Lord Prepare Me / Prepárame Señor

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the crowd to prepare themselves for persecution in His name. He continues: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.”

Yes, we can indeed see that, especially with the political climate today. Anything good or moral or that follows God’s Commandments or Church teaching causes people to immediately disregard us as “crazy” or “nuts.” Yet we know that following Christ is neither crazy nor nutty. 

Before Communion at my parish, we sing a brief but beautiful song that simply says: “Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.”

I absolutely love this song because in just its few short words, it encompasses how we should feel as we prepare ourselves to receive Christ, who is truly present—body, blood, soul, and divinity—in the Eucharist.

Yes, we must prepare ourselves. We must repent of our sins. We must make changes in our lives to live in accordance with His laws. We must make a choice to follow Christ and not the world. As He said, the world will hate us. The world will mock us. But what truly matters is our eternal life, and if we follow Him—not halfheartedly and not just on Sundays—then our reward will be great in heaven.

So let us prepare ourselves to be a sanctuary for Him. Let us open our hearts to His love and to His mercy, and let us make room for Him. 

Advent begins this weekend. It is a time of preparation for the God who gave us everything we have. It’s a time to contemplate the vulnerable infant in the manger who came as a poor child rather than as a rich king. It’s a time to make room in our hearts for our Lord who died on the cross to apologize for our sins. We didn’t deserve any of this, yet He gave us this gift freely. How will we prepare? How will we thank Him?

We begin by preparing our hearts and homes for Him. We take time every day to shut out the outside world, to increase our prayer life, to spend time together as a family talking about our Lord’s birth, to stop stressing about food, gifts, and traveling, and to just allow Christ to enter our days. We give Him our time. 

Christ’s coming is the true meaning of Christmas. His coming is the greatest gift we could have ever asked for. This Advent season and this Christmas, let us treasure this gift.

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En el Evangelio de hoy, Jesús le dice a la multitud que se prepare para la persecución en Su nombre. Continúa: “todos los odiarán por causa mía. Sin embargo, ni un cabello de su cabeza perecerá”.

Sí, de hecho podemos ver eso, especialmente con el clima político actual. Cualquier cosa buena o moral o que siga los Mandamientos de Dios o las enseñanzas de la Iglesia hace que las personas nos ignoren inmediatamente como “locos”. Sin embargo, sabemos que seguir a Cristo no es una locura.

Antes de recibir la Comunión en mi parroquia, cantamos un canto breve pero hermoso que simplemente dice: “Señor, prepárame para ser un santuario, puro y santo, probado y verdadero. Con acción de gracias, seré un santuario vivo para Ti”.

Me encanta esta canción porque en sus pocas palabras cortas, abarca cómo debemos sentirnos mientras nos preparamos para recibir a Cristo, quien está realmente presente en cuerpo, sangre, alma y divinidad en la Eucaristía.

Sí, debemos prepararnos. Debemos arrepentirnos de nuestros pecados. Debemos hacer cambios en nuestra vida para vivir de acuerdo con Sus leyes. Debemos tomar la decisión de seguir a Cristo y no al mundo. Como Jesús dijo, el mundo nos odiará. El mundo se burlará de nosotros. Pero lo que verdaderamente importa es nuestra vida eterna, y si lo seguimos, no a medias y no solo los domingos, entonces nuestra recompensa será grande en el cielo.

Así que preparémonos para ser un santuario para Él. Abramos nuestro corazón a su amor y a su misericordia, y dejémosle espacio.
El Adviento comienza este fin de semana. Es una temporada de preparación para el Dios que nos dio todo lo que tenemos. Es una temporada para contemplar al infante vulnerable en el pesebre que vino como un niño pobre y no como un rey rico. Es una temporada para hacer espacio en nuestros corazones para nuestro Señor que murió en la cruz para disculparse por nuestros pecados. No merecíamos nada de esto, pero nos dio este regalo gratuitamente. ¿Cómo nos prepararemos? ¿Cómo le agradeceremos?

Comenzamos preparándole nuestros corazones y hogares. Tomamos tiempo todos los días para aislarnos del mundo exterior, para aumentar nuestra vida de oración, para pasar tiempo juntos como familia hablando sobre el nacimiento de nuestro Señor, para dejar de estresarnos por la comida, los regalos y los viajes, y simplemente permitir que Cristo entre en nuestro días. Le damos nuestro tiempo.

La venida de Cristo es el verdadero sentido de la Navidad. Su venida es el regalo más grande que podríamos haber pedido. Este tiempo de Adviento y esta Navidad, atesoremos este regalo.

Comunicarse con la autora

Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 19 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Thirteen of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the executive editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program—an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students. You can reach her at slochner0.wixsite.com/website.

Feature Image Credit: Danny Aliano Rosas, https://cathopic.com/photo/11294-sagrada-familia

Our Heavenly Reward / Nuestra Recompensa Celestial

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus gives us the Beatitudes. These are words we all know well. But given our political climate today and the persecution that many have faced because of their pro-life beliefs, there are a couple lines worth focusing on—lines that teach us to hope. 

Jesus tells the crowd: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Having the ability to stand up for our faith and what the Church teaches is called moral courage. And moral courage is something we desperately need today. We are not born with moral courage. We must learn it; then we must practice it in all that we do.

