Now Is The Acceptable Time

[Beginning today, Diocesan Publications offers daily Lenten reflections from a variety of guest bloggers. To receive these in your mailbox, please fill out the “Subscribe” box below the post. May you have a blessed Lent! – Editor]


“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.” These words from the prophet Joel in today’s first reading stood out during my morning meditation, more specifically, the word, ‘heart.’

Clearly, the Lord wants us to surrender our “whole heart” to bring about radical conversion during our Lenten journey. Conversion happens individually, in community, and through the Sacraments. On Ash Wednesday “we assemble the elders and gather the children and infants.”  With hungry hearts we come together and acknowledge our sinfulness, “a clean heart create for me, O God and a steadfast spirit renew within me.”

Renewal, reconciliation and gratitude are essential elements in our relationship with Jesus and one another. As we sit with gratitude at the feet of the Master, His peace “will guard our hearts and minds” from the chaos of the world around us. At times, that chaos is even inside of us, yet our Father is always near calling to us, “harden not your heart.” During Lent, we are once again invited to go deeper into the silence of our hearts.

St. John of the Cross once said, “The Father spoke one Word, which was His Son, and this Word He always speaks in eternal silence and in silence it must be heard by the soul.” (Maxims on Love, in Collected Works) It takes great courage to enter into silence and ask the Holy Spirit to shine His light on the darkness in our heart; the darkness where temptation, brokenness and selfish desires reside.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you,” says the Lord. So, we take one moment at a time, for this moment is all we really have. Our Lady will help undo the knots that bind us and lead us to deeper freedom through her Son Jesus.  

In today’s gospel, Christ shows us the way. “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”  

He repays with mercy that allows us moments of rejoicing, even as painful renewal may be stretching us to our human limits. His strength brings forth beautiful graces. For me, this has happened while kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament preparing for the Sacrament of Confession. The Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see how my sinful behavior had caused friction in a family relationship. With great love, my Father revealed this to me, so healing could begin. When we take the time to humble ourselves and listen, God is there not with condemnation, but love to celebrate each step, understanding that change takes time and requires patience – with Him and with ourselves.

We are a new creation in Christ, not defined by our sin, but by His love. Will we step outside our comfort zone to share our testimony so that others, too, may turn their hearts to Jesus and be set free?

Today and throughout this Lenten season, each one of us is being called to “Trust in Jesus even more,” as the late Father George Kosicki, CSB, wrote on a 3×5 note card for me years ago, on a spiritual retreat. Our Father stands daily at the door of our hearts, inviting us to enter into a deeper relationship with Him through Jesus’ Divine Mercy.

Now more than ever, the world needs Christ’s love within us. The Church gives us this special season to bring us back into right relationship with Him so we can go out to serve one another. “For he says: ‘In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you. Now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Lent is the time for our hearts to be made clean so that we can freely meet Jesus and others with greater love and less judgement. May we unite together in the Heart of Jesus, with renewed spirit and be ready for radical transformation on the journey ahead.


Amy Oatley is a wife, mother, and Secular Franciscan (OFS), passionate about social justice, advocating for the dignity of every human life. She encounters Christ through Prison and Jail Ministry in the Diocese of Grand Rapids and as a Sidewalk Advocate for Life. A journalist for the past thirty years, she is currently a freelance writer for FAITH Magazine and works at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish. Her home parish is Our Lady of Consolation in Rockford, Michigan.

make disciples

Go And Make Disciples

When we hear the words, “Go and make disciples,” it’s easy to think that Jesus is talking to someone else. After all, isn’t this what He told his Apostles? He wasn’t really talking to me, was He?

It’s easy to think that. But it’s wrong. Each of us, baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is called to “go and make disciples.” This theme was chosen by the USCCB (United States’ Conference of Catholic Bishops) for the evangelization plan for the United States.

The  church, the people of God, has always been called to be an evangelizing church  sent by Jesus as he returned to the Father to: “Go and make disciples of  all nations…” There have been successes and failures in fulfilling this  commission of Jesus. The Second Vatican Council in our time gave a significant  thrust to this essential mission of the church.

