Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

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.

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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

Ever Shall Be

Glory Be

The Glory Be.  This short and simple prayer that many of us learned as young children manages to capture some of the most profound mysteries of our faith in its few simple words.

As we pray these words, we give glory to God in all three persons of the Trinity.  We acknowledge the glory that is due to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Not just now, not just when things are going well, but always!  We declare our belief that the glory of God in the Holy Trinity existed in the very beginning, before anything that we know here on this earth.  And His glory has never faded, His presence has never wavered.

He is here with us today through all our trials and all our rejoicing.  God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is here with each and every one of us in every single moment.  To have the love of the Lord with us in such a personal way is something that we should never cease to give thanks and praise for.  He has created each of us in His own image, He has given us His Son to save us from our sins and bring us to an everlasting life in Heaven with Him, and He stays with us every step of the way to guide us, forgive us, and love us.  Glory to God indeed!

During the trials of our lives it can be harder to give the glory.  Sometimes it seems easier to see the bad.  To see the wars, the drought, the famine.  The storms that wreak havoc on homes and take away lives.  The lack of morality that seems to permeate our culture.  If you watch the news even for a second it seems there is so much bad in our world today; not to mention the trials we face in our own personal lives.

In those moments when we feel consumed by the negativity and struggle to see the good through it all, those last words of this short prayer bring us hope.  “…and ever shall be, world without end.”

The glory of the Lord is not something that is reserved for moments past, not something that we need to search for to see if it still exists, not something that will one day die out and cease to exist.  The glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will remain forever!  Our human minds may not comprehend how or why something is happening here on earth.  But we know that God’s glory is everlasting.  All the pain and sadness that we see or experience is only temporary.  In this world there is still sin.  There is still sorrow and death and sickness and pain.  None of these things will last forever.  Jesus has already overcome sin and death!  There is the glory!

The glory of the Lord shines around us in so many ways if we only take a moment to see it.  The colors of the sky, the baby being born, the crashing of the ocean waves, the stillness of the mountain air.  His glory is everywhere!  And even if we find ourselves struggling to see His glory in our everyday lives, we can find peace and comfort in the knowledge that it truly is there and always will be.  We can remind ourselves that whatever trials we may face will not last forever because God is greater than all of them.  The things of this world will come and go, but the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit was there in the beginning, is here with us now, and ever shall be.

The Fire of Your Love

What do you envision when you think of fire?  For me, fire is associated with so many memories.  The flicker of countless birthday candles on the cakes of family and friends over the years.  The coziness of the fireplace where Grandpa would be sure to keep a fire going every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.  But the best memory is of the campfires.  I absolutely love camping and one of my favorite parts of camping is building the biggest campfire, while still staying safely within the fire ring of course!

I love making a campfire in the evening to cook dinner over.  I love roasting marshmallows and making s’mores.  I love sitting around the campfire at night when everything is dark and watching the flames dance around in mesmerizing shapes and brilliant colors. I love the orange glow of the fire as the smoke drifts up to the stars.  I love the crackling noise of the logs.  I love that campfire smell…the one that buries it’s way into your clothing and your hair so that when it is finally time for bed and you curl up in your sleeping bag, the smell of that wondrous campfire is still with you.

When I was a little girl, my sisters and I would go around the campsite searching for tiny twigs and sticks to use as kindling.  My Dad taught us how to arrange the twigs in the perfect teepee shape to allow the flames to fully consume them and spread to the logs.  The kindling was just to get the fire started.  If the logs didn’t catch, then the campfire would not last but a few minutes.   Too many twigs crowded too close together could smother the initial flame.  If the sticks we found were damp from rain, they would not catch as easily.  If there was too much of a breeze it could blow the flame out before it reached the logs.  The kindling had to be just right.

The Holy Spirit kindles a fire within us.  God sends His Holy Spirit to fill up our hearts with the perfect teepee shaped kindling of His everlasting love.  Then, when the Spirit breathes into us the fire of the love of our God, it will not be extinguished but will spread to all those around us, just like the twigs spread the flame to the logs surrounding them.

+Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the  Amen.+

The Holy Spirit kindles a flame within us that cannot be quenched.  We may feel at times as though we are soaked through with the rain of worry, doubt, fear, and sorrow.  We may feel that the winds of the storms we face are too strong for the fire to last.  It may seem like there is nothing left within us to kindle that flame.  But oh there is!  The fire of the love of God is the flame that will never fade.  “For indeed our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29.)

