“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

SONY DSCThis young one responded to my sweet talk this morning, not yet knowing it should run further up the tree.  I guessed him to be about eight weeks old.  I’ve been watching the expectant mother for awhile, waiting for her babies to appear.  There are four of them now, scrambling about.  I learned from a quick internet search they don’t make their public appearance until furry.  Welcome to the world, baby!

God’s Mother, Our Mother

SONY DSC

Too often I need to remind myself that in my struggles I must turn to Jesus first, for He is my greatest consolation.

On this Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, I’m especially reminded of Mary’s suffering as she stood at the Cross of Jesus. How could she give the violence of her sorrow to her dying Son while He endured His own agonizing Passion?

Mary viewed her Son’s suffering with intense grief, yet in it she saw our salvation. Our Lady’s sorrows are embodied in the prediction and fulfillment of today’s Gospels; first, in Simeon’s prophesy of a sword piercing her heart, and second, in Jesus’ words to her and the beloved apostle, John, “Behold your son.” (John 19:26) “Behold your mother.” (John 19:27)

When Jesus gave Mary to John, He gave her to us as well. Now we, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, share God’s Mother as our own — a Mother whose obedient and loving heart was pierced for the deliverance of our souls.  e.

“From the rising to the setting of the sun is the name of the LORD to be praised” (Psalm 113:3).

SONY DSC

It was a beautiful morning, albeit foggy when I got up and peeked outside.  The windows had dew on them from the abundance of rain and heat over the past few days.  This squirrel was thrilled to be playing in the sun again, scrambling up and down our biggest palm like a child, stopping to give – what it looked like – praise to our Creator.

But there was no place for him to hide from my big lens, so he found himself a hardwood branch and sat eyeing me as I sipped some Starbucks Morning Joe while giving praise myself.  Good morning!  Good night.

e.

A Better Picture

SONY DSC

“You are greatly misled” (Mark 12:27) .

Recently I had a conversation with a friend who doesn’t believe in Jesus or in heaven or hell. He believes that when we die, our bodies will decay beneath the earth and that’ll be the end of it.

While deluded, his view of his eternal destiny sounds far less terrifying, even comforting, compared to the indescribable suffering that in fact awaits “those who, to the end of their lives, refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.” (Catechism, Para. 1034).

St. Faustina was commanded by God to tell people they cannot avoid hell by claiming on the Last Day they didn’t know it existed. She wrote in her Diary that when she was led by an Angel to the chasms of hell, she discovered it to be awesomely large and extensive and a place of great suffering.

I shared with my friend a better picture, where on the Last Day the souls who died in God’s friendship will be reunited with their bodies and raised up like angels, “When they rise from the dead they are like the angels in Heaven.” (Mark 12:25)  I conveyed what I know as truth from Scripture and the Catechism, which makes clear what God willed from creation. As my words reached his ears, I noticed a fragment of hope in his eye, as if he hadn’t known.

In the Gospels of Mark, Jesus revealed this truth to the Sadducees, but they didn’t believe either. Sadly today, many don’t. Some, like the Sadducees, reject it because they’ve been misled, while others, like my friend, simply don’t know. “You do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” (Mark 12:24)

How then, will unbelievers find out before the Last Day? We, who ourselves have been led to the truth, must be joyful messengers of what Jesus revealed to us: that “God is the God of the living; not the dead” (Mark 12:27).  e.

“He spoke to them at length in parables” (Matthew 13:3)

 SONY DSC

The teaching technique Jesus used was established by His Father, who gave Jesus everything. Stories or parables were the method God chose to reveal the unseen to us through His Son. This way, we identify with what’s familiar to us so we can see more clearly the mysteries of Heaven. But before we can understand anything, we must do what Jesus taught those gathered around Him in today’s parable of the sower: listen. “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Matthew 13:9).