What does it mean to evangelize? Are we meant to stand on a soapbox and preach? Should we sit our neighbors down and outline the Gospel for them? The US Bishops say,

Evangelization, then, has both an inward and an outward direction. Inwardly it calls for our continued receiving of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our ongoing conversion both individually and as Church. It nurtures us, makes us grow, and renews us in holiness as God’s people. Outwardly evangelization addresses those who have not heard the Gospel or who, having heard it, have stopped practicing their faith, and those who seek the fullness of faith. It calls us to work for full communion among all who confess Jesus but do not yet realize the unity for which Christ prayed. Pope John Paul Il, in his encyclical on missionary activity, summed up the three objectives of mission: to proclaim the Gospel to all people; to help bring about the reconversion of those who have received the Gospel but live it only nominally; and to deepen the Gospel in the lives of believers.

The first step, then, in evangelization is to make sure our own house (so to speak) is in order. We must seek holiness for ourselves, as we cannot give what we do not have. Then, we can reach out to others in faith. There are those who say, “Your life may be the only ‘Bible’ someone ever reads.” This means our actions, words and our contact with others should always be a demonstration of our life for Christ and for others. However, we cannot leave it simply at that. We are meant to proclaim Christ and Him crucified. We are meant to share the Good News: that Christ has lived, died and been risen for our sins, and that death no longer has a hold on us. The freedom of Christ is meant for all, not a chosen few.

As we continue to prepare for the Lenten season, let us be aware of the fact that Christ has called us to go and make disciples. He desires that all people know Him and the freedom from sin He offers. If we truly believe in this Good News, we cannot keep it to ourselves. With the US Bishops that,

We pray that our Catholic people will be set ablaze with a desire to live their faith fully and share it freely with others. May their eagerness to share the faith bring a transformation to our nation and, with missionary dedication, even to the whole world. We ask God to open the heart of every Catholic, to see the need for the Gospel in each life, in our nation and on our planet.

Together, let us go and make disciples, with joy!


Are You Strangling Yourself With Worry?

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

The Gospel for the 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time has Jesus being practical: Why are you worried? God is in control. Your faith should be in Him alone, and that should give you peace of mind.

We know how hard this is. If you’re a parent, you know that, from the moment you become a parent, you view the world as an incredibly dangerous place. Everything becomes a potential hazard: Lock up all the sharp knives! Make sure the car seat is properly installed! And it seems to get worse as your child gets older: Driving?? Who thought teens driving was a good idea?!

Maybe you are constantly worried about money, or lack thereof. Perhaps the political climate has you on edge. Or are you worried about your job? Our lives seem to become a constant battleground of worry and faith, of anxiety and peace.

The word “worry” has its roots in the Old English meaning, “to strangle.” This seems accurate: we want the control of taking our worries by the throat, so to speak, but they always seem to get the better of us, and we end up getting strangled! And this turnabout is one that leads to spiritual death: our constant worrying becomes an obsession, forcing out faith and replacing it with fear.

Christ does not want us to live a life of fear. He wants us to have lives rooted in faith, hope and love. Fear destroys this, if we let it. It’s easy to disregard this Gospel passage as sort of a “self-help” Christian advice column, but that is far too simplistic. Christ’s Good News is that the very worst that this world has to offer (sin and death) no longer have a hold on us. They can no longer strangle us, if you will. Christ drives out all fear, all death, all hopelessness. Instead, He brings us hope. He brings us peace of mind. He brings us eternal life.


5 Easy Ways To Plan For A Holy Lent

Lent? Is it Lent already?? [Runs and checks calendar.]

No, it’s not quite Lent yet. But notice that word “holy” in the title of today’s blog post. Lent will be here whether we prepare or not. If you desire a holy Lent, however, a little planning is essential. Let’s get going!