It takes a lot of courage to speak out when others denigrate our faith. It takes courage to immerse ourselves in Church teaching and live it openly and outwardly so that others see. This is why we must constantly look to others who have lived out their courage. There are so many who either died for their faith or who devoted their lives to teaching others. We would be counting all day if we could, but let’s just highlight a few. Saints Felicity and Perpetua died in an amphitheater when they wouldn’t renounce their faith. St. Stephen was stoned to death. St. Peter was crucified upside down. St. Lawrence was grilled to death. St. Dymphna was beheaded… Their stories serve as beautiful examples when we fear speaking up for our faith.  

Many people say they feel hopeless and overwhelmed by the evils of the secular world today. Our society has no regard for human beings. Women scream for abortion “rights.” Assisted suicide laws are becoming more prevalent. Murders and violent crimes are on the rise. Road rage incidents are increasing. Smash and grab incidents are forcing stores to close. Hatred fills the news. Politicians claiming to be Catholic blatantly repudiate Church teaching. There’s so much bad news out there.

But we cannot allow that bad news to keep us from speaking out. We must protect Christ and the Church. How do we do that? We practice every day. We fill our lives with examples of holy men and women. We join groups at church. We read books that help us learn. We vote according to our pro-life beliefs. We then model our lives after these holy people by acting on that faith, always putting God first in our lives.

These are the things that will make a difference. When we do these things, our reward will indeed be great in heaven.

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En la lectura del Evangelio de hoy, Jesús nos da las Bienaventuranzas. Estas son palabras que todos conocemos bien. Pero dado nuestro clima político actual y la persecución que muchos han enfrentado debido a sus creencias pro-vida, hay un par de líneas en las que vale la pena enfocarse, líneas que nos enseñan a tener esperanza.

Jesús le dice a la multitud: “Dichosos los perseguidos por causa de la justicia, porque de ellos es el Reino de los cielos. Dichosos serán ustedes, cuando los injurien, los persigan y digan cosas falsas de ustedes por causa mía. Alégrense y salten de contento, porque su premio será grande en los cielos”.

Tener la capacidad de defender nuestra fe y lo que enseña la Iglesia se llama valentía moral, y es algo que necesitamos desesperadamente hoy. No nacemos con valentía moral. Debemos aprenderlo y luego practicarlo en todo lo que hacemos.

Se necesita mucha valentía para hablar cuando otros denigran nuestra fe. Se necesita valentía para sumergirnos en la enseñanza de la Iglesia y vivirla abierta y exteriormente para que otros la vean. Es por eso que debemos mirar constantemente a otros que han vivido con valentía. Hay tantos que murieron por su fe o que dedicaron sus vidas a enseñar a otros. Estaríamos contando todo el día si pudiéramos, pero destaquemos solo algunos. Santas Felicidad y Perpetua murieron en un anfiteatro cuando no quisieron renunciar a su fe. San Esteban fue apedreado hasta la muerte. San Pedro fue crucificado boca abajo. St. Lorenzo fue asado a la parrilla hasta la muerte. St. Dymphna fue decapitada… Sus historias sirven como hermosos ejemplos cuando tememos que defender nuestra fe.

Muchas personas dicen que se sienten desesperanzadas y abrumadas por los males del mundo de hoy. Nuestra sociedad no tiene respeto por los seres humanos. Las mujeres gritan por los “derechos” al aborto. Las leyes de suicidio asistido son cada vez más frecuentes. Los asesinatos y los delitos violentos van en aumento. Los incidentes de ira al volante están aumentando. Los incidentes de aplastamiento y agarre están obligando a las tiendas a cerrar. El odio llena las noticias. Los políticos que se dicen católicos repudian descaradamente las enseñanzas de la Iglesia. Hay tantas malas noticias.

Pero no podemos permitir que las malas noticias nos impidan hablar. Debemos proteger a Cristo y a la Iglesia. ¿Como hacemos eso? Practicamos todos los días. Llenamos nuestras vidas con ejemplos de hombres y mujeres santos. Nos unimos a grupos en la iglesia. Leemos libros que nos ayudan a aprender. Votamos de acuerdo con nuestras creencias pro-vida. Luego modelamos nuestras vidas según estas personas santas al actuar en esa fe, siempre poniendo a Dios primero en nuestras vidas.

Estas son las cosas que instan cambios. Cuando hagamos estas cosas, nuestra recompensa ciertamente será grande en el cielo.

Comunicarse con la autora

Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 19 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Thirteen of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the executive editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program—an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students. You can reach her at slochner0.wixsite.com/website.

Feature Image Credit: Fernando Pérez Lara, cathopic.com/photo/9513-jesus-y-sus-discipulos

How Can We Bless Others with Our Riches? / ¿Como Podemos Bendecir a Otros con Nuestros Dones?y Hagan Discípulos

In Luke’s gospel today, we hear that Christ told the crowd of people listening to Him: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” He then told the parable of the rich man who stored up all of his possessions but who lacked the riches that matter to God.

Let us take some time today to reflect on both Christ’s words and His parable. And then let us examine our own lives to see any similarities between us and the rich man.

Do we put more emphasis on material possessions than on spiritual possessions? Do we work hard every day to amass more things or more savings without also working hard to amass spiritual savings? 

