes! Because every success comes from using the talents that have been given to us in circumstances that are largely beyond our control, not from ourselves alone. We are not here to make a name for ourselves, but to glorify God’s Name.

Jesus teaches us that if we promote and protect and prefer ourselves and prop ourselves up on the opinions of others, we will ultimately be humbled by the truth. But if we willingly recognize the truth of what we are and seek God’s will for our lives, we will reach the exalted place which He has prepared for us. The way to climb up to God is to bow down.

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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/.

Whose Kingdom is it? Who is in Control?

We probably say the Lord’s Prayer at least once a day. These words are part of our Christian “DNA.”But do we really KNOW what we are praying?

Father, “hallowed be THY Name.” Not mine. I am not here to make a name for myself; I am here to glorify YOUR holy Name, a name the Chosen People dared not pronounce. You alone are holy, and I glorify Your holy Name.

“THY Kingdom come.” I am here to do my part in YOUR Kingdom, to work to establish YOUR Kingdom, not build my own little fiefdom, not maneuver myself into a place of power or influence or adulation, not to be in control of things. The world is Yours, and I am here to help turn it toward You.

“THY will be done.” I am here to do not MY will, but YOURS. Not just accept Your will, but to actively do Your will “as it is in heaven”…joyfully, promptly, perfectly.  You make all things work together for good, You choreograph every step of ours, if only we sincerely resolve to seek and do Your will.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Give us today, Lord, all that we need for today. Give us our physical sustenance, our spiritual Food, provide for our psychological and emotional needs, give us the grace we need for this moment. We trust that You have always provided, You can provide, You will provide, because You are a good Father.

“Forgive us our trespasses,” in Your great mercy, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Your mercy is freely given, but it has metaphysical conditions for receiving it! Jesus tells us that IF we forgive others, the Father will forgive us. But if we do NOT forgive others, then the Father is, in some mysterious way, prevented from forgiving us. This is a deep mystery, as God’s love IS mercy. And yet, if we refuse to forgive others, we are locked up inside a sealed box of resentment, and God’s mercy cannot penetrate it from the outside. We have to release the latch from the inside! What a terrible freedom we have: our willfulness and determination to hold a grudge and refuse to forgive can even thwart the love and mercy of God Himself! But, on the other hand, if we willingly let go of our anger and resentment, God will forgive us freely and fully.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Guide our ways, Lord, so that we avoid occasions of sin, and keep us safe from the pervasive darkness. Free us from all that holds us down – our woundedness, blindness, attachments, confusions – so that we dance in the light of Your Spirit, trusting in Your Providence and Love! In this way, we will walk steadily in Your way, the way that leads to Your very Heart, our Home.

“For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, now and forever. Amen!”

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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/.

Becoming a Beautiful Bride

Today’s short Gospel is a quick Q & A between the disciples of John and Jesus – one question, with a two-sentence answer. And yet, the answer gives us much to ponder.

The disciples of John want to know why Jesus’ followers do not follow the typical Jewish cycle of fasting. Jesus gives a somewhat cryptic answer: “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

The questioners must have been wondering what this meant.
First, by the “bridegroom,” Jesus is clearly referring to himself. For the listeners, this would have brought to mind the prophetic words of the Old Testament, in which the relationship between the Chosen People and God is often referred to as a betrothal. It is a way of revealing the kind of love that God has for His people: personal, passionate, faithful, and fruitful love, like a young fiancé for his beautiful bride. God’s love for us is deep and intense and steadfast!

But a “bridegroom” is a step beyond a “betrothed.” Jesus is expressing that the betrothal is ending and that – in him – the marriage is now imminent! God has come in Christ, and Jesus IS the bridegroom, come to wed his spouse, the Chosen People, the Church, by saving her from sin. This is why we refer to the Church as the “Bride of Christ.”

In ancient Israel, the guests – family and friends – spent the week-long wedding celebration sharing the joy of the new couple. Here we see Jesus declare himself the bridegroom, and his disciples are the “wedding guests,” invited to share his joy as he takes the Church as his bride. He wants all of his disciples throughout time (even you and me) to do the same! He longs for each of us to remain near him so that the overflowing joy of his Heart can flow into our lives as well until we are fully one with him in the Heavenly Kingdom.

