Tag Archives: scripture

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!

Casting Into the Deep {Podcast}

I haven’t had a chance to write this week but my younger sister sent me this awesome podcast on prayer (click on the picture below to access it).  It’s 35 minutes and definitely worth listening to when you have a chance.  God Bless!

Casting Into the Deep

Stop and Listen

Giovanni_Gerolamo_Savoldo_005Yesterday at Mass we heard the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  It is a truly wondrous and awe-inspiring event.  The disciples saw Jesus in all His divine glory shining brilliantly before their eyes.  They saw Him talking with two of the most respected and holiest men, Moses and Elijah.  How amazing to be witness to the Lord in such a holy and divine moment!

In the midst of this, Peter wanted to help out.  He sees Jesus standing there with Elijah and Moses and offers to make tents for the three. I wonder what motivated Peter to make such an offer?  Perhaps he was simply responding to what he saw as a fundamental need in front of him.  Or maybe he thought by building tents for them to rest in, Moses and Elijah would stay longer.

Obviously I do not know what Peter was thinking in that moment.  But if I try to imagine myself in that position I think I know what my reasoning would be.  And I can’t help but wonder if Peter’s was the same…What if he was feeling overwhelmed by the encounter and felt the need to do something?

When I feel myself overwhelmed by a situation, often my first response is, what can i do?  In my feeble human attempts to make sense of the things in my life that may fill me with emotions, I feel the need to do something.  To make myself useful.  Sometimes this urge is good and motivates me to take action where needed.  But many times, my desire to act pushes aside the greater need to stop, take in the moment, and listen for God’s voice to be my guide.

As we have been trying to have a family, there have been many when I feel overwhelmed with emotions.  When I feel myself getting upset, confused, or discouraged, often my first thought is, “I need to do something.”  But the fact is that many times, there is simply nothing I can do.

My frustration at not knowing what to do next only overwhelms me even more.  My mind begins to race and I feel as though the only way I can find peace in the situation is to find the next action to take.  I fool myself into thinking that if I am not actively doing something, I am only prolonging the situation or even moving backwards.

While Peter was offering his suggestion to make tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, a cloud came over them.  Suddenly from the cloud came the voice of God, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”  Sometimes in the midst of life’s most overwhelming moments, rather than rush into action, we simply need to stop and listen to the voice of God.

I may not be witness to the glory of Our Lord transfigured before my eyes, but I know I am surrounded by His glory.  The wonders of His creation, the countless blessings He has bestowed on us, the very gift of Himself on the cross for our sins and the miraculous gift of Himself to us each and every Mass in the Eucharist.  Yes the glory of the Lord is not hard to find if I simply take a minute to stop and open my eyes.

The voice of God may not come to me from a cloud in the sky, but I still can hear Him.  Just as He told Peter, James, and John on the mountain, I can hear Him telling me that Jesus, who came and died for our sins and rose again to bring us all new life, He truly is the beloved Son of God!  And just as the disciples were instructed to listen to Him, I am called to do the same.

What does He tell me?  He says not to worry (Mt. 6:34).  Do not be afraid! (Mk. 6:50) He tells me to ask God for the things I need and to trust that He will provide  (Mt. 7:7-11).  He tells me just how much God loves each one of us (Jn. 3:16).  He tells me to pray to Him as a Father (Lk. 11:1-4).  He tells me that He is always with me (Mt. 28:20).

Knowing all that He has told us and seeing His glory surrounding me, I feel at peace. I do not need to find the solution on my own or rush into action simply for the sake of doing something.  I need only to keep focused on Christ, to pray, and to listen to Him as He guides me.

The Human Heart Guard

Doc1I love my little puggle pup. She warms my heart and is part of our family.   As such, I want to take care of her to the best of my ability.   That means treating her to protect against fleas and ticks on our many walks in the park, taking her to the vet when she is sick, and giving her the monthly dose of medicine to protect against heartworm and other worms.  One of the popular versions of this medication is called Heartgard.  Now I am not here to plug Heartgard or advertise for them…in fact I am not even sure that we use their brand!  But as I contemplated the second reading from Mass yesterday, “heart guard” popped into my head.