Further, do we share what we have? Certainly having savings is important for our well-being and for our families. But do we neglect to share some of what we have with others? 

Remember that what we do for others, we do for Christ. When we keep all of what we have for ourselves and refuse to share with others, we are refusing to share with Christ. When we don’t feed the hungry, we don’t feed Christ. When we treat people with disdain because they are poor, we treat Christ with disdain. 

Sins of omission include not doing things for others. We may think that because we follow the commandments and don’t steal, don’t hurt others, are faithful to our spouses, and go to Mass every week that we are doing what God commands. And while that is true, those things are only part of what He says we must do in order to spend eternal life with Him.

Living a truly good life is about more than not breaking the commandments. It’s about sharing our blessings with others.

So today, let us focus on what truly makes us rich as children of God. It is not our belongings but our actions. It is what we do for other people. 

We can have all the riches in the world, but if we don’t share them, we are spiritually poor. Most of us have at least some financial blessings we can share with others, but if we truly do not have money to share, that’s okay. God understands! We can share ourselves and our time. Riches can be so much more than financial. Reaching out to a lonely neighbor or relative can mean the world to a person who has no one else.

We all have riches to share. So as we enter the time of year when people are loneliest and when finances are especially thin, let us pray about how we can use our blessings to help others. Let us not be like the rich man and store them up or bury them. Let us use them to bless others in God’s name.

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En el evangelio de Lucas de hoy, escuchamos que Cristo le dijo a la multitud de personas que lo escuchaban: “Eviten toda clase de avaricia, porque la vida del hombre no depende de la abundancia de los bienes que posea”. Luego contó la parábola del hombre rico que acumuló todas sus posesiones pero que carecía de las riquezas que le importan a Dios.

Tomemos un tiempo hoy para reflexionar tanto en las palabras de Cristo como en su parábola. Y luego examinemos nuestras propias vidas para ver cualquier similitud entre nosotros y el hombre rico.

¿Ponemos más énfasis en las posesiones materiales que en las posesiones espirituales? ¿Trabajamos duro todos los días para acumular más cosas o más ahorros sin trabajar también duro para acumular ahorros espirituales?

Además, ¿compartimos lo que tenemos? Ciertamente tener ahorros es importante para nuestro bienestar y el de nuestras familias. Pero, ¿nos negamos a compartir algo de lo que tenemos con los demás?

Recuerda que lo que hacemos por los demás, lo hacemos por Cristo. Cuando guardamos todo lo que tenemos para nosotros y nos negamos a compartir con los demás, nos negamos a compartir con Cristo. Cuando no alimentamos al hambriento, no alimentamos a Cristo. Cuando tratamos a las personas con desdén porque son pobres, tratamos a Cristo con desdén.

Los pecados de omisión incluyen no hacer cosas por los demás. Podemos pensar que porque seguimos los mandamientos y no robamos, no lastimamos a otros, somos fieles a nuestros cónyuges y vamos a misa todas las semanas que estamos haciendo lo que Dios manda. Y si bien eso es cierto, esas cosas son solo una parte de lo que Él dice que debemos hacer para pasar la vida eterna con Él.

Vivir una vida verdaderamente buena es más que no quebrantar los mandamientos. Se trata de compartir nuestras bendiciones con los demás.

Así que hoy, enfoquémonos en lo que verdaderamente nos hace ricos como hijos de Dios. No son nuestras pertenencias sino nuestras acciones. Es lo que hacemos por otras personas.

Podemos tener todas las riquezas del mundo, pero si no las compartimos, somos espiritualmente pobres. La mayoría de nosotros tenemos al menos algunas bendiciones financieras que podemos compartir con los demás, pero si realmente no tenemos dinero para compartir, está bien. ¡Dios entiende! Podemos compartirnos a nosotros mismos y nuestro tiempo. Las riquezas pueden ser mucho más que financieras. Llegar a un vecino o pariente solitario puede significar el mundo para una persona que no tiene a nadie más.

Todos tenemos riquezas para compartir. Entonces, al entrar en la época del año en que las personas están más solas y cuando las finanzas son especialmente escasas, oremos acerca de cómo podemos usar nuestras bendiciones para ayudar a los demás. No seamos como el hombre rico y los almacenemos o los enterremos sino usémoslos para bendecir a otros en el nombre de Dios.

Comunicarse con la autora

Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 19 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Thirteen of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the executive editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program—an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students. You can reach her at slochner0.wixsite.com/website.

Feature Image Credit: Moisés Becerra, cathopic.com/photo/5453-franciscanos

Go Out and Make Disciples / Andan y Hagan Discípulos

In today’s gospel, we are offered just a brief image of Christ and His travels. Luke simply tells us that Christ was traveling with His Apostles and with some women, one of whom was Mary Magdalene, “from whom seven demons had gone out.”

Some people—especially at that time—may think that Mary Magdalene was a strange companion for Christ, but we know that she’s a beautiful example of how Christ can change a person and work miracles.

So as we ponder this relationship, let us look at the people around us. Do we have any Mary Magdalenes in our lives—people who may seem unclean or who may be traveling down a sinful path? It’s likely that we do.

