Friday, February 16, 2018

Gospel Word Today: Fast

Grocery shopping is going to be tough this Lent . . . a few nights ago I realized how chocolate is strategically placed throughout the local grocery store where we shop! On the end cap of the ice cream isle . . . every kind of chocolate topping one can imagine (so even if you weren't planning on buying ice cream, you now must do so in order to have something to pour your jar of Dove chocolate upon). In the produce department . . . chocolate donut gems. Walking by the bakery . . . chocolate cake, chocolate iced donuts, chocolate chip cookies. And of course, the ultimate chocolate temptation . . . beautifully stacked rows on both sides of the check out lane! I have been going to this grocery store for almost 15 years and on any given day I don't even notice it (probably because I have a bag of the Enjoy Now chocolate chips - diary, nut and soy free mind you!). But tonight it got me thinking . . . am I overlooking Christ at times when I should be focused on Him? Just like the chocolate, He is everywhere. In Jay's kiss after a long day at work; in the mischievous smile my granddaughter gives me when she has pushed the buttons on the dishwasher; loving words from a friend despite her challenges; kind gestures from a stranger; in the pages of the Volumes. The list is endless. Lent is all about reprogramming our wandering minds to focus on the beauty and graces available in the Gospels. To grow closer to Jesus, becoming more of Him, less of me.

Todays Gospel (Matthew 9:14-15) is a lesson in spending as much time as you can with Christ:

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

In Volume Seven, St. Christopher supplies us with a unique perspective on fasting: 

"Fasting is a good way to let your body understand that it is not in charge. When you fast you deny your body and nourish your soul. Your soul grows strong and confident during these periods. The enemy becomes weak and ineffectual in your life if you are fasting. Can I ask that you take two days in each week and give up a little something that your body would like to have? You do not have to begin with a strict fast and if you are not used to fasting I do not encourage you to do so. Begin small, with little sacrifices. Keep busy and do not think about your body. Think about Jesus, heaven, our beautiful Blessed Mother, angels, and what you would like to discuss with us, your heavenly friends, when you arrive here. Think of the questions you have for Jesus. Think of what you would like to learn about when you arrive in heaven. Think about the beauty of participating in a world- wide mission of mercy. That is what you are doing, you know. You have become part of Christ’s team and we are working together to save many souls before the changes come." 

Lay apostles, don't you LOVE the quote above from St. Christopher? Contemplating how fasting strengthens our soul and weakens the enemy is powerful.  We can either blow it off as something unimportant, or, we can begin to use fasting to eradicate the enemy from our lives. Which do you choose?

Thank you, Lord, for Your assistance in the grocery store temptations! Please help me to remember, each time I'm tempted, to focus on You, not something as insignificant as a little chocolate!

God bless,

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gospel Word Today: Rejected

The political atmosphere we encompass daily now is a barrage of negativity and, yes, fake news. Why are the people being paraded across social media so angry and violent? It has grown into brutal verbal and even physical attacks if one side doesn't agree with the other. In order to recoup my peace, I am finding the need to disconnect from the chaos (at least for an hour or so!) and focus on Jesus. As I read today's Gospel, the word "rejected" jumped out at me. I began thinking about the people who continue "rejecting" our President and his desire to fix America, even a year after his election. This question popped into my head: How do I act when I'm rejected? I'm hurt, I'm sad, or I'm annoyed. But through my faith (and with age), I have learned to subdue the pangs of rejection through prayer and thanksgiving for all the love that surrounds me.  There are many wounded people whose only recourse for their candidate losing the election is to make others feel as bad as they do. It's as if they themselves have been rejected. Many don't have Jesus to navigate out of the spiraling negativity. Many don't even have parents, a spouse, a significant other . . . someone to help ease the pain and confusion. The Son of Man endured rejection and He was Perfect, so why wouldn't His Words lead us in the right direction? There is Light at the end of the tunnel. And Jesus, the Most Experienced One, advises us in the Gospel (Luke 9:22-25) today:

Jesus said to his disciples: "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised."

Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?"

In Anne a lay apostle's book Lessons in Love, she beautifully illustrates how Our Lord's unconditional love for His Children should inspire us to follow in His Footsteps:

"The greater the love we feel for others, the greater the craving for a reciprocal response of love. Our craving does not ensure that we will receive that which we crave, any more than the Lord’s craving for love from each man is satisfied. Happily, Jesus teaches us as much in rejection as He teaches us in acceptance, that is, the experience of rejection, being so consistent with the ongoing experience of Jesus Christ by humanity, enables us to further identify with the crucified Christ. When the Lord suffered Calvary, He suffered or experienced near-total rejection. This was His experience of it in His humanity, even though we know that not all mankind rejects Christ. Did this cause Him to return rejection or abandon His love for us? No. On the contrary, in the acceptance of those who rejected Him, Jesus set an example of heavenly and unconditional love. Jesus’ acceptance of the rejection of others in no way diminished His craving for the love of humanity. He craved love in both His humanity and His divinity until the moment of His death. He continues to crave our love and safety. The more we possess Christ, the more we recognize Christ and love Him in others."

Lay apostles, contemplate the Gospel today and remember how Jesus handled life's difficulties. Strive for unconditional love in every situation. As hard as that is to do at times, we should always attempt it when the opportunity arises! Remember, WWJD?

Thank you, Lord, for all the lessons in the Gospels. The are the salve to my pain and the icing on my cake!

God bless,

Gospel Thoughts Today: First Day of Lent - Keep Your Ego in Check

When my grandson Colton was beginning to walk, every attempt he made would result in all of us cheering for him (which created a huge grin on his face every time)! He somehow knew he was doing something special when he heard each of our high pitched voices praising his impressive ability! When his toddling became steadier, he would get a look on his face as he was about to walk . . . one that knew he was going to make his Mimi (or anyone in the room) become even more animated than usual. An ego in the making? It can be if the only positive reinforcement a child receives is doing something right or new or grand. If there is no love while disciplining when they make mistakes, they will seek to find it somewhere else. Teach your children the value of humility by showering them with love and encouragement. Give them what they need at home so they don't go searching for it in places which lead them away from Christ. Give them Jesus for times when we aren't there to praise them or bandage up their wounds. Teach them to rely on Christ . . . always!

Today's Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18) reminds us to tuck away the ego and do good deeds for love of Christ:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

In Volume Seven, St. Damien emphasizes the importance of keeping ego out of what we do for Jesus:

"Many of your struggles can be minimized with constant acts of Holy Indifference. Jesus, along with all of His many helpers, needs you to be His hands, His heart, and His representatives. He can get the work done through you quite easily. You are a part of the work but not the whole work. Let me make this even clearer. If you remain small, understanding that without the help of God you are without power, He can do the greatest things through you. When man swells in his heart and feels that it is he himself who is accomplishing these things, the trouble begins. Egos are difficult friends and dreadful rulers. Keep your ego on a very short leash and understand that your merit lies in your obedience to Christ. Do not take credit for what Christ does through you. He cannot entrust great missions to you if your ego swells with each success. When your work is successful, praise God. When your work fails, praise God. When the sun shines, praise God. When the rain falls, praise God. Do you get the idea? You serve Him and He will do great things through you."

Lay apostles, the above quote reminds me of the first time I met Anne a lay apostle to interview her. Every time I asked a question about her, she immediately told me this wasn't about her, it was about Christ. She is one woman with her ego in check. Actually, there is no ego involved here. With all the hearts changed through this apostolate around the world, it is actually quite amazing there is no ego. Exactly why she was chosen to be one of His messengers in this time. So the next time your ego rears its ugly head, think about Anne. Think about all the negativity she has endured over the years. Think about how keeping her ego out of it has drawn so many back to the Church. She has profoundly affected my life. Not only through the Volumes and books, but with loving support she has given me personally. I couldn't be more blessed.

