The Lot Marked Out For Me Is My Delight

The lot marked out for me is my delight. This was a passage from Psalm 16 that was written on a piece of paper given to me in a meeting around the year 1996.

For the past almost twenty-five years, this simple verse of scripture has kept me wondering about the mystery of life, the wonder of choosing one’s stance toward life’s events that can bring both joy and pain.

How can we find delight in situations that have been “marked out for us”?

How can we find our joy in forsaking our own way in order to delight in what we end up with in the seemingly random events that direct the outcome of who we are and what we have in life?

In other words, how can we be happy being the clay, when our frightened grasping selves would be happier, we presume, if we were ourselves were the potter?

The image of the potter and the potter’s wheel appears through scripture, an apt and beautiful expression of God’s faithful, tender, loving action in our lives.

When Jeremiah went down to the potter’s house, what did he see? The ancient potter would scrape the clay from the earth, and throwing it on the ground would trample on it. He would soften the brittle and resistant clay with water and knead it until it softened into a paste. This kneaded clay would be slapped firmly onto the center of his potter’s wheel, which was a flat disk mounted on a rod. By holding the clay as the wheel turned and manipulating it with his fingers and palms, the potter would transform the lump of clay into a vessel, any vessel of his choosing.

We are the clay, not the pot but the clay. In process. Being formed, shaped, reformed,  transformed.

If we are the clay under the expert work of the divine Potter, we can be sure that he intends to do something with us and in us. We are beautiful to him. We have a purpose. We have a meaning in life that brings him joy. We are a part of his great plan.

Life’s sorrows and burdens are the trampling that brings forth the tears that soften the clay. Even the moments of pain are part of the process of becoming.

The clay has no idea what the Potter is trying to create. It yields itself completely to the expert and loving kneading of the One who envisions for it the fullness of life.

After the clay has been pushed and prodded and pulled and shaped on the potter’s wheel, it was baked in a kiln, a special furnace that might easily reach 2700°F. Different types of pots require different types of heat. The divine Potter, like any good potter, doesn’t arbitrarily submit the clay pot to a degree of heat that is beyond the endurance of the vessel. No vessel receives more heat than it needs. The most beautiful clay pots require the greatest heat. The most beautiful souls are often those who have suffered the most and have become kind, gentle, and courageously loving in the process.

The divine Potter never gives up on the clay. He is endlessly inventive and creative.

When I think of how solicitously the divine Potter has bent over me as he transforms my life into the beautiful life he has had in mind for me from all eternity, I can absolutely cry out, “The lot marked out for me is my delight.”

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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.

Liminal Spaces

As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came upon the sea so that the boat was being swamped by waves, but he was asleep. They came and woke him…

Following Jesus can lead us to places where things get out of control, where our emotions feel like a violent storm and our thoughts threaten to capsize our sanity.

Jesus will bring us to liminal spaces. The word “liminal” is derived from the Latin word “limens,” which means threshold. When you find yourself in a liminal space, you are quite literally standing on the threshold between one room and another, one stage of your life and another, one reality and another.

Liminal spaces are disorienting. These fishermen who were quite familiar with having weathered storms before are suddenly disoriented and terrified. More than a potential watery death, this storm at sea is the middle stage of moving from one state to another.

Today’s reading is from chapter 8 of Matthew. In the fourth chapter, there is excitement running through every line. Jesus was calling his disciples and they left everything on the spot to follow him. Great crowds joined an accompanied him as he cured the sick who were brought to him and freed those possessed by demons. In chapters 5 through 7, we listen to Jesus speak to our hearts a new way of life in the Sermon on the Mount. In the first part of chapter 8 before the storm on the lake, Jesus encounters deeply humble people:

  • a leper who approached him and prostrated himself with the words, “if you willing, you can cure me,” and Jesus stretched out his hand,
  • the centurion who begged Jesus to heal his servant boy, stating that Jesus had but to say the word since he understood that Jesus’ spoke with authority and had the power to do as he asked,
  • Peter’s mother-in-law who doesn’t even ask to be healed, but who silently receives this gift and silently serves his needs.

Next, appear disciples who start putting conditions on their following Jesus: “I will accompany you…”; “let me bury my father first.”