As we think about this person, our job first and foremost is to pray, for there is indeed power in prayer. But then let us also examine how we treat that person. Do we, as they say, “go along to get along” and just let the person remain on his sinful path without attempting to divert them? Or do we embrace the person out of love because he is Christ’s beloved child and work to let the light of Christ shine through us?

Lately, I have heard people point out the fact that Christ associated with sinners, and that is true. But they seem to want to use this fact as some sort of “proof” that He isn’t offended by sin and that people can do what they want as long as they don’t hurt anyone else. As faithful Catholics, we know this is not true. Christ didn’t associate with sinners because He wanted them to think their actions were acceptable or moral. He associated with them because He wanted to teach them. He wanted to change them. And there’s no better way to do that than to spend time with them. Christ did not accept their sins; He taught the truth in charity and in love. 

That is what we should all be doing. 

I recently read the story of Donnie Calloway. Donnie was a very troubled teen who used drugs, ran away, and spent time in jail. Though his mother prayed every day for him, she was beside herself. Donnie had absolutely no interest in God—until the night he read a book on the apparitions of the Blessed Mother. He said that something compelled him to pick up the book one night, and from that night on his life was forever changed. He converted to Catholicism and is now Fr. Donnie—a priest with the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. 

This is but one example of the fact that prayer works and our example matters. 

How we treat others can either lead them closer to God or further away. So let us never feel afraid to talk about our faith or to teach it to others, for indeed it is our job to “make disciples of all nations.”

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En el evangelio de hoy, se nos ofrece solo una breve imagen de Cristo y sus viajes. Lucas simplemente nos dice que Cristo viajaba con Sus Apóstoles y con algunas mujeres, una de las cuales era María Magdalena, “de la que habían salido siete demonios”.

Algunas personas, especialmente en ese momento, pueden pensar que María Magdalena fue una extraña compañera para Cristo, pero sabemos que ella es un hermoso ejemplo de cómo Cristo puede cambiar a una persona y obrar milagros.

Mientras reflexionamos sobre esta relación, miremos a las personas que nos rodean. ¿Tenemos alguna María Magdalena en nuestras vidas, personas que pueden parecer inmundas o que pueden estar viajando por un camino pecaminoso? Es probable que sí.

Al pensar en esta persona, nuestro trabajo ante todo es orar, porque ciertamente hay poder en la oración. Pero luego examinemos también cómo tratamos a esa persona. ¿Nosotros, como dicen, “vamos para llevarnos bien” y simplemente dejamos que la persona permanezca en su camino pecaminoso sin intentar desviarlos? ¿O abrazamos a la persona por amor porque es hijo amado de Cristo y trabajamos para que la luz de Cristo brille a través de nosotros?

Últimamente, he escuchado a personas señalar el hecho de que Cristo se asoció con los pecadores, y eso es cierto. Pero parecen querer usar este hecho como una especie de “prueba” de que Él no se ofende por el pecado y que las personas pueden hacer lo que quieran siempre y cuando no lastimen a nadie. Como fieles católicos, sabemos que esto no es cierto. Cristo no se asoció con los pecadores porque quería que pensaran que sus acciones eran aceptables o morales. Se asoció con ellos porque quería enseñarles. Quería cambiarlos. Y no hay mejor manera de hacerlo que pasar tiempo con ellos. Cristo no aceptó sus pecados; Enseñó la verdad en la caridad y en el amor.

Eso es lo que todo deberíamos estar haciendo también.

Hace poco leí la historia de Donnie Calloway. Donnie era un adolescente muy problemático que consumía drogas, se escapaba y pasaba un tiempo en la cárcel. Aunque su madre rezaba todos los días por él, estaba fuera de sí. Donnie no tenía absolutamente ningún interés en Dios, hasta la noche que leyó un libro sobre las apariciones de nuestra Santísima Madre. Dijo que algo lo obligó a agarrar el libro una noche, y desde esa noche su vida cambió para siempre. Se convirtió al catolicismo y ahora es el P. Donnie: sacerdote de los Padres Marianos de la Inmaculada Concepción.

Este es solo un ejemplo del hecho de que la oración funciona y nuestro ejemplo importa.

La forma en que tratamos a los demás puede acercarlos a Dios o alejarlos. Así que nunca tengamos miedo de hablar de nuestra fe o de enseñarla a otros, porque de hecho es nuestro trabajo “hacer discípulos de todas las naciones”.

Comunicarse con la autora

Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 19 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Thirteen of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the executive editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program—an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students. You can reach her at slochner0.wixsite.com/website.

Feature Image Credit: Fernando Pérez Lara, www.cathopic.com/photo/17768-jesus-sus-discipulos

Christ Commands Obedience / Jesucristo Exije la Obediencia

In today’s Gospel, Luke retells the story of Jesus driving a demon out of a man. Before the demon lets go and leaves the man, he says to Christ, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus commands him to be quiet and to come out. The demon then leaves the man, and all of the onlookers are amazed that Christ could make the demon obey. 

The scene must have been both scary and amazing. Imagine witnessing a demon do as Christ commands. God’s words are so powerful that even a demon had to obey.

As we think about this obedience, let us reflect upon our own lives. Do we obey God? Do we do as He commands? Or do we prefer the commands of the world or our own desires to God’s?

