Monthly Archives: April 2016

Authentic Christianity

Standard

They did not tell people that God would make things better for them in this life; the focus was on eternal life, the salvation of their souls. As we know, some disciples gave up everything to be in the company of the Apostles and follow the “New Way” of being in relationship with God. Many disciples were persecuted and some were martyred.

In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles Peter and Paul,
“…strengthened the spirits of the disciples
and exhorted them to persevere in the faith saying,

‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to
enter the Kingdom of God.’”

Winter_Man

This message from Peter and Paul was not only for the Christians of the early Church, it is also for us today.

Are we willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary in order to be faithful to the Gospel?

Jesus himself tells us we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him. We cannot allow our appetites and desires to dominate our life. If we live only for our self, we close our self off to the graces God wishes to give us and are destined for unhappiness. If our lives are not ordered to God, they are disordered.

What are some of the hardships you have endured? What is your most difficult trial?

No matter how bad we had it on our worst day, there will always be others who will have had it much worse and yet experience great joy. Others will allow their trials to overwhelm them. They continue to look at their problems and in their imagination they become bigger than reality, bitter and depressed.

The challenge is to experience our hardships in the light of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us. If we unite our suffering with the suffering of Christ it becomes redemptive for us, and others as well. Not only that, Christ also lessens the weight of our burdens just as he promises. Hardships are necessary because they help us to become dependent upon Jesus Christ; to discover “his strength in our weakness.” There are some people who would never have turned to Christ except for their hardships.

Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you,
so you also should love one another.”

What is the desire of your heart?

When Jesus tells us we must love one another, he makes it a new commandment because he says we must one another as he has loved us. In other words, we must love with a supernatural, sacrificial love. It is only possible to love in a supernatural way, if we love God first above everything else, because He is the source of all love and everything that is good. If God is our first love it will be possible for us to reach our potential in loving ourselves and others.

We can only love as Christ has loved us if that is the desire of our heart. If that is our desire, we will ask for the grace to be faithful to what has been revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. We will make a commitment to pray every day, to live the sacramental life and to continue to be formed in the Faith.

What is your destiny?

God has great plans for all of us that require us to surrender our will to His will. In His will we experience unconditional love and mercy which lead to happiness now and forever. If our will is in opposition to His will we are destined for unhappiness.

Lord, give us the grace to put our total trust in you so that you may be our hope in adversity and we may be victorious in our struggles.

To learn more about your Catholic faith, tune into Catholicism Live! It is a weekly series connecting issues of the faith and Church teachings to daily life. Visit CatholicismLive.com to see our upcoming topics.

Advertisements

Practical Ways to Overcome Worry

Standard

Worried?  It seems we all worry about something.  I’m an expert!

Worry is not just a ‘downer’; it’s dangerous.  Saint Francis de Sales, one of the greatest writers on the spiritual life and a Doctor of the Church, wrote, “With the single exception of sin, anxiety is the greatest evil that can happen to a soul. […] If our heart is inwardly troubled and disturbed it loses both the strength necessary to maintain the virtues it had acquired and the means to resist the temptations of the enemy.”

Besides presenting our worries to God in prayer and asking Him for peace (which are called prayers of petition), how else can we fight the temptation to worry?

WorryHoly Reminders

One practical way that has helped me overcome worry is surrounding myself with ‘holy reminders’ at home and work; such as this art that I made for my home, or images of Christ—especially of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the Divine Mercy image. Even my cell phone ring tone is the chorus to the popular song, “Don’t You Worry Child“:

My father said,
Don’t you worry, don’t you worry, child.
Heaven’s got a plan for you...

‘Holy reminders’ encourage me to trust God. If I am a person of faith, I must put my faith into action. If I profess belief in an All-Good, All-Powerful, and All-Loving God, I must live according to that belief and surrender my worries to him. “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Learn to Savor

Last week, I repeatedly came across a Scripture verse that embodies another way to overcome worry: “Learn to savor how good the Lord is. Happy are those who take refuge in Him.” (Psalm 34:8) I had always heard the alternate translation, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord…” but the phrase “Learn to savor” struck me deeply.

When we taste a delicious ice cream or steak, it’s good.  But when we savor it, we spend more time appreciating it. When we savor something, its goodness becomes richer and more meaningful.

Once, my spiritual director instructed me to write down things for which I was grateful. This daily practice was meant to be a prayer of thanksgiving, but it became just another task. I was “tasting” those good gifts rather than savoring them. Take time to marvel at God’s gifts in your life!  This savoring is a weapon against worry, because our meditation on God’s Providence re-builds our confidence in his goodness and trustworthiness.  Scripture repeatedly commands that we celebrate and remember “the good things” that God has done for us.

Praise Is Powerful

For me, one of the most powerful ways to fight worry has been praise.

Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS. […] By praise, the Spirit is joined to our spirits to bear witness that we are children of God, testifying to the only Son in whom we are adopted and by whom we glorify the Father. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2639)

The power of praising God is why the apostles, saints, and popes have instructed us to praise God unceasingly.  Saint Augustine’s famous quotation is often half-quoted: “You (God) yourself encourage [humans] to delight in your praise, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” When we worry, we are preoccupied with many things. When we praise God, however, we focus our whole being on his Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. Prayers of praise fulfill our deepest identity: to be united with, and to ‘rest in’, God.

I have found that the more I praise God, the more quickly my worries vanish.

