Category Archives: Scripture

ECW: The Blessed Virgin Mary

The first ECW (empowered Catholic woman) I want to focus on in this series is Our Blessed Mother. She goes by many titles: Virgin Mary, Blessed Mother, Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, and many more. When looking at women honored and respected by the Catholic Church, you can’t get much greater than Mary. In fact, Mary is so much a part of our Catholic faith that it can be easy to take her for granted and not realize what a immense blessing she is.

From the first moment we meet Mary in the Bible, we meet a strong woman who does the Lord’s will fully and without reservation. She says YES to the Lord when asked to be the mother of the Son of God, even while she does not fully understand how this will happen. (Luke 1:26-38) Being a young, unwed virgin and finding out she was with child, she certainly had reason to say no. She could have been stoned for adultery! But she trusted in God’s perfect plan for her. That’s a pretty strong woman!

She visits her cousin Elizabeth who addresses her as most blessed among women. (Luke 1:42) And while Mary acknowledges that all generations will indeed call her blessed, she does not keep the praise for herself. She does not brag to Elizabeth  about how she was chosen or how righteous she is. No. She is quick to give all glory and praise to God. (Luke 1:46-55) And still today this is what she does. By acting as our mother, she does not take away from God but rather magnifies Him, points us toward Him and gently nudges us closer to her Son, the Savior of the world!

But Mary’s YES to the Lord’s will didn’t end there. It was more than a YES to have a baby, it was a YES to endure all that would come with being the Mother of God.  She travelled nine months pregnant on a donkey to a strange land and had her baby surrounded by animals and shepherds instead of family and friends. (Luke 2:1-20) She left the people she had known to escape to Egypt to save her son from Herod’s killing. (Matthew 2:13-17) And when she and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple, she was met with the words of praise for the Messiah…along with a foretelling of the pain she  would endure because of her YES (and you yourself a sword shall pierce – Luke 2:35)  But she didn’t complain. She didn’t run or hide or say to God, I’m done now this is all too much. No. She “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Mary raised Jesus and was with Him for 30 years.  After hearing those prophecies, I can’t help but wonder if she found herself during those 30 years thinking when will it happen? How will it happen? Can’t we just stay like this happy and together? Even if she felt this way, she never allowed it to interfere with what the Lord willed. She did not give in to temptation and hold her Son back from fulfilling His life-saving mission. Quite the opposite! After all, it was through Mary’s  intercession that Christ performed His first miracle at the wedding at Cana. (John :1-12)

Those three years of His ministry must have been filled with joy and also pain for Our Lady. Surely she was amazed by the wondrous deeds He performed, the loving message He shared, His courage to speak out for what was right. And yet as people spoke out against Him, tried to trick Him into speaking against the Scripture, called Him names and plotted against Him, I am sure her heart was heavy. What mother wants to see her child ridiculed and spoken of in such a manner? Still the pain she faced in watching Him treated this way during His ministry was nothing compared to the pain of watching her only son put to death on the cross 

Jesus’s crucifixion was beyond difficult for His followers to face. They were confused, filled with sorrow and dismay and fear. So troubling was His suffering and death, that we do not see them present with Him at His death. They followed Him for years but in the final moments could not stay beside Him.  Mary was by His side to the very end and beyond. (John 19:25-27) She did not accompany Him to Calvary to beg that He change what was to happen, to scream for the soldiers  to stop, to say to Him as did the others, “save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the cross!” (Matthew 27:40) No. She stood, stood, at the foot of the cross silently. Not buckled in grief or crumpled on the ground weeping, although perhaps inside she wanted to do nothing more than just that. She trusted fully in the Lord and through Him was given the remarkable strength to stand there while watching her son suffer and die because, though she may not have understood it, she knew that this was His plan and she was not going to go against His will. And after He rose from the dead, and even after He ascended into Heaven, she remained faithful to the Lord and devoted herself to prayer with the disciples. (Acts 1:14)

What incredible faith! We can learn so much from Mary’s example of obedience to the Father. She said YES to have a baby, but she also said YES to every bit of suffering and every moment of joy. She knows what it is to suffer. She knows that there is pain in this world because she has lived it. And now from her place in heaven, she hears our cries and seeks to draw us ever closer to her son, Jesus Christ. She wants to console us in our grief and sorrow by sending us into His loving, outstretched arms where she knows we will find peace.  She wants to share in our joy when we see the glory of God displayed in our lives.  She loves us as her children, for she is our mother. 