It is extremely easy to get wrapped up in a life that takes us far from God’s words. We allow the false idols of society to take His place and to overshadow His voice. We allow vices to prevail. We permit things to interfere with the time we should be spending in God’s house or listening to His words. These are our demons. These are the things that make it so that we cannot even hear God’s voice.

But God persists. He wants us to be free of our demons just as He wanted the actual demon to leave the man. He keeps calling. He keeps commanding. 

And why does He do this?

He does this because He loves us. We belong to Him. Just as the demon possessed the man and rendered him unable to live a holy life, our demons possess us. Our demons create a rift between us and God. They keep us from growing closer to Him. 

But we can make changes in our lives that will lead us to God instead of away from Him.

How do we do that? We begin with prayer and confession. We prayerfully examine our lives, our actions, and all of the things that interfere with our relationship with God. And then we tell God that we are sorry for our sins. We go to confession and apologize. We thank Him for the grace to pick ourselves up again. We promise obedience. 

We do this because we know, just as the demon knew, that Christ is “the Holy One of God.”

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En el Evangelio de hoy, Lucas vuelve a contar la historia de Jesús expulsando a un demonio de un hombre. Antes de que el demonio suelte y abandone al hombre, le dice a Cristo: “Sé que tú eres el Santo de Dios”. Jesús le ordena que se calle y que salga. El demonio luego deja al hombre, y todos los espectadores se asombran de que Cristo pudiera hacer que el demonio obedezca.

La escena debe haber sido tanto aterradora como asombrosa. Imagínese ver a un demonio hacer lo que Cristo ordena. Las palabras de Dios son tan poderosas que incluso un demonio tuvo que obedecer.

Mientras pensamos en esta obediencia, reflexionemos sobre nuestras propias vidas. ¿Obedecemos a Dios? ¿Hacemos lo que Él manda? ¿O preferimos los mandatos del mundo o nuestros propios deseos a los de Dios?

Es extremadamente fácil quedar envuelto en una vida que nos aleja de las palabras de Dios. Permitimos que los falsos ídolos de la sociedad tomen Su lugar y eclipsen Su voz. Permitimos que los vicios prevalezcan. Permitimos que las cosas interfieran con el tiempo que deberíamos pasar en la casa de Dios o escuchando Sus palabras. Estos son nuestros demonios. Estas son las cosas que hacen que ni siquiera podamos escuchar la voz de Dios.

Pero Dios persiste. Él quiere que seamos libres de nuestros demonios tal como Él quería que el demonio real dejara al hombre. Él sigue llamando. Él sigue al mando.

¿Y por qué hace esto?

Él hace esto porque nos ama. Pertenecemos a Él. Así como el demonio poseyó al hombre y lo hizo incapaz de vivir una vida santa, nuestros demonios nos poseen. Nuestros demonios crean una brecha entre nosotros y Dios. Nos impiden acercarnos más a Él.
Pero podemos hacer cambios en nuestras vidas que nos lleven a Dios en lugar de alejarnos de Él.

¿Como hacemos eso? Comenzamos con la oración y la confesión. En oración examinamos nuestras vidas, nuestras acciones y todas las cosas que interfieren con nuestra relación con Dios. Y luego le decimos a Dios que nos arrepentimos de nuestros pecados. Vamos a confesarnos y disculparnos. Le damos gracias por la gracia de levantarnos de nuevo. Prometemos obediencia.

Hacemos esto porque sabemos, tal como lo sabía el demonio, que Cristo es “el Santo de Dios”.

Comunicarse con la autora

Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 19 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Thirteen of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the executive editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program—an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students. You can reach her at slochner0.wixsite.com/website.

Feature Image Credit: Angie Menes, www.cathopic.com/photo/20657-yo-te-absuelvo-tus-pecados

Reform Your Ways and Deeds / Corrijan su Conducta y sus Obras

In today’s First Reading, we hear Jeremiah tell the people: “Reform your ways and your deeds; listen to the voice of the Lord your God.”

If we take time to reflect on Jeremiah’s words, we will see the importance of applying them to our lives, for we must realize that he doesn’t just mean to stop sinning. Of course, we must always strive not to sin. That’s an integral part of our faith. But living a faith-filled life is much more than that. 

So often we find it easy to not break the commandments. As we prepare for confession and perform an examination of conscience, we may feel buoyed by the fact that we have not missed Mass, said God’s name in vain, hurt another person, or stolen anything. And, yes, those are vital.

But what Jeremiah meant when he said to reform our ways and deeds was to do something that will make a difference for others. We must take action and do good works. We must put others and their needs first. In short, we must learn to perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy regularly.

What are these works of mercy? The Corporal Works of Mercy instruct us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit prisoners and those who are sick, bury the dead, and give alms to the poor. The Spiritual Works of Mercy teach us to pray for the living and the dead, to counsel and comfort others, to forgive, to admonish the sinner, and to teach the faith.

All of these things take time, effort, and love, and if we are to live as God commands and as Jeremiah instructed, then we must incorporate some of these into our lives.

There are countless ways to help the vulnerable and those in need. Increasing our prayer life is a good start, especially if we aren’t sure what God wants us to do. Of course, we cannot perform all of these works of mercy all the time, but we can do many of them frequently. So pray for God’s guidance. Ask Him where He wants you to start. 