The reading we heard in Mass was Philippians 4:6-9

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

What a beautiful passage!  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts…”  Isn’t that wonderful?  I imagine a tiny angel standing watch outside my heart.  Serving as  my own form of “heart guard” by keeping out all the worries, all the fear, the doubt, the anxiety, the negativity.  Only the good is allowed to enter.  And there is certainly enough good to fill up our hearts!  With such wondrous things surrounding us, how is it that those sneaky feelings of doubt and worry and overall negativity somehow break through and enter into our hearts?

Medications like Heartgard are wonderful!  But if you don’t use them regularly, if you let them sit in their box unopened, if you only give them to your pet once in a blue moon, they won’t be effective.  Despite all the merits they offer, without proper use, they won’t protect against a thing.

Perhaps we need to contemplate our own human form of heart guard.  This passage tells us that God will guard our hearts.  But it also gives us the instructions.  “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,”  These are our first instructions.  To let go of worry.  To pray about everything and to let God handle our prayers.  To do this requires full trust.  The kind of trust that allows us to leave it in God’s hands and trust our prayers are heard and answered, even if we do not know how or when.

Our next piece of instruction in this passage is hidden within the promise “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   I am not a vet.  I do not understand how my dog’s heartworm medicine works to protect against disease.  I simply trust that by following the instructions, she will be protected.   In the same sense, we need to trust in God’s loving care and protection even though we do not understand it all.  The human heart guard we are given is the peace of God.  This peace is beyond our comprehension and is far too great for us to understand.  That’s ok!  We do not need to understand it.  We just need to trust.

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”    This is where it is really laid out for us.  How do we allow our hearts and minds to be guarded against negativity?  Simple – we focus on the positive!  Rather than filling our minds with thoughts of doubt and despair, we focus our attention on the wonderful things that surround us.  We count our blessings and take a moment to find the good in whatever situation we may find ourselves.

Notice this is not a one time deal.  The final instruction we receive in this short passage tells us “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”  This is a continuous process.  To keep doing what we have been taught.  To keep loving God, loving our neighbors, finding the blessings all around us, following God’s commands, and placing out full trust in Him.  To keep up with the things we have received through God’s grace and the Sacraments.  To keep following Christ no matter what comes our way.

What happens if we forget to follow the instructions?  If we miss a dose of our heart guard and find ourselves lacking that peace within us?  God does not leave us.  He is always there with peace so as to fill not only our hearts and minds but truly our entire being!  The more we empty of ourselves, of our own concerns and fears, the more room we make for God’s peace to fill us up.  If we find that we have allowed the negative thoughts, the worries, the fear and the doubt to creep back in, we need not fear!  The peace of God is always within our reach.  We simply need to pray, to trust, to give it all to the Lord, and to focus instead on the wondrous blessings that surround us.  And then we will find our hearts, minds, and souls protected by our very own human heart guard by being filled with a peace beyond our understanding. The peace of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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! 🙂

Lay it All Down

4941bd027e19d087c78af653a152eacd“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22)

A few weeks ago I found myself feeling discouraged.  I was confused, hurt, filled with worry and doubt.  I just couldn’t understand why it was that my prayers had not yet been answered. I found myself in tears and in a vicious circle of thought.  I would pray for help, then worry about what I should do next.  Then pray for an answer to my prayers, followed by a prayer for God’s will, followed by more worry.

Then a different thought popped in my mind.  Lay it all down.  I took a deep breath and prayed but my prayer was different this time.  I told the Lord I could no longer worry about this.  The burden of worrying, wondering, questioning, was too much.  So rather than continue on in this pattern, I told Him I wanted to lay it all down at the foot of the cross. To leave it all fully in His hands.

