Tag Archives: hope

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.

Advertisements

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.

The Wait

 

 Holy Saturday.  Can you imagine for a moment the feelings those first disciples of Christ must have had on this day?   They had spent the past three years following this man.  Learning from Him, loving Him, and coming to know that He was the Son of God.  Just a week earlier they were filled with such hope and excitement as they joyously followed Him into Jerusalem proclaiming “Hosanna!”  How much changed in that one week!  Their excitement turned to confusion and fear as He spoke of His coming death.  In that upper room for the Last Supper they saw Him begin His sacrifice by offering His body and blood in the bread and the wine.  They wanted to remain with Him and followed Him to the garden but could not keep awake.

Then the arrest.  In that instant fear took hold and most of the disciples scattered.  Those who remained followed at a distance as their Lord was taken away like a criminal, though He had done no wrong.  And on that Friday, Jesus,  their teacher, their friend, their Lord, died.  They were afraid and troubled.  They hid themselves in the upper room with the doors locked.

Filled with sorrow and fear, they hid.  Where they had hope before they now felt lost and confused.  Everything seemed dark.  Did they wonder, how can we possibly go on?  Did they recall His promises of rebuilding the Temple in three days?  Did they dare to hope in their hearts that this would be fulfilled?  Or did the fear overcome the flicker of hope so that they forced themselves not to think on it so as not to be disappointed?

How do we celebrate Holy Saturday today? Most of us probably use the day to prepare for Easter tomorrow.  Preparing food and getting the house ready for visits with famiky and friends perhaps.  We know that Good Friday was not the end!  We know that Jesus Christ lives!  With this knowledge we can go about today not in fear or confusion but in hope and excitement as we prepare for the wondrous celebration of Easter!

What about other times of waiting though?  All of us face those in between periods.  Those times when things seem dark, when hope seems lost, when we feel confused and do not know where to turn next.  While we wait for His plan to unfold in our own lives, do we wait in fear and hide ourselves away?  Do we let the hope within us fade so that even when the wonder of God is right before our eyes we still doubt it in our hearts?  Or do we face our own times of waiting filled the hope and peace of Christ?

We know that Christ is Risen!  It seems easier to celebrate this time of waiting on Holy Saturday since we know the outcome.  Even if we do not know the outcome of whatever it is we may be waiting for here on earth, we know that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again!  He conquered sin and death and by His wounds we have been healed!  This wondrous love is what awaits us.  Though we may not know what will happen from day to day as we wait for answers to our earthly questions and worries, we know the One who is in control.  We know the immense love He has for us all, the love that was shown on the cross.  We know that He has a plan for each of us greater than we could imagine for ourselves, even if we cannot see it yet.  By following in His footsteps and accepting the love He poured out for us on the cross, we know that we have so much more to look forward to: eternity in Heaven with our Savior!

As excruciating as Good Friday was for those first disciples, as sorrowful as that first Holy Saturday, it was not the end.  The pain and sorrow turned to a greater joy than they could have imagined.  A peace beyond all understanding and hope beyond any they had known before came to them in the Risen Lord.

We will all face tough times here on earth.  Times of sorrow, times of doubt,  of worry, confusion, of frustration with the waiting. But we can find peace and hope while we wait.  Because in the midst of all our trials, Christ is still there.  And the love that He has for us will never die.  As we continue our celebration of the Triduum, I pray that we can look to Easter with a hope and peace that fills every part of our being.  I pray that we will carry the love and joy of Easter within our hearts as a promise to us all that the “Saturdays” in our lives, those dark and confusing times of waiting, those will come to and end! I pray that we may strive daily to live our lives not in fear or confusion, not in sorrow or pain, but in the glorious hope and peace of Christ and His wondrous love.  May the peace of Christ be with us all and may each of you enjoy a very blessed, a very joyous, and a very hope-filled Easter.

Christmas Music Already?

ball-2037__180Every year it seems Christmas creeps earlier and earlier.  And for the past several years, I would bemoan the early enticement of sales and decorated trees.  I refused to listen to the music until Santa rolled through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  For me, that was the official start of the holiday season, followed shortly thereafter by the start of Advent at which point we would really get into the Christmas spirit.

But this year, when almost a full week ago now I heard a local radio station had already switched to playing continuous Christmas music, I didn’t change the channel.  In fact, I didn’t even reach for the dial.  I just let it play.

