You Have Been Called With A Purpose

The transition crisis from before the passion to the foundation wall of the holy city Jerusalem.

Here at the end of the beautiful month of May and near the end of the Easter Season, the difficult and heart-wrenching days of the Paschal Triduum and the suffering and betrayal of the Lord are in the mists of my memory. This reading, however, brings me back with joy to those sorrowful days. 

At the Last Supper we got a snapshot of the spiritual state of the apostles before the passion and death of their Master…before their dismal failure to stand with the One who was their Life. Peter boldly proclaimed at that Passover supper that he would die with Jesus, only a few hours later to declare he didn’t even know him. All of the Twelve wanted to be sure that they weren’t the one who would betray the Lord. “Is it I, Lord?” they each asked. 

As Jesus walked into the mystery of his salvific death, alone, abandoned by his chosen Twelve, they each learned what they were capable of doing without their Lord and Master. Nothing. They each in some way abandoned Jesus. Before, they had fought with each other to see who would be the greatest, who was the most important, and Peter had tried to convince Jesus that the cross and death in Jerusalem was really not a good idea for the Messiah. In those dark and fear-filled days after Jesus died on the cross something happened to each of them.

The Apostles learned existentially that they were completely dependent on Jesus. They needed him for absolutely everything. Without him they were nothing, like branches cut from the vine. For each of them it was a crisis, a turning point, a transformation as they painfully emerged into who they were truly to be in the Kingdom: the foundation stones of the holy city Jerusalem in heaven.

“The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14).

Moments of failure, of change, of challenge…we all have them. They are stages in our life in which we are still who-we-were and not quite yet who-we-will-be. And this liminal stage of confusion and darkness is what makes these times in our life so painful. 

These transcendent crises come into my life on a regular basis. Sometimes the loss and confusion even last several years as I integrate who I was with who I am becoming, who I have been with who God has made me to be, my next step on the journey of my response to the call and grace of God. These are graced transitions.

If you are in one of these transformative crises in your life, take heart from the Twelve apostles. You may not be a stone in the foundation of the holy Jerusalem, and the Twelve certainly didn’t think they were during the 40 days after the resurrection when they remained fearfully hiding away. You have your own place in that holy city. You have been called with a purpose. Every event in your life has meaning. And no matter what you have come through or come from, God is working actively through every aspect of your daily life to keep moving you toward the fullness of what he has created you to be. Rejoice. Alleluia!

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Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn 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.

Feature Image Credit: Andre Grachev, https://pixabay.com/photos/rye-corn-harvest-organic-macro-7128823/

I’m Tired of Storms

I must admit that I am tired of storms. I’m worn out trying to find my life story—my Covid pandemic life story—reflected in the apostles’ experience of storms at sea. 

I’m exhausted trying to outsmart an invisible enemy. 

I’m finished for a while with helping people make sense of what has been senseless suffering in their lives for these past two years.

The global consequences of the pandemic are so overwhelming I want to just sit down and cry. I long for the former days that seem in misty memory to have been more carefree and happy.

So the words that attracted my attention in the Gospel reading in today’s liturgy were these: “the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.”

The apostles wanted to take Jesus into their boat. They were prepared to take charge and figure out the next best thing to do. Oh, how much of my life I’ve spent doing precisely this. These past two years that have been not only pandemic-riddled but also have been years of great loss on different levels have finally worn me out. I certainly don’t know the next move and I’ve finally acknowledged that I certainly don’t have what it requires to take the situation in hand and plot a way forward.

If you feel this way, just a little, trust in the Lord who brought the boat immediately to the shore to which they were heading. Sometimes we get taken to places in our lives that we would never have gone on our own, places that we would never have chosen, that we still don’t entirely comprehend. Somehow through it all we are taken by God to a shore where we are safe, yet we don’t know how we got there, where we are to go, or how we are to get there. We simply realize that God himself did it for us because he loves us poor storm-weary children.

It is a place of trust and of magnificent wonder: God is taking us somewhere, and he is doing it on his own, surprising us with his power, surrounding us with his love. “Do not be afraid,” he says. “It is I.”

I want to finish this reflection with three lines that perfectly express my prayer in these days. They are from a poem by Marie Noël (The Hours: Prime) found in the book Born from the Gaze of God: The Tibhirine Journal of a Martyr Monk (1993-1996).