In this story, Jesus shows a relationship between us and soil. Like soil, we become richer by what God reveals to us. The more we listen, the more He reveals—the richer we become, and we begin to produce fruit that brings joy to both God and us. But if we only listen for awhile and then allow ourselves to be drawn in by earthly pleasures, we’ll resemble the first three kinds of soil in the parable, and wither for lack of roots. If we don’t listen at all and let sin take over like weeds, God’s Truth gets choked out altogether and we stop growing. Jesus is teaching us how to develop and deepen our relationship with Him so we won’t be like the shallow or unfertile soil where nothing ever grows.

Certainly, our objective is devotion to God and love of neighbor. Jesus only uses images from our everyday life such as seed and soil to help us understand and become rich in the ways of Heaven, not in the ways of this world. When we cultivate our own will, Jesus, the Master Sower will take care of tending our minds and hearts.

Elizabeth

Image

need a someone? be a someone.

SONY DSC

This evening on Facebook, someone posted one of those reassuring Pinterest boards that read, “Sometimes in life we just need someone to be there for us. Someone who will listen.  Someone who will understand us.”

In past years, I would have grabbed onto this one and held tight.  But I’ve come to believe that when we really feel deprived of SOMEONE, we must be a SOMEONE and remember that if we have Jesus, we are not not needy; we are poor in spirit.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm gives us fighting words of prayer for these times of loneliness, “Give me back the joy of Your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me” (Psalm 51:17).  It’s in these times that we need to pick ourselves up by the scruff of our necks and quickly set out into the world to be a SOMEONE.  There are countless SOMEONES lonelier than we are, and they’re not hard to find; hospitals, nursing homes, cancer wards…the street.  God will put His SOMEONE in front of us. The moment He sees us using our will to be His Heart, the Holy Spirit arrives.

Check out the back pew of the church; you’ll often find SOMEONE’S sitting there next to their tears. We don’t need their story, but can lay a hand on their shoulder or share a knowing smile.  The Catholic Church has powerfully beautiful holy cards and pamphlets, filled with the strength of God’s Truth. Softly drop one next to SOMEONE, or make your own heartening little Pinterest-type card to give.  And should we find they want to share their story, we don’t need a SOMEONE degree to listen.  All we need is Love.  “…do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say.  You will be given at that moment what you are to say.  For it will not be you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19-20).

Jesus wants to be our SOMEONE by faith so that through us, His other SOMEONES might find His compassion, “…for in You the orphan finds compassion.  I will heal their defection, says the LORD, I will love them freely”  (Hosea 14:4-5).

e.

Image

“When they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their district” (Matthew 8:34).

Scripture from today’s Liturgy of the Word:
Amos 5:14-15, 21-24
Psalm 50:7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, 16bc-17
Matthew 8:28-34

A reflection on today’s Sacred Scripture:

Today in St. Matthew’s Gospel, we see how Jesus gets to the bottom of our troubles, both big and small. When He enters the town of Gadara, He drives out the horrible demons from the two possessed men, and by doing so, allows the passersby who were held up by all the violence to get through and return to their lives. Even though Jesus puts an end to the town’s dilemma, the people of Gadara are displeased and they implore Jesus to leave the area.

At first, this ungrateful reaction to Jesus’ kindness seemed appalling and made no sense to me. But as I considered it, whenever I fail to acknowledge Jesus for rescuing me from my own problems, I am no different from the people of Gadara—my unresponsiveness to His goodness is no better than driving Him away.

Jesus never performed an act that wasn’t good. His miracles revealed that the Father, who is the source of all good, sent Him to strengthen people’s faith. Still, He is rejected, even when He makes the impossible possible for us. Our problems are never resolved alone, but with Jesus beside us. When we invite Him to stay, we are accepting His tireless and giving heart, and our demons and road blocks become opportunities to show Him our gratitude for His generous love.

Elizabeth

Image

still awake…?

SONY DSC

…decide tonight to make someone’s tomorrow special by this simply powerful inspiration from Mother Teresa -

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

That’s it!  Decide tonight…simply powerful.  In just hours, you’ll make someone’s day.  Make it great!  Nite!