So, how does one praise God?  The highest form of praise is the Holy Mass, the “sacrifice of praise”.  Besides active participation in Mass, I most often praise God through hymns and spiritual songs. However, we can praise God everywhere; even when we cannot sing or speak. We simply raise our hearts and minds to God, and rejoice in who He Is.

“Holy, Holy, Holy” sung by Audrey Assad

God commands you to pray, but he forbids you to worry. – St. John Vianney

I invite all women to join me in conquering worry, receiving holy reminders, savoring God’s goodness, and praising Him at the annual “spa for a woman’s soul” – the fifteenth Catholic Women’s Conference in San Antonio (Sept. 9-10, 2016). Registration will be opening very soon! Sign up for the email list to be notified at CWCSanAntonio.com.

From “Do not touch me,” to Wounded Healer

Standard

mary-magdalene-tomb-1104114-wallpaper

Easter Sunday was a little over two weeks ago, but we’re still in the Easter Season. This means you can eat as much candy as humanly, even professionally possible until Pentecost. It also means we still get to savor the triumph of Christ’s Easter resurrection in a liturgically focused way.

The Reaction

That said, there’s one small detail about the Easter narrative that always holds my curiosity until well after the celebrations have ceased. When Mary Magdalene, the first witness of Christ’s resurrection, turned startled toward him outside the tomb, she was understandably overjoyed. She must have thrown her arms around him, because Jesus surprisingly told her, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father.”

Do not touch me? From Jesus? Just a few days ago, Mary Magdalene was anointing his head with oil. Christ even rebuked Judas, who objected that the oil should have been sold and the money given to the poor. Why, in the midst of Mary’s exuberance, would Jesus rebuff her touch?

It Takes Time

Jesus offers the explanation, “I have not yet ascended to my Father,” but I wonder if that was only because he thought his wounds would be less sensitive in Heaven. Perhaps his wounds–though glorified in his resurrected body–were still too tender to be touched. In fact, after some time passes, Jesus invites Thomas to place his hand inside his open wounds.

Jesus is fully human as well as fully divine, and it’s human nature to need some time after suffering a trauma for the pain to become less raw. Like Jesus, Christians are called to become wounded healers–people whose wounds become glorified pathways of healing for others. But not right away! Not right after the wound is inflicted. Like Christ, we often need time to process the pain, to manage its lingering effects, to gradually have our experiences take on a deeper meaning that we can then share with others.

If you are suffering from a past or ongoing trauma, consider seeing a Catholic therapist that can help you heal from the damage and turn your wounds over to the Divine Physician. God desires our healing, our joy and our wholeness in Him. CatholicTherapists.com has a useful search engine that can find a professional Catholic counselor near you. To learn more about various topics in relation to Catholicism, visit CatholicismLive.com.

 

 

Discovering Peter’s Joy

Standard

GalileeSunrise copyWhen my fellow pilgrims and I disembarked from our ‘fishing’ boat on the Sea of Galilee (it was really a tourist boat operated by a group of Jewish men who lived on the nearby Kibbutz), I received a revelation from God that inspired me to more actively practice my Catholic faith.

The Total Person

From where I was standing on the shore, I could see on one side, Tiberius (the old Roman city still in existence) and another side where stood, Decapolis, the ten ancient cities of the Greeks and to the North, Capernaum, where we had just visited the ruins of a synagogue where Jesus taught. It occurred to me that these places represented the total person: Tiberius/Roman/Body, Decapolis/Greek/Mind and Capernaum/Jewish/Soul and with this realization, I heard our Lord speak to my heart and share with me His desire to unite all three in every human person: body, mind and soul.

Gone Fishing

I recalled this memory as I heard the opening to today’s First Friday Gospel from John 21:1-14, “Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberius.” It was here that Peter had chosen to just go back to what he knew, fishing, because Jesus was gone, and probably thinking even if all the rumors about him being seen by others were true, they cannot be true for him, who denied His Lord and ran away. Isn’t it interesting, I thought, that even John calls it the Sea of Tiberius . . . forget what I knew (mind), what I believed(soul), just go back to what I do (body) . . . fish!

What is so beautiful about this Gospel, and what I learned myself on pilgrimage, is that our Lord and God comes to us where we are. In this Gospel story, Jesus makes the first move towards Peter and even affirms his choice by providing the fish he spent all night trying to catch. He does the same for each of us.

You Are Invited

Pope Francis confirms this in his apostolic letter, Evangelii Gaudium – “Joy of the Gospel” when he writes: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them” I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.” The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.

Waiting For You

Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.” (3)
It was this joy Peter discovered which tells us that God’s love and mercy for us has nothing to do with who we are and everything to do with who He is.

Our response should be to give freely of our mind, body and soul as our Lord asks of us,

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Lk 10:27)

Walking Catholic

One of the greatest joys of going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land is to see for yourself all the miles our Lord Jesus walked toward His people. One of the greatest joys of being a Catholic, is experiencing through the gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, how He still does!

The Sacraments of the Catholic Church, established by Christ, is our Lord’s promise to never leave us . . . to continue to come to us! We can be united with Christ, mind, body and soul by frequenting the Sacraments (body), learning the teachings of the Church (mind) and believing what the Church professes (soul.)

And when we fail, we can have confidence that the joy that was Peter’s is ours as well!

The Pilgrim Center of Hope provides opportunities to encounter Christ through pilgrimages, conferences and a variety of outreach events. Find out more at pilgrimcenterofhope.org.