  1. Find a prayer partner. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Mt. 18:20) Not only is it good to pray with another, it can help us stay on the right path, holding us accountable. If you’d like to have a good and holy Lent, one way to do that is to find a friend or family member to be a prayer partner. Get together now, before Lent even begins, and work out what you’d like to do: pray together once a day, study and pray over Scripture, etc.
  2. Get involved in a parish Lenten group. Many parishes offer special Lenten group programs, such as Living the EucharistThis is a great way to focus our Lenten efforts, with the added bonus of getting to know our fellow parishioners better.
  3. Focus on just one part of Scripture. Lent is not the time to plan to read the entire Bible. That is an admirable goal, but it’s too easy to get excited, fly through Genesis and Exodus, slow down in Leviticus, and then get completely bogged down in Numbers. Instead, focus on just one book of the Bible, or perhaps on just one section of one book. This might be just the thing to kick off a serious practice of lectio divina.
  4. Plan your fast. Yes, fasting is a wonderful Christian practice, and one we are urged to practice during Lent. However, if you’ve always given up chocolate for Lent, now might be a good time to plan something different. First, why does the Church encourage fasting? Then ask, “God, how are you calling me to fast this Lent?” Consider that you may be called to fast from complaining during Lent or that God may be calling you to fast from social media. Give God a chance to speak to you.
  5. Get and keep a prayer journal. Many of us benefit from the simple act of writing out our thoughts in a journal. In this same spirit, keeping a prayer journal can be edifying. It need not be fancy, expensive or complex. Buy a simple notebook and record your prayers, and how you believe God is working as you pray. If you need a bit of guidance or a jump start, check out these resources.

It’s not Lent,  yet. But it’s less than a month away. Spend a little time preparing, and ask God to help you plan for a truly holy and rewarding Lenten season. Then we shall see, in our own souls, how the desert can blossom, and the dry and wasted land can bring forth the rich, useful fruit that was expected of it from the beginning.

tenth day christmas

On the Tenth Day of Christmas

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, ten lords a-leapin’

The ten lords correspond to the Ten Commandments

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops suggests that today, we learn and reflect upon poverty, as this is Poverty Awareness Month. This interactive website gives us an opportunity to learn more about poverty in the U.S. and in our own communities. Perhaps you and your family can discuss a plan to make a difference in the lives of the poor.

[From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him…including the fact that he was born to die for us.” There are, however, the traditional “12 Days of Christmas,” captured in the song of the same title. Some claim the song was meant as catechism of a sort, written and sung for nearly 300 years of British persecution of Catholics. We will be using both the song and the Church’s liturgical calendar to celebrate the Christmas season. We hope you enjoy.]

Christ the King

Christ the King: A Servant-King

[Above image: Ethiopian triptych, Christ the King, artist unknown. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.]

Sunday, November 20 is the final Sunday of the liturgical year for 2016, marked by the Church as the Solemnity of Christ the King.

Christ is indeed King. He rules all: an eternal Kingdom, inhabited by angels and saints. Christ must also be King of our hearts: the Monarch of the Universe, writ small for each human being. He is not a king of earthly riches, but one of poverty, poured out wholly on the cross for our redemption. He is a king of lowly estate, who had no place to rest His head yet one who commanded storms to cease and turned water into wine. His Kingdom embraces the lowliest, the disenfranchised, the tax collector and prostitute, the sinners-who-become-saints. In Christ’s Kingdom, the most costly perfumes and luxurious oils are meant for the all – wealthy and beggar alike. The greatest treasure of his kingdom is His flesh and blood, bread and wine blessed and broken, earthly food that offers eternal life.

Like any king, He issues an edict to His subjects. Yet His commands are like no other ruler’s:

Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’

Our King does not demand a tax on His people; He asks for us to see His face reflected in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the imprisoned. He invites all to His feast, His kingly banquet, His home. The banquet table is now an altar, spread not with rich food and sweet drink, but with His own Body and Blood. No matter how we arrive at this banquet – whether in embroidered robes or tattered cloth – we are welcomed. The price of admission is not coins, but faith. The guests at this feast turn to each other with a kiss of peace and then partake of His most glorious offerings.
[G]race to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever [and ever]. Amen.
Behold, he is coming amid the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him.
All the peoples of the earth will lament him
Yes. Amen.

Your invitation is placed before you. All you need do is come to the feast. Will you join your King?

year of mercy

“Let’s Finish Strong!”

It used to be a fairly common Catholic experience to “make a retreat.” Lay men and women would go to a retreat house or a church and be led (usually by a priest or religious) in praying and meditating on God. (This may sound quaint to many of you, but it truly is a wonderful experience!) Often, these are/were silent retreats: the retreatants spend considerable time in silence: reading, praying, meditating on God.

