Tag Archives: Grace


After a few years of dealing with infertility, it can seem like there are two options available: continue to pursue medical treatment or begin the process to adopt. In reality there is also a third option and it is the option my husband and I have decided to take at this point.   And that is, basically, to do nothing.

Some might say that given what the doctors have said this doesn’t make any sense. Some might say that if we really wanted a baby we would do something more proactive at this point. Some might just shake their head in a sad fashion with a look that seems to say “so you’ve given up?”

And that could not be further from the truth. I still long desperately to be a mother. I still pray daily that it will happen. But after years of trying this treatment or that, we simply said “enough.” Enough tests, enough medication, enough stress, enough of the medical appointments (and bills that go along with them).

While adoption is a wonderful calling, it is just that: a calling. Not something that is a “last resort” option to have children. Despite how much we want a child, we simply do not feel the call to adopt. Deep in our hearts, we both still strongly feel that we will conceive and we will have our baby. And so we will continue to pray, continue to trust, continue to hope, and continue to wait.

I used to worry about what we would do when we reached this point. I would grow panicked at the thought of being able to do absolutely nothing else. But now that we are here? Now that we have made this decision? I feel immense peace about it. I know in my heart we will be parents. And I truly believe that we will become parents through conception. Even still, as we sit back and wait, we will continue to pray for God’s will to be made clear and to trust that if His will is something different, He will make it known to us.

We are not giving up hope, but we are giving up control. At the end of the day, it is God who creates life. Our decision to do nothing is a decision to fully give it to God. While I have said to myself before that we give this up to the Lord, a part of me still held onto control. A part of me felt that I had to try all my options. And I am glad that I did. I learned things about my overall health and got my body back on track. But now, I feel very comfortable with the decision to let go of it all and leave it fully in His hands.

A year ago today, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I made my first Marian consecration following the 33 Days to Morning Glory retreat. It was an important step in my faith and one that has led me closer and closer to Christ. The consecration calls me to give everything I have and everything that I am to Jesus through Mary. It calls me to relinquish all control and to trust in the everlasting goodness and mercy of our Lord. It may have taken me a year, and I certainly still have a ways to go, but I feel that on this anniversary of my consecration, I am truly ready in my heart to let go and give it all up to Him.

Today also marks the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. To celebrate this, my church is holding a Bible study on Divine Mercy throughout the Old and New Testaments. Our first session was last night. To open the session, we listened to Matt Maher’s song “Your Grace Is Enough” and discussed how God’s grace, God’s mercy, is truly the heart of our faith. Pope Francis said in his Angelus address today, “Mercy is the key-word of the Gospel” and that “we should not be afraid: we should allow ourselves to be embraced by the mercy of God, who waits for us and forgives everything.”

Today, at the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, while celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the anniversary of my first Marian consecration, I am ready to stop being afraid, to give it all up to God, and to allow His rich mercy to surround me and fill my soul. In deciding to do nothing, I feel that we are leaving ourselves open to everything. He has a plan for us, one that while I may not yet understand it, I know in my heart will be far greater than what I could come up with on my own. I am ready to really immerse myself in His mercy and let my heart be open to His will in my life. Because His mercy, His love, His grace is enough.

The Spirit is Willing

rose-655361_640Each year as we reflect upon the Passion of the Lord during Holy Week, I am filled with resolve to be a better person.  To turn away from sin and to fill my life with all that is holy.  To think of the pain Christ endured because of my sins makes me yearn to never sin again.

And yet, as wonderful as it would be to say that since last Easter, I have not sinned, that is certainly not the case.  Although in my heart I firmly intend to turn away from sin, in my soul I long to be closer to the Lord, I am still only human.

Thinking about our sins and our failings in light of the sacrifice Jesus made for us is one thing.  What would it have been like to be there?  We sing the words, “Oh  sometimes it causes me to tremble, were you there when they crucified my Lord?”  And while we journey alongside Christ through prayer and the Mass, we were not there.  But the apostles were.  They followed Him, learned from Him, left everything for Him.  They loved Him deeply and in their hearts they were so filled with resolve to follow Him always, never to sin again.