Father, carry my soul in its carefreeness
To where you want, and let it sleep in your hand
Without asking the meaning and the goal of the road.

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Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn 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.

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The Liturgy of the Magnificent Easter Vigil

Holy Saturday…

A day of quiet and calm. A day of intimacy and hope.

A day when all creation sighed in exhaustion after witnessing the sorrowful and tragic events of Calvary the day before.

A day when the earth trembled as it held the sacred Body of the Savior as it lay in the silent darkness.

A day of waiting….

The liturgy on Holy Saturday, the magnificent Easter Vigil, teaches us the divine art of waiting. We wait in the dark around the Easter Fire, usually shivering in the early spring evening for the service to begin. We wait as the Paschal candle precedes us into a darkened church and our tiny candles gradually become a sea of lights punctuating the shadows. We wait for everyone to take their place before the lovely Exultet is proclaimed in song. And then finally we wait for the reading of the Gospel of the resurrection as the Liturgy of the Word “takes us by the hand” in the words of Benedict XVI and walks us through the whole trajectory of salvation history. If your parish proclaims all the readings for Holy Saturday Liturgy there will be seven Old Testament readings and one from the Epistles in the New Testament.

As these readings follow upon each other, one after another, I feel that in some way I take my place in the long centuries of creation waiting for redemption as I look through the “scrapbook” of memories and miracles, of suffering and assurance that is the heartbeat of the Liturgy of the Word of the Easter Vigil. Story after story is read from creation through the promise made to Abraham and the miraculous freeing of the Hebrew slaves as they raced across the path made by the Lord for them through the Red Sea, to the prophecies of how God has chosen Israel, making with them a covenant, inviting them to fidelity, through to God sorrowing over his unfaithful people to whom he promises a new heart and a new spirit. 

Every baptized person stands in this arc of salvation, this mysterious longing of the Father’s heart for our return to him. We are baptized into Christ’s death and rise with him.

In the Easter Vigil, the readings assure us with the unmistakable echoes of a Father’s heart: “I love you. All of this was for love of you. I have always stood by my covenanted people and I will do so forever. I will stand by you. Even if you walk away. Even if you are weak and wobbly in your love for me, I will love you. You do not need to be afraid.”

And lastly, the community breaks out with joy as we celebrate the Baptisms of those who have waited many months of preparation. I always feel more complete as we welcome them among us, each of us holding them spiritually to our hearts.

If you have never been to an Easter Vigil, someday give yourself that gift. Don’t wait any longer!

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Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn 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.

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I Will Never Ever Forget You

In today’s First Reading, the Servant of the Lord is announcing freedom to the Jewish exiles in Babylonia: “In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you; and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people….”

There is no way to overstate the crisis the exile in Babylon was for God’s people. They had been deprived of their homeland and had been stripped of everything that had given them their identity. There on the banks of the streams of Babylon they must have wondered how God could truly have been God if he had let the Babylonians defeat them, desecrate the temple, and force them to leave the land that had been promised to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Were they now forgotten by God? Would he ever remember them? Would he save them? Did God still love them? Could they ever trust the Lord again?

The conversations of the people of God in Babylon are similar to the conversations whispered in the homes where we’ve isolated far from our churches and from everything that had been “normal” about our life. We might have said with Zion: “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.”

Isn’t it too late now for God to show up, after loved ones have died, livelihoods lost, children affected by years of education interrupted? After millions across the globe have suffered indescribable loss. The Jewish people in Babylon must have wondered also at this prophecy spoken by Isaiah:

Thus says the LORD:

In a time of favor I answer you,
            on the day of salvation I help you;
            and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
            and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
            on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
            nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
            and guides them beside springs of water.

As we one by one continue to reshape our lives, we might wonder why the Lord didn’t “comfort his people and show mercy to his afflicted” by stopping the pandemic in its tracks before the damage across the globe had been done.

Our lament is as sorrow-filled and pitiful as the songs sung by the exiles who hung up their harps, refusing to sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land.