When it comes to empowered Catholic women, perhaps none was more filled with the Holy Spirit than Mary. And what a tremendous gift that we have her, not only as an example to look up to and admire, but also as an advocate for us! She is not just a distant holy woman we can read about and that’s that. She is present to us here and now through the the communion of Saints to pray for us and guide us on our faith journey. May we learn from her  example to live according to God’s will for us and to accept our joys and our sufferings.  And when we find ourselves struggling to do so, may we turn to her that she may intercede for us and bring  us closer to God. 

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. 

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Boasting of our Afflictions

mountains-1405043_960_720In today’s world, a world saturated by social media and making sure every photo, every post shows you in the best possible light, weakness and struggles are not popular.  Facebook is filled with posts showing bright smiling families and people post photos on Instagram or Snapchat of exciting adventures, laughing with friends, even of a particularly delicious meal.  It is a rare occasion when someone shares instead about something they are struggling with.  No one wants to portray themselves as anything less than perfect.  So instead of posting about the argument you had with your husband last night over finances, you share a “Throw Back Thursday” to your wedding day and gush over how in love you are.  Instead of posting about an illness that has been weighing you down, you post a smiling picture with a fancy filter to show just how great everything is.  Instead of posting about a stressful day getting the house cleaned up and the kids in bed, you share a blissful picture of the sleeping baby to show how perfect your world is at that moment.

It’s not a bad thing to look on the bright side, to choose to be positive despite our circumstances, and to take care that what we share shows us in the best light and promotes hope and optimism rather than complaining.  After all, isn’t that what we are taught?

“A cheerful heart is a good medicine,
but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.”  – Proverbs 17:22

And yet at times, refusing to share the struggles we face may do more harm than good.  I don’t mean to say we should walk around in a cloud of doom over everything “wrong” in our lives and constantly complain to others.  There is a fine line between complaining, whining, neglecting to take note of the blessings we are surrounding, and genuinely sharing a struggle we face with a friend in hopes that they will share our burden and we can do the same for them.  In the second reading at Mass on Sunday we read,

“Brothers and sisters:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions,
knowing that affliction produces endurance,
and endurance, proven character,
and proven character, hope,
and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” – Romans 5:1-5

To boast of our afflictions does not mean we complain and grumble.  Instead, we boast of our afflictions to show that, despite what we may face in life, we know that we will endure, become stronger, and grow in the hope of the Lord.  To hide any struggle we may face also hides the ways which the Holy Spirit works within us to overcome that affliction.  It hides the ways that we have grown stronger.  It hides how we have managed to maintain hope in the Lord through it all, even the darkest of times.

Not to say that our Facebook and Twitter need to show every detail of what we encounter.  In fact, perhaps those social media platforms are best left for more positive sharing.  But perhaps we could so better to share our struggles more, even if it is just with one trusted friend or within our own families.  To share and “boast” of the afflictions we face shows others that they are not alone.  We, too, have had our struggles and will walk this road alongside them to help them endure, to help them grow in character, and to help them hold onto hope.  Because hope never disappoints when our hope is in the Lord.

Moments of Glory

Moments of GloryBeing a disciple of Christ is hard work.  To stand up for what is right when it is more popular to do what you know is wrong is tough.  To preach the gospel through our words and actions despite how we might be feeling that particular day is not easy!  To love our neighbors, including our enemies, is a difficult concept to comprehend let alone live out in our daily lives.  And to remain filled with the joy,  hope, peace, and love of Jesus Christ, even when things around us seem to be too much to handle, well that can seem impossible.

And in truth, it very well might be impossible if we had to do it alone.  But the wondrous truth is that we are not alone.  We never have to face these tough times of discipleship on our own.  Even at times when we might not feel God’s presence, even during times when we may have strayed or turned away from the faith, God is still there.  Sometimes the things going on in our own lives or the things we see on the evening news discourage us and make us feel as though all is lost.  But God is still there.  Remembering this even during the times we do not “feel” His presence can be a struggle.  So how do we do it?

