Monthly Archives: September 2015

Who the Lord Chooses

Standard

Eldad-and-Medad-Prophesied

If you had a message of great importance that you wanted the whole world to know about, who would you choose to deliver it? In our readings today it is clear that God’s ways are not our ways. God can choose whoever He wants to accomplish the things He wishes to accomplish, as we see in the first reading when Moses complains to God that the mission of guiding His Chosen People has become too great of a burden for him. So God shares the spirit that He has given to Moses with 70 others, even those who were not in the prescribed place. Though this confused Joshua, Moses was given the wisdom to recognize that this was the work of God.

A more current example is Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, France. This thirteen year old girl who lived in poverty with her family was of poor health and had difficulty with her studies in school. When we were in Lourdes a few years ago a bishop was celebrating Mass near the Grotto and during his homily he said, “If you wanted to give a message to the whole world who would you choose; someone of great importance from a large city? Our Lord chose Bernadette, a simple girl from a tiny village. Through the ages God has chosen people of little significance to be His instruments. His ways our not our ways. There are some who still reject the Blessed Mother as a messenger of God in spite of the miracles connected to her apparitions. They think that the works of God are confined to their own understanding. Sometimes we also can be like that.”

We see something similar in today’s Gospel. John, the apostle closest to Jesus, has just tried to stop someone from driving out demons in Jesus’s name because he was not an apparent follower of Jesus. Jesus chastises him and tells him, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” What is important is why and how things are done. If they are done out of love of God and neighbor we should be cautious about rendering judgment. It is not always obvious why people do certain things unless they are clearly good or clearly evil.

People were anticipating the visit of Pope Francis this past week with their own hopes of what he might say to the President and to Congress. Listening to the media it would seem many were disappointed that he didn’t give a strong message supporting their position on certain issues. It seemed to me that he said all the challenges that confront us and the world must be solved through mutual respect, charity, humility, patience and a desire to fulfill the will of God. The Pope is not going to fix the world for us. He expects all of us to be engaged in the unfolding of the Kingdom of God; and I believe that is what Our Lord expects as well. The best hope for the world is strong, healthy, holy families; and that is where we are called to make a difference.

God has revealed His plan to us through the Scriptures and the Church. We know that through baptism we become children of God and receive the gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We know that we can encounter Christ in a deep and personal way in the Sacraments of the Church, which are the source of the grace we need to live a life close to God in prayer and to discover His plan for us.

We know that God wants us to be holy and has made it possible if we are faithful to what He has revealed to us. This faithfulness will help us reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity. We can be certain that this plan is true because it has been discovered and lived by saints through the ages who have been heroic witnesses of the love of God. There are consequences for us when we do not live this plan. Jesus said that if we live for our selves we will lose our lives and give scandal to others. We must remove everything that is an obstacle to salvation.

There is no one on this earth more blest than Catholics because God has given us every possible means to live a life close to Him. We have His Divine Word, the Scriptures; we have His Church to guide us and strengthen us with the Sacraments. We have the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints to intercede for us. We especially have the Holy Eucharist in which Jesus gives us himself – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – because he loves us that much. Why would the whole world not want to be Catholic and have what we have?

About thirty years ago someone asked me why I was Catholic. I was glad to be Catholic and knew I would never want to be anything but a Catholic. I went to Mass every Sunday and to confession occasionally, but I realized at that time I never really gave much thought to the importance of my faith. Actually I hadn’t learned anything about my faith since graduating from a Catholic high school. At that moment I knew I wasn’t really sure of what I believed.

As I pondered that for a few days I realized I had let the importance of my faith fade. I had become a one-hour-per-week-Catholic and my decisions were not influenced by my faith at all. Thank God for that wake up call. It was not long after that that I bought my first Bible and joined a prayer group with my wife. We began to pray together and study our faith, and a new joy came into our lives. I guess you could say that was the beginning of the rest of our life together. It opened up new possibilities. Now our important decisions are influenced by our relationship with God, and we have great hope.

Let us reflect on the words of the Creed we say at Mass and ask the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts with gratitude – for being recipients of Almighty God’s great plan of salvation and the intimacy He offers us in His Church. Let us pray for the grace to be witnesses of what we believe.

Advertisements

A War Story: How the Catholic Women’s Conference Helped Lead Me to Victory

Standard
Joan of Arc by John Everett Millais (1865)

Joan of Arc by John Everett Millais (1865)

I got hit by friendly fire.