Image

“He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me; and to him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:23).

Once you know Jesus personally you begin to praise Him continuously; instinctively, because you’ve fallen in love with Love. When your joy glorifies Him, your past dissolves into nothing, your present becomes His Word; your future, Heaven.  Elizabeth

Today’s Liturgy of the Word

Image

Who can enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

SONY DSC

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ . . . but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

It’s about saying vs. doing.

Jesus teaches that His Father’s will is accomplished through actions, not just words. It’s not sufficient to say, “I believe,” or “I’m sorry.” When our days here end, having merely spoken these words will not have been enough.

On an encouraging note, God loves us more than we can comprehend. He wants to make our sin and His law visible to us so we can attain eternal life with Him. It’s not enough to confess, and then repeatedly commit the same sins. We must also resolve to do His will. So He left us with tools for strength and endurance: His Word and the Sacraments, to help us build our house on rock, not sand.

We must let Him transform us, and when He sees we’re determined, He’ll replace our way with His way. During our lives, each of us is given the opportunity to develop the Kingdom of God, His very presence, within us! When we do, we begin to see a clearer path toward the Kingdom of Heaven.

How exciting, to realize today’s reading was not meant to dishearten. Jesus only wanted us to know that, to His Father, actions speak louder than words.

Elizabeth

Image

“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18).

SONY DSC

Weeks ago we noticed one of the large apple trees in our neighborhood hadn’t yet come into bud. Its bare form stood alone among all the other trees that had long since flowered and were well into full leaf. I remarked that it must have died, but my husband thought it just needed a little more time to mature. Day after day we’d watch the tree and chat about its progress, until finally we agreed that the harsh winter must have killed it. Figuring it would soon be cut down, we didn’t give it another thought.

Fortunately God doesn’t give up on us that easily. And neither should we be quick to decide on another’s growth. Like trees, we need to mature before we can blossom. We tend to think it’s hopeless when others fail to bud, but God goes on feeding us with the desire that we grow in His love and bear fruit that is recognizable as good. In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares Christian disciples with trees—some produce good fruit, others bad. How are we to distinguish between them? The difference can be recognized by the quality of our deeds—the “fruits.”

The lone apple tree we left for dead is now fully leafed and lush with life, but because we gave up on it, we completely missed its spectacular flowering stage of pink and white blossoms. Now, with God’s care, it’s well on its way to bearing shiny red fruit, which is what He wants from each of us. “So by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20).

Elizabeth

“You did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” (Luke 1:20).

SONY DSC

Faith assures us that anything is possible with God, and The Catechism teaches us that, “God, who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God’s power is loving, for He is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it when it is made perfect in weakness.” (Catechism, Para. 268)

But faith doesn’t always come easy, as Zechariah discovered. He and Elizabeth had spent their lives childless; Elizabeth was barren and now they were old, so any hope of a child was gone forever and their prayers remained unanswered.

Or so it seemed.

A message of incredible hope was delivered to Zechariah by the Angel Gabriel, “Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John”  (Luke 1:13).

But Zechariah didn’t believe and his doubt became a lesson in faith after he was made speechless. In time, Zechariah accepted the Angel’s message as truth and God’s promise was fulfilled. Zechariah was given a son who was great and whose name would restore his speech and change his and Elizabeth’s lives, and the lives of the children of Israel forever!

How often do we pray for what we think is impossible then doubt we’ll ever receive an answer, especially one as extraordinary as Zechariah’s? We lean toward uncertainty when our situation seems hopeless—but it’s only hopeless to us. What seemed hopeless to Zechariah was accomplished with the help of an angel, God’s grace and Zechariah’s ultimate trust and faith.

Like Zechariah, we must trust in God’s loving power and believe that He will exceed our expectations in time. Zechariah’s muteness taught us that our prayers will only be answered in fullness when we believe.