We hear the apostles one by one almost pleading with Jesus to not be the betrayer, “Surely it is not I?” (Mk 14:19)  We hear Peter promising the Lord that “Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be” (Mk 14:29) and “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all spoke similarly. (Mk 14:31)  They ate with Him and listened to Him as He told them of His coming death, even while their hearts did not fully understand.  They followed Him to Gethsemane to be with Him while He prayed and stayed there to keep watch as He asked.  And then, in their final moments with the Lord, they fell asleep.

Jesus comes to Peter saying, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  (Mk 14:37-38)  Despite His words, twice more Jesus returned to find them asleep.  Though their hearts were in the right place, they could not bring themselves to stay awake!

After Jesus is arrested,  although Peter proclaimed His dedication to the Lord and was determined never to deny Him, we know that he does just that. Not once, not twice, but three times does he deny even knowing Jesus.  After this the Gospel tells us that Peter “broke down and wept”. (Mk 14:72)

Peter was not just a bystander who listened to Christ from a distance.  He had dedicated his whole life to Christ!  He had boldly answered Christ,You are the Messiah.” (Mk 8:29)  And while his spirit was so very willing to follow Christ no matter the cost, he still fell to sin.  Though his spirit was willing, his flesh was weak.  Weak with fear, confusion, and exhaustion.

But Peter’s story does not end here.  Despite the weakness of his flesh, despite his failings and sin, his spirit was still willing!  He wept at the realization of what he had done.  He resolved once again to try harder, to follow more closely, to turn away from sin and live a holy life dedicated to the Lord. The Lord knew that He could do great things through Peter.  Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Mt 18:18)

Jesus knew that the willingness of Peter’s spirit would prevail against the weakness of his fleas.  Peter’s story is not one of despair, but one of hope and of great mercy and grace.  Despite his failings, Peter allowed the Lord to work within him.  He repented of his sins and did not let his past failings prevent him from continuing on in Christ.

As we celebrate our Lord’s passion this week we call to mind our own sinfulness.  While we are called to repent and turn from sin, sometimes our flesh is weak.  During these moments of weakness, we do not need to despair.  Our God is loving and merciful beyond our understanding and His grace is more than we can fathom.  When we find that we have failed, we need only to ask forgiveness, turn away from sin, and return fully to His endless love.  We are not held back by past failings but are renewed in Christ.  Though our flesh may be weak, if our spirits are willing He can still work within us to draw us ever closer to Him and to share in His love.

Full of Grace

conception-1“Hail Mary, full of grace, The Lord is with thee.”  (Luke 1:28)

These words, the first lines of the “Hail Mary” prayer, were spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel when he came to her to share the glorious news that she was to be the mother of the Son of God.  This was not a casual greeting.  These words, short though they may be, held deep meaning within them, and Mary knew it.

“But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.”   (Luke 1:29)

What is it about these words?  Mary was not troubled simply by the presence of Gabriel, but by the words he spoke and the meaning they held.  They must have great importance.  If not, we could skip the greeting altogether and head right to Luke 1:30 and continue on from there,

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end”.

But that is not where the story begins.  Luke includes the specific words spoken in greeting to the Virgin Mary for a reason.  Mary pondered over these words for a reason.  This greeting is more than just a few words strung together as a way to say hello.  They hold profound meaning.

Today, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we celebrate the meaning of these words.

The Immaculate Conception does not refer to the birth or conception of Christ, but rather to the Immaculate Conception of Mary within the womb of her mother, St. Anne.  The Immaculate Conception refers to the fact that Mary was conceived immaculately, free from sin from the very beginning of her life.  She was miraculously preserved free of original sin and thus was in a state of grace from her very conception.  Where does this teaching come from?

The official dogma of the Immaculate Conception was not proclaimed until 1854 but the belief in Mary as being immaculately conceived goes back to the earliest church teachings and beliefs. This belief was not invented in 1854, but rather simply defined.  The belief itself stems from looking at the very verses mentioned above.