Maybe He wants you to donate time to your parish. Maybe He is calling you to volunteer at a pregnancy resource center. Maybe He is spurring you on to clean your closets and donate gently used items to a homeless shelter or to serve food at one. Maybe He is calling you to become a foster parent or adopt. Maybe He sends you to the grocery store at the exact time a needy person has found he doesn’t have enough money for groceries. Or maybe He wants you to visit the forgotten elderly in a nursing home. 

All of these are tangible ways to help others and to follow the words of Jeremiah. Yes, we must reform our deeds if we want to spend eternity with God. What will you do?

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En la Primera Lectura de hoy, escuchamos a Jeremías decir al pueblo: “Corrijan su conducta y sus obras; escucha la voz del Señor tu Dios”.

Si nos tomamos un tiempo para reflexionar sobre las palabras de Jeremías, veremos la importancia de aplicarlas a nuestra vida, pues debemos darnos cuenta de que él no solo quiere decir dejar de pecar. Por supuesto, siempre debemos esforzarnos por no pecar. Esa es una parte integral de nuestra fe. Pero vivir una vida llena de fe es mucho más que eso.

Muy a menudo nos resulta fácil no romper los mandamientos. Mientras nos preparamos para la confesión y realizamos un examen de conciencia, podemos sentirnos animados por el hecho de que no hemos faltado a Misa, dicho el nombre de Dios en vano, herido a otra persona o robado algo. Y, sí, esos son esenciales.

Pero lo que Jeremías quiso decir cuando dijo que corrijiéramos nuestra conducta y obras era hacer algo que hace una diferencia para los demás. Debemos actuar y hacer buenas obras. Debemos poner a los demás y sus necesidades primero. En definitiva, debemos aprender a realizar las Obras de Misericordia Corporales y Espirituales con regularidad.

¿Cuáles son estas obras de misericordia? Las Obras de Misericordia Corporales nos instruyen a dar de comer al hambriento, dar de beber al sediento, acobijar a los desamparados, visitar a los presos y enfermos, enterrar a los muertos y dar limosna a los pobres. Las Obras de Misericordia Espirituales nos enseñan a orar por los vivos y los muertos, a aconsejar y consolar a otros, a perdonar, a amonestar al pecador y a enseñar la fe.

Todas estas cosas toman tiempo, esfuerzo y amor, y si vamos a vivir como Dios manda y como Jeremías instruyó, entonces debemos incorporar algunas de estas cosas en nuestras vidas.

Hay innumerables maneras de ayudar a los vulnerables y los necesitados. Aumentar nuestra vida de oración es un buen comienzo, especialmente si no estamos seguros de lo que Dios quiere que hagamos. Por supuesto, no podemos realizar todas estas obras de misericordia todo el tiempo, pero podemos hacer muchas de ellas con frecuencia. Así que pide a Dios que te guíe. Pregúntale por dónde quiere que empieces.

Tal vez Él quiera que dones tiempo a tu parroquia. Tal vez te está llamando para ser voluntaria en un centro de recursos para el embarazo. Tal vez te esté animando a limpiar sus armarios y donar artículos usados ​​en buen estado a un refugio para personas sin hogar o para servir comida. Tal vez te está llamando a convertirte en padre de crianza o adoptar. Tal vez te envía a la tienda a comprar justo en el momento que una persona necesitada descubrió que no tiene suficiente dinero para comprar alimentos. O tal vez quiere que visites a los ancianos olvidados en un asilo de ancianos.

Todas estas son formas tangibles de ayudar a los demás y de seguir las palabras de Jeremías. Sí, debemos reformar nuestras obras si queremos pasar la eternidad con Dios. ¿Qué vas a hacer?

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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 19 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Thirteen of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the executive editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program—an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students. You can reach her at slochner0.wixsite.com/website.

Feature Image Credit: Sor Cata, FMA, www.cathopic.com/photo/25701-hermanas

Our Father, Who Art in Heaven

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus teaches the Apostles to pray the Our Father. If we reflect on this beautiful prayer, we cannot help but get a glimpse of God’s love for us.

So today, I want to just focus on three sections of the Our Father. 

The first is “thy will by done.”

How often do we fall into the trap of doing our own will or doing the will of something or someone of this world? We often forget that we were created to know, love, and serve God, and it is to Him we must look for guidance. Our faith teaches us that we must not put anything before God, and while we say that of course we don’t have false idols, we have to remember that false idols come in many forms. They are computer screens, TVs, phones, money, material possessions, even other people. If we are constantly doing our will or listening only to our own words, how will we ever hear God’s? Then how will we do His will? Only when we open ourselves to Him, only when we listen for His voice, and only when we sit quietly will we grow closer to Him and know what He desires for us.

The second is “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Have you ever stopped to think about what this really means? We are telling God that we expect Him to forgive us in the manner in which we have forgiven others. That makes you think, doesn’t it? So often we hold grudges, we become bitter, or we flat-out refuse to forgive someone who has wronged us. But this isn’t the way God wants us to live our lives. If we live like this, we are closing ourselves to His joy and to His love. We are filling ourselves up with anger and resentment when we could be filling ourselves up with His mercy and love. Forgiveness isn’t easy, and God understands that. But we have to at least try. So, today, if you are having difficulty forgiving someone, go to God in prayer and ask for His help. Ask Him to teach you the mercy that He shows when you present yourself in the confessional.