Elizabeth

daisies are my favorite…

peonies

…but this Mary Oliver poem about peonies is my favorite writing on any of God’s flowers.  Each year I pull out this photograph taken the year my pink beauties gave me their best, and I give them back to you to love along with me, approaching yet another first day of Summer.  Can’t you just smell them?

* * *

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready

to break my heart

as the sun rises,

as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —

pools of lace,

white and pink —

and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes

into the curls,

craving the sweet sap,

taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —

and all day

under the shifty wind,

as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,

and tip their fragrance to the air,

and rise,

their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness

gladly and lightly,

and there it is again —

beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.

Do you love this world?

Do you cherish your humble and silky life?

Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,

and softly,

and exclaiming of their dearness,

fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,

their eagerness

to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are

nothing, forever?

- Mary Oliver

Image

“Lifting His eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, ‘I pray for those who will believe in me'” (John 17:20).

Comprehending God’s enormous love for us isn’t always easy.  St. John helps us understand a good measure of it in today’s Gospel, where he presents us with the amazing prayer of Jesus to His Father. What tender words Jesus prayed on our behalf.  If you want to know Jesus more intimately, allow St. John to share more of Jesus’ beautiful prayer with you, where His love for us shines through so clearly.

This is how much Jesus loves us: knowing He had only hours until His arrest, Jesus prayed for what He desired most – that we all believe in Him as one, and that we believe His Father loves us just as much as Him “. . . that the world might believe that you loved them, even as you loved me” (John 17:23).

Jesus spent one of His last precious days on earth praying desperately for you and me, exposing His beautiful heart to His Father that we may know the extent to which we are loved, “Father, they are your gift to me” (John 17:24).

Image

“He fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God” (Acts 17:26-27).

SONY DSC

Spring arrived on our calendars weeks ago here in the Midwest, but we’re just now seeing God’s creatures come to life in glorious splendor! Trees honor Him with blossoms of sweet fragrance while migrating birds announce their return with grateful songs of praise!

Today’s First Reading and Psalm invite us to join with all of God’s creatures in giving praise to the glory of our Majestic Creator, for, “it is He who gives to everyone life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25).

complete joy

SONY DSC“I have told you this so that My joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” (John 15:11)

Complete joy sounds unattainable in today’s world; after all, who really has it? People do. Jesus says it’s ours if we remain in His love by keeping His Commandments.

As Catholics, we have resources to do it, which alone should bring us joy.  But we must accept the fullness of grace the Church has to offer. The Sacraments, frequent attendance at Mass, Adoration and prayer all help us keep the Commandments because they sanctify, instruct, nourish and strengthen us.

We can also learn from the lives of the Saints, who knew what it meant to remain in God’s love. We should pray for the intercession of some of the great Saints who often wrote about their joy, such as St. Faustina, “Great joy filled my soul to see the grace of God.” (Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska)

St. Therese of Lisieux described her joy as supreme, “Nearly ecstatic with the experience of supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love at last I have found my calling; my calling is love.” (The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux: The Story of a Soul)

What are we waiting for? God chose each of us to experience His joy within us, but first we must find out for ourselves what it means to remain in His love. Then, we must do it.

“If they want joy, let them find Jesus.”
– Mother Teresa (1989 Interview with Mother Teresa for Time Magazine)

Repentance Points Us to Goodness

SONY DSC

“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation!” (Acts 2:40)

This verse in the Book of Acts brings an image to my mind of a street activist holding a sign with those words scrawled across it — a scenario many would turn away from. But those who heard St. Peter’s speech at Pentecost were “cut to the heart” by it, and that day, three thousand were baptized and received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

How many of us were “cut to the heart” these past days of Lent and now seek forgiveness for our part in Christ’s death? Every one of us who has heard St. Peter’s message must also turn away from sin and allow the Holy Spirit to change us.