“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.”

That peculiar greeting holds within it the deep meaning of the Immaculate Conception.  Mary is not told that if she agrees to give birth to the Son of God, then she will have the Lord within her and will thus be filled with His grace.  She is not told that the Son she will bear will die for all sins and His sanctifying grace will then fill her.  The angel Gabriel announces that Mary is already full of grace!

The grace of God filled Mary’s soul from the very moment of her creation so that she would be worthy of carrying the Son of God within her womb.  But Mary was still a created being.  She was fully human.  At any moment during her life, she could have chosen to give in to the temptations around her.  She could have chosen disobedience and sin, but she did not.  She remained filled with the grace of God and free from sin throughout her life.  In her perfect obedience to the will of the Lord we see exactly why it is that Mary proclaims “All generations will call me blessed”  (Luke 1:48).

On this feast day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we praise God for His miraculous grace that allowed Our Lady to be preserved from sin and thus worthy of carrying Our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Through her example and love for the Lord, we grow closer to Him.  With Mary ever by our side, we grow in grace and are constantly drawn closer to Our Savior.

+  Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen. +

Salvation By Faith or Works? {Part 2}

sun-16837_640…Continued from part one posted yesterday

Salvation is through grace! It is through the wondrous grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we can spend eternity with Him in Heaven. We do not earn grace, it is a gift given freely to us by Our Lord through His death and resurrection!

A gift is meant to be accepted. When you give someone a birthday present, you expect that they will open it! Furthermore, you hope that they will use the gift you gave them.

God has given us the gift of His grace through which we may have eternal life! To accept this gift is to put all our faith in the endless love and mercy of Jesus. To accept this gift we must accept the truth that Jesus if the Son of God. That through His death and resurrection, death has been defeated! To accept this gift means we accept all that Christ taught. And by our acceptance, we agree to live the way that He taught us to live. This is where the works come into play. Take a look at how Christ says we are to live our lives:

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven”  Matthew 5: 14-16

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

When Jesus gives us this greatest commandment, He quickly follows it with a second commandment.  Why?  Because they go together.  The first is an act of faith.  To love the Lord with all that we have.  The second is a commandment of how we are to treat others.  To believe in Christ, to have full faith in all that He taught demands that we live a life that shows His love in us through our own works.  Perhaps this is best described in Matthew:

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’  And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’  Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;  for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’  Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

This makes it perfectly clear that is we profess our belief in God and in Jesus Christ His Son, we must take that belief and live it!  We must do as Christ did, follow in His footsteps, and express our faith through the works that we do.  For the good things we do here on earth even to the least among us, are done for the Lord.

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?  If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?  So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” James 2:14-17

This is not contradictory to Paul’s words. Rather, it is meant to go hand in hand! The gates of Heaven are open to us through the grace of Jesus Christ. Through His death and resurrection, He has given us the amazing gift of eternal life with Him in Heaven. To receive this gift is to accept all that He has taught. By acceptance of His teachings and His grace, we are called to live out our faith through our actions to shine Christ’s light to all among us! We are called to live like Christ.

We cannot earn Heaven. The price for our sins was paid by Christ. But that does not mean we merely state that we believe and are exempt from our actions. By our belief in the saving power of Christ, we also believe in His commandments, which demand action from us. By choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, we are denying the teachings of Christ, and therefore denying His gift to us. When we sin, we have failed in our call to love Christ above all and to love our neighbors. Through our faith in His saving grace, we know that sin is not the end. Through this faith we have hope that, despite our failings, through the grace of God we are healed. We are called to live this faith through our every action.

Salvation is by the grace of God which we accept through faith in Him alone as our Savior and which calls us to live as He did, to love Him, to love others, and to serve others in His name.

 *for more on this topic, check out one of my favorite blogs: Living the Reality of Jesus.

Salvation By Faith or Works? {Part 1}

Picture of a wooden Christian cross on Saint Cuthbert’s Isle, Holy Island, Northumberland. St Cuthbert’s Isle was a small island used as a retreat by both Aidan and Cuthbert. How do we get to Heaven? Is it by our own good works? Or is it through faith alone?  The question of salvation by faith alone or by faith with works is really not a question at all because the two work hand in hand together.