He did not mean to wound me, but he did. The shrapnel of his dismissive words ripped open my heart.

Just two weeks earlier, I had completed another two-day ‘basic training’ at the Pilgrim Center of Hope’s annual Catholic Women’s Conference. The group of conference speakers presented many tactics on how we can stay close to God, or as speaker Sally Robb advises, remain on the right battlefield. She said the wrong battlefield is where we struggle through our own efforts and will always fail. The right battlefield is where we allow God to do the fighting for us.

So, instead of bleeding out and suffering alone as is my usual response to hurt feelings, I choose to follow the tactics presented at the conference.

Dr. Margarett Schlientz spoke on healing buried fears. She said that covering up pain and turning inward only makes us vulnerable to bitterness and resentment. This infection can creep into emotional wounds causing them to fester. I know from past experiences how ugly this can get. I am afraid but I do it: I contact the one who struck the blow and explain my hurt. Exposing the wound to the light of conversation brings healing. The balm of amends calms my emotions and works to restore our relationship.

I am still limping, because we sensitive soldiers do not heal quickly, but I am able to march on. It does not take long however, for my true enemy, the one who seeks only to destroy, to take advantage of this incident and my weakened state to strike.

Before evening arrives, the battle begins.

The evil one joins forces with what speaker, Carol Weiler, calls our selfish self, and together these enemies of human nature storm my sensitivity with ground and air assaults. Suggestions, like missiles, bombard me from all sides. “You don’t deserve to be treated that way” . . . . . “He is supposed to be your consoler” . . . . . “He doesn’t care about you” . . . etc. They are relentless. At bedtime, I cover my head with a pillow hunkering down in the trenches of my mind and beg God to please rescue me.

Morning comes; I open my eyes and first thing offer a ‘Glory Be’ and prayer of thanks for this day. But before my feet hit the ground, the barrage begins again. “No one understands you . . . . . See, you are not special at all . . . . You don’t matter to anyone . . . etc.”

“Lord, make haste to help me.” I plead.

I trudge through the day and minutes feel like hours in a spiritual battle that is quickly taking its toll. To those outside looking in, I am a just a middle-aged woman completing her Saturday chores sweeping the floor, washing dishes and folding clothes, but inside my mind, body and soul, Hell is being unleashed.

I find a quiet place and pick up my Rosary. Along with this powerful spiritual weapon, I also offer prayers of forgiveness. In what will become hundreds of shots fired I say, “I forgive him, Lord. Please forgive me, Lord. Bless us both.”

A deep sorrow flows into all my cuts and with it the gentle assurance of our Blessed Mother guiding me to continue to pray, persevere and hold my position. Margarett Schlientz said crying is the cheapest and most effective psychiatric help, so I cry with abandon.

Morning becomes afternoon. “Come Lord Jesus,” I plead, “Where are You?”

My phone rings and the caller ID shows it is my father-in-law. He is undergoing chemotherapy and being a non-practicing Jew, I worry he may be going into despair trying to fight this illness without the help of God. I sent him a note along with the Lord’s Prayer and wrote, “This prayer has been given to us by God Himself. I hope it brings you comfort.” I brace myself for what I am afraid may be his harsh admonishment to stop pushing my religion on him. Instead of criticism, he tells me, “This is the best gift I have ever received from anyone.” He begins to cry and I cry with him and we finish our conversation sharing our love for each other.

About a half-hour later, the phone rings again. It is my husband telling me he will go grocery shopping for me. He says, “I am finished with my last client so I am going to get groceries before I come home. I know how busy you are and probably don’t have time to go.”

Reinforcements have arrived! Two unexpected allies have rushed to my aid with acknowledgement and affirmation completely blindsiding my enemy and airlifting me to safety into the arms of our Father. In God’s brilliant war strategy I see what speaker Sheri Wohlfert calls, God’s fingerprints. He is all over this laying a siege of grace against our opponent. He gave me the courage to call my friend and gave him the grace of a quick and conciliatory response. He sent our Mother to encourage me not to quit by remaining steadfast in prayer and constant to His Cross.

This rescue operation is not quite complete as our Lord knows me. He knows His sensitive one is quick to get herself trapped again. The enemy must be annihilated.

Our awesome God of Wisdom and Might releases His WMG – Weapon of Mass Grace. Coming up from deep inside the bunker of his bedroom, my teenaged son asks, “Hey, Mom, can we go out and get some lunch together or do you have too much to do?”

