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To Love Like St. Joseph

19 March 2021

Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a

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

St. Joseph has a special place in our family. Our Aunt Pat was a Sister of St. Joseph. Her given name was Mildred Patricia, after her mother, but she always went by Pat and didn’t realize that her first name was Mildred until her first day of kindergarten, when the Sister of St. Joseph at the front of the classroom called roll.

The Tomlin side of my family is from Cape May, New Jersey, and Aunt Pat, and all the Tomlins, were educated by the St. Joseph sisters, who have a large presence and beautiful retreat house on the shore. Since Aunt Pat was formed and educated by these sisters, it was natural that when she discerned her call to religious life, she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Aunt Pat had a quiet presence. She was a student of St. Joseph and St. Therese of Lisieux and practiced the “little way.” Like her patron St. Joseph, she worked hard, and she loved generously. She taught school and coordinated religious education for several parishes near Cape May until her retirement in 2016. She also sacrificed her comfortable, communal life to become her mother’s main caregiver for the last ten years of her mother’s life. Like St. Joseph parenting Jesus, this was not a job that she anticipated, but one that she embraced, and she prayed to St. Joseph for the strength to do this work.

When I married into the family, Aunt Pat adopted me as if I had always been a Tomlin. She wrote cards to me regularly. When my husband deployed, she would call me just to check in. There was no distinction that I was niece “in-law” and not by blood. I was hers, and she was mine.

I’m certain that St. Joseph’s example helped impart to Aunt Pat her diligence in work and her generous spirit of adopting me as one of the family.

If I were in New Jersey today, I would break my lenten fast and feast on a small, cherry Rita’s Water Ice today since that was her favorite summer treat. St. Joseph and Aunt Pat, pray for us!

Elizabeth Tomlin

Meditation

Is there someone in your life who has loved you with the spirit of St. Joseph? Give thanks for that person today.

Lent Devotional 2021
A devotional for Lent 2021 with daily Gospel Reflections Download
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Bible, Gospel, Lent

Catholics Don’t Know the Bible. Or do we?

18 March 2021

John 5:31-42

By Maggie Phillips

I’ll be honest, I read and re-read this passage, not quite knowing what to make of it. So I looked at the footnotes, and something leapt out at me. In John 5:39, Jesus says, “You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf.” According to the footnotes, Jesus may be speaking imperatively, imploring his listeners to search the scriptures to see for themselves how they testify to his saving mission.

Have you ever heard someone say they didn’t know anything about the Bible because they were Catholic? Or that Catholics don’t know the Bible?

We Catholics don’t have a reputation for memorizing scripture and verse in our religious education classes. In fact, the concept of memorizing scripture may be entirely foreign to you.

But we Catholics hear God’s word proclaimed in the Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel and Psalms at each Mass. We hear scripture prayed in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Because we hear scripture proclaimed to us in fragments during Mass, instead of memorizing it, we may think that our knowledge of scripture doesn’t count. 

To that I say, it does count! The entire prayer of the Mass has deep scriptural, liturgical roots, and the readings of the Mass have been thoughtfully chosen by the Church in her wisdom to illuminate each other. It’s imperative that we pay attention.

It’s imperative because Jesus tells us in John 5:39 that if we think we have eternal life through the Word, who John tells us earlier is God himself — “And the Word was God” (Jn 1:1) — then we have a responsibility to take initiative and search the scriptures. Now, that can be daunting. And to paraphrase Ned Flanders of The Simpsons, “some of the stuff seems to contradict the other stuff.” We aren’t meant to read the Bible in isolation and without context.

So where can we get some help in understanding the scriptures outside of the Mass? Search out podcasts from orthodox, authoritative sources. I recommend “The Lanky Guys” and Father Mike Schmitz’ “Bible in a Year”. Find a good Bible commentary with an imprimatur from the author’s bishop.

God wants us to know him. It’s the fondest wish of his heart to be in communion with us. He’s written you a love letter. Open it!

Maggie Phillips

Meditation

Pray this verse and try to commit it to memory. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Jn 1:1

Lent Devotional 2021
A devotional for Lent 2021 with daily Gospel Reflections Download
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Feast of St. Patrick

17 March 2021

John 5:17-30

When reading the Gospel of John, I always feel I am being called to reflect on my life, especially in a spiritual sense. That perhaps my spiritual life is not where it needs to be, and now is the time to get uncomfortable and grow. Well, this is exactly what today’s Gospel reading is requiring each of us to do: read, reflect, get uncomfortable, and act. What better time to do this than in the season of Lent?

When Jesus heals a man on the sabbath and stirs such an uproar causing his adversaries to want to kill him, I want to tiptoe away quietly, unheard and unseen, and hide my head in the sand. Why would Jesus do such a thing? Why not adhere to the laws of the land and come back tomorrow?

Jesus tells us why, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work” (Jn 5:17). It is unfathomable to think that God has worked unceasingly since creation for the well-being of each of us, but Jesus tells us this is true. Creation is not yet finished, there is still so much work to be done.  God will never abandon us. In the messiness of the world, a messiness that we in fact created ourselves, we have a perfect example of God’s continuous work and mercy in the gift of His only Son.

We are being called to pull our heads out of the sand, to abandon fear, and to be like Christ in today’s gospel. This life on earth is not to be spent doing our own bidding but to do God’s will, as Jesus proclaims, “I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (Jn 5:30). 