One more thing: Notice Jesus does not say that the bridegroom will leave; he says that the bridegroom will be taken away. He is forcibly and violently removed, but he does not want to leave us alone! Before “the bridegroom is taken away,” he reveals a way he can remain with us always: at the Last Supper, he institutes the Eucharist.
Until the total fulfillment of the Kingdom is revealed, while we “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior,” we fast and pray and grow in love in order to be more fully conformed to his image, just as his disciples did.

This Lent, let’s open ourselves fully to all that the Church suggests – praying, fasting, giving – so that we are of one heart and mind as we focus our attention on all that Christ, the Bridegroom, has given for us, his bride.

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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 Amazing Value of Not Much, Not Many

How much time do you have?
How much money do you have?
How much patience do you have?
How many talents do you have?
How much energy do you have?
How much prayer time do you have?
How many gifts do you have?

You’re probably thinking: not much, not many.

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked his disciples as he looked on the thousands of people who were hungry because they had been following him for days.

The disciples were probably thinking: not much, not many.
Notice that Jesus did not ask them how much EXTRA food they had. They were hungry, too, of course. Jesus did not ask them if they had a surplus to help feed others. He asked them how much they had, and they gave it all to him.

Then he gave thanks, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples to distribute to the crowd. It would have been unbelievable if everyone had gotten a bite. It would have been incredible if everyone ate enough to be satisfied. But it is amazing that everyone ate and was satisfied, and there were still seven baskets of fragments leftover.

Jesus is not just doing this to amaze, of course. Jesus is acting out of compassion and addressing a real need of the people who were following him to hear about the Kingdom, who would not have had enough strength to get back to their homes.

Jesus, as always, is also teaching a lesson: he wants us to participate in his saving mission by putting what we have at his disposal. Jesus did not make bread out of thin air (which he could have), nor did he distribute the bread himself. He asked his disciples to give what they had and asked them to hand out the gift. They entrusted their meager resources to the Master, and they must have been in consternation as they continued to hand it out to the people without running out!

What would have happened if the disciples had decided that they had no surplus, and kept those loaves for themselves? This would not have been unreasonable. But God calls us to act beyond reason, to act in faith.
Jesus asks each one of us to entrust our meager resources to him, knowing that God’s work is done beyond our small human abilities, reason, and calculations. We may think we do not have much to give, but when we give generously, he is able to give more generously. In fact, God does his best work when we are at the end of our capabilities and lean into him for results. And God’s results far surpass the sum total of what we give.

Let’s confidently hand him all we have – our meager loaves and little fish – and then watch what he can do.

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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/.

Begging Jesus to Leave

At first, today’s Gospel seems like a straightforward story of Jesus healing another person, freeing him from demonic possession and telling him to go and share his personal good news. But that’s just the surface. If we look deeper, we see the whole human drama of good and evil and freedom with Christ.

Let’s look first at the power of evil. The man is clearly possessed, and St. Mark describes the seriousness of his situation in some detail, so there is no doubt. And yet the devil does not have complete control, ever! In this case, the man is forced to prostrate himself before Jesus, the enemy begging to be left alone. When it is clear that Jesus means to free the man, the enemy is not then freed to roam at will; he must ask Jesus’ permission to enter the herd of swine! While the devil works with angelic intelligence and strength (which is greater than human intelligence and strength!), he is not all-powerful; the enemy can only operate within the parameters set by God Himself.

Let’s look next at how narrow the human perspective can be. The people of the town, who can see only the external details, are more concerned about the loss of the swine than the welfare of the previously suffering man. Hearing “what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine,” they see only the loss and not the gain, and they “began to beg him to leave their district.”

Let’s look at how Jesus operates within this struggle of good and evil. Jesus has supreme authority and power to free and heal and command demons. But Jesus also respects the gift of free will God has given to humanity, and never forces himself on anyone. When the Gerasenes beg him to leave, he gets into the boat and leaves. Free will is a powerful gift; we are always free to send him away.

What about the possessed man? He wanted to remain with Jesus, but Jesus gave him another task. He directed him to share his testimony, to be a witness. And he did, to the amazement of all who heard him. The Lord entrusts his work to us who have been blessed by Him!

What about us? An examination is always in order:

Are there areas in our lives in which we see only the surface, and are unable to see deeply and appreciate what God is doing?

