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Catholic Family, Gospel

What to do When Times are Tough

Mark 12:28-34

I had a million questions for Jesus when my husband lost his job. “Are you friggin kidding me?!” “Why are you doing this to us?” “Don’t you see that we have a house, three kids, and I’m unemployed?” 

I’m good at questions, especially accusatory questions. During that really difficult season of our life I would sit in front of the crucifix in our kitchen, and a powerful river of questions streamed out of mouth right into Jesus’ face. Each episode left me weak and angry, making it harder to get through my daily obligations.

On one of these silently-screaming occasions, my oldest son came over from the living room where he was entranced by the TV and gave me a hug. It was a powerful hug for a five-year-old. Then he walked away.

That torrent of questions I sprayed at the cross came back to me in a wave of pure, uncomplicated, unconditional love.  The Lord spoke to me the words of the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone!” (Deut 6:4).

God broke through in that fundamental prayer, to proclaim the only answer to Every. Single. Question: Praise. That day, my son reminded me that our purpose is to live out the Gospel, even when it takes all our strength. God’s job is to be God.

I stopped spitting questions at God and praised him instead, whether it was with zeal, or a meek “I love you,” I focused on showing more love to my husband and kids, recalling that they, too, were in this boat with me.    

If you are in a difficult, angry, or even sorrowful season in this moment, and if all you can do is look at the crucifix and ask him, “But, why?”, try a simple switch from question to proclamation, “You are God.” Jesus will look at you and smile with his Precious face, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God, daughter.”

Amanda Alley

Meditation

In Jewish tradition, the Shema is prayed during morning and evening prayer. It’s recited almost as a cleansing or centering prayer, similar to our Glory Be during the Liturgy of the Hours. Pray Deuteronomy 6:4 slowly. Remind yourself of this truth. Commit this verse to memory.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!”

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
Uncategorized

The Cost of Discipleship

10 March 2021

Mark 5:17-19

Following Christ has never been easy. In fact, we are asked to deny ourselves and take up our crosses, to follow Jesus. If you’re giving up chocolate, carbs, soda, or any other comfort food for Lent, you know just how difficult a small sacrifice can be. You might even find yourself having “just one bite” when your willpower gives out.

In these verses, Jesus makes it clear that discipleship is challenging. But our reward in heaven will be great. Living in 2021, we are often confronted with a gospel that emphasizes God’s mercy and generosity, while ignoring that God asks something of us, too. He asks that we deny ourselves. He asks for our obedience. Our lenten offerings, given as a sacrifice to God, strengthens our obedience. It’s like spiritual weight-lifting.

In this day, it can be unpopular to follow rules, or even to talk about following rules, especially rules of morality, such as those contained in the Ten Commandments. But as Christians, we are called to speak truth, and we’ve been called to rise above the trends of popular culture.

As theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught, “Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost your whole life.” Do you have the heart and courage to live as Jesus teaches us? Even when it’s hard? Even when nobody else is watching? Are you willing to thoughtfully and lovingly speak out and defend our faith in a culture that does not share our values?

If there was ever a time when we should act in a way which glories God, and speak words that are consistent with our faith, now is that time!  

Muffy Patterson

Meditation

 Lord, you call us to “be salt of the earth” and “light of the world.” Help us to understand the responsibility we have to share Gospel by our actions and by our words. Give us courage, we pray. Amen.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
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Uncategorized

If You’ve Ever Let Your Past Hold You Back

8 March 2021

Lk 4:24-30

              Jesus returned to Nazareth to bring good tidings to the poor, give liberty to captives, sight to the blind, and free the oppressed. (see Lk 4:18-19), yet he was rejected by his childhood neighbors, friends, teachers, and acquaintances from his hometown.

I had a friend who was a Methodist minister. His mother was the choir director at his childhood church, and when he was a child, he used to pile up the long, rectangular cushions from the pews and make a great mound below the choir loft. He and his friends would jump from the choir loft onto the cushions.

Shortly after his ordination, he was invited back to his childhood church to preach, and he was concerned. How could he return to the church of his childhood and preach to a crowd that knew all his mischief? If no prophet is accepted in his native place (Lk 4:24), then surely a young preacher wouldn’t be accepted in his childhood church, right?

 My friend had visions of being driven out of town, and being led to the brow of a hill (Lk 4:29). But that was fear speaking. In reality, the people who formed him through Sunday school and youth group were elated at his return.

Sometimes we feel tempted to let our past holds us back from doing good things in our future. We have to relinquish shame. Shame is not of God. God called Jesus back to Nazareth, and he went obediently. What will it take for you to get beyond wrongs of your past to live fully today?