Amanda Costello

Meditation

Lord, Sometimes I want to shy away from doing your will. Help me to live out your calling in my life boldly.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
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Bible, Eucharist, Gospel, Lent, Mass Reflection, Self Care, Theology

It’s all About Relationships

16 March 2021

John 5:1-16

What exactly did Jesus do that was so upsetting to the Jews that they wanted to have him killed? The last line of the Gospel is the perfect place to begin this reflection, “because he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal to God” (Jn 5:16).

Ironically, this last line points to exactly why Jesus was born. He came on a mission to create a kingdom of love to reign in our hearts, to share the love of God the Father with us, and reveal that he is one with God, for Jesus is God, a member of the Holy Trinity. Jesus came to invite us into a personal relationship, heal us, and inspire us to follow him and grow in holiness. 

In life, it is easy to see matters through “our worldly lenses”.  We can start to think that God will follow our formulas and ways of thinking rather than being open to the Lord’s plan. When life doesn’t go our way, we can become anxious, stressed, and even dive into depression. We can push God away. Yet, we’re called to press into God in these moments – into his promises, his embrace, his offer of salvation.

Think of the man in this passage who longed to be healed and waited 38 years for this most glorious moment of his life. He was not only healed but had a rich and meaningful encounter with Jesus!  Imagine how grateful he was when Jesus healed him. Jesus is offering us the same type of healing, he wants to set us free from the baggage that holds us back from loving Him. Jesus shows us that there is always meaning to be found when we are struggling. If nothing else, struggles offer us an opportunity to encounter Jesus more profoundly and learn to trust that he is there for us. 

Jesus sought out the man so that he would know that Jesus was the one who healed him and shared a powerful message. He said, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” In a way, these final words to the man are a formula for life. Jesus wants to heal us, yes, but the next line, “sin no more that nothing worse befall you” is the most important, for what is worse than being crippled or even blind? Sinning and going to hell, and ending our relationship with Jesus. May we seek to be holy!

Emily Jaminet

Meditation

From what do you need healing? It could be a physical ailment, anxiety, desire to control something, the need to forgive a wrong. Wherever you need healing, offer it to Jesus today. Invite the Lord to that place.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download A Time to Grow Lent Devotional as a free E-book here
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Bible, Gospel, Lent, Lent, Mass Reflection

A Prayer for When you Feel Lukewarm

15 March 2021

John 4:43-54

It must have taken a certain amount of desperation for this royal official to seek Jesus out. A few biblical commentaries say that he was probably a pagan, so right away, he’s not initially going to be open to the idea of a Jewish Messiah. We don’t know how long his son was ill, but we do know that it had become so serious that he begged Jesus to come and heal him. 

How much of this is rooted in real belief, and how much of this is desperation? We don’t know, and I’m not sure if it really matters. Because in the end, we read that the man “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him.” (v. 50) This doesn’t sound like lukewarm sort-of-belief to me. It sounds like belief brought to fruition by desperation. 

Sometimes this is what it takes to throw ourselves into God’s arms. It’s the divorce, the diagnosis given over the phone, or a child’s life-threatening accident. In these moments of terror, we give ourselves over to the one who is always there for us, even if we haven’t realized it up until that moment. Sometimes a shock is needed to jolt faith awake. 

In this case, Jesus’ word is enough to save the beloved son. Just as his father created the entire cosmos with his word, Jesus–whom John calls the “Word of God”–heals with a simple word. 

Before we receive Communion at Mass, we pray, in part, “Only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” echoing the centurion. Jesus, the Word of God, is still acting today. He waits for you to say your words, words of faith, which will open the door to him so he can come into your life and act, healing your soul’s wounds. We just have to say the word. 

Emily DeArdo

Meditation

Lord, I am not worth that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download A Time to Grow Lent Devotional as a free E-book here
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Gospel Reflection for Sunday 14

John 3:14-21

By Cassandra Smith

God loves me! The full measure of His love is displayed on the Cross. 

I read in CS Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm that the image of Christ crucified was not popularized until those who had borne witness to the crucifixion were long gone. The agony, humiliation and horror of a crucifixion is not the kind of image we might choose for the next Hallmark card to our sweetheart, yet it’s the ultimate image of true and lasting love and healing of our brokenness. 

John reminds his audience of the day when Moses mounted a bronze serpent to a pole. When someone was bitten by a snake, they would gaze upon the bronze serpent to be healed (see Nm 21:9). For those suffering, the journey to Moses must have been terrible. Fraught with anxiety and physical discomfort.

I wonder if we could observe the whole scene of the crucifixion, if we might see the Father holding his only son on the Cross, knowing it would be a difficult journey for us to get there to the foot of the cross and even more painful to gaze upon the brutality He endured for us. 

We carry many scars, wounds from the various “bites” we have experienced. We allow so many things to occupy our gaze and interrupt our journey. Our fears, worries, doubts. I find myself listening to the hissing of the serpent in my ear. He plants words of self-doubt, comparison, and envy. He leads me to believe lies that I am not good enough, not smart, or pretty or lovable. But these are all lies.

I am called to bring those sufferings with me to gaze upon Jesus. And while I’m there, I might recall these words John 3:16, which we read today.

Cassandra Smith

Lent Devotional 2021
Download A Time to Grow Lent Devotional as a free E-book here