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit kindles the fire of the love of the Lord within us so that our lives shine brilliantly like the dancing flames of the campfire; mesmerizing those around us so that they are drawn to the love of Christ.  Let us pray that through the encounters we have with others, we might leave the love of the Holy Spirit lingering with them like the scent of the campfire. 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

An Election by the Holy Spirit

“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Since Jesus spoke these words long ago, we have maintained the tradition of placing one person to be the leader of the Church here on earth. And though other religions may have come and gone, the Church has prevailed. Now with the Pope’s announcement to resign, it seems the whole world is drawn to the news surrounding the Catholic Church. Everyone, Catholic and not, seems to be intrigued by what will happen next. Some are just interested, others seem determined to find scandal within the stories. I have read multiple articles questioning the Pope’s decision and questioning if the Church will survive. I sometimes wonder to myself why is it that the Catholic Church always seems to be under attack by someone? Every little thing seems to be turned into a massive scandal by someone and any mistake that someone makes within the Church is immediately made out to be s mistake not by that person, but by the Church itself. Perhaps the Church comes under attack because it is something worth attacking. Maybe there is something so holy and truthful about the Catholic Church that evil forces will try anything to knock it down and attempt to turn people away from it. Though the pope may step down and it is surely not the norm, the Church will remain steadfast and true.

 Last week I was asked who my choice was for the next Pope. The question took me by surprise. Sure I had seen the articles of “front-runners” for Pope, but I honestly had not considered choosing one over another. I think when we talk about the election of the new Pope, many people associate it with any other public election; mayor, governor, president, etc. Especially with the election of the President of the United States in such recent memory. The election of a new Pope is not like electing a President. In electing a President, you have people of all faiths, all creeds, putting in their choices. You have negativity and lies smearing the campaigns. A candidate campaigns and is chosen for their promise of how they will live up to the standards and expectations of the people.

 In choosing a new Pope, there is no campaigning. It is not a search for someone who will compromise to make everyone happy. It is not about appointing someone who will make the people happy. In electing a Pope, it is not up to the people. In truth, it is not even up to the Cardinals who will cast their votes. Although they may physically carry out the task of voting, they are called to allow the intercession of the Holy Spirit to guide them. It is the Holy Spirit who appoints the next Pope. The Pope is not chosen because of his ability to make everyone happy and conform to society. The Pope has the task of remaining true to the faith even when it goes against the path society wants us to take, even if it makes people unhappy. I am confident that the Holy Spirit will guide the Cardinals as they meet and pray to appoint the next successor to Peter as head of the God’s Church here on earth.

I for one am humbled by Pope Benedict’s decision and have great respect for him. I think it is wonderful that God was able to work through him and I am confident He will do the same with the next Pope, whoever that may be.

A Wonderful Transformation

little-girl-626114_640As a child, like most little girls, I loved fairy tale stories.  Even now I must admit that I will still watch the Disney classics and other children’s princess and fairy tale movies!  The stories always have a happy ending, good always triumphs over evil, and there are girls in gorgeous princess gowns singing and dancing.  What could be better?  One common scene in all these movies is the “transformation” scene.  You know the ones… 

Ordinary girl is transformed into beautiful princess

Poor peasant boy becomes prince

Hideous beast turns into handsome man

Mermaid becomes beautiful girl

 Two frogs become the beautiful prince and princess

…and so on.  Despite what happens throughout the rest of the movie, the transformation scene not only transforms that particular character, but it changes the lives of the people around them as well.  In one miraculous instant, the lives of the characters are no longer the same.

Yesterday our Parish was blessed to have the Bishop visit and give the sermon during Mass.  The Bishop spoke in his sermon about making a commitment.  He spoke of having full trust to commit to your family, your spouse, and our God, without knowing what may come next.  To agree to follow Christ without knowing where the path may lead us along the way can be a challenge.  But that ultimate trust, as the Bishop told us, is what gives us that amazing peace found in Christ alone.

So how do we carry on through the day to day trials, stresses, ups and downs?  When times get rough, how do we keep our eyes on the Lord and trust fully in Him when we are confused by the path before us?  I believe it is in these moments that we reach out to the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength.  