Here’s what the Catechism tells us about St. Peter’s message:

“Since Easter, the Holy Spirit has proved ‘the world wrong about sin,’ (Cf John 19:21) i.e., proved that the world has not believed in Him whom the Father has sent. But this same Spirit who brings sin to light is also the Consoler who gives the human heart grace for repentance and conversion.” (Catechism, Para. 1433)

Indeed, we must save ourselves from this corrupt generation! Repentance points us toward the goodness in our lives — it points us to God. Since Jesus Himself said that baptism is necessary for our salvation, we too must become sharers in His mission and stand up for St. Peter’s message — it doesn’t matter where or how we do it, but it matters that we do.

Elizabeth

“From everlasting You are, O Lord!” (Psalm 93:2)

SONY DSC

These daily meditations are composed days before they’re printed, so while I’m writing about the joyful Second Tuesday after Easter, my heart still aches following the dramatic Passion Reading I heard at this morning’s Palm Sunday Mass.

But by the time you read this, the heartbreak of Lent will be over, and we’ll have again seen how Jesus makes all things new — not only for us, but for Himself. In today’s Responsorial Psalm, we hear the psalmist’s Hymn of the Lord’s Kingship, “The Lord is King, in splendor robed” (Psalm 93:1). Once a King clothed in purple and crowned with thorns, Jesus is now the Mighty King, robed in majesty.

O Jesus, You are the source of my joy, today and every day.  Hosanna in the Highest!

e.

Image

children of God

children of God

Baptisms at our church are magnificent! They’re often held at the Sunday Mass, which makes it a celebration for everyone! When the big moment arrives, all eyes are on the baptismal font at the back of the church where the infant receives water and spirit.

Afterward, the family proceeds before the altar and stands under a bright skylight from which a wooden cross is suspended. Our pastor takes the infant into the palms of his hands and lifts the little bundle toward Heaven, elevating it as high as his arms will extend.  As the child is held there, everyone joins the priest in prayer.

As we pray together for the child reborn, we are reminded of how blessed we are to have been saved through this beautiful sacrament, given to us by Jesus Himself. Jesus said to Nicodemus “Unless one is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to this very conversation, that baptism is necessary for our salvation:

“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism, we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: ‘Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and in the word.'” (CCC Part 2, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1 #1213)

The good news is that every person who is not already baptized may be baptized! God can fit any one of us into the palms of his perfect and loving hands and lift us up to a new life with Him. We needn’t be babies!  Everyone, teens and adults of all ages, even the dying, can once again become children – children of God.  e.

 

“Dear young people, let yourselves be taken over by the light of Christ, and spread that light wherever you are.” – Blessed John Paul II

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature”  (Mark 16:15)

Good Saturday morning, world!  We have the grace of the Resurrection.  Let’s go out and proclaim without shame, without fear and without doubt.  God is so much greater than that.  Through Him we can do anything.  So this weekend, on the canonization of two courageous men of God, fortitude to us all!  E.

Gifts and Presence

SONY DSC

In this Octave of Easter celebration, we contemplate God the Father’s gift to us – His beautiful Son, Jesus, and the gift Jesus gave to us – His life.

Consider the abundance of gifts Jesus left behind so that we would know He is still with us.  The gift of faith, which moves us to seek His presence. The gift of grace, the Holy Spirit living within us. The gift of forgiveness, so that we may be washed of every sin. Even greater, the gift of His physical presence in the Eucharist, which is what today’s Gospel writing of St. Luke teaches. Out of this sacramental gift comes His greatest gift – eternal life!

St. Luke describes the first physical presence of Jesus after His death and resurrection. While His disciples were discussing how they recognized Him in the breaking of bread, Jesus appeared to them in the flesh – what timing! But they were terrified, seeing Him alive after He had been dead, so Jesus left yet another gift – His peace; “Peace be with you,” He said, comforting them. They thought they were seeing a ghost, but Jesus reassured them, showing them His hands and feet, “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have” (Luke 24:39).