And finally, let us think about the words “lead us not into temptation.” 

Temptations abound in our secular world. Sometimes it seems that we are bombarded on all fronts. It could be something as simple as an overindulgence in sweets—a temptation that harms our bodies in a small way. It could be the temptation to sleep in and miss Mass. Or it could be the temptation to a more serious vice. We know our hearts, and we can be assured that God knows them too. Today, let us think about the things in life that tempt us, and let us work to let them go.

And let us take time today to pray this prayer, to reflect on God’s words, and to open our hearts to the Lord who loves us so much that we cannot even fathom it.

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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 19 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Thirteen of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the executive editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program—an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students. You can reach her at slochner0.wixsite.com/website.

Feature Image Credit: Rita Laura, www.cathopic.com/photo/6743-rosario-se-encuentra-misericordia

Whoever Follows God’s Commands Loves Him

In today’s Gospel, Jesus told His disciples: “Whoever has My commandments and observes them is the one who loves Me. Whoever loves Me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” 

This is so very true! If we love God, we will follow His commandments—without hesitation and without complaint. For without God, we have nothing. And we can do nothing.

Yes, we may be able to be happy for a short period. We may have good fortune. Things may go well for a time. But if we don’t have God, if we don’t love Him, if we don’t follow His commands, we ultimately have nothing.

The goal of our lives is to spend eternity with God. Everything we do on earth should lead us down that path. If not, we are doing something wrong. It may feel right for a short time, but it will not actually be right.

He is the vine, and we are the branches. We grow through His goodness. And we must then take that goodness and allow it to bear fruit in our own lives as we spread His word. In other words, in all that we do, we must use the blessings He has given us to bring others to Him.

How do we do that? According to the Church, there are 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit. These are the “observable behaviors of people who have allowed the grace of the Holy Spirit to be effective in them.” These include charity, generosity, joy, gentleness, peace, faithfulness, patience, modesty, kindness, self-control, goodness, and chastity.

These characteristics are the fruits of a life rooted in Christ and that grow from His love and goodness. We just need to allow them to flow from us. 

All of these fruits are important, of course, but I think right now the most important are peace, charity, and faithfulness, for when we live a life filled with those three tenets, the others will naturally flow.

So let us think of the things we can do in our daily lives to produce these fruits in our families, in our communities, and at work. Let us spend today thinking about our actions and remember this: Before we act, let us ask ourselves whether these actions demonstrate that we are following God’s commandments. Let us also ask ourselves if God would be proud of the action we’re about to take. If not, that should tell us something.

When we live a life rooted in following God’s laws and commands, we will not only grow in holiness, but we will help others grow as well. And that is what God wants of us.

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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 19 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Thirteen of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the executive editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program—an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students. You can reach her at slochner0.wixsite.com/website.

Feature Image Credit: Susana Saldivar B, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/15952-welcome-home-my-daughter

Obey God’s Laws, Not Man’s

In today’s First Reading, we see Peter and the Apostle’s response when they are brought before the Sanhedrin, who had warned them to stop teaching in Jesus’ name. They said: “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had Him killed by hanging Him on a tree.”

The sad events of Good Friday are still fresh in our minds, but we know that Christ triumphed on Easter Sunday. He allowed Himself to be tortured, beaten, bloodied, and killed to save us. And then He rose from the dead to prove that He is God.

It is our job as His children to live our lives in such a way that we thank Him every day for this sacrifice. How do we do that? We follow His laws, not man’s laws. 

As we look around the world today, we see that many in government have strayed far from God’s laws and have attempted to create laws and a society that not only deny the humanity of some people but that go directly against the very commands given to us by God. Chief among them is the 5th Commandment that teaches that we must not kill our fellow human beings.

Yet every day we see people doing the exact opposite. Indeed, we see people screaming for the right to do so. Chief among these desires are the “rights” to kill babies before they are born and the “rights” to take a human being’s life if that person is sick or nearing death. 

The first is referred to a woman’s “right,” while the second is called “death with dignity.”

But make no mistake: A woman never has the right to take the life of a baby growing inside her body. From the time that baby is first created, he is a unique human being. He is not part of her body. 

And regardless of a person’s ability or whether he is nearing the end of his life, he does not lose dignity. Dignity is given to us by God. It does not dimmish, and it can never be taken away. 

We all have the right to life, and as children of God, we must work every day to protect that right to life in our fellow human beings. We must speak and teach about that right to life, and we must vote for the people who will uphold that right to life. 

That is what Peter and the other Apostles meant when they said that we must obey God rather than man.

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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.

Feature Image Credit: amorsanto, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/8953-devocion

Christ Is Truly Present

Today is Palm Sunday. In the Gospel, we read about the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. At the table, Christ took the bread, raised it, and said to His Apostles: “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And then He took the cup, saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.”

This was not the only time Christ said something like this to His followers. In the Gospel of John, He told them: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

As Catholics, we believe in transubstantiation—that through the priest, God really does send a miracle at every Mass. The bread and wine become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.