When we are confirmed, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit just as the apostles received the Holy Spirit after Christ’s ascension into heaven.  This gift, this flame of love and peace that came to each of them, it transformed them.  They were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were able to speak in languages understood by all.  Not only were their lives transformed, but by the grace of God they were able to reach and be heard and understood by everyone in the crowd.  They were able to extend the transformation to all those around them.

The Holy Spirit is present in our lives as well.  In the mystery of the Holy Trinity, we come to know God as One in three persons.  God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, surrounding us all with God’s everlasting love and peace.  When we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, we too can be transformed.  Our transformation may not be filled with swirling, twinkling lights and beautiful gowns.  It may not be a transformation of our outward appearance.  But it is a transformation just as life changing, beautiful, and exciting as those in the Disney movies we love.  We are transformed in our hearts.  We are renewed in our spirit.  A sense of peace, of calm, of joy, should fill our hearts.  And that transformation, just like in the fairy tales, is not limited to our person alone.

The transformation within our hearts should fill us with a joy that cannot be contained.  We are called to carry that joy to all that we meet.  We are called to use the gift of the Holy Spirit within us to transform those around us.  Through our actions, our words, our example.   At Confirmation we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2).  These gifts enrich our spirit and we are called to use these gifts to spread the love of Christ to those around us.  And this is not only something we receive in Confirmation.  We can pray for guidance and strength every day.  Constant prayer with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will enrich our lives, transform our spirits, and allow us to spread hope, joy, and faith all around us.

Little girls everywhere see the fairy tale movies and dream of a transformation that will bring the happiness and beauty that is reflected in the movies.  And I believe that transformation is very real.  It may not be at the hands of a fairy godmother, a big blue genie, or a magical rose.  No, it is a far greater transformation at the hands of the ever loving King of Kings.  It is a transformation through the Holy Spirit, bringing us closer to God, wrapping us in the love, joy, and beauty of Christ, and calling us to share this wonderful gift with everyone we meet.

Surrounded by the Spirit

The Olympic games are fast approaching.  I will be the first to admit that I absolutely love the Olympics!  I am not an athlete and never have been.  But something about the world coming together for a friendly competition that everyone can get excited about just makes me smile.  Something about watching the opening ceremonies and all the nations marching around proudly displaying their flags and colors as they prepare to compete just makes me happy.  To put aside differences and focus on a celebration that the whole world can enjoy is such a wonderful thing.  I love to watch the events and will frequently have the competitions on my TV in the background as I make dinner or tidy up just to feel the excitement!

There are a few events that I absolutely love to watch.  One of my very favorites is the gymnastic events.  And one of my favorite events within the gymnastic competitions is the rhythmic portion with the ribbon twirlers.  As I child I remember playing with ribbon twirlers in the backyard.  There was something magical and beautiful about spinning in a circle and watching a trail of colorful ribbon circle around you on a sunny day outside.  It was impossible to feel sad when rainbow streaks of color were circling around you and making fascinating shapes in the air.

As I’ve grown older, I don’t dance around outside twirling ribbons anymore.  But I do still like to retain that feeling.  The feeling of being surrounded by beauty and happiness with something so simple.  During mass on Pentecost Sunday a few weeks ago, our priest was talking about being surrounded by the Holy Spirit.  As I was praying for the Spirit to guide me and fill my soul with grace, I was struck with the image of these ribbon twirlers once again.  I could feel the warmth, the peacefulness, the joy of the Spirit surrounding me.  What a wonderful feeling!  And what a wonderful image for me.  The images we usually associate with the Holy Spirit are water, wind, and fire, among others.  While these images all project majestic and powerful forces, this image of being surrounded by ribbons seemed to strike a chord with me unlike any previous images I had in mind.

There are many ways we can visualize the Spirit.  As I pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to to surround me and fill up my soul, I will continue to imagine a ribbon dancing around me.  A loving ribbon bringing me wisdom, understanding, wonder and awe, right judgement, knowledge, courage, and reverence.  Dancing, swirling ribbons of beauty, majesty, and joy.  Filling my soul and surrounding me with the peace and happiness found only in Our loving Father.  And once I see myself fully surrounded by the Spirit, I can send little dancing ribbons of love and compassion to those around me so that the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of our Father can be shared with others.  Dancing, twirling, ribbons of love.  A wonderful image indeed.