Are there circumstances in which we are counting the cost but missing the deeper spiritual benefits?

Are there places within us that we have “fenced off” from Jesus because we are afraid of what he might demand of us, or ask us to change?

Are we ready and willing to share what God has done in our own lives so that others can know Him better?

Lord, give us light and strength so that we can SEE DEEPLY and remain open to Your saving power!

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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/.

Family? What Family?

If your mother was seeking you, came looking for you, sent word that she was outside waiting for you, your response would be anything but, “Who is my mother?” as if you had never met her. Yet that is how Jesus responds when he receives word that his mother and relatives are waiting outside for him: “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

This is certainly not because Jesus doesn’t know his mother, or disrespects her in any way. On the contrary, he knows Mary better than anyone ever can, his relationship with her is closer than anyone else’s, and he loves her more deeply than anyone ever will!

But Jesus never misses an opportunity to teach what the Kingdom is about and what his Heart desires; so, when informed that his family is looking for him, he takes the opportunity to say something startling: Family? You are my family. We are ALL called to be known and loved by him, to live in close relationship with him, to be members of the very family of God. Jesus tells us that “whoever does the will of God” enters into this relationship of love and belongs to this family. We, whose sins are responsible for nailing Jesus to the Cross, are invited into intimate relationship with him. If we are committed to the will of God, sinful as we are, we are loved by Jesus as much as his own mother!

In a way, Jesus is pointing to the truth that Mary is beloved not just because she is his biological mother, but because she did the will of God in loving obedience; she is the first disciple, the one who believed, whose loving and obedient “yes” made the Incarnation possible. By looking to Mary, we can see the whole mystery of our redemption, from the Son’s conception in her womb to our own conception in the womb of Mother Church, “until Christ be fully formed in us” (Gal. 4:19).

Mary encountered the Word of God, accepted it, assented to it, and never wavered, all the way to the Cross and beyond. Her whole life is summed up in her words at the Annunciation: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).  Later, Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy will be done” (Matt. 6:10).

When we keep God’s commandments, we are loving Him (2 John 1:6, 1 John 5:3), but love is more than outward obedience; love is encounter, relationship, and union. Jesus tells us that if we do the will of God and not our own, we will know him and walk with him as closely as Mary and his relatives did. We are made BY Love, made TO love, made FOR Love. In keeping the commandments of love, we find the One Who IS Love, and our hearts and wills are one with His. This is the profound communion Jesus desires for each of us, right here, right now!

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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 Are All One

Am I my brothers Keeper?

In the Gospels, Jesus is constantly demonstrating that he is God, that he has the power to heal, that he is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises, that he has come to save us from sin and death. To do that, he performs many miracles, including healing the sick; for the Jews, physical infirmity was a punishment for sin, and it kept a person outside the worshiping assembly. In healing infirmities, Jesus shows his power, but also restores each person to their place in the community of faith.

Today’s Gospel teaches us something more: within the Body of Christ, we are interconnected, responsible for the well-being others, and spiritually able to help one another. The paralytic is utterly incapable of bringing himself before Jesus. It took four men to carry him to the house where Jesus was preaching. They are so determined that they do not turn away when they are unable to enter – their ingenuity and dedication impel them to muscle their friend to the top of the house, where they pull away part of the roof and lower their friend into the room (we all need friends like this!). This took some time, energy, and strength! And Jesus’ reaction is a lesson for us: “Jesus saw their faith,” and turned to the paralytic and said, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Now, it doesn’t seem that forgiveness was the main motive for working so hard to get the paralytic in proximity to Jesus. It seems more likely that the friends had faith that Jesus could CURE their friend, and we don’t even read that the paralytic asked for forgiveness. But Jesus waits for the scribes to react and object that only God can forgive sins, and then he physically heals the paralytic as a proof for them that he has the power to forgive sins AND heal the lame. Only God can do either of those things!

We are also called to act like the friends of this paralytic. We must work to help others to heal from every woundedness: spiritual, emotional, psychological, physical. We must bring others to Jesus, and not weary or be put off when this task seems difficult. We must intercede for others and sacrifice our own time and energy and strength on their behalf, because God responds to seeing OUR faith by pouring His light and grace on others. This is part of the mystery of the Body of Christ! We are all one in Christ, and must work for the good of one another.