Why the change?  Maybe seeing the Christmas displays in all the stores builds the excitement.  Maybe it’s the six inches of snow that has covered the ground and the subzero temperatures forcing us to break out the winter clothing, extra blankets, and delicious hot cocoa (not to mention snow shovels) earlier than usual.   Maybe it really is that Christmas music that did me in.

I think the biggest reason is that my heart is ready for Christmas.  More than  that, it needs Christmas.  Truly, we all need Christmas.  Sure the early start to the season is brought on largely by the materialistic side of Christmas.  But whatever the underlying motive, is there ever such a thing as too much Christmas spirit?  That spirit of joy, excitement, and hope!  The spirit of giving, of sharing, of love.  Is it ever possible to get excited about the celebration of the birth of our Lord too early?

I don’t think so.

Even as we begin the celebration of Advent in a few weeks, I believe that our time of waiting does not have to be a somber one.  It should be filled with excitement!  With hope and joy and love.   We are not waiting in darkness, but in the light!  We know what it is we are waiting to celebrate.  We know that God came to us that night in Bethlehem in the most precious and wondrous way as the baby Jesus.  And we know that He will come again.

I don’t have Christmas decorations up yet.  I haven’t started watching my favorite Christmas movies or baking cookies.  But I have enjoyed looking at Christmas decorations, shopping for loved ones, and, yes, listening to Christmas music (and even singing along!)  There’s something about Christmas music that instantly cheers you up.  The lyrics tell stories of love, of family, of the Lord.  Even the goofy songs make you smile when you hear them.  Hearing my favorite Christmas songs again reminds me of the immense joy that fills the Christmas season.  And why should that joy be confined to only one month?

Despite the fact that Christmas is still over a month away, I will confess that I am in the Christmas spirit.  Shouldn’t we all be?  The Christmas spirit is one that we should be carrying in our hearts year round.  Even if we wait to outwardly celebrate the Christmas season, that spirit of love, happiness, and hope should be with us no matter what the season.   So even though it is early, I think we all need a little Christmas.  And I am going to let that joyous Christmas music continue to play.

Reality Check

$RAKDJEV

Do you ever find yourself getting your hopes up about something only to quickly suppress them with a “reality check?”  You think for a minute that what you have wanted is just about to come true!  Hopes are high and you are filled with joy and certainty that everything will work out perfectly.  And then the little thoughts creep in…

“well it’s not realistic to expect that to happen immediately…”

“Better not get my hopes up, realistically we couldn’t afford it anyway…”

“Just because I want it to happen, realistically there is a lot standing in the way and chances are pretty slim…”

We dash our own hopes with our perceived notions of reality.  We have an idea in our minds of how things “realistically” happen in this world.  And more often than not, that idea is filled with negativity.  Why is that?

We can tell ourselves it is because we are being realistic.  Because we are thinking logically.  Because we are analyzing the situation from various aspects.  Because we are simply preparing ourselves for what is most likely to happen. But what it really boils down to is this: a lack of trust.

Do we truly believe that our wildest hopes and dreams are too far-fetched for God?  Do we seriously think that for one second we know what “reality” is better than our Father? I’m not talking about tempting God with outlandish requests to see if He really will answer them.  I am talking about sincere hopes and prayers.

Like praying for a friend to be cured.

Praying for a new career opportunity to allow you to spend more time with family.

Or, in my case, even praying for a baby.

When we ask for these things, why do we feel the need to stack the odds against ourselves?  Do we feel as though our requests are too big, too difficult for God?

Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.”  Mark 11:23

God knows what is in our hearts.  When deep in my heart I know my soul is pleading and praying for a baby, do I really think God is fooled by me listing all the reasons it won’t happen?  The only one I am fooling is myself.  Realistically the only thing I know for certain is that God has it under control.

Our God is loving, kind, merciful, forgiving.  Much more so than any of us ever could be.  When we pray and are open to His will in our lives, we need to have full faith that He hears our prayers. Not only that, but He answers them.  We may not know how or when, but He does.  And if the answer doesn’t come as quickly or in the exact way we wanted, we do not need to worry or feel discouraged.  Instead, we remain joyful and filled with the hope and love of Christ.  Because anything He has planned is far greater than what we could dream up for ourselves.