There was a priest who led many, many of these retreats. On Sunday mornings, as many retreatants were beginning to think of heading home and the tasks that awaited them there, this priest would tell them a story. He (the priest) recalled a basketball coach at a school where he had taught. The coach – whether his team was winning or losing – would gather his players just before the final quarter and say, “Let’s finish strong, boys! Let’s finish strong!” He wanted his team to know that, whatever the circumstances, they keep on playing hard right until the end. The priest would then tell his retreatants, “Let’s finish strong! Don’t let this final day of your retreat slip away – finish strong!”

Were that same priest giving us advice on the Year of Mercy, he would likely tell us, “Let’s finish strong!” We are in the final days of the Year of Mercy (which ends the last weekend of November, as we begin the new liturgical year.) We must not let these final days slip away; we must finish strong!

Maybe the Year of Mercy has not been something you’ve engaged much in. Perhaps, much of the past year has been difficult for you. Often, we are busy just trying to keep body and soul intact and “extras” are too hard to even think about. No worries – you can still “finish strong.” Indeed, the last of the Corporal Works of Mercy is to “bury the dead.” Given that we begin this last month of the Year of Mercy by celebrating the Solemnity of All Saints and the feast of All Souls’, it is a good time to ponder how we can do this. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops makes these suggestions:

Funerals give us the opportunity to grieve and show others support during difficult times.  Through our prayers and actions during these times we show our respect for life, which is always a gift from God, and comfort to those who mourn.

  • Send a card to someone who has recently lost a loved one.  Make your own card and use some of these prayers.
  • Visit the cemetery and pray for those you have lost.
  • Spend time planning your own funeral mass, read through the Order of Christian Funerals and find our hope in the Resurrection.

At the blog, Catholic All Year, one mom suggests that visiting a cemetery to put flowers on graves or learning about ancestors is a good way to involve kids in this work of mercy. If perhaps what you’d like to focus on is prayer during these final days of the Year of Mercy, wonderful! Consider praying for the dead. As Fr. William J. Byron, SJ, explains, the dead need our prayers:

[This] relates to our readiness, our preparedness, our freedom from sin, and our satisfaction of what the Church refers to as “temporal punishment due to sin” in order that the union of a human being — a “mere mortal” — with the sinless God is possible.

What is this temporal punishment? Let me suggest that it is a condition of “unreadiness” for eternal union with the Holy Trinity. In one sense you are ready, because you’ve expressed your sorrow and your sins have been forgiven. But in all probability you’re not quite ready, because your love of God at the moment of death may be less than wholehearted, less than perfect. Spiritually, you are right with God (your sins have been forgiven), but you need a bit of tidying up before being taken fully into God’s loving and eternal embrace.

Purgatory is the cure for your condition of unreadiness. It’s the process of purification.

Hence, we pray for the dead to beg God to move that process along. It all relates to God’s love and grace, that they may enfold the souls of the departed and keep them eternally secure.

What better way to end this beautiful Year of Mercy than to pray for our brothers and sisters who have preceded us in death?

Regardless of you and your family choose to finish this Year of Mercy, “let finish strong!”

shortcut to heaven

Lookin’ For A Shortcut To Heaven?

We hustle through the grocery store and when our carts are full, we scout out the shortest line. Of course, we never make the right choice.

Or we go through the drive-through to grab a quick dinner, and somehow our order gets mangled and we hear those dreaded words: “Could you please pull ahead? We’ll bring that right out.”

We live in a “hurry up” society. We rush to and from work and errands, hustle our kids to appointments and sports. A current car commercial says that adults in our society have an attention span of only 8 seconds, and then touts its car’s safety features: automatic braking and lane correction. Apparently, we just can’t pay attention that long.

In today’s Gospel, from Luke, we recognize this is not a problem in just our culture.

Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.

The passage finishes with one of the most memorable lines in the Gospels: For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first will be last. Suddenly, we feel as if we’ve been standing in the check out line for 15 minutes and another lane opens: the people behind you scurry over before you can get there. How fair is that??

It’s a narrow gate, this passage to Heaven. It’s hard to find and even harder to get through. There are no EZ-Passes, no skip-the-line tickets, no shortcuts. Thus, we are left with the question: “Do I want to go this way? This narrow gate – is it worth it to me? Sure, salvation awaits, but this is tough, and there are no shortcuts. Do I want this?”