With this new prayer, the tears stopped instantly.  I felt peace.  I felt calm.  I felt truly at rest.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28)

As the days went on, I felt the same doubts creep back in.  I quickly prayed again to lay this down, to give it to the Lord.  And while I did feel peace, the same feelings kept resurfacing.  I felt frustrated.  I already laid it down!  Why is this still bothering me so?  I didn’t want to worry.  But somehow I kept feeling it creep in.

 “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:7-11)

Jesus has promised us peace.  But that does not mean we are exempt from hardships.  Because of the deep love our Lord has for us, we can cast all our worries His way and He will give us peace and rest.  Even so, in this word we are constantly faced with temptation.  Faced with trials, suffering, worries and fear.  That may never change.  What we can change is the way we react.

We are called to remain steadfast in faith.  To remain strong against the negative thoughts and worries the devil tries to throw our way.  To remember that we are not alone in the trials that we face.  As the weight of the world bears down upon us, we may find ourselves needing to offer our fears, doubts, and sufferings up to Him over and over again.  But no matter how many times we cry out, no matter how heavy the burden we wish to unload, God is always there to fill us with love, hope, joy, and peace.  We just have to lay it all down.

Beyond the Doubt

In the Gospel this Sunday we read the familiar story of “Doubting Thomas.”  How Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room when Thomas was not with them.  How, upon hearing the disciples recount had they had seen the Lord, Thomas did not believe them.  How he demanded visible proof, to see the Risen Lord and to touch His wounds.

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28)

Despite the reputation Thomas has as a doubter, he was certainly not the only one to doubt.  Throughout Jesus’ life, they all took turns doubting. 

When the crowds of 5,000 were gathered and grew hungry the disciples try to urge Jesus to send them off for food. But Jesus instead replies “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” (Mt. 14:16-17)  They did not immediately believe that simply because Jesus said He would feed them, it would happen.  They doubted.

Later that evening out on the boat, Jesus calls Peter to walk out to Him on the water.   But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt. 14:30-32)  Peter doubted too.

But in both of these instances, the doubt is replaced with a renewal of faith. When the 5,000 are fed, the miracle is so wondrous that twelve baskets are leftover!   And after Jesus catches Peter and they are safely on the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Mt. 14:42-43).

If we stop reading at the doubt, we miss out on so much!  If the familiar story of the feeding of 5,000 ended with doubt, we would hardly pay it notice.  Jesus was speaking to crowd, they grew hungry, Jesus wanted to feed them but the disciples thought it impossible.  The end.  Or what about Peter?  He began to doubt and sink in the water.  And that’s it?  No.  We must go beyond the doubt.

Throughout our lives we may be faced with doubt.  But we cannot let our stories end with the doubt!  We need to look past the doubts that the devil tries to weave into our minds.  We know that Jesus is Lord!  Let us pray for our faith to be strengthened so that when we are faced with doubt we can look past them and, like Thomas, cry out with all our hearts, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus Wept

During Lent we hear Gospel accounts of temptation, miracles, and eventually of the Passion of our Lord.  Hearing these year after year means we become very familiar with them,  Sometimes that familiarity causes us to simply go through the motions of our Lenten and Holy Week preparations without realizing the full significance of what actually happened.  I know that for myself, the Holy Week liturgies always center me and bring me face to face with the reality of what Jesus did for me and for us all.  But even before Holy Week, two little words never fail to remind me of the enormity of that sacrifice, 

“Jesus Wept.” (John 11:35)

Often we read the Gospel and are so focused on the gloriousness of Jesus being fully diving, that we forget He is also fully man.  In a mystery we may never understand, Jesus is God and man.  Not half God and half man; but wholly God and wholly man in every way except sin.  Just like all men, He faced temptation, He had friends and family, He ate, He drank, He slept.  He grew frustrated at times.  He felt joy.  And He most certainly felt pain.