So while we wait for an answer to our prayers, forget about the logic.  Give yourself a reality check.  Not the kind our world tells us we need.  Not analyzing finances and listing all the reasons why it won’t happen.  But check yourself into the only true reality.  The reality that God loves you.  Remain constantly filled with hope and joy and the knowledge that God is answering your prayer!  And the answer is better than we ever could have expected.

Spring Cleaning

Despite the fact that snow is once again falling outside, it was 50 degrees yesterday and the tease of warm weather made it feel like spring is truly just around the corner. The warm sunny day allowed us to take a nice walk outside with our pup and the fresh air was wonderful. Both my husband and I were fighting small colds this week and decided to use our “spring” weather as an inspiration for some premature spring cleaning. We spent the morning cleaning our home and even decided it was time to hang the spring wreath up on our front door. After a few hours of hard work, the house is spotless and ready for spring, even if the cold snowy weather reminds us that winter is not quite through with us yet.

This winter has been the coldest and snowiest we have had in several years and it is starting to take its toll on everyone. Where the snow used to appear magical and glistening it now looks bleak and dreary. The cold temperatures that we use for an excuse to cuddle up with a nice cup of hot cocoa and a warm blanket are now just a way of keeping us indoors as we longingly wait for sunny days again. We are just about desperate for spring to arrive and taking part in some early spring cleaning made it feel like we were closer to those warm days and April showers that we know will eventually come our way.

As we clean out our homes and prepare ourselves for spring, it occurred to me that this being the Lenten season, is it not also the perfect time to clean out our hearts? During Lent we wait in our own sort of winter. We know that Easter Sunday and the celebration of the Resurrection are ahead, but first we have to go through the season of Lent. We fast, we pray, we help others, we clean out our hearts for the Lord.

“A clean heart create for me God; renew within me a steadfast spirit.” Psalm 51:12

When the winter weather seems like it has gone on forever, we turn our thoughts towards spring. We move our focus to the sunny days ahead. We dream of blossoming tulips and chirping birds. We clean out our homes to prepare for the start of a new exciting season. Just as the long winter months can drag us down, sometimes we face moments in life that weigh on us and try to crush our spirits.

When we feel the weight of the world pulling us down, we need to turn our focus to what lies ahead. We need to think instead on the love of Christ and the hope we have in Him. We pray for God to create clean hearts within us. We ask Him to clear out the dreariness, the worries, the troubles that we face. We ask God to fill our hearts with the steadfast spirit that is filled not with dreary long winter days but that is alive with the faith and hope of the spring that is coming!

Jesus has risen from the dead! He has conquered death and saved us from sin so that we may be with Him forever in His kingdom! As we go forward this Lent and remember the sacrifice our Lord made for us, let us also remember that the love of God fills us with hope and joy even in the midst of a seemingly endless winter. No matter what trials we face, even when all seems bleak and hope seems lost, we know that spring is coming. As we put away winter boots and clean out our homes for spring, let us pray that this season of Lent we will spend time with The Lord and allow Him to create clean hearts within us that are filled with the hope and joy of the Risen Christ.

Waiting in Hope

AdventThis past Sunday began the celebration of Advent – a time of waiting.  We wait for the celebration of Christ’s birth as well as for Him to come again.  The first candle of the Advent wreath symbolizes hope.  And so our season begins with us waiting not anxiously, fearfully, or impatiently; but waiting in hope.

I am not very good at waiting.  I get excited!  My mind drifts and I daydream of things to come in the future.  I find myself daydreaming about a house, a family, traditions we will continue, new ones we will start, and so on.  Sometimes these daydreams lead to worries.  What if our plans don’t work out the way we intended? How long will we have to wait for these dreams to be realized?

Advent comes at a perfect time for me this year.  It is so helpful for me to be reminded that I am not alone as I wait.  Indeed the whole Church is waiting together for Christ.  This comforts me and renews my faith as I feel surrounded by the Holy Spirit.

As we wait for Christmas we should be filled with hope!   We are awaiting such a wonderful celebration – the celebration of the birth of our Savior!  How glorious!  This joyous celebration renews our hearts and souls.  And it all begins by waiting with hope.

We are all on a journey.  All waiting for something.  But the things that we wait for in this world cannot compare to the beauty and wonder that awaits us in the next when we are with our Lord in Heaven forever.  As we begin our Advent, let us all be reminded of His love for us and be filled with the hope that is found only in Christ as we wait in hope for our prayers to be hears, for our Christmas celebration, and as we wait for the Lord to come again.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope”  Psalm 130:5