And finally this storm at sea where the apostles need to make the transition from human excitement over the amazing life ahead of them as friends of this wonder-working rabbi to deeply humble disciples who have touched their absolute need for Jesus in a very scary situation.

Haven’t we all found ourselves in such a place? A divorce, financial disaster, a pandemic, illness, family difficulties, job loss, emotional problems, the discovery that we are not, and may never be who we thought we were and hoped we would become.

Jesus was in the boat with them and he is with us. He is just waiting for us to cry out to him from the middle of whatever liminal space we are in. Sometimes I think all of mid-life is a succession of these transitional thresholds that resemble the storm at sea. When the apostles cried out, Jesus immediately got up and quieted the storm. He was already there with them the whole time. The amazing gift of this miraculous calming of the waters leads not to the apostles feeling relief but to the intense need to fall at Jesus’ feet in a new type of amazement…in worship.

Being in a liminal state or place can be unsettling. It certainly feels uncomfortable. But if we open up to it, it can be the threshold to a new union with Jesus, to the dream he has for us, to an absolute conviction of God’s close tenderness in our every need.

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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 Narrow Gate

The narrow gate. So narrow only the few find it.

When I hear those words my heart sinks. It’s the few. The smart. The strong. The brave. The good. The extra good. The virtuous. The contemplative souls. The self-sacrificing hearts.

That’s not me. Not me…again.

The narrow path makes me think I need to find it. And when I find it I need to stay on it.

But we all know what happens when we are walking on narrow paths.

We step off the path, or fall off the path.

We get so absorbed in staying on the path that we miss the flowers along the way. We forget who we are walking toward and who is walking at our side.

We get curious and take a bit of a detour, or a long detour. Maybe we turn back because it is frighteningly narrow at certain points.

When I look at my life I have to admit, that’s me.

And if the gate is narrow, we need to be thin, small, unencumbered, simple to fit through in order to get where we want to go.

We have to be so careful for the evil one can feed us so many lies that lead to desolation and depression. Lies like: You aren’t good enough. God can’t love you now after this. See you can’t make up for time lost on this or that detour. Admit it, this happened because God is angry with you.

Friends, what if the narrow path was meant to be a joyous announcement, not a moral measure?

Perhaps Jesus was saying:

“Yes the path is narrow, so narrow you can’t find it or stay on it yourself. In fact, I already know that.

“The narrowness of the path is not a measure of how perfectly you find or stay on some spiritual trajectory you’ve chosen through life.

“The narrowness is about those who come to realize, through the struggles and failures of their attempts to live in my love, that they need me.

“Because they realize they are helpless.

“And are willing to trust entirely in what I am doing in and through them, even when they see only their sins and failures. The narrowness is the blessing of those who, layer by layer, let go of all they think they need, or want, to be happy.”

Since your Baptism, God has been unfolding within you his life, his way, his Word in us. Taking you along his unique path for you.

It is only gradually that we are taught, mentored, led along, brought back after wandering, personally carried if necessary, broken and rebuilt, renewed, recreated.

Only Jesus knows that narrow path, and only he can carry us on it. It is so narrow there is no room for two. He brings us along in his arms, within his heart, offering us at last to the Father as the greatest treasure of his love, as brother, as sister, as co-heir, as son and daughter of the Father.

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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.

It is the Spirit Who Does Everything in All Of Us

They were all in one place together….

“All.”

As I read the account of the first Pentecost: the appearance of tongues of fire, the wind that swept through the streets of Jerusalem, the curiosity of the crowds, their amazement that all could understand the apostles in their own language, I understood for the first time how the word “all” is a word of healing.

We rarely experience all of us being moved together by the Spirit.

Fragmented divisiveness is more the norm even unfortunately in the Church. Who’s better than others. Who’s right and who’s wrong. Who’s in and who’s out. Who’s ready to move ahead and who’s fearful. Who’s great idea will predominate.

“All.”

The apostles and women with Mary the mother of Jesus were all in one place together.

The wind filled the entire house.
Tongues of fire rested on each one of them.
All were filled with the Holy Spirit.
All heard the apostles in their native language.