Catholic philosopher and teacher Peter Kreeft in his lovely little book How to be Holy, outlines the map to this narrow gate:

God makes us holy in two opposite ways, in the two parts of our lives. First, He makes us holy through our own will, our own free choice of faith and hope and love. (For divine grace does not turn off human free will; it turns it on.) And second, He also sanctifies us against our will, through suffering, because the other way of sanctifying us, through our own will’s choices, is not strong enough, because our faith and hope and love are not strong enough. So He sanctifies us also through what He allows to happen to us against our will, in other word, suffering.

There you go. If you choose the path to salvation, it’s going to be tough. It requires super-human strength (we Catholics call this “grace“) and we will suffer. We will need to, first, choose this path of our own free will, and then, turn aside from our will and allow God’s will to permeate us.

No shortcuts. No express lane. No drive-through window. But we have the most Perfect Guide, Christ Himself. “Come, follow me and you will have treasure in Heaven.”

Line forms right here. No pushing, please. If you choose this line, you’ll need to be patient.

read bible

5 Reasons Catholics Should Read The Bible

Today is the feast day of St. Jerome, who lived during the first century of the Church. A man of brilliant mind, he lived as a hermit for years, in order to deal with his many sins. However, God needed his intellect and gift of language; thus St. Jerome is credited with translating Scripture into Latin under direction of Pope Damascus.

St. Jerome famously said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” That thought alone should send us all scurrying for our Bibles! So, why should Catholics make regular Scripture reading and study part of their daily lives?

  1. It is the living Word of God. There are many ancient texts in the history of the world. Many of us, in high school and college, read The Iliad, I Ching, and the Tao de Ching. They are all worthy of study, but what sets the Bible apart? It is the living Word of God. It has no equal, and it is as relevant today as it was when Jerome labored over its translation. Further, the Word of God is Christ: In the beginning was the Word,and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (Jn. 1:1 ) Thus, every encounter with Scripture is an encounter with Christ.
  2. Sunday isn’t enough. Indeed, the Mass is full of Scripture. We hear the Word proclaimed from the Old and New Testaments, the Psalms, and the Gospel. We hear the Word sung in our hymns. The prayers at Mass are full of Scriptural quotes and references. And yet … it’s not enough. It’s easy to miss parts of the Word as it’s proclaimed as Mass: we get distracted, the Word is not proclaimed well, we don’t quite hear it. In order to prepare well for Mass, we should “read ahead:” find the readings for Mass and read them prior to Mass. How are they connected? What is God’s message for His people today?
  3. God’s Word keeps us grounded. It is very easy, in the midst of our sloppy, busy, stress-filled days, to lose touch with who we are: God’s children. Taking time to read Scripture every day keeps us grounded, reminds us of who we are. Reading Scripture helps us to recall, every day, that Christ is with us – even in the sloppiness, the busy-ness, the stress.
  4. Scripture reminds us of God’s covenant. God made a promise to our forefathers in faith, the Jews. He told them, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” Even though the Jews (like us!) did many things that should have destroyed that covenant, God’s promise is eternal. A covenant is unbreakable, because it is God’s truth. Then, with the coming of Christ, we received a new covenant: “This is My Body and this is My Blood. Whoever eats and drinks of it shall have eternal life.” The Bible, from start to finish, is the story of God’s unbreakable promise to us. That’s pretty important.
  5. Reading Scripture helps us to pray better. Every one of us needs to pray better. Prayer is our lifeline to God. Scripture can help us to pray better. We see ourselves reflected in the sorrow, pain and faithfulness of Job. We understand Jonah’s reluctance to do the job God has set before him. We rejoice, laugh, cry and challenge God with the psalmist. We understand the shame of the woman about to be stoned. We tremble with fear, abandoning Christ, just as most of the Apostles did when He most needed them. To enter into God’s word helps us to see, hear, feel and understand basic human responses … and then do better. We rise above our fears, our sorrows, our shame, because we know God is with us. Always. He never abandons us. Scripture is the story of God’s eternal love and faithfulness.