There are a number of passages in the Bible that are commonly used to defend sola fide, or the belief in salvation through faith alone.  If we look at these passages alone, it can be easy to see where this belief comes from.  But these passages are not meant to be read as small excerpts, but rather as a part of a whole.  If we read further, it is clear that faith and works go together.  For example, those who believe in sola fide may point to the following passage:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16-18

But if we continue to read…

“And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.   For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.  But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” John 3:19-21.

By reading further on in this passage we can see that Jesus is telling us that our belief in Him should compel us to turn away from darkness and come into the light.  To stop from doing evil deeds and instead to do good deeds in the light of Christ so that others may see and know the Lord.

Here is another example:

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him. ” John 14:6-7

But by continuing to read on in the chapter Jesus explains that He and the Father are One, and he uses works as a means for His explanation.  Furthermore, Jesus then tells him that whoever believes in Him will do His works!

“Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.  I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  John 14:8-14

Another example might be this:

“For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.” Romans 3:28

Again, by reading further into the passage we gain a clearer understand of just what Paul was saying:

“Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Romans 3:29-31

We see that Paul is describing faith apart from works of the law in order to make known the greater point,  that is that salvation is for all.  Those who are familiar with the Jewish teachings, the Torah, the law, are not the only ones who can be saved through Christ.  God is the God of the Gentiles too, despite the fact that they were not following the same law.  And still, Paul reminds us that we are called to uphold that law!  The law of the prophets, that is fulfilled in Our Lord!

One more example:

“Yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.” Galatians 2:16

Reading further…

“But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor.  For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:17-20

If, even though we have faith in Christ, we resort back to bad habits, Paul says that we are then transgressors, sinners. Isaiah 53:5 tells us But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” Because of Christ we have been saved and now are called to live to God with Christ within us. Christ did not sit and simply state His belief in the Father, He lived it. He healed the sick, comforted the sorrowful, performed miracles, helped the poor and the sinners. He was so active that He could scarcely even get away for rest without people following Him.

So where does all this leave us? Back to the question I asked at the beginning, how do we get to Heaven? By citing these examples does that prove that we need to earn salvation? No!

Salvation is through grace! It is through the wondrous grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we can spend eternity with Him in Heaven. We do not earn grace, it is a gift given freely to us by Our Lord through His death and resurrection!

…Since this is already quite lengthy, I will post the rest of it tomorrow.  To be continued! 🙂

A Beautiful Reunion

I am a very visual person and the imagery associated with the mysteries of the Rosary  helps to deepen my prayer life and my faith.  This morning as I meditated on the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, I was struck with a beautiful image.  I’ve often thought of what a joyous occasion it would be for Mary to again see her Son in the glory of Heaven. The immense love, peace, and joy is beyond our comprehension.

I pictured our Blessed Mother running with joy to meet her Son.  The rising sun reflected off the snow outside my window enhanced my imagination as I pictured brilliant whites, golden yellows, and rosy hues of pink surrounding Our Lady and my God.  There was such joy in the eyes of Jesus and Mary and they both had enormous smiles on their faces as Jesus wrapped His mother in His loving arms and they were locked in an embrace of such deep love and joy to be reunited.  The image was so beautiful and vivid while still remaining dreamlike in a sense.  I smiled to myself as I imagined the joy of meeting Christ face to face.

I thought then of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).  The joy of the father as he greeted his son who had gone astray is so evident in this story.  I can imagine the relief the son must have felt as receiving such a welcoming.

As I thought on these two images, I found myself identifying with each.  While I strive to live my life in as Christ-like a manner as possible, I am still a sinner.  Despite knowing the sacrifice my Lord made for me, I continually find myself seeking out His forgiveness.  Like the prodigal son, I feel such a relief at the grace our Almighty Father exhibits towards us all.  When I participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I feel the peace and forgiveness of the Lord wash over me.  When I receive Him in Holy Communion, I feel His arms wrap around me in a loving embrace.