The apostles, stirred to the courageous prophetic proclamation, proclaimed “the mighty acts of God.” The Spirit, according to St Paul, produces all gifts and ministries in each person. The Spirit pushed them out to proclaim what God was accomplishing in their midst with amazement and wonder and gratitude, with an invitation to the people to be a part of this great work that was not their own.

How do we let the Spirit lead us today in such a powerful way?

I think the Veni Sancte Spiritus, the sequence for this day, gives us a clue.

Light immortal, Light divine,
Visit Thou these hearts of Thine,
And our inmost being fill.
If Thou take Thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.
Heal our wounds; our strength renew;
On our dryness pour Thy dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away.
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veni_Sancte_Spiritus

The Veni Sancte Spiritus allows us to claim in peace our own helplessness. It is the Spirit who does everything, who initiates everything. Sometimes I act like the Spirit is around to rubber stamp my plans. But this is not what we see on that first Pentecost morning. The Spirit healed their wounds, renewed their strength, poured dew on their dry bones, washed away the stained of their guilt, bent their heart and will to the voice of the Master, and guided their steps from that point forward.

The tiny group waiting for they knew not what in the Upper Room after the Ascension had Mary at their sides who no doubt spoke to them about the moment of the Annunciation when the Holy Spirit came upon her. She counseled them perhaps to trust that they would know when the Spirit had come and that to the end of their lives they would be led by this Spirit that had penetrated their hearts and taken on the direction of the Church through the daily guidance of their individual lives together.

There are four important ways to remove the clutter in our minds and hearts that fills them with chaos and blocks our obedience to the Spirit as we seek God’s guidance in a decision going forward:

Don’t demand closure to quickly.
Don’t have a predetermined goal before you ask the Spirit’s help.
Don’t reduce the scope of what is possible to what you can handle right now.
Don’t make it about you.

If each of us moved out of our own way, slowed down, and learned the waiting that is part of every Pentecost of the Spirit, we might be amazed at the way God uses us to proclaim the “mighty acts of God” to the world today.

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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.

We Can Always Gamble On God’s Mercy

Today’s Gospel gives hope to the heart of any parent, to any of us really. Any creature who is desperately in distress, as this woman was, can gamble on the mercy of God and win. 

This woman walked from the Gentile district of Tyre to meet Jesus in order to submit to him her desperate need. This Canaanite woman had a daughter possessed by a demon, and she was pleading for his help. The depths of the despair of the human heart can be touched most easily in the frightened pleas of a parent begging God for a child’s life. This one mother’s anxiety for her child, as recounted in the Gospel of Mark, stands in stark contrast to the 23 verses that preceded it. In these earlier verses, the Pharisees also had come to Jesus, but their purpose was to gather around him and quibble about how the disciples kept the law. For them, Jesus was not their healer, their Savior. He was someone who had to prove his authority to them, to measure up to their expectations, to fit into their religious understanding. Theirs was a calculated relationship that held Jesus at arm’s length, a dance devoid of love and intimacy.

But this woman from the district of Tyre was not a Jew. She was not a believer. She was a Gentile, a pagan. Her story leaps from the pages of Scripture to assure us that Jesus’ heart is by nature, attuned to his creature’s cry of distress. He led this woman on a gentle journey toward a loving tryst. She searches for him and finds him even in the place where he was trying to escape notice. She risked rejection as she approached this Jewish healer whom she had probably heard stories about. She was willing to fall at his feet to beg him for help for her daughter. This anxious mother didn’t come with a demand or an argument why Jesus should help her. She simply threw herself on his mercy, trusting that a mother’s plea for her child would move this teacher who himself had a mother.

Jesus is moved by our humanity, a humanity that he took up when the Word became flesh. Everyone who makes desperate intercession for another can trust that the heart of Jesus will be moved as it was for this Canaanite mother. 

Even though she presented her request to Jesus with the audacious and visceral faith that seemed almost to twist God’s arm, she remained at his feet in humble homage, in submission. And it was by this confident humility that she won his heart. God wants to be overcome by us. He wants to say, “I can no longer resist you. Be it done as you say.” He desires that every intercessory prayer be a moment of greater intimacy with him. 