I hear such kindness in the final words of this First Reading. God understands his people’s tears, their loss. He listens to the confusion and hurt of his people who, because of their infidelity to the Lord and their choices to align themselves with other nations instead of trusting in him, had been carried off into exile by these same nations. God doesn’t correct their theology with reminders about how good he is, how faithful, how ever present. Instead, he evokes the image of tender love that is at the very foundation of every human life, an image that means warmth, safety, nourishment, a generous life poured out that a child might live.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; We say with them:  my Lord has forgotten me.”

Can a mother forget her infant,
            be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
            I will never forget you.

Take a deep breath, my friend, and allow yourself to share your true feelings and fears with God. Wail and rail if you must. Be honest with the Lord in every way. And then receive his arms that surround you with a mother’s love, this God who pours out his life and tenderness in absolute fidelity to us forever. Let these words wash over you again and again, “I will never forget you. Never. Ever. My child. I could never be without tenderness for you.”

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Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn 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.

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In Your Hands Is My Destiny

“Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”

The mother of the sons of Zebedee had figured out, perhaps, that there was a kingdom involved in being a disciple of this itinerant preacher Jesus. For though Jesus with his call to poverty of spirit, meekness and humility certainly didn’t act like the kings she knew, he nevertheless spoke often of the kingdom of God. 

Possibilities, prestige, power…. As any good mother looking out for the interests of her children, she took the opportunity in today’s Gospel reading to ask for places of honor for her two sons. 

The other request for a place in the kingdom of Jesus that comes to mind is the request made by the repentant thief recorded in the Gospel of Luke (23:42-43).

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

What is the difference between these two requests for a place in the kingdom? They clearly received two very different responses from Jesus.

The repentant thief speaks from a place of surrender, of petition, of awareness of his sin and his need. He turns to Jesus with the trust that is available to him at that most desperate moment of his life. He responds to the action of the Holy Spirit in the measure to which he is capable in this first encounter with his Savior. In a sense, we can say that he is more completely in the form of holiness which is Jesus himself, the form of obedient humble surrender:

Mary, the mother who stood beneath her Son as he died on the cross, no doubt heard this plea that broke from the heart of the repentant thief, and in her heart echoed her own words of obedient surrender uttered years earlier at the Annunciation, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), and at the wedding feast of Cana: “They have no wine,” “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:4-5). 

The Kingdom of God is received, it is surrendered to, it is entered into by one’s complete alignment with God’s will for oneself. We can prepare ourselves, but we do this only by fertilizing the soil of our hearts through the living of the Beatitudes. 

This is why it makes sense that Jesus asks the sons of Zebedee if they are ready to drink the chalice he was to drink. It was a matter, he was saying, of moving downward and pouring out one’s life for others. Then Jesus stated that he himself didn’t have that power to give away these seats in the Kingdom. This was a decision that was the prerogative of the Father. Jesus himself in his very identity as Son deferred in all things, in all ways, to his Father in complete and obedient surrender. 

The request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee, and the desire of the two apostles themselves, did not correspond to the very being of Jesus as Son and so was impossible to grant.

We are called to serve, to be last, to give our lives for others, to trust that the One who holds in his hands our very lives and defines our destiny is faithful and can be trusted.

What places of honor might you be seeking? They may be as world-oriented as the request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee or they might be as spiritual as great holiness or a ministry that stands out and stands above the mundane work of others. In any case, the trap is often very subtle. This Lent come to your Savior with your need and your poverty and see where he himself wishes to lead you. 

“But my trust is in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ In your hands is my destiny” (from today’s Psalm).

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Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn 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.

Feature Image Credit: Titian, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Titian_-_Christ_and_the_Good_Thief_-_WGA22832.jpg

Called To Be A Compelling Sign Of Hope

Everyone knows the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” It means that children need an entire community of people providing for them and engaging them constructively for those children to grow into healthy and wholesome adults.

Today’s two readings, however, have made me wonder if it is not just children who need a village to support and walk with them. Don’t we all? Don’t we even as adults have this deep sense that we need others to be with us, for us, to truly know our own worth, that we need to be welcomed by others in order to truly welcome ourselves? Looking back on the changes in my life, it was the times that I didn’t feel a safety net of people who would hold, support, care about, anoint, pray and walk with me that I seemed to shrivel inside. Some place deep within my soul knew that I needed to be in communion with others in a vulnerable, honest, mutually responsible way to feel whole, to blossom, and to eventually, in my own turn, give life to others.