St. Jerome knew all this. He spent his life carefully and faithfully translating God’s word. He did it not because it was yet another text that smart people wanted to read in their own language. No, he understood that Scripture is the living word of God, as relevant to us as it was to the Jews in their many triumphs and struggles, as it was to the earliest Christians during St. Jerome’s life, and now, in a world where we have so much information at our fingertips it would make St. Jerome’s head spin. But there is no website, no book, no podcast, no Facebook post that equals God’s word. Do not be ignorant of this word, lest you be ignorant of Christ.

Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy Of The Word: God Speaks To Us Through Scripture

Did you know that the Mass is a prayer? It’s not a bunch of prayers stuck together in some sort of mystical way every day, every Sunday. It is the prayer of God’s people, stretching back two millennia. The very earliest Christians gathered to share God’s word and celebrate the Eucharist, as Christ told his Apostles to do at the Last Supper. There are two billion Catholics throughout the world who pray together, entering into the Mystery of the Mass every day.

The Mass consists of two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We believe that Christ is present in both, but in distinct ways.

The Mass is full of signs and symbols. We pray with our entire bodies, through gestures and postures. We are surrounded by music, images and art. All of these have meaning, and enrich the prayerful atmosphere. However, the Mass is the same whether it is celebrated in the most humble of chapels, on the back of a jeep with soldiers gathered about, or in St. Peter’s Basilica.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says this about the Liturgy of the Word:

In the Liturgy of the Word, the Church feeds the people of God from the table of his Word …. The Scriptures are the word of God, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In the Scriptures, God speaks to us, leading us along the path to salvation.

The Responsorial Psalm is sung between the readings. The psalm helps us to meditate on the word of God.

The high point of the Liturgy of the Word is the reading of the Gospel. Because the Gospels tell of the life, ministry, and preaching of Christ, it receives several special signs of honor and reverence. The gathered assembly stands to hear the Gospel and it is introduced by an acclamation of praise. Apart from Lent, that acclamation is “Alleluia,” derived from a Hebrew phrase meaning “Praise the Lord!” A deacon (or, if no deacon is present, a priest) proclaims the Gospel.

Either a deacon or priest may give the homily, which is meant to be a reflection on the Word of God that was just proclaimed, and should educate and edify the congregation.

Following the homily, there should be a short period of silence for reflection. Then the Nicene Creed is proclaimed (or in some circumstances, the Apostles’ Creed). This is the declaration of our faith and beliefs as Christians, both as individuals and a community.

The Liturgy of the Word concludes with the Prayer of the Faithful. These prayers, while unique for every congregation, are meant to follow a rubric: prayers for the Universal church, for public matters and global concerns, for those afflicted or burdened, the local community and for the dead.

On Wednesday, we will look at the Liturgy of the Eucharist.


Clay In The Hands Of The Potter

In today’s Mass readings, we have a beautiful passage from the book of Jeremiah:

This word came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
Rise up, be off to the potter’s house;
there I will give you my message.
I went down to the potter’s house and there he was,
working at the wheel.
Whenever the object of clay which he was making
turned out badly in his hand,
he tried again,
making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.
Then the word of the LORD came to me:
Can I not do to you, house of Israel,
as this potter has done? says the LORD.
Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter,
so are you in my hand, house of Israel.

What a rich image! In our mind’s eye, we see the artist: molding and shaping the clay, over and over. He is not frustrated when the clay does not conform to his will; he simply begins again, working with the clay until he is pleased.

The prophet Jeremiah likens this to God and His relationship to the nation of Israel, His chosen people. Remember, Israel was not easy to work with. The Old Testament is filled with images of Israel complaining as they wander in the desert (despite being led out of Egyptian slavery by God), their turning to false gods, rebelling against His word, even going so far as describing Israel as an unfaithful harlot. Yet the potter simply begins again, his wheel spinning, his hands working the clay.

We can apply this image in other ways. How often do we have a project or a prayerful desire that we work at creating? How often do we become impatient, even angry, when that situation goes sideways, like a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel, spinning out of control at our fingertips? We cry out to God, “Why are You not helping me here? I’ve been at this for a long time, and it’s still not turning out the way I want?” Rather than following the calm, gentle example of God, we become unnerved, ready to give up. Yet God never gives up on us.