Take with you today this mother’s courage. Where do you need a miracle? Where do you or a loved one need saving? Where are you in complete dependence on God with no other recourse? Like her leave behind your fear, take up your heart’s courage, and cast your cares upon the Lord. Do not debate with yourself or doubt, but set out. Bow down before the One who is the center, who is God’s loving tenderness on earth seeking to make us truly and forever happy.

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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.

Thank You, God, For In-Between Spaces

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia… [I was] brought up… [I was] educated strictly in our ancestral law… I persecuted the Way to death…” Thus Paul tells his story.

We are who we are as adults because of who we were as kids. Our habits, attitudes, and beliefs are often rooted in what we learned before we were three, what we heard, what we experienced, the values of those who cared for us. Imperceptibly we were shaped and formed by those who loved us, certainly, but who also were struggling with their own inner issues. Their own demons. We bear each other’s burdens.

Today I sit at meals still struggling to engage, carrying forward attitudes and habits from long ago. And so did Paul. His persecution of the Way was a faithful carrying out of his strict education on the ancestral law.

On the way to Damascus, Paul was leaving Jerusalem behind. He was leaving his native territory. His friends. His memories. The network of relationships, expectations, and boundaries that had defined him. He walked outside what was certain and at the same time Jesus was coming toward Paul. Jesus had summoned Paul mysteriously through Paul’s own plans to persecute the members of the Way. And in the liminal space between Jerusalem and his planned appointment in Damascus, in the place of vulnerability, Paul and Jesus encountered one another. 

The strict adherent to ancestral law discovered that Jesus was, as his followers had claimed, alive. In some way, by hurting his followers he was hurting Jesus. 

Jesus called Paul further into the in-between-space where transformation can be initiated. Paul lost his sight on the outskirts of Damascus, lay in bed for three days in a desert-dependence on the God who had reached out to grasp his heart and then had plunged him through the hands of Ananias into the baptismal dying and rising in which Paul left his very self behind. Not just his plans. Not just his agency and protagonism. But his self. His old self. In what he would describe in Ephesians as “the lifestyle of the ancient man, the old self – life, which was corrupted by sinful and deceitful desires that spring from delusions” (Eph. 4:22 TPT).

Jesus is already walking toward you. Be certain that when you are drawn into that liminal no man’s land where you lose your sure footing before the God who reveals himself to you in some way, that you are on the Pauline path of conversion. 

Be sure that you will, like Paul, lose the clarity and certainty of being able to see through the filters firmly in place through a lifetime of reinforced belief. You will lose your power and as you walk through a desert you will have no way forward except what God will give you. You will lose the illusions of your old self. Your values will be refashioned, your priorities will change, your plans will be torn up. Heart will replace the violence of forcing on the world around you the stories that have shaped you since childhood’s early experiences. Your inner being will be renewed.

I love the way St Paul put it in the letter to the Ephesians:

“If you have really experienced the Anointed One, and heard his truth, it will be seen in your life; for we know that the ultimate reality is embodied in Jesus!

And he has taught you to let go of the lifestyle of the ancient man, the old self – life, which was corrupted by sinful and deceitful desires that spring from delusions. Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with him! For God has re-created you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness” (Eph. 4:21-24 TPT).

Today is the only day in the liturgical year that we celebrate the feast of the conversion of a saint. That day, and Paul’s response, were pivotal to civilization and Christianity from that day to what one day will be the end of the world. That’s how powerful a conversion is! 

Jesus is walking towards you, calling you out from your net of attitudes, thought-patterns and security into his arms because Jesus wants to send you, as he did Paul, to proclaim that you have met him and been transfixed by the love of his heart.

In this space of the heart’s being discovered we find re-creation, new life in union with Jesus, and true holiness.

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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.

Here I am Lord: 4 Spiritual Lessons

A favorite memory of my younger years as a Daughter of St Paul is the diocesan catechetical conventions where we would meet hundreds and thousands of volunteers and teachers dedicated to educating the next generations in the Faith. These wonderful, gifted, and generous women and men I will never forget. My heart was always full as we’d join together at Mass at the end of the day, often singing the popular hymn by Dan Schutte, “Here I am, Lord.” Our voices would rise in a chorus of YES. Lord, we are here. We are here for you. We are here to be used by you. We are here to be used by you for others. We are ready and willing. We are HERE. 