We too, can recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread and be assured of His physical presence.  Just as Jesus invited His disciples to “Touch me and see,” we can invite Jesus to “touch me” each time we receive His very body and blood in the Eucharist at every Holy Mass.  – E

Jesus. Jesus…

SONY DSC

…it’s all about You, and the You we must see in everyone.  e.

“Holy Week challenges us to step outside ourselves so as to attend to the needs of others: those who long for a sympathetic ear, those in need of comfort or help. We should not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the ninety-nine sheep who never strayed from the fold, but we should go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered. Holy Week is not so much a time of sorrow, but rather a time to enter into Christ’s way of thinking and acting. It is a time of grace given us by the Lord so that we can move beyond a dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes, our movements or associations, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and the joy of our faith in Christ.” – Pope Francis

Image

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves” (Psalm 34:19).

There are a lot of hurting people in the world, but tonight I am not one of them. At this moment, alone here near the Tabernacle, I glory in the Real Presence of the Lord and He hears me, giving me peace and joy of soul. Here in the dark, it is so quiet.  I can hear the candles flickering. Jesus hangs here silently and beautifully on the cross, but only as a reminder. For at this moment He is in Heaven. At this moment, He is with me.  e.

Today’s Liturgy of the Word

Image

universal bliss

SONY DSC

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” ― Pope John Paul II

Image

“Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Matthew 1:24).

SONY DSC

Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

When I discovered that today’s Gospel Reading was about Joseph and his “yes” to becoming the foster father of Jesus, I began to hunt for my grade school St. Joseph Missal. What a treasure! Happy memories returned when I began to read the prayers and devotions to the Patron of the Universal Church – the most pure spouse of Mary.

When I was a child, I loved looking at the color pictures of St. Joseph at the back of my Missal, and when the Sisters would have us recite the prayers under each, the words stayed with me. Now as I read them again years later, the words have a deeper meaning and I realize what a wonderful intercessor St. Joseph is for so many of us, for so many reasons.

“Joseph, by your fatherly love for Jesus, protect all children.”

“Joseph, guardian of the Holy Family, protect all Christian homes.”

“Joseph, model father, chaste spouse, help all men to imitate you.”

“Joseph, chaste spouse of the virgin Mother, preserve in all hearts a love of purity.”

“Joseph, provider for the needs of Jesus and Mary, help the needy of the whole world.”

“Joseph, honest workman, teach us to labor for Jesus.”

- See more at: http://catholiclane.com/josephs-fiat/#sthash.WYWzmdkX.dpuf

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you” (Luke 6:36-38).

SONY DSC

Where else in the New Testament does Jesus speak so intimately to each of us? None of us has the same opportunities to be merciful, to love, to forgive. Jesus gives each of us different talents that match the role He assigns us. Talents come in as many varieties as there are people, and all are equally important to His perfect plan. But we must use our talents to do His will by giving away gifts we design from our own passions and from our own desire to give.

A smile is a gift when it transforms a life. A prayer is a gift when it alters the direction of a soul. Wealth is a gift when it feeds a stranger. A word of encouragement is a gift when it lifts the spirit of someone we find hard to love. These gifts seem minor to us, but their weight is measured by Jesus alone. Our small gifts given with great love are just as precious to Him as a gift given by someone we hold high, like Mother Teresa, whose arms were a gift to countless children as she held them with their last breath.

Jesus places people of His choice, not ours, in our path for us to love. We must not waste the opportunity, but move forward according to this assumption, using our free will.

Our reward will be measured on its own and against no one else’s. We’ll recognize that our gift was considered great in Jesus’ eyes when the measure He returns to us fulfills the deepest desires of our hearts!

Once again, we learn that loving acts bring us the greatest joy.  e.