In the beginning of the reading from James, he asks: Is anyone suffering? Is anyone undergoing hardships? Ill-treated or distressed? He directs them to connect with God in the community of faith. We might know the wisdom of the world in this regard as: Are you suffering? Stay at home, crawl in bed. Or try harder, be strong, you can do it. Are you in good spirits? Treat yourself. Buy something you like. Go to the bar. Are you sick? Go to the doctor. And if there is a difficult diagnosis, call your friends afterwards and ask for prayers. In other words, we live very individual lives, trying to make it on our own, seeking out our own happiness, not expecting others to be with us. 

A couple stories. I know two people who took considerable time off work just to be at the service of someone who was sick and needed assistance to and from the doctor as well as a hand to hold during the scary time of “not knowing” the outcome of their treatment.

Recently I read in The Wild Edge of Sorrow the author’s experience in the village of Dano in Burkina Faso in West Africa. He tells of the practice of the villagers who come together every night in the common area of the village just to share their day with each other. There was food and beer, stories, tears, laughter, rejoicing. Children were present, and played together as they ran through the adults who were welcoming each other’s lives and hearts through the narration of the day’s experiences. There was a huge sense of connection in the safe space that was created by this daily ritual for vulnerability, compassion, and cheering one another on. While there, the author met a young woman, about seventeen years old, who had an extensive burn scar on her face. She wasn’t self-conscious, but seemed happy and outgoing. When he inquired about what had happened to her, he was told that her mother had thrown boiling water on her in a fit of rage. But immediately after that the village came together and let this girl know that what her mother had done was wrong and had nothing to do with her, and that she was loved and cherished by the people of the village and would always be so. 

In the Gospel, the apostles were indignant that mothers of little children of no real significance thought they had the right to encroach upon the very important time of Jesus. The mothers wanted Jesus “to touch them.” Jesus used touch to bless, heal, include. It was an act of intimacy, an assurance that the other was being seen and was known by him, by God. Jesus was indignant that the apostles were not opening the community to include these tiny members of God’s people. How embarrassed must the mothers have felt. Humiliated. Excluded. 

Jesus and James call the Church to be a communion of faith where people are there for each other, a compelling sign of hope that ultimately we are one with each other and will be there for each other, and a witness to a way of life that is truly human and truly divine. 

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Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn 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.

Feature Image Credit: harles Lock Eastlake, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charles_Lock_Eastlake_-_Christ_Blessing_Little_Children.jpg

You are God’s divinely-loved-ones

The word that leaped from the page of my Missal this morning was the word “Beloved.” When Jesus is transfigured on the mountain before the three apostles Peter, James, and John, the Father’s voice is heard from the cloud saying: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

Every child dreams about being the “beloved” of their father or mother. Beloved implies a certain intensity of loving that is warmer and more tender than the simple word “love.” For God to say, “This is my beloved Son” is stronger than saying, “This is my Son. I love him.” You might say that beloved is similar to “dearly loved one.” Beloved is personal: “my beloved Son.” It indicates belonging and affection. 

I have meditated on this passage numberless times, and yet I have never been so touched by the word Beloved as I was this morning. Did the apostles even notice the word the Father used for his Son, for they were clearly frightened by what was happening before them? In the New Testament, the word beloved used in the account of the Transfiguration is ἀγαπητός or agapétos. Wondering how else this same word ἀγαπητός might be used in the New Testament I did a little research.

The Greek word ἀγαπητός has two special applications: the Beloved which is the title of the Messiah who is beloved beyond all others by the God who sent him, and Christians who are beloved by God, Christ and one another.

And this is where it begins to get interesting. I discovered that there are 61 occurrences of the word ἀγαπητός in the New Testament. Only seven of those occurrences refer directly to the words of the Father for his Son at the Baptism of the Lord and the Transfiguration, as we see in the Gospel today. The rest of the times we find these occurrences in the New Testament are in the letters attributed to Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude. They directly address their fellow Christians and talk about individuals in the community with the welcoming word “beloved.” A helpful translation for ἀγαπητός is “Divinely-loved ones” or “loved by God,” that is, someone who is personally experiencing God’s “agapē-love.” 