I was always so grateful to be among such generous Catholics as we drank from the source of life in order to become life in the world.

The rousing cheer “Here I am!” is rooted, in part, in today’s first reading and responsorial psalm. Even though the story of Eli and Samuel in today’s first reading is much more complex than the hymn would lead us to believe, there are four important lessons for our own life that we can learn from Samuel’s response to the Lord, “Here I am. Speak, Lord, for your servant, is listening.” 

1. Our “Here I am” is more often a solitary commitment than a rousing hymn in community. Eli, the priest, was old. Samuel was just a boy. Eli’s two sons were sinning against the Lord and would not listen to their father. Samuel was serving Eli, the priest in the temple. After several times being woken by the boy running to him and saying, “Here I am; You called me,” the priest understood that it was God who was calling the boy. Eli sent Samuel back to sleep in the temple with the words, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” No one knows the words that Samuel heard that night. His response to the Lord was his own. His response didn’t depend on Eli or Eli’s sons or anyone else in Israel. It was his and his alone to make. And so is ours.

2. Often our “Here I am. Speak Lord. I’m listening for your voice” happens in the night. The night, as in our reading, of the infidelity of the larger community. The night of solitude. The night of our unfamiliarity with the ways of the Lord. The night when God is leading his people through us into ways that are new. The night of a yes that claims our entire life in prophetic obedience to the Lord. We cannot make the outer situation an excuse for not answering the Lord as he calls you and me. It is these personal decisions upon which the health and holiness of the community ultimately depends.

3. We can help others understand the ways of the Lord, even if we ourselves aren’t perfect. Eli understood the Lord was calling the boy, and he gave him a single piece of advice that helped Samuel make himself available to the encounter with the Lord. Eli told Samuel to say, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” With that one simple sentence, he taught the young boy this stance before the Almighty: I am listening. I am ready. I believe you speak. I believe you have a plan that is good for me, for us. I am willing to submit my life to your plan. Even as Samuel grew in wisdom and grace as a prophet, even as Eli grew older and less influential, even as Eli’s own sons were killed in punishment for their wickedness, I can imagine Eli continued to give pointers to Samuel on how to respond to God.

4. Our life has a purpose, a meaning, a vocation, that in some sense springs from our earliest communication with the Lord as a child and continues through our life. Biblically, we see this with the story of Moses, with Jeremiah, with John the Baptist. Only in hindsight can we see how God has led each of us in his ways. We each have an important part to play in the mystery of salvation, which overarches our world’s history. We will stand, and we will fall and stand again. In our struggle to listen, to learn, to follow, to give ourselves over to the Lord, we carry out our vocation. Ultimately, however, it is the fidelity of the Lord that guarantees the fulfillment of his plan.

Today you may want to take a few quiet moments to take stock of your own, “Here I am, Lord. Speak, for your servant is listening.” Maybe just for today, you will want to repeat these prayerful words over and over again as you open up your life once more to the plan of God for you: “Here I am, O Lord. Speak, for your servant is listening.”

My point is this: if your family is not the epitome of harmony, take heart. God specializes in redeeming messes. See yours as an opportunity for God’s grace to become visible to your loved ones and pray hard that God will make it happen.

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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.

Living Tabernacles

Mary set out in haste and traveled to the house of Zechariah, where she greeted Elizabeth.

Let’s try that again: Mary, carrying within her the Son of God, set out in haste to bring Jesus to the house of Zechariah, where she greeted Elizabeth. The older woman instantly felt the presence of God in Mary, and the child in her womb leaped for joy.

This is the image of the Christian. Blessed James Alberione, the founder of the Daughters of St Paul, often told us that we were to be living Tabernacles who, like Mary, when she visited Elizabeth, bring Jesus to the world. We could imagine ourselves as a monstrance that exposes the world to Jesus, who is the world’s Light shining within us.