Christ did not say that He wanted the bread and wine to just be mere symbols of Him. He told us that they are His body and blood. He told us that He is the living bread. In fact, His birth in Bethlehem foreshadowed this, as the name Bethlehem literally means house of bread.

It is an awesome privilege and blessing that we, as Catholics, can receive Him every single day—if we are free of mortal sin.

Yet, a 2019 Pew Research survey tells us that just one-third of Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ. Why is this? It’s because they have not been properly catechized.

So what are we to do? First, we understand and believe. Second, we teach—our children, our families, our friends, and our fellow parishioners. We must all take it upon ourselves to speak up and defend Christ in the Eucharist.

Christ gives Himself to us to nourish and renew us, but we must be worthy of this wonderful gift. How do we make ourselves worthy? We must be free of all mortal sin. This isn’t a suggestion. This is part of our Catechism, which teaches: “Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive Communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.”  

Anyone who has committed a mortal sin and who has not sought forgiveness in the confessional should not present himself for Communion until he has been to confession. This is so because God has given us the most phenomenal gift imaginable—Himself. 

So, today, as we think about that Last Supper and Christ’s sacrifice, let us not only thank Him for that sacrifice but for the gift of Himself in the Eucharist at every Mass. 

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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.

Feature Image Credit: emiliogb, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/17727-jesus-doble-entrega

Do You Want to Be Well?

In today’s Gospel reading, we see Jesus heal a man who had been sick for 38 years. To the man, Jesus asked, “Do you want to be well?” And when the man answered in the affirmative, Jesus told him to pick up his mat and walk.

We often wish everything could be that easy for us when we pray. We want Christ to give us that yes, to tell us that we will be healed, that our ailments will go away, or that our prayers will be answered. But sometimes that just isn’t the case. 

Sometimes we hear a no from God—and no is a difficult word to hear, especially when it’s the answer to a prayer we so desperately desire. That no can be heartbreaking. It can be devastating. That no can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. It may even lead to the person wondering if God cares about him. How many times have you heard people say that God didn’t answer their prayers so He must not exist? They mistakenly believe that He didn’t answer them, when in fact He just said no. Because of this, they begin to lose faith.

Instead of becoming firmer in their resolve, instead of trying to determine the reason for the no, and instead of trusting in God’s goodness, many people dismiss Him. They feel rejected by Him, so they reject Him.

But when God does say no, we must have hope that He is following that up with “Trust Me. I have something even better planned.” This trust leads us to understand that, no matter what, He is also telling us, “Do not worry; I am right here with you through this. I’ve got you, and I will never let go.”

We may never understand why God has said no to the things we pray for, especially if—in our eyes—those desperate prayers are for good and holy things. So we pray more, we talk to God, we ask for understanding and guidance, and we allow His will to be done. We ask for His protection against a world that wants us to believe that He doesn’t exist and against people who chip away at our faith telling us that “a good God wouldn’t allow bad things to happen to good people.”

We ask for the fortitude to understand the difference between God’s perfect will and God’s permissive will. We ask to feel at peace with His decision, knowing that someday we will find clarity.

And we ask for help in understanding that God will make us well, just as He did with the man who had been sick for 38 years; it may just not be in the time or the way that we had hoped or thought. 

But rest assured, when we follow God’s laws, remain faithful to Him, and put our trust in Him, He will make us well. 

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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.

Feature Image Credit: amorsanto, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/3759-charla-con-dios

Be Opened!

In today’s Gospel, Mark tells the story of Jesus healing the man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. Jesus put His fingers in the man’s ear, put spit on his tongue, and looked up to heaven saying: “Be opened.” The man could then hear and speak without the impediment.

Metaphorically, we are a lot like the man who could not hear and didn’t speak well. When it comes to the word of God and teaching others about God, we often have difficulty listening and speaking.

God only asks for one hour a week, but we know that we cannot build a relationship with Him in just 1/168 of the week. Imagine telling your children or your significant other that you want to just spend one hour each week with them. I suspect they would feel cast aside or unimportant. Now stand in front of a crucifix, look at Christ, and tell Him He only deserves one hour a week. It hurts to do that, doesn’t it?

If we really want to get to know God better, we must talk to Him and learn about Him every day.

We can make it easy to include Him in our daily lives, but it does take a little effort to find the way that suits our life the best. Additionally, it takes some determination to put away the phones, to shut out the outside world, and to really reflect on those two words we want to hear from Christ: “Be opened!”

So take some time today to decide how you want to start improving your relationship with Christ. Do you like to read about Him? Do you want someone to read to you or talk to you about Him—like in a podcast? Do you want to watch videos? Do you want to just spend quiet time in prayer? Do you want to do something different every day?

There’s so much we can do to praise God, to acknowledge His presence, and then to welcome Him into our daily lives. 

With Lent fast approaching, we may have already thought about how we will prepare, but let us not wait until then to transform our spiritual life. Let us make a life change that will last way beyond Lent. 

From this point on, give God 20 minutes of your day. Open your heart, open your mind, and open your life to Him. And rejoice that He is calling you and saying: “Be opened!”

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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.

Feature Image Credit: Angelo Senchuke, LC, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/11583-alabado-sea-mi-creador