Let us listen in on the way these first Christians addressed each other. Paul writes, “I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children” (1 Cor. 4:14), and a few verses later he calls Timothy, “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord.” In the letter to the Ephesians, we are admonished to “be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1). James addresses the readers of his letter, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers” (James 1:16). Peter and John also used the term beloved in direct address: “This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you” (2 Pt 3:1), and “Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you but an old commandment that you had from the beginning” (1 Jn. 2:7).

In the way the writers of these New Testament letters use the term ἀγαπητός, we get a sense of their warmth of heart, of their care for their fellow Christians, of their selflessness in serving them. It is obvious that they loved the Christians in these communities deeply and dearly, that they had warm friendships, that they esteemed one another, and that they were bound together by mutual love and therefore were beloved to one another. 

Jesus made clear that we were to love as God loves, that we were to love others as Jesus himself has loved us. The Father speaks of his Son as his dearly loved and beloved one. The apostles followed suit even in using the same term in addressing their fellow Christians. 

God loves us totally, unconditionally, selflessly. This is how God loved his Son, and it is how he loves us and those who are our fellow Christians. So the family members and fellow parishioners, friends and colleagues, those we agree with and those we do not, all are dear to us because they are dear to the Father. This wasn’t just some spiritualized form of address for the apostle-writers. There is in the New Testament letters a clear sense of living warmth and belonging, of loving deeply, of being bound together by mutual love, of tenderness and esteem. Consistently they address the Christian community as ἀγαπητός, beloved.

I’m taking away three things from all of this and I propose them to you:

  1. I too often see the word Beloved in direct address as a “throwaway” word, in a sense like Dear at the beginning of a letter. I will never hear the Scriptures again without being aware of the warmth, tenderness, the intensity of esteem and affection with which they are written. Hearing the Word of God in the key of ἀγαπητός helps me realize how much God loves me and how much I personally am loved by the writers of the New Testament as I read the Scriptures written to help me become more beloved of God.
  2. I want to practice looking beyond appearances and consider others as dearly loved, divinely loved, and treat them as the apostles did: with warmth, affection, and selfless attention.
  3. I am, and dear reader so are you, God’s beloved, his dearly loved one, his esteemed and dear favorite. My heart leaps with joy at being God’s beloved in Christ. Often we are urged to think about what it would be like to hear God say to us, “You are my Beloved Son.” How misleading! God effects within us the belonging that binds us together and makes us the beloved of his heart and beloved of one another. We need only open ourselves to the beauty of all God is accomplishing in us through his grace.

Contact the author

Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn 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.

Feature Image Credit: Commons Wikimedia,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Transfiguration_bloch.jpg

No One Sees ME

I wonder what the man dwelling among the tombs with an unclean spirit experienced on the “inside.” We know how other people experienced him: he was a scary, out of control, possessed, and violent man. As I prayed with this passage, however, I entered within this unsubdued man bound with chains and shackles. What was it like to be this man? What did he feel? Desire? Fear? 

I sensed that this person, deep within his spirit, could have felt shame, abandoned, powerless, hopeless, rejected as he dwelt away from the community, possessed by thousands of demons. (The name “Legion” refers to a Roman regiment of six thousand soldiers.)

Perhaps his heart was crying out, “Even though I’m screaming, no one hears ME. Even though people see me crying out and bruising myself with stones, no one sees ME.”

Sometimes I feel this way. When life throws me unexpected detours shot through with loss and grief, my response can be public, embarrassing, insecure, out of character. I feel shame as people see my problems, mistakes, tears, reactions. Yet at these times I too cry out from the deepest places of my heart, “No one sees ME.” They hear my attempts to understand, analyze, and fix. Responses such as, “I heard you already,” “You can’t do it,” “You’re too identified with your role,” “You’re out of the picture now,” can leave any of us crying out as the man who gashed himself with stones on the mountainside, ostracized from the community, our hearts broken open with the longing to be seen and heard and touched with gentle reverence. 

In this Gospel reading, it is clear that Jesus saw this man. Jesus saw the external behavior that so frightened everyone who knew about this man. He also, though, could hold in his vision the heart and soul of this man created by his Father, this Beloved of his Heart. Jesus saw him. Jesus knew him. Jesus restored him to wholeness and truth. Jesus returned him to the community.

Jesus sees your deepest reality, your greatest suffering, your desperate need. He knows your true self and can understand and heal the parts of you that still cry out for wholeness and truth. 