We can ask: Who is the person in my life who needs my help and prayer? What is God asking me to do for that person? Let’s each make an effort on behalf of that person today. When we see God’s action in our lives and in the lives of others, we too will be astounded and glorify God, and say, “We have never seen anything like this!”

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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 Are All Lepers

Have you ever experienced a physical issue that you wanted to conceal or minimize? A swollen eye? A skin rash? Even a blackened fingernail might keep our hands in our pockets.

You know your own hands very well. Look at them and imagine your fingers bent in unnatural positions, several of them missing, mysteriously “eaten away.” You would probably want to hide them from others. What if your face were suffering the same mysterious infection? It is likely that others would look away from you or avoid you.

This is a glimpse into the plight of lepers. Through no fault of their own, lepers have been infected with bacteria that disfigures them completely, causing damage to the organs, eyes, limbs, and nerves. Because of the fear of contaminating others, lepers were considered unclean and were not allowed to be in contact with others. Because of their disfigurement, they were terrible to look at and covered themselves even from their own eyes. They were separated socially, psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally from others, forced to live on the outer edge of society and rely on charity, which they received from a distance. They could not be with their families or pray with the community. They were cast aside to watch their disease progressively erode their physical selves.

Who could be in worse shape in the ancient world than a leper?
And yet, we are all lepers, in a sense, because leprosy can be seen as a biblical analogy for sin. Leprosy is to the body what sin is to the soul. Sin disfigures and eats away at our souls, separating us from all that is good and true and beautiful and from one another. Sin drives a wedge in our relationship with God, with other people, and with our own best selves. Sin is the terrible spiritual disease that keeps us from being able to fulfill our true potential in Christ and to live in full communion with God and other people.

That’s the bad news. But the Gospel is Good News, and today’s Gospel proclaims the good news that if we, like the leper, bow down before the Lord, acknowledging that He alone has the power to cure us, and confidently ask to be healed, we can be free. Jesus will not hesitate or draw back; He will touch us with His grace. He says to the leper and to us: “I do will it.” This is why he has come to us!

Unlike the leper, we don’t have to wait for the Master to pass by. We have access to Him 24/7. It is up to us to open ourselves to the healing mercy and grace of Christ through prayer and through the Church in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

During these last few days of Christmastime, let us ask for the grace to open ourselves fully to the infinite mercy Christ came to unleash on the world, and confidently ask Him to set us 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/.

Journeys and Gifts

“They saw the child with Mary, his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts…”

There are many aspects of this wonderful Solemnity that we can reflect on, but these few words from today’s Gospel give us a glimpse into how this celebration can focus our own search for Christ. The magi – foreigners, non-Jews – have seen a great sign in the heavens, and have come to acknowledge and honor a new king at his birth. They are searching; they are inquiring, they are following a light; this searching and traveling require effort, perseverance, sacrifice, and time, but it is important to them that they reach their destination. And they do: they find the house where this new king is dwelling, and they see him “with Mary, his mother.” The first thing they do is bow before him. Then they offer him the gifts they have carried with them.

We can find a parallel in our own spiritual journey. Our search for Christ happens in prayer and in the circumstances of our daily lives. Our searching also requires effort, perseverance, sacrifice, and time. We must prioritize our prayer time and our desire to follow the light of Christ over other activities and motivations. And like the magi, we can find Jesus “with Mary, his mother”; the woman through whom God came to dwell with us will always lead us to dwell with Him, as her role is always to bring Christ to the world and the world to Christ. Our prayer must always begin, like the magi’s, with humility: we must acknowledge Jesus as the Lord of all, as the king of our hearts and our lives, and adore Him. Then, the rest of our prayer will flow properly, including the offerings of our lives and ourselves that we make to him.

The magi offered gifts that expressed the truth about this small child in poor surroundings: this child is king (gold – a sign of royalty), this child is God (frankincense – a sign of our worship), this child came to offer his life for us (myrrh – for burial). What can we offer to this God-Man who set aside His glory to dwell with us and save us? How can our offerings acknowledge Who God is and our place in the Body of Christ? How can we help others see the profound gift that has been given to all the nations, making us all “co-heirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Eph. 3:6)?
Today, let us rejoice in the revelation of the one true God to all the nations. Come, let us adore Him!

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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/.