This Sunday in Mass we will hear Luke’s gospel account of the Transfiguration of Jesus.    Peter, James, and John go up on the mountain with Jesus to pray.  They are overcome with sleep and awake to see Jesus transfigured before them.  Jesus is standing there, dazzling white in all His glory with Moses and Elijah at His side as they discuss the events to come.  A cloud from heaven comes upon them and the voice of God says, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

Some time ago, our wonderful parish priest gave a homily on this very gospel story that has stuck with me.  He spoke of how the memory of this glorious experience remained with them and served to bring them hope in the tough times to come.  They had many trials yet to face, but the moment of glory that they had witnessed would provide them with strength to carry on.  It would serve as a reminder for them of the truly awesome glory of our God that surpasses any difficulties we face here on earth.

In our own lives, we have moments where we glimpse the glory of God. They may be large or small, but they are there.  Maybe it is a particularly breathtaking sunrise over the ocean that, each time you think of it or see a photo, you are reminded of the glory of the Lord.  Maybe it is your wedding day that you can look back on and see how clearly God’s glory was shown as you said your vows.  It could be a moment during mass when you were overcome with emotion or a silent moment alone in adoration where you felt His presence in an undeniable way.

These moments of glory stick with us and remind us that yes, God is there!  When things seem impossibly difficult in our own lives and when the world around us seems hopelessly lost, God has given us moments of His glory to look back upon and remember that the same God who created the sunrise, who brought you to your spouse, who is there in the Blessed Sacrament…He is here with you right now.  Even as you are reading this, He is there.

No matter how bleak or dark things may appear, find the glory of God around you.  Before becoming overwhelmed with stress, worry, fear, sadness, strive to remember a moment in your life when God’s glory shone through. And don’t stop there, but seek to find His glory displayed all around us each day.  Collect these moments of glory and keep them safe in your heart.  Use them to fill you with renewed strength to preach His gospel, to share His love, to stand up for what is right, to love those around you, and to remain filled with joy, hope, peace, and love in Christ no matter what happens.

We may not see the Lord transfigured here present be fore us like Peter, James, and John did.  But we can certainly see moments of His glory all around us.

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

our-lady-of-the-rosaryToday we celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary.  Last year on this feast day I shared some beautiful words by Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen on Our Lady.   Today I wanted to share some beautiful words from Saint John Paul II from his 2002 Apostolic Letter ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’:

Against the background of the words Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through – we might say – the heart of his Mother. At the same time our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind. Our personal concerns and those of our neighbour, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us.

And further down in the letter, Saint John Paul II has this to say about the Rosary as a prayer for peace:

The Rosary is also a prayer for peace because of the fruits of charity which it produces. When prayed well in a truly meditative way, the Rosary leads to an encounter with Christ in his mysteries and so cannot fail to draw attention to the face of Christ in others, especially in the most afflicted. How could one possibly contemplate the mystery of the Child of Bethlehem, in the joyful mysteries, without experiencing the desire to welcome, defend and promote life, and to shoulder the burdens of suffering children all over the world? How could one possibly follow in the footsteps of Christ the Revealer, in the mysteries of light, without resolving to bear witness to his “Beatitudes” in daily life? And how could one contemplate Christ carrying the Cross and Christ Crucified, without feeling the need to act as a “Simon of Cyrene” for our brothers and sisters weighed down by grief or crushed by despair? Finally, how could one possibly gaze upon the glory of the Risen Christ or of Mary Queen of Heaven, without yearning to make this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God’s plan?

I invite you to read the full text of ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’ here.   It is lengthy but is a wonderful explanation of the beauty of the Rosary.  If the Rosary is currently a part of your regular prayer life, it will surely encourage you and inspire you to continue forward in prayer with renewed excitement and joy for this beautiful prayer.  And if you are new to the Rosary, this lovely letter by St. John Paul II will not only explain what it is, but how it leads us closer to Christ.  Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary to you all!