Image

”He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

While driving home, I was stopped at a red light behind a brand new pickup truck that was flaunting a hateful, anti-Christian bumper sticker. I was stunned by the wicked display against our Lord, and as a Christian, was also personally insulted. It provoked me to want to get out of my car and give the guy the what for, but while waiting for the light to turn, realized what a poor Christian example that would make. Remembering St. Paul’s description of Christian charity, I opted for silence over arrogance or rudeness, knowing I’d need a lot of grace to show any patience or kindness toward this guy. Besides, I thought, he must be pretty enraged to display such a message, so there was no telling how he’d respond. The light turned green and I drove on, still irritated.

I followed the truck further than expected until it finally turned onto a street fairly close to mine, and since that day, have spotted it several times in the area. I noticed how young he is and how he had strategically placed the sticker on the driver’s back window, which actually keeps his identity hidden from behind. I wondered what sort of hurt he is trying to conceal and why he purposely defaced his new truck with such a hostile message. Something had embittered him enough to publicly persecute our Lord and every Christian who might read it. By now, my resentment had turned into compassion, and I was grateful I had kept quiet and eventually used my grace to pray for him, as Jesus teaches us to do in today’s Gospel, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:44).

God gives to all His creation its food in due season, but in the meantime, we as loving Christians are to pray sincerely for everyone, not only for those we feel affection for. Today, Jesus asks us to be unusual with our love, “If you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?” (Matthew 5:47). We’re also reminded by St. Paul in today’s First Reading, that God puts all sorts of people in front of us to test the genuineness of our love by our concern for others.

God loves this angry young man just as much as He loves every Christian and non-Christian in the world. That’s why I’m called to love him too.

- See more at: http://catholiclane.com/loving-as-god-loves/#sthash.sOCRDZvy.dpuf

Image

all you have to do is ask

“Ask and you shall receive. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you” (Matthew 7:7).

If you’ve ever experienced the power of a novena, you can truly understand these words of Jesus told by St. Matthew in today’s Gospel.

Novenas are often discovered out of despair, when your own attempts for a solution have failed. You discover one that fits your situation and you start praying like mad, knowing there will be an answer. Deep inside we all have something called faith that awakens when called upon.

At first it seems you are praying alone. Determined to find a happy ending to your story, you persist. Then God takes over and your days become filled with Him, into the night. You recognize this as grace because you’ve never been able to sustain such prayer on your own. That combination of desperation and a little faith begin working a small miracle in your soul.

When you call on your loving Father with all your heart as the anguished Queen Esther did in today’s First Reading, the fire of the Holy Spirit speaks to you with His presence, saying, you have found Me because you looked for Me in earnest. Now I will “turn your mourning into gladness, your sorrow into wholeness” (Esther C:25).

Peace begins, as your novena transforms itself from a cry of distress into a remembrance of your first encounter with the Divine.

Everyone is invited to knock, not just the inconsolable.  But when the door opens and He calls you by name, you must enter. Then you will discover the enormous love of Jesus Christ . . .

“Lord, on the day I called for help, You answered me” (Psalm 138:3).

- See more at: http://catholiclane.com/all-you-have-to-do-is-ask/#sthash.CA3l1lHC.3JlCx2XM.dpuf

Image

“Blessed the man who delights in the law of the LORD and meditates on His law day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

SONY DSC

“It is possible that you might be frightened by this word: meditation. It makes you think of books with old black covers, the sound of sighs, and the irksome repetition of routine prayers. But that is not meditation. To meditate is to consider, to contemplate God as your Father, and yourself as His son and in need of help. And then to give Him thanks for all that He has given you and for all that He will give you.” – St. Josemaria Escriva

Image

lenten journey day one

SONY DSC

“When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret” (Matthew 6:6).

Ash Wednesday allows us to practice what Jesus taught as we observe this first day of Lent. We fast and receive God’s blessing with ashes on our foreheads to express our sorrow for offending Him. Today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18) invites us to do this with sincerity, asking our Father for forgiveness openly and honestly, but from the inner rooms of our hearts.