I take the advice speaker Noelle Garcia said we should make a daily habit of, and after first whispering it to myself, I tell my son, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

He smiles awkwardly and responds, “Cool . . . does that mean we can go eat?”

Confident my true Consoler has victory won, we go to celebrate. As I close the door behind us, I do believe I can hear the distinct sound of crushing.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

The Pilgrim Center of Hope produces three annual conferences to aid women and men on our spiritual pilgrimages. Visit pilgrimcenterofhope.org to learn more.

How to Recognize the Miracles in Your Daily Life

Standard

bannerblog

Why do we often forget God’s closeness to us?  Why do we often forget that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose?  (cf. Romans 8:28)

The Reason:

For several years, I was a marketing and communications student.  I learned that the average American is exposed to hundreds (some researchers say thousands) of messages in a single day, but we hardly recognize—let alone remember—most of them. Amidst the multitude of messages, our brains’ method of processing and retaining the “loudest” or most extreme messages have an unfortunate result:  We hardly recognize—let alone remember—God’s quiet miracles in our lives.

Amidst the multitude of miracles, we tend to remember only the “most extreme miracles” of the Gospel—

  • Jesus calms the storm
  • He raises Lazarus from the dead
  • He heals the paralytic, lowered from the roof of an overcrowded house

—but most of Jesus’ actions in people’s lives were quiet and ordinary.  Jesus’ first miracle was the unassuming transformation of water into wine.  As he ministered to people, Jesus looked into their eyes.  He smiled at them.  He loved them.  He spoke with them.  Many times, he took them aside by themselves.  These are the quiet, ordinary ways Jesus revealed himself to people’s hearts.

Last week, Pope Francis reminded us that Jesus continues to act in this way: “Let us remember what (Jesus) did at the wedding of Cana!  Yes, the Lord, if we place ourselves in his hands, will work miracles for us—but they are miracles of everyday life!”

What is a ‘miracle of everyday life’?

For each of us, they look different.  As a wife, I truly believe that most of God’s miracles in my life come through my husband’s love: when he forgives me without hesitation, when he transforms my sadness into laughter, or when he puts aside his own self for my sake. Miracles in my everyday life take place in the kitchen, during a car ride, or on the couch.  But I rarely stop and recognize them as miracles; God manifesting himself in my life.

The Answer:

So, how can we become better at recognizing everyday miracles?

Jesus said, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” (Matthew 11:25)

Becoming childlike (not to be confused with immaturity, or childishness) means answering Jesus’ simple invitation from Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me…”

  1. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Like a child, we must eagerly and often run into God’s arms.  And he will love us.
  2. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart…”  As we begin to trust God, we open our hearts to be guided and transformed by his love.
  3. “..and you will find rest for your selves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  When we are confident that God loves us, we delight in his signs of affection for us.  Our eyes are opened, and we see the miracles all around us.

Each year, “Come to Me” serves as the theme for the Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Catholic Women’s Conference.  Some people wonder why we’ve kept the same theme year after year.  The answer is simple: God never stops inviting us, and we never stop needing the reminder.

Today, let’s answer his invitation.  What miracles will you see today?

Prophets of Hope

Standard
Hope by Paolo Ucello (c. 1435)

Hope by Paolo Ucello (c. 1435)

I, along with 2,300 women, were recently given a challenge to be prophets of hope at the recent Catholic Women’s Conference in San Antonio. The challenge came from Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller during his homily at the Saturday morning Mass. He gave an example of someone who did give hope to many: Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In her love for Jesus and for others, she served with immense joy that spread to those she served, the poorest of the poor in India and wherever she went.

Think about it: the example of Mother Teresa’s life gives hope. She loved God and wanted to obey His two greatest commandments: “To love God first above all and love your neighbor as yourself.” In doing so, her love for God deepened through prayer and trust in Him. Sure, Mother Teresa did a lot, she gave her entire life to God, she founded a religious community, opened houses for those who were dying and suffering without anyone to care for them. She would often express the importance of seeing Christ in the person in front of you.

She definitely is considered a prophet of hope – so many died with dignity and in peace through her care and those of her religious sisters, the Missionaries of Charity. Sure, that’s Mother Teresa!, you may be thinking. But how am I called to be a prophet of hope?