Created in God’s Image

in His imageThere is so much attention placed on our bodies.  Countless articles, books, and videos are dedicated to helping people have the “perfect” body.  The media tells us what makeup to wear so your eyes will pop, what hairstyle best compliments your face shape, what type of jean is most flattering, what exercises will make you look red-carpet-ready in the shortest time and with the least effort put forth.

We are so much more than our bodies. So much more than our outward appearance!  Our bodies, in all shapes and sizes, are created in God’s own image!

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  Genesis 1:27

How beautiful is that?  God created all things.  Trees that reach up to the heavens, birds that sing so sweetly, fish that glide through the waters.  Our loving Creator took what was nothing but a “formless void” (Gn. 1:2) and out of nothing, created such astounding beauty!  And yet, while the beauty of nature and animals is certainly awesome, God made human beings something more.  We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14)  Not just another part of creation, humans were created separately, in the very image of God Himself!

As such, we are called to treat our own bodies with dignity and respect.  In fact, our bodies are not just empty shells but are the temple of the Holy Spirit!

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Created in God’s own image with our bodies as a temple for the Holy Spirit dwelling among us.  How amazing!  If we were only to remember these facts how different would we live our lives?

If we looked upon every human life as created in God’s image, how could we turn a blind eye to abortion, to refugees struggling for a better life, to those who are starving, homeless, or sick?

If we saw ourselves as the temple to the Holy Spirit within us, how could we possibly abuse and degrade our bodies?

What if, instead of focusing on the latest fad diet, we put that time and energy into glorifying God in our bodies?

We need to see God in ourselves and in those around us that we may be more mindful of our actions and words.  More respectful of all life.  More the person God created each of us to be.  More like Christ. For we are created in the very image of God.

“Let us be very sincere in our dealings with each other, and have the courage to accept each other as we are. Do not be surprised or become preoccupied at each other’s failures – rather, see and find in each other the good, for each one of us is created in the image of God.” Blessed Mother Teresa

Never Hunger

A few weeks ago we were singing “Eat This Bread” as our Communion hymn during Mass. It is a familiar hymn, one that I have sung countless times. And yet on this particular Sunday it hit me in a new light.

Eat this bread, drink this up, come to me and never be hungry.

Eat this bread, drink this cup, trust in me and you will not thirst.

These words sung over and over in the refrain come from the Gospel of John, Chapter 6.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)

They are simple words. And yet, as often seems to be the case, a deep and profound meaning comes forth from these few words. Jesus is the bread of life! And whoever comes to Him will never hunger; never thirst.

Never hunger. Never thirst.

What is it that we hunger and thirst for? Perhaps someone hungers for a big promotion at work. Or maybe someone is thirsting to meet that special someone who might one day be their spouse. We hunger and thirst for many things throughout the day and throughout our lives.  These hungers, these thirsts, these desires within us leave us aching feeling that seems to be ever present. A feeling that something is missing. My heart hungers for a child. And while I might try to ignore the ache, it is still there. That constant, aching hunger is exhausting. That thirsting leaves you tired. Yet we keep at it,   forging ahead doing whatever we can to alleviate the hunger; to conquer our thirst.

The Lord wants what is best for us. He knows what is best for us. While the things that we hunger and thirst for might be worthy causes, we cannot let these desires come before the Lord. When we place our hope and our trust 100% in the Lord, there is no more hunger! Because to trust so deeply in Him means knowing beyond a doubt that He has a plan. If the desires of our hearts were placed there by the Lord, then we should be able to fully trust that He will fulfil them! And if these desires do not come to us from the Lord, then we should trust in Him to change our hearts and open us up to His will. There is no need for me to hunger so deeply for a child when I know that God is the Creator of life! He has a plan for me and my family far greater than I can think of.

Being only human, it is hard to completely let go of all those hungers and thirsts, big and small, throughout our day to day life. To let go of all of that and fill our lives instead with Christ is a noble task, but a difficult one.

How do we go about relieving this hunger? Jesus says to come to Him, to believe in Him. How can we do this in a practical way? We can spend more time in prayer, set aside quiet time to read and reflect upon the Word of God in Scripture, and take count of our blessings rather than focus on the things we lack.