You, too, are a living Tabernacle. At the end of every Mass, we are sent forth to bring the Good News we have heard and received and now carry within us. We are sent forth in haste to everyone with whom we will come in contact so that they will feel through us the living and loving presence of God-with-them, what Good News is ours to share with others! And today that can be quite a lot of people. Mary went straight to Zechariah’s house. She wasn’t documenting her trip on Instagram or posting on Facebook to thousands of friends and followers. But we do. We can bring Jesus to more than the person in front of us. We bring him to all we “meet” through social media. For everyone who encounters us through our digital “footsteps,” we pray that they will encounter not us, but Jesus.

In the Christmas narrative, Mary presents Jesus to the shepherds who followed the angels’ song to the stable, and to the Kings who found her Son by following a star. Her entire life was characterized by this manner of showing Jesus to others, by giving him away so that the world would have Light and Life.

So as we approach the end of our Advent journey and make our final preparations for Christmas festivities, let us take a moment today to imagine ourselves taking part in them with a Marian heart as a Tabernacle that quietly brings Jesus into others’ presence. In situations both difficult and joyous, prepare yourself to radiate the quiet and steady Love-with-us in Christ that will warm the hearts of those you are with. It will be the greatest gift you can give them this Christmas.

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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.

How Can I Know This?

Zechariah. Elderly. Devoted. Righteous. Carefully carrying out his priestly duty, entering the sanctuary to burn incense. Focused on his duties…

I’m chuckling to myself as I think of it. How often I am focused on my duties. Keeping track of details. Attentive to relationships. Planning and managing… And like good Zechariah I am totally not expecting an angel to announce to me the joyous news that what I have longed for my whole life, prayed for over and over again, was about to be given to me over and above anything I could have dreamt of. “Your wife will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth….”

You can almost hear in the angel’s words the blaring of trumpets in heaven by excited angel choirs…

And Zechariah deflates the joyful party with a question that can’t escape his tattered and sorrow-worn idea of himself: “How can I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” That question is repeated by every human being down through the ages at some point or other in their lives: “How can I know this?” How can something be different from what I have experienced in my life? How can I be sure before I commit? How is it possible that I could be happy? How is it that my life could be part of something bigger? How is it that I could matter to God after what I’ve done or what has happened to me?

Friends, this is what Advent and Christmas are all about! You matter! Your life matters! You are part of a plan bigger than you! You can bring forth joy! You can be happy again!

I am not talking about throwing a party for ourselves or pretending we have high self-esteem. I am talking about the Christmas mystery that God intervenes in individual lives and in the collective history of mankind. We are that important to him. And for that we can be humbly and gratefully at peace and filled with at least quiet joy.

So what good news of great joy has been announced to you in your life by angels—heavenly or earthly—that you have been slow to believe? Today, why not change your response to that of the Virgin, and tell God simply: Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.

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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.

Hope and Action

It’s the end of the liturgical year with its amazing readings that remind us of three things: 1) God has a purpose that unfolds in history; 2) individuals, groups and nations can thwart that purpose but cannot overturn it; 3) hope requires taking the long view if we are to act courageously and effectively for the coming of the Kingdom.

I can imagine Mattathias standing with his sons on the edge of the mingling and nervous crowd as the king’s messengers set up the altar of sacrifice. At that point, did he have a clear plan for what he should do? What did he feel? Angry? Devastated? Defeated? Afraid? Determined? Uncertain? Because it isn’t really about Mattathias that the Church has given us this reading. This reading is about us who live in this tumultuous era of disorienting defeatism. Watching the world and national news unfold in tweets and posts and commentary is almost too difficult to comprehend. The changes that are engulfing the globe are not straightforward. They are complex and inexorable. With “fake news” added in, it is almost impossible to know what really happened before it was twisted into the service of someone’s agenda. We might find ourselves standing on the sidelines, wondering what is going to happen and, perhaps, what is this going to mean for my family and me.

It was clear that Mattathias and his sons knew one thing. They knew who they were and had already decided to remain faithful to the covenant of their fathers. “God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments. We will not obey the words of the king.”