When Jesus taught His disciples how to fast, pray and practice good deeds in a manner most pleasing to our Father, He said they shouldn’t act like the hypocrites who made sure others saw them, so as to win their praise. The hypocrites received the praise they pined for, but that was it for them, Jesus warned, “They have received their reward.”

When the praise of man is our only incentive to do good, then the praise of man is all we’ll get. On the other hand, if our acts are done from the heart with the intent that only our Father see them, a most excellent reward comes to us, “and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

What we receive from delighting our Father is lasting. Our recompense begins immediately with His grace and continues on for eternity—what could be better?

Not everyone can distinguish sincerity, but our Heavenly Father sees everything. Let us humbly speak with faith to the One who knows of our hunger, hears our every prayer, sees our every deed, forgives us of everything and rewards us greatly.  e.

- My Lenten Reflection is featured today at Catholic Lane: http://catholiclane.com/your-father-who-sees-in-secret-will-repay-you/#sthash.IJwLGQAE.dpuf

Image

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” – George Washington Carver

After a ten-day stretch at the office, today I was able to enjoy my morning coffee outside.  I didn’t realize how much I missed the consistent surprises nature affords me in my own backyard, where I’m always tuned in to God’s voice, and I wondered, did this squirrel hear Him too?

Image

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” – Abraham Lincoln

Image

The spirit that guided Abraham Lincoln was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address, now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds…. “

* * *

Abraham Lincoln

The son of a Kentucky frontiersman, Lincoln had to struggle for a living and for learning. Five months before receiving his party’s nomination for President, he sketched his life:

“I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families–second families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks…. My father … removed from Kentucky to … Indiana, in my eighth year…. It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up…. Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher … but that was all.”

Lincoln made extraordinary efforts to attain knowledge while working on a farm, splitting rails for fences, and keeping store at New Salem, Illinois. He was a captain in the Black Hawk War, spent eight years in the Illinois legislature, and rode the circuit of courts for many years. His law partner said of him, “His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest.”

He married Mary Todd, and they had four boys, only one of whom lived to maturity. In 1858 Lincoln ran against Stephen A. Douglas for Senator. He lost the election, but in debating with Douglas he gained a national reputation that won him the Republican nomination for President in 1860.

As President, he built the Republican Party into a strong national organization. Further, he rallied most of the northern Democrats to the Union cause. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy.

Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated most movingly in dedicating the military cemetery at Gettysburg: “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain–that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Lincoln won re-election in 1864, as Union military triumphs heralded an end to the war. In his planning for peace, the President was flexible and generous, encouraging Southerners to lay down their arms and join speedily in reunion.

The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address, now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds…. “

On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in Washington by John Wilkes Booth, an actor, who somehow thought he was helping the South. The opposite was the result, for with Lincoln’s death, the possibility of peace with magnanimity died.

The Presidential biographies on WhiteHouse.gov are from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” by Frank Freidel  and Hugh Sidey. Copyright 2006 by the White House Historical Association.

Image

you are so beautiful

This Muscovy sweetheart let me get closer and closer to him until I was convinced he was posing!

Oh, how beauty is in the eye of the Beholder. We are each so stunningly beautiful…not as the world sees us, but as our Creator does, and at this very moment He’s admiring the work of His Hands…you and me.

SONY DSC-photo taken on the grounds of Martin Memorial South, Stuart, FL

Image

“love is the beauty of the soul.” – st. augustine

This morning after the final blessing at St. Christopher’s 9:00 Mass, Father Hynes announced that at 10:30 the funeral mass would be held for 15-year old Briana Lawson, who’s been the topic of so many conversations in and around Stuart after she was tragically killed in a car accident last week.

In his beautifully resounding Irish brogue, Father then began to recite an excerpt from one of William Yeats’ earliest poems, “Stolen Child,” written in 1889,

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”

Even if like me, you don’t know Briana, please say a prayer of comfort for the hearts of her family members and friends, and for her innocent, young soul as she sees our beautiful Savior, face to face.