As I listened to the archbishop, my immediate reaction was, “Oh my! What a challenge – but what an exciting one!” You see, my hope is based on my love for God, my husband, and my vocation in evangelization ministry. Twenty-seven years ago, my husband and I left our successful careers to serve God and the Church, after a powerful encounter with Christ Jesus.

Our hope was to build on the immense peace and joy we received through this encounter as we told others about the omnipotent love of God for them, and of His mercy, no matter what our past was or current situation.

Msgr. Paul Glenn  writes: “Hope is the theological virtue by which we aspire with confidence to grace and heaven, trusting God, and being resolved to use his help. Hope looks directly to our eternal happiness. … We pin our hope in God, not man.” (Tour of the Summa)

My definition of a prophet of hope is a person who has been baptized and through that beautiful initiation into the family of God, with the authority given by Christ, becomes a messenger of hope in the world filled with confusion, questions and suffering. A smile and a listening ear are among the numerous simple ways to be messenger of hope today.

Yes, you can become a prophet of hope now. Take Mother Teresa’s words to help you: “We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful.” Often our concern about being successful can become a stumbling block that will prevent us from being a prophet of hope. Remember, the One in whose name you were baptized is with you always!

The Pilgrim Center of Hope was founded in 1993 to be a source of hope for others, and to help people encounter Christ through experiences such as conferences, pilgrimages and media.

Pray for Wisdom

Standard

“Was filled with wisdom” by Vasily Polenov (1900)

Why do we do the things we do? Certainly our education influences many of the choices we make, but what is the final authority we look to to guide our lives? Is it a political entity, the media or the friendships we have formed? Is it the Word of God?

We see in the Old Testament how God chose a particular people to be His own so that all humanity might know what it means to be faithful to the One True God and to receive His favor. The first reading reveals one essential component of this faithful relationship- the commandments God gave His chosen people through Moses. Of these commandments Moses says, “Observe them carefully, for thus you will give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’”

Wisdom and intelligence were measured by the closeness to God that the Chosen People experienced when they were faithful to the law that was set before them. This is the same law that is set before us. We are Judeo-Christian and what the Chosen People received from God through Moses and the prophets has also been given to us. As Jesus said, “All of the law and prophets are summed up in the two greatest commandments. We must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart and strength and our neighbor as our self.” If we keep these commandments we will be wise and intelligent people. If we do not, no matter what else we accomplish, we will be foolish, unhappy and hopeless.

God has a great plan for humanity in general and for each and every one of us in particular. We can only discover our personal plan that will allow us to reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity by drawing close to God. We do that by being faithful to what He has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. This is the authority that Jesus Christ left us so that we might remain close to him and receive the grace we need to make decisions that may be difficult, but in the end lead to wholeness and hope.

This authority will often be in conflict with the wisdom of the world. We see the wisdom of the world in the entertainment and music that consistently insult the dignity of men and women, and in the fashions that continue to become more immodest, even for pre-teens. How can Christians be a light in the world when they look just like the world?

Any good thing can be abused and misused. In the Gospel we see religious leaders using the law for their own purpose. In order to observe the law, over the course of years, they added on hundreds of precepts for the people to follow. The intentions may have been good, but in the end the precepts at times became more of a burden than a help in keeping the law. In today’s reading the Pharisees try to use the ritual cleansing to trap Jesus. The primary intention of this ritual is purity of heart. A clean heart is more important than washed hands. The outward sign of the cleansing was supposed to reflect that which was interior.

In this case Jesus read their hearts and chastised them by explaining that what is truly unclean comes from within a person: “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed , malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly.” These are what defile a person.

It is not easy to live each day with a clean heart in a world that has no regard for God or His law. Jesus said it would be difficult to follow him. He said we must deny our self and take up our cross each day. He also knows at times we will fall. For this reason he gives us the sacraments, especially reconciliation, so we can receive the Eucharist with a clean heart.

These two sacraments, reconciliation and Eucharist, fortified by daily prayer, make it possible to stay close to God, to be faithful to His laws and discover His plan for us that leads to happiness. Prayer is not only essential for our relationship with God; it also strengthens our relationship with one another. It is important for a husband and wife to pray together and to pray with their children. We should pray before every thing we do, asking for God’s help. Our Blessed Mother wants to obtain for us the grace we need to be faithful. Praying the Rosary will help us to stay close to God and stay together as a family.

Let us pray that our great nation will be filled with people who are truly wise and intelligent, because of our faithfulness to what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures, the Church and the lives of the saints.