When we see ourselves and others in this beautiful and gracious way, we too can bring wholeness and truth to others and ourselves in the midst of any suffering.

Contact the author

Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn 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.

Feature Image Credit: Luis Ca, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/2127-perfil-jesus

Who has the power?

Two important questions: Who has the power? Who speaks for God?

Today’s First Reading and Gospel gave me great pause. They forced me to think about two questions that are as important today as they were at the time that these events took place in the life of David and of Jesus. 

Who has the power?

Who speaks for God?

King Saul, the anointed King of Israel, was responsible for leading his soldiers into battle. Instead he cowered with his army for over forty days until a boy offered to fight the mighty Goliath. 

Who had the power here? It seemed that Goliath had the raw power of size and strength. King Saul had the power of authority. David, who would be called “a man after God’s own heart,” had the power of trust in God, of truly knowing God’s heart. In the Responsorial Psalm we almost hear King David’s heart sing of his dependence on and trust in the Lord his rock:

Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
            who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war….
My shield, in whom I trust,
            who subdues my people under me….

You who give victory to kings,
            and deliver David, your servant from the evil sword.

For Saul to engage the situation with Goliath with complete responsibility he would have had to go into battle, relying on a God who was faithful and not on his own devices. He would have had to risk engaging the enemy troops even at the possible cost of his own death for the sake of securing the safety and sovereignty of the Israelites. David was absolutely sure that the Lord who delivered him from the claw of lion and bear would keep him safe while he engaged Goliath in battle. He looked not at the seeming power Goliath possessed, but at the power of God who had shown the shepherd David that he was never alone, that he couldn’t save himself, and that God would continue to deliver him.

In the Gospel, it appears that the Pharisees would have the power. They, the appointed shepherds of the people, used the man with the withered hand as a tool to trap Jesus. Their minds were set regarding what they thought about Jesus and the text says, “their hearts were hardened.” And indeed after Jesus heals the man in the synagogue that day, they join with the Herodians in plotting Jesus’ death. 

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, reaches out to heal, showing us the heart of God for us all. Jesus doesn’t change his story out of fear of the consequences for his own safety. Instead, Jesus, who does always what the Father tells him to do, enters into battle ultimately with the power of sin and darkness. Even through his death, he ultimately is victorious in the power of God. The Pharisees and Jesus would have talked about the situation in the synagogue that day in very different ways. While there was a blindness on the part of the Pharisees who had hardened their heart to Jesus and his teaching, there was in Jesus an openness, an obedience to God even unto death. Imagine sitting at table with the Pharisees later that evening, and then later around the campfire with the apostles and their Master. Two different narratives would have emerged.

Who has the power?

Who speaks for God?

JD Flynn, Editor-in-chief of The Pillar, in his article “Competing realities, ecclesial division, and ecclesial renewal,” talks about a similar situation in which we live today. “Right or wrong, we’ve learned in the past two years that before history can be written, there is sometimes a period in which wildly divergent narratives compete to account for even the most basic sequences of events.” (See The Pillar newsletter on January 4, 2022.)

There are “mutually exclusive interpretations and re-tellings at both the highest levels of government and family dinner tables” of the events of January 6, the coronavirus pandemic and vaccinations, the elections of 2020. Even Catholics are fragmented into sharply divided camps often led by strong personalities with a social platform giving competing accounts of ecclesial realities. Flynn notes that even within our family and Catholic circles we struggle with or against each other as we engage in conversations about vaccine mandates, or Vigano, or whether the parish should still be requiring masks.

It isn’t easy to live in these times of uncertainty. It can be disconcerting when we discover that family and friends with whom we ordinarily get along have very different conceptions of the reality around us. That experience is jarring, particularly in a situation in which everyone is sifting through information to determine as best as they can what is true and what is fake. What would have two years ago been an interesting conversation has turned into an attempt to convince the other of what each believes to be real, as each entrenches themselves more and more in their own camp.

Who has the power?

Who speaks for God?