While the prodigal son reminds me of where I have been, the sins I have committed, and the ultimate forgiveness of Christ, the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother reminds me of where I want to go and what it is I strive for.  I know I am a sinner.  I know I have made mistakes and fall short of my heavenly call.  How I long to live a life like Mary.  Tp be perfectly obedient to the will of the Lord even when it is beyond my understanding.  To be such a loving and faithful wife, mother, and follower of Christ.  To be able to accept all the trials that come my way with the knowledge that God has a plan for me.  I strive to have the faith and wisdom to echo Mary’s resounding “Yes!” to the Lord when He calls to me.

I know that I have failed at times.  And I know that despite my faults, my God has forgiven me.  But one look at the cross reminds me that my sins came at a price and that price was lovingly paid by my Savior at Calvary.  I do not want to continue to be the prodigal son.  I want to be like Mary.  I do not want to receive forgiveness only to rich back into sin.  I know that no matter how many tomes I falter, Christ will still welcome me home.  But seeing the love He has so freely given, I want to cease all sinful behavior and be a better example of His love.  

I am the prodigal son, yes; but I long to be like Our Lady.  I am a sinner; but I strive to be a saint.  I cannot get there without the love, grace, and forgiveness of God.   It fills me with joy and peace to picture the beautiful reunion to Mary in Heaven with the Lord.  My soul finds hope in that, by God’s endless love and mercy, we one day will meet Him in all His glory and share in that beautiful and loving reunion of Jesus our Savior, His Blessed Mother Mary, and all the Angels in Saints in Heaven for all eternity.

Not to Judge, But to Love

Jesus did not make a habit of hanging around the “best” crowds.  He was frequently seen with sinners of all sorts.  He did not gather these sinners together to judge and scold them.  He did not organize protests and rallies to call out their sinful ways. Certainly He did not agree with their actions.  But rather than judging, discriminating, scolding, and ignoring these people, He chose a different method.  One that drew sinners to Him, rather than chasing them away.

When Zacchaeus, a known tax collector, learned that Jesus was coming, “he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:4-5)  Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus!  There was something that pulled him to go make a fool of himself and climb a tree just to get a better look!

“And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.” Luke 7:37-38  This woman was not obligated to go see Jesus.   There was something that drew her to Him.  Something in what she had heard about Him that made her need to go to Him.

What is that something that drew these people to Jesus?   What was it that made them actively seek Him out? It was love.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them,they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.”And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” John 8:3-11

Jesus did not condemn, nor did He approve of the actions of this woman.   He knew she had sinned and did not ignore that fact.  But He did not start out by lecturing her while the others watched.   He looked on her with mercy and showed her love first.  Then, after she had seen the love that He had for her, He tells her “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

What if, when presented with an adulterous woman, He shamed her and brought the people together to rally against her?  What if, upon seeing Zacchaeus up in the tree, He first lectured on the terrible sins this tax collector had committed?  What if, when the woman brought the alabaster jar to Him, He first berated her for her terrible life?  I doubt that these sinners and countless others like them would have sought out the Lord if this was how they were treated.

Zacchaeus may have stayed up in that tree out of shame.  The woman with the jar of ointment would have been embarrassed and probably would feel silly for thinking this man would see past her sins.  The adulterous woman likely would have been stoned.  And I am betting that none of them would change their lifestyle.  Why would they change their way of life if it seemed they were too far gone for mercy?

Back in July, Pope Francis was questioned on homosexuality and famously replied, “Who am I to judge?” The media jumped all over this.  But why is this so shocking?  Pope Francis has not changed any Church doctrine.  And he won’t.  The teachings of Christ and His Church are not meant to conform to the ways of man.  Rather, they are to remain constant despite the changing world around us.

What made his response so striking is that was vastly different in tone than the attitude presented by many Christians in our world today.  We have lost sight of what it is Christ is calling us to do: love.  This does not mean we need to conform and give in to things we disagree with.  We are not called to change our beliefs.  But we can change our focus.