Each of us can look back on our lives and see the hand of God at work. Perhaps you can even see where you had prayed desperately for one outcome, only to have something entirely different take place. In hindsight, you see that God’s plan was so much greater than yours. There are times when we may be angry at God, blaming Him for turmoil and difficulties in our lives. Yet, like the potter at his wheel, God is tranquil yet persistent in molding us. And if we allow ourselves to be fashioned, formed, pliant to His will, we become a master creation.

It is always good to ask ourselves, “Am I trying to please God or myself? Am I seeking His will or mine?” Let us be the object of His will, shaped and formed in the hands of the Creator of all good things.

ordinary time

7 Ways To Make Ordinary Time Less “Ordinary”

We are in the midst of Ordinary Time. If you check the thesaurus, “ordinary” is equated with “humdrum,” “routine,” “run-of-the-mill.” Is this what the Church has in mind for this particular part of our liturgical calendar?

No. The highlights of the liturgical calendar are Easter and Christmas. Ordinary time is about the points in between, focusing on the life of Christ. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Ordinary Time is a time for growth and maturation, a time in which the mystery of Christ is called to penetrate ever more deeply into history until all things are finally caught up in Christ. The goal, toward which all of history is directed, is represented by the final Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, we are enjoying longer and warmer days. People head off on summer vacations, make plans to be on the water for a quiet evening of fishing or a day of water-skiing adventures. We slow down. We sit by the bonfire and talk and sing. Our neighborhood walks are dotted with a few stops to catch up with the neighbors. Ordinary time is not “humdrum” or boring; it’s just a different rhythm.

How can we make Ordinary Time a more spiritual time? How can we, as the U.S. bishops say, grow and mature in our faith? Here are 7 ideas:

  1. Take your Bible to the bonfire. There is something about a fire on a quiet summer night that is perfect for meditation. Choose one of the Gospels at random and spend a bit of time praying. Or look over the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel reading. Let the Holy Spirit, who first came to us in fire, lead you in prayer.
  2. Vacation to a different parish. Even if you’re not traveling, ordinary time is a great time to go visit a parish near you that maybe you’ve never been to, or haven’t seen in a long time. You could visit your diocese’s cathedral, or a little country church. Either way, it’s a great reminder that we are the Universal Church and every Catholic church in the world is our home. If you’d like, pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it!
  3. Get into a rhythm of prayer. Priests and religious are bound to pray the Divine Office every day, but it’s a fine prayer for the lay faithful as well. It can be a little tricky learning how to do this, but practice makes perfect, and that goes double for prayer. There are websites that offer assistance in this. Another fine option is Magnificat monthly magazine, which is a truncated version of the Office (and, they have a children’s version!)
  4. Have your home blessed. The blessing of a home is a long-standing Catholic tradition. Why bless our house? Because we who live there are a domestic church; it is the nursery of faith and the place where our faith is lived out. Ask your pastor to bless your home, and ask if he’ll stay for dinner. What a wonderful way to spend a summer evening!
  5. Ditch the electronics for a day. Yup, this is hard. We will want to check our phones, catch a baseball game, beat our latest score on a video game. But just for a day, ditch the electronics. Head outside. Play tag. Decorate the sidewalks with encouraging messages. Have the neighbors over for ice cream after dinner. Give the dog a bath. Wander. Read. Take a nap. Enjoy the quiet, because this is where God speaks to us.
  6. Make the outside of your home look Catholic. Plant a Marian garden. Find a statue you really like (Mary, St. Francis of Assisi perhaps) and give it a fitting place of prominence. Plan a day for the kids to make garden stepping stones that reflect their faith.
  7. Make Catholic attractions part of your summer vacation. If you are on the road this summer, find a Catholic attraction or two to visit. Maybe it’s a shrine that features a huge cross, or a grotto dedicated to Mary, lovingly made by hand. This doesn’t mean you have to forgo a trip to the water park or skip mini-golf; just plan on one more stop that reminds us that the Catholic faith is big and bold and beautiful, and expressed in many loving ways.

Ordinary time is not meant to be boring or mundane. Enjoy this time of year, and find ways to move closer to Christ, because in Him we live and move and have our being.

(Don’t forget to enter our “Ordinary Time, Extraordinary Giveaway.” Three folks will get a great summer bundle of fun!)