I am taking away from these readings today three touchstones in living through this continued uncertain time, and I offer them for your consideration:

  1. It is reliance on God and not self-sufficiency that will give me the courage to risk being what I have been called to be, whatever may be the consequences for myself.
  2. If I use people, events or facts solely in order to bolster my own view of reality against another’s, I have to seriously examine myself if I am only increasing my own blindness and hardening my heart.
  3. Like Christ, we each live our lives within the great drama of salvation. We each have a role in the salvation God is bringing about in the Kingdom of God. Whatever I can do to keep my own attention on the larger mystery of what God is doing will help me engage with others more wisely, more freely, more lovingly.

Contact the author

Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn 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.

Feature Image Credit: Davide con testa di Golia (opera di Bernardo Castello) via Wikipedia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Davide_con_testa_di_Golia_(opera_di_Bernardo_Castello).jpg

In 2022 God Will Never Stop Loving You

Today we stand on the threshold of 2022, breathing a sigh of relief that we are another few months through the general crisis that the world is collectively living. 

 …the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… (Jn. 1:5).

As you enter the new year, remember: No darkness within or without, past, present or future will ever overcome the Light of the World. No war will overthrow the sovereignty of the Prince of Peace. No sin will be stronger than the love of the merciful King of Glory.

Oh, friend, remember who you are…

…dust and glory…

At Christmas we celebrate how we have received among us, in our home, in our flesh, the Word.

…And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us… (Jn 1:14).

You have seen the glory of the Father’s only-begotten Son…

In the words of my favorite Italian Christmas carol, Ninna, Nanna:

Those who walked in darkness
Now rejoice in the King’s splendor.
All sorrow will flee,
And those whom He shall ransom,
Will be crowned with everlasting joy.
Love has made Himself our Brother,
Come to us in the arms of a Mother.
Sing, O angels, sing praise to this Child,
The holy One, the Son of God, Emmanuel.

You have come to love and to save,
Come to lead us all in Your Way.
Sleep on, my Jesus, sleep on, my Lord.

In 2022 God will never stop loving you. God sees the darkness and the darkness doesn’t surprise him. He sent his Son to be with us in the midst of the darkness. He sent his Son to be the Light, to show us the Way, to illuminate our minds with Truth, to be Life for the world. He sent his Son to overcome the darkness.

Perhaps you are not convinced. How could the memory of the birth of the Christ-Child just celebrated at Christmas influence the trajectory of the forces of history through which we are living? 

That is precisely the illusion: that the Christ is a memory

No. Love has made himself our Brother. Pope Benedict XVI reflected: “Hope marks the journey of humankind, but for Christians it is enlivened by a certainty: the Lord is present in the events of our lives. He accompanies us and will one day dry our tears. One not-far-distant day everything will reach fulfillment in the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of justice and peace” (Homily, November 28, 2009).

It is time to stand up in this hope. To walk into the darkness assured that it is the Kingdom of mercy toward which we walk, our steps made sure in the Light that dispels the power the darkness could have over us, beckoning us ever to look up, to believe, to trust in God’s fidelity.

…[for] we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son,  full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14).

Contact the author

Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn 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.

Feature Image Credit: Myriams-Fotos, https://pixabay.com/photos/a-book-pages-open-heart-book-pages-1950451/

Mary’s Yes and My Yes

In five days we will be celebrating Christmas and even in these final days of Advent many are already attending Christmas parties and rejoicing with the “joy of the season.” Once again we’re celebrating the birth of Christ, the Light of the World, as we continue to walk through the darkness that has swirled around us for the past couple years. 

Today’s Gospel introduces the young girl who would mother the Son of God, the woman whose response to the angel Gabriel would bring to birth the eternal Joy that would wipe away our tears.

“Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38).

In the midst of the darkness of the world she lived in, Mary believed in the promise of God that she was the Mother of his Son. Mary’s life returned to normal as the angel left her. How could she explain what the Holy Spirit had brought about in her? Who would understand? She didn’t celebrate the first Advent expectation for the birth of the Christ, she lived it in her flesh and in the solitude of faith. She walked through nine months toward the birth of her Son with an open heart, increasingly overwhelmed with wonder, gradually more aware that her walk of faith would be a path of suffering. 

Mary was the first to know the “joy of the season.” We learn from the narrative of the Annunciation, that it is in the midst of the daily routine of our own lives that we receive the most beautiful announcement we can hear: “Rejoice, the Lord is with you!” Our Christmas celebrations, though important, are but a flicker of joy compared with the story of God’s relentless love for us, the true cause of our joy.