They did not seem to have a plan for what they would do next. It was when a “certain Jew” came forward to offer sacrifice on the altar that Mattathias sprang into action, filled with zeal, and tore down the altar, marching through the streets calling forth the zeal of the others in the city, leading them to the mountains where they would continue their resistance. This example of Mattathias and his sons is a delicate and unmistakable intertwining of hope and action. Hope is an essential foundation for a response, for zeal, for action. But hope doesn’t replace action. Both are needed.

In confusing times of uncertain change, we can follow Mattathias example. He may not have known exactly what part he was meant to play in the history of his people, he may not have known the next step he should take, but he had the hope that in the long view of salvation history, God has a plan that cannot be defeated. Because of that hope, he could risk facing what needed to be changed with purposeful action at the service of God’s glory.

Jesus, in the Gospel, weeps over Jerusalem, which has not known the time of its visitation. His sorrow did not lead to hopelessness, and his hope was not mere wishing it was different. It led him to lay down his life for the salvation of the world so that God’s Kingdom would come; his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

These November readings are not the cozy, comforting readings of earlier months. As we approach the Feast of Christ the King and the Advent-Christmas meditation on the amazing mystery of God’s birth in time, these readings help us find our feet in this world in the light of the Kingdom and the world to come.

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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.

If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?

“What comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” (A. W. Tozer)

The first sentence in today’s second reading would be enough. Because the reading goes on, we miss it. “If God is for us…” There. Stop right there….

Do you wake up every morning ready to proclaim, “God is FOR US! God is FOR ME!” How about this morning? Do you feel yourself backing away even now from such a proclamation? After all, the “anguish, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and the sword” that Paul later talks about might make us wonder if God is actually on our side. If he does in fact care about us.

Life beats us down, and in today’s world, we can feel this weight of anxiety more than ever. But Paul cries out: “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” Not these burdens! No, he says, “in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.”

For if God is FOR US, nothing is as powerful as God. If God says he cancels the condemnation against us, then no one else can condemn us.

The stuff that scares you cannot separate you from this love of God that has been shown to us in Jesus Christ. Even as you carry your cross, you can proclaim the victory of the cross!

So what has happened to you, or someone you love, that’s caused you to lose heart, to be swept away by the storm? Where do you feel abandoned? What have these done to your trust in God?

For many, many years following a serious illness, I questioned God’s love for me. I even questioned God’s very existence. I glowered at him from the back of the chapel while I was supposed to be praying (I’m sure God took that as a prayer….).

I never received a revelation or vision. I one day simply realized I was no longer thinking that way. In a very silent and hidden way, God had convinced my heart that he was there for me and that everything was okay. And I’ve never questioned it since. I have seen again and again that each of the unhappy events that have broken into my life have truly blessed it. It may have taken me years to be able to receive the blessing, but now I absolutely know that even when things are not okay, they are still okay.

My friend, God is FOR YOU! Every morning, wake up with this cry! In the words of the responsorial Psalm:

“I will speak my thanks earnestly to the Lord,
And in the midst of the throne I will praise him,
For he stood at the right hand of the poor man,
To save him from those who would condemn him.”

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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.

An Eternal Choice

Psalm 1 always makes me think of Sr. Mary Augusta. For a number of years I sat next to Sr. Augusta in chapel and assisted her with finding the pages for community prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. One Saturday morning, as we prayed Psalm 1, she turned to me with the most mischievous of smiles as we prayed this verse found in today’s Responsorial Psalm:

“He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.”

You see, Sr. Augusta was a mere 98 years old that Saturday morning. And yes, her leaves “had never faded.” She was young at heart. Happy. Blessed.

I wish I knew Sr. Augusta’ secret formula. The moment she made the decision to flourish no matter what happened to her in life. Or maybe it wasn’t a single moment, but a gradual deepening, letting go into greater freedom, as she pursued the Lord.

Both the second reading and the Gospel warn us that the fiery love of Jesus will demand a choice on our part,
a choice that has eternal consequences. As Paul puts it:

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness.
But what profit did you get then
from the things of which you are now ashamed?
For the end of those things is death.
But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification,
and its end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So let us, as Paul, consider everything else in our life to be rubbish compared with gaining Christ, with being found in him, taken up with his interests, living with his preferences, desiring him above all other things.

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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.