But perhaps the best way to help us grow closer to Christ, to fill our heart, soul, and in fact our entire being with Him, is through the miraculous Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus tells us,

“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” John 6:56

To partake in the gift of the Eucharist is to abide in the Lord and to welcome Him into our very selves in the most beautiful and complete way. Through Holy Communion, we are able to let go of all other hungers, all other thirsts, and to focus solely on Christ, physically present there with us.  In this way, we truly fill our souls with Him and His love. Jesus is the bread of life. To eat of this bread means that we will no longer be hungry. Through this most holy Sacrament, we are given the strength to let go of all our desires and to be filled with Jesus. Through this beautiful gift of the Eucharist, we no longer hunger or thirst because we are filled completely with everything that we need: Jesus Christ our Lord.

With Us Always

sun-441565_640As the apostles gathered on that mountain preparing to say goodbye to Jesus once again, I imagine there was quite a mix of emotions. They had already said goodbye before, in a very different setting.

That night of the Last Supper may have been on their minds. Then they did not know what was to happen. They were confused and frightened by His words. They scattered when Jesus was arrested. They hid in fear and shame at betraying their teacher, their friend, their Lord. They wondered what they were supposed to do next. With Jesus dead, now what?

And the Jesus was resurrected from the dead! He was there with them! Not merely as a vision or a ghost, but as an actual person with flesh and bones. A person who ate with them, talked with them, and once again taught them. In these moments spent with Christ after His resurrection, I imagine the apostles were filled with joy. Despite the fear of persecution that followed them, they knew now that Jesus had conquered death! They knew that He truly was God! In the presence of His fully glorified body, they knew in their hearts that He had changed everything and that following Him was the only way to live.

Now, here they were preparing to say goodbye again. Not goodbye forever. No, they knew they would see Him in Heaven one day. But for the remainder of their time here on earth, this was goodbye. Before He ascended into Heaven, He told His apostles to go! They were not to merely sit around amongst each other and reminisce of the “good old days” when Jesus was here. They were not to hide away in secret so that no one would ever find them or know who they were. No. They were called to go forth! To share the Gospel, to baptize, to do all that Jesus had taught them to do while He was there with them.

I wonder if they felt inadequate. If they were worried about how they would fulfil this call. I wonder if Peter’s mind raced back to his betrayal. I wonder if Thomas remembered his doubt. I wonder if in that moment, as Jesus commanded them to go forth and continue on in His work, they felt scared and uncertain. After all, they had messed up before. What if they failed? How would they carry on His mission without Him? How would they know what to say? What to do? How would they know where to go?

Jesus doesn’t leave them stranded though. No. Instead, He blesses them, He tells them of the signs and good deeds they will do in His name, and He tells them that they will be receiving the Holy Spirit.  And then He assures them that He will still be with them. Not just for a few days, not just a few weeks or even years. Jesus promises them “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20)

Jesus is always with us. It is something we learned as children, something we may have sang songs about in Sunday School. Something that perhaps, sometimes, we begin take to take for granted. Something that we are so used to saying, so used to hearing, that we fail to recognize the awesomeness of it! Jesus, our Lord and Savior is with us always!

When we are lying in bed at night worrying about bills to pay and work to do; He is there. When we are busy with the family, rushing from one event to another, making phone calls all day long; He is there. When we are angry, when we are sad, when we are joyful; He is there. He is always there.

Jesus is here with us in our hearts, in our minds, and in our souls. And through the immeasurable beauty of the gift of the Eucharist, He is here with us not just as a vague idea but actually, physically present among us! We are blessed with the wondrous gift of receiving His Precious Body and Blood into our very selves each Mass. How truly amazing that is!

Just as the apostles were told to go forth in Christ and spread His word, we are called to do the same. And just like the apostles, we are not expected to go do this alone. Through the Sacraments, we have been baptized, we have received the Holy Spirit, and we are able to receive Christ Himself in the Holy Eucharist. We have been given all that we need! Sometimes we may feel inadequate or doubt that we could ever live up to what it is we have been called to do. We need only to remember that He is truly here with us. Right now, in this very moment, and in every moment still to come.

After Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles “after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52) With the gifts we have been given and the promise we have of Christ’s constant presence here with us, we are called to do the same. To worship Him and to go forth in joy to spread His word. All the while knowing that He is still here.