I know I am a sinner.  I do not want to be judged because of mistakes I have made and continue to make.   Although I have sinned, I know that there is something far greater than sin.  It is the love of Jesus Christ whose endless grace and mercy forgives all my sins.  He died for all of our sins.  It is through His everlasting love that we have true joy and true peace.

When we see sin in those around us, let us remember to look at ourselves before we judge.  Rather than focusing on the faults of others, let us instead focus on showing love to everyone, even those we disagree with.  By showing love, mercy, and forgiveness first, we can inspire others to seek Jesus and His mercy.  We are not perfect, but we are loved.  And we are called to do the same.  Not to judge, but to love.

“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins” 1 Peter 4:8

Stuck Up in a Tree


Treetop (Photo credit: palestrina55)

In yesterday’s Gospel we heard the story of Zacchaeus. This is a popular story that many are familiar with.  Zacchaeus was a tax collector who when Jesus was coming to Jericho, climbed up a sycamore tree in order to see Him since he was a short man.  Jesus saw him in the tree and said “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” (Lk 19:5)  Zacchaeus came down and in front of a grumbling crowd pledged to give to the poor and to right all his wrongs.

But I wonder what would have happened had Jesus not seen him or said anything to him in that tree?

Imagine what Zacchaeus was thinking.  Here he is, well aware that he is not popular amongst the crowd. Tax collectors certainly were not the most well liked people and the fact that he was wealthy means most people assumed, and perhaps rightfully so, that he was taxing more than the necessary amount from those who had so little already. He knows what he’s done and how he’s made his wealth.  He’s so short he can’t see over the crowd of people.  As he wanders through the crowd trying to catch a glimpse of Jesus you can just hear the people in the crowd mocking him, pushing him out of the way, saying he is unworthy to be there.  He could have turned around at that moment and left.  He could have picked an obscure place to hide and watch from a distance.  But no!  Instead he runs up ahead of everyone and climbs a tree!

Once he got up in this tree I imagine he was quite nervous.  Would Jesus notice him?  What would he say?  What if he ignored him completely?  How could he climb back down amidst this crowd that hated him after failing to catch the attention of Jesus?  I wonder how long he would have stayed in that tree had Jesus not called to Him.  Would he have chased after?  Or would he be ashamed and embarrassed and remain stuck up in that tree until the crowds were gone and he could sneak back home? What if the news of his crazed tree-climbing reached his family?  His superiors?  They might think him insane!

I think we all go through times were we are stuck in a tree.  We feel lost, confused, ashamed.  We all have moments where we know we have failed yet despite our sins, despite our failures, we know we need God.  So we reach out to Him, we climb up to see Him, knowing full well that we are unworthy.

Perhaps in those moments we go through emotions similar to Zacchaeus.  Doe God see us reaching out to Him?  Will He stop to take notice of our little problems?  Does He hear our cries?  Does He know that we need Him and are waiting for Him?

Zacchaeus didn’t have to worry for long.  Jesus took notice of him and did not see his sins but instead saw a man seeking God.  But Jesus didn’t merely take notice, nod, and move along.  He stopped and invited Himself to dinner with this sinful man stuck up in a tree.  Zacchaeus felt God’s grace and mercy and was so overjoyed he came down quickly from the tree and pledged to change his life.

When we find ourselves in need of God’s grace, stuck up in a tree, we need not worry if God sees us or hears our pleas.  He is always there.  His grace is everlasting and He is always waiting to invite Himself into our hearts and souls so that we can change our lives and become more like Him. 

Zacchaeus was a brave man.  He risked the ridicule of others and the embarrassment of being stuck in a tree just so he could see the Lord.  We don’t need to worry about what will happen when we reach out to God for we know He sees us and hears our prayers.  We just need to have the courage when times get tough to reach out to Him.  To put aside pride and to instead realize the wondrous grace that He has in store. 

I pray that when I begin to feel lost in the crowd, when I feel like God is slipping from my sight, that I might have the confidence to reach out to Him with all my strength, knowing that He is there waiting for me.