When Lazarus dies, Jesus, being fully divine, know that this death is not the end.  And yet, His fully human nature is revealed by those two words, “Jesus wept.”  The loss of a friend, the grief He witnessed in Martha and Mary, it all affected Him in a very real and very human way.  And He wept.  

This seemingly normal reaction becomes more profound as we begin to realize that Jesus did not lose His humanness as His death approached.  Think of the Last Supper, the agony in the garden, and the crucifixion with the knowledge that He experienced all these things as man.  The betrayal of friends, feeling abandoned by God, suffering, and even death.  Jesus knows the pain we experience in this world because He Himself faced it.

Being fully human does not diminish His divinity but rather enhances it.  Jesus is God.  And God is not far off, distant, or unconcerned with us here on earth,  No. Our God is so loving that He sent His only Son to us as a man to show us the way.  To let us know that there will be pain and suffering in this world but that it is not the end.  

So if we feel lost or alone, like no one else knows the pain we face, let us remember that Jesus knows our pain.  He experienced it in a very real, very human way,  And as we approach Holy Week, let those words ring in the back of our minds as we recall His sacrifice for us.  God became man in Jesus and as man He felt every bit of that sacrifice.  For us He came into this world.  He lived.  He loved.  He suffered.  He died.  He wept.  

photo: “Jesus Wept” – James Tissot; Brooklyn Museum

Whoever Believes

Today in church we hear the Gospel of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Our Lord tells Martha,

“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26

Can you imagine the emotions of Martha at that moment? The past few days had been so difficult for her and her sister Mary. They felt saddened by the death of their brother and the fact that Jesus had not arrived sooner to heal him. Martha hears the words of Jesus being the resurrection and the life, and yet her heart did not believe that there was anything Jesus could do. Perhaps without even realizing it, Martha and Mary had placed limits in their minds of the power of Christ. When they saw Jesus weeping at the loss of His friend, they probably shared in the crowds questioning. If Jesus missed Him and loved him so, why did He not arrive sooner and prevent this from happening?

Martha says to Jesus that she believes in Him. Yet when Jesus goes to open the tomb where Lazarus lay, she cautions Him against opening it saying,

“Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” John 1:39-40

And Jesus spoke to our Father in Heaven and called to Lazarus to come out…and he did! Against all odds, against all belief, Jesus performed a truly wondrous miracle and raised Lazarus from the dead! Oh the joy that they must have experienced at that moment! The seemingly impossible had become possible! Their perceived limitations on the powers of God had been shattered.

How often we place limits in our mind on the wonders God can do. We often look for human reasoning in response to the problems of this world. We use words like “can’t” and “impossible.” Our minds cannot perceive the enormous love, mercy, and power of God. And all too often we let our minds dictate our beliefs. We believe in what we see around us. In physical facts and proven thoughts. But sometimes, despite knowing God’s goodness and grace, we still question.

We still wonder if our prayers will be answered. We still shake our heads at the state of the world, thinking that there is nothing that can be done. We say we have faith. We say that we trust. But do we truly believe? Do we really believe in our hearts that God can do anything? When we pray and call out to The Lord in times of distress, is it cautiously, or confidently? Do we hesitate to ask for things that seem just too good to be true? The Lord tells us to ask we we shall receive! Do we truly believe that?

It is no secret that our prayers may not always be answered in the ways we feel they ought to be. Some things are simply beyond our understanding. But when we face difficulties in our lives, let us pray that our hearts be filled with faith and trust enough to know that not only does God hear our pleas, our cries, and prayers, but He can and does answer them! Let us pray that our belief in The Lord and His goodness is so strong that no matter what we face in life, we can truly trust in His love for us! There is no limit to the wonders God can do for us. He can perform miracles beyond our understanding. We only need to believe. To believe in the power of prayer; to believe in miracles! To believe that God has everything under to control. To believe in His unending love for us. For whoever believes will never die.