Pope Francis said that “God continues to look for allies, he continues to seek men and women capable of believing, remembering and recognizing that they are part of his people and cooperating with the Holy Spirit.” He seeks for “hearts capable of listening to his invitation and making it become flesh here and now” (Pope Francis, March 25, 2017). 

The young girl Mary shows all of us the only response to this God that will bring the world joy: “May it be done to me as you say. I am saying YES to your whole plan. I give you myself, here, now, and forever. I give myself to your plan for the world through me.” God’s plans are far more beautiful than any plan we could create for ourselves. 

In his sermon on December 6, 2019, Father Raniera Cantalamessa wrote: “The contemplation of Mary’s faith urges us to renew, above all, our personal act of faith and abandonment to God. That is why it is so vitally important to say to God, once in life, let it be done, fiat, as Mary did. This is an act enveloped in mystery because it involves grace and freedom at the same time; it is a form of conception. The soul cannot do it alone; God helps, therefore, without taking away freedom.”

In these final days of Advent let the joy that fills your heart, be the amazing realization that the Lord is with you! Whatever may be your sorrows or distress this Christmas season let the Virgin of the Annunciation, the Mother of the Lord, assure you again and again, “Rejoice, my child, the Lord is with you!”

Contact the author

Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn 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.

Feature Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Annunciazione,_Apollonio_di_Giovanni,_Museo_della_Collegiata,_Castiglione_Olona.jpg

Beautiful Feet: They Could Be Yours

In today’s First Reading St. Paul refers to a verse from the great prophet who accompanies us through every Advent: the prophet Isaiah (flourished 8th century B.C., Jerusalem): How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news….

The entire verse found in the book of Isaiah reads this way:

Therefore my people shall know my name
    on that day, that it is I who speaks: Here I am!
How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of the one bringing good news,
Announcing peace, bearing good news,
    announcing salvation, saying to Zion,
    “Your God is King!” (Isaiah 52:6-7)

Those beautiful feet that Isaiah envisions came running to me in a restaurant parking lot last week where our family was gathering for a final meal before we placed mom in memory care in a facility where we could visit her daily. I was walking alone. “Hey, sister, is school out today?” a woman called out cheerfully. I laughed and shared with her the sorrow that was in my heart. “That is so hard,” she responded. “I promise you my prayers. I always ask God to take my body before my mind.” Then she continued with a mischievous smile, “But I tell my kids, don’t be afraid to put me in a nursing home at the end. If I have my mind it will be my last chance to evangelize. If I don’t have my mind I won’t know anyway.” Then she surrounded me with a great hug before going on her way.

“Beautiful feet…”

In the last meeting we had with the administrator on the previous day, she had said to my dad, “You have cared for your wife with great love till now. We are here to help you now. But in the end, even though we think we are the ones caring for her, we are the ones responsible, it is really God who is caring for her. God who is responsible for her. We are all just helpers.”

“Beautiful feet…”

Those who bring us the good news have beautiful feet because they are partnering with God to bring joy and salvation to others. Those feet that are actively moving about represent the way the Gospel reaches us in surprising places, through unexpected people, in exactly the right moment to assure us of God’s presence and God’s protection and God’s tender love for us.

Therefore my people shall know my name
    on that day, that it is I who speaks: Here I am! (v. 6)

Today is the feast of St Andrew and we celebrate liturgically the calling of this great apostle who in his turn became the beautiful feet that announced the good news to any and all who would listen. 

You, too, can be the one who in beautiful ways brings the good news to someone else, in a parking lot, in a meeting, in a moment of confusion or sorrow or grief. 

At some times you will be the one who announces the news that God says through you, “Here I am!” At other times you will be the one who receives the message of God reaching out to you through someone else. God whispered quietly in my heart, “You know, Kathryn, I love your mom too.” I had to let her go and give her to God’s very capable hands and hide her in his heart. 

So I end with this Advent reminder: Every year Advent and Christmas is a relearning that God is saying HERE I AM! We have a month to receive this message into our very bones so that we can in the new year be the beautiful ones who carry this message to others throughout the coming year. Or maybe someone needs your beautiful feet to find them today.

Contact the author

Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn 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.

Feature Image Credit: Wil Bolaños, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/24775-corona-adviento