Thank you, Lord, for all the ego swells I have overcome with humility. Thank you for Anne and this apostolate. I am so blessed You chose me to be a part of it!

God bless,

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Gospel Word Today: Concluded

How do we arrive at the conclusions of our choices? Usually, it is through experiences of the past. At times we rely on those past experiences for fear of the unknown . . . if what we have seen or heard previously is real or perceived. It's hard to break out of old habits/thought processes. For me, faith in Christ must take precedence over any prior events charting the course of my life. Not an easy thing to do . . . but I have concluded that in times when I trust in Him and His Plan for me, life seems to flow in a more peaceful manner. 

In today's Gospel (Mark 8:14-21), Jesus reminds His disciples to remember and believe:

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus enjoined them, "Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod."  They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread. When he became aware of this he said to them, "Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?" They answered him, "Twelve." 
"When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?" They answered him, "Seven." He said to them, "Do you still not understand?"

In Anne a lay apostle's book Whispers From the Cross, she reminds us God is and always will be steps ahead of us, working to secure our future service leading ultimately to Him:

"There are days when the work we do for God is so steady that we do not look around. We serve without interruption, giving little thought to the bigger canvas on which God uses us to paint His story of renewal.

Sometimes we work very hard for long periods and during these periods God gives us all that we need to persist in His service. We have, during these periods of intensive service, little time to examine why we are serving God or what else we could be doing. We simply work. All is well. During these periods, God often withholds temptations of the more sublime variety, the 'Do I really want to remain on this current course?' temptations. We barrel through the work, and God flows through us mightily even though we can be largely unaware of this. After a time, we get tired. Then comes a natural break. This can come in the form of an in-between period, or it is a time-off period. Perhaps we suffer with illness or a transition of service occurs. At those times, the floodgates can open. God then allows us to struggle with the temptations necessary to secure our future service. The story with holiness, while written in the present, is concluded in the future. In other words, the end of the story is directly correlated to the action of the present. What will the end look like? That depends on what we choose today. The struggle we all experience of revulsion for the work that God wills for us is part of the work."

Lay apostles, what are you struggling with today? Bad choices? Illness? Lack of faith in God? Whatever it is, read and reread the quote from Anne's book above. We can alter our course by making the right choices today . . . by accepting our challenges in faith knowing He is in control of our destiny. With this in mind, suffering and fear feel a little lighter. 

Thank you, Lord, for giving me the perseverance to push through past experiences, creating new experiences which lead to You!

God bless,

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Gospel Thoughts Today: A Woman of Great Faith

A woman of great faith . . . I know quite a few. But one stands out in particular. She is facing a challenging diagnosis, one causing physical limitations which are a daunting task. Despite these inconvenient symptoms, her faith is remarkably intact. She tries to stay positive and involved. After reading the Gospel below, I am struck at the connection between faith and unfavorable circumstances. It takes incredible insight and bravery to ask Our Lord for a miracle. But if we don't ask (and accept His Answer), how can we ever stay focused on our salvation? On showing others how great our faith is, even in times of great sorrow/grief? Well, my friend is a beacon of light for me. Her love of Christ and strong Catholic faith is what I strive to emulate. Only through an authentic love of God can we face whatever is thrown our way . . . and face it with grace.

Today's Gospel (Mark 7:24-30) demonstrates yet another miracle when Jesus's omnipotence is not in question:

Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

In Volume Three, our Blessed Mother lovingly inspires us to trust in her Son:

"But I promise you, if you let us work in you, you will see accomplishments you never dreamed would be associated with yourself. This is a time for great confidence. This is a time for great faith. And this is a time when great trust is necessary. Ask for these graces and these graces will be yours."

Lay apostles, what challenges are you facing today? Are your crosses too heavy to carry right now? Ask for the graces Our Lady encourages above. Even if it is just to get through this next day, next hour, next minute.

Thank you, Lord, for allowing challenges in my life in order to see the beauty of faith in You with all those You have placed in my life.

God bless