Elizabeth Tomlin

Meditation

You are More is a song by Tenth Avenue North. Consider the refrain:

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

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

Visiting with the Woman at the Well

Over the past years I have been working on my fitness. I usually do my workouts first thing in the morning, and sometimes I attend a boot camp class in the evening. I do not workout mid-day. It’s just too hot for that kind of thing here in Hawaii. Folks who run at noon are some kind of special. I pray for them and cheer them when I see them, but am really glad I am not with them. Mid-day is also the time of day in which my family and I will get sunburn. We all have pretty fair skin.

In this gospel we meet a Samaritan woman drawing water in the heat of the day. Women went to the well in the early hours. Why is she there mid-day? A prevalent teaching is that she dared not go to the well in the morning because she was an outcast. This leads me to believe that Jesus encountered her at the well mid-day because he was looking for her.

“Give me a drink” (Jn 4:7), Jesus said. Jews did not speak to Samaritans. Men did not speak to women. But Jesus speaks to this Samaritan woman. And he doesn’t just speak to her, he asks for interaction, and service. This makes me think of Jesus saying, “I thirst” from the cross. What is Jesus asking you to do for him? To give to him?

“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink? (Jn 4:9), she asks. Similarly, I ask “Who am I that you would speak with me, ask me for help, or even notice me?” Yet, he does. He sees me, just as he sees this woman. He desires me, just as he desires this woman. He seeks me out in the midst of my work, in the heat of my life, and even in the shame of my sins.

In this passage, the Samaritan thinks of physical thirst and of the labor. But what of her soul? What of my soul? Do I thirst for Jesus as he thirsts for us? Am I going to the living water to nourish my soul, or do I drink from the world, no matter how unsatisfying?

Jesus knows this woman. Her ins, outs, her past, her present, her public humiliation, and personal brokenness. She shares none of her story, but he knows it. And Jesus loves her. He knows you as well. Your beautiful and ugly parts. And Jesus loves you, and comes to you.

In her encounter with the Lord, this woman is filled to overflowing. Her joy and faith spill out onto those around her and she must invite the whole town, perhaps even the husbands who cast her aside, or the women who cast her out from the well before the heat of the day to meet the Messiah.

Jackie Henderson

Meditation

May Jesus encounter us in the heat of our day, shower us with his love, fill us with joy, and inspire us to invite others to “come and see” (Jn 4:29).

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
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Uncategorized

Where’s God in the Mess?

5 March 2021

Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

Our world, and particularly our nation, has seen such upheaval during the last year. Horrific fires ravaged the west, demonstrations for racial justice turned violent, the political climate has kept many on edge. A mob even stormed the Capitol. Say nothing of the pandemic. And these are just the public issues that we all know about – in the midst of these crises are an uncountable number of personal stresses and tragedies. Whew! It’s enough to make the most faithful among us throw up our hands and wonder where God is in all this mess.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us exactly where we can find him – in the beautiful produce his tenants are harvesting. In the firefighters who battled blazes all summer, in the brave souls who will not be silent against injustice, in the many, many people who have helped battle COVID-19, and in you, each time you have offered love and support to the Body of Christ.

The world might reject you as misguided for clinging to your faith, but we all know what happened to that stone the builders rejected. It is an integral part of the entire structure, just as you are integral to the Kingdom here on earth. The Church has a mission and is a mission, and your good produce helps her to fulfill that role.

We are people of faith and people of the light.

Erin Raymond

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
Painting of St. Katharine Drexel in her habit
Lent, Mass Reflection, Saints, Uncategorized

On the Memorial of St. Katharine Drexel

Matthew 20:17-28

Memorial of St. Katharine Drexel

St. Katharine Drexel is my favorite saint. I am awed by this extremely affluent, young heiress who chose a life of voluntary poverty so that she could donate her wealth and life to share the Gospel with underserved minority populations. She is a paragon of generosity and radical cooperation with God’s vocation for her life. She is the embodiment of the verse from today’s gospel, “whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant” (Mt 20:26).

Katharine also teaches us to listen to the holy helpers that God puts into our lives. When Katharine first started supporting African American and Native American missions, she did so monetarily. As a young socialite vacationing in Europe, she had an audience with Pope Leo XIII. She told him about the good work she funded and asked him to send more priests to minister directly to Native Americans.

“Why not, my child, yourself become a missionary?”

Undoubtedly inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father asked, “Why not, my child, yourself become a missionary?” Exposed and afraid, Katherine ran out of the room crying! Her rash, completely human reaction gives me hope that I can attain holiness despite my similar cowardice and hesitation. 

Even after Katharine responded to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, became a sister, and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, she still needed holy friends to rein her in. Katharine traveled so much that she wore herself down completely and suffered a devastating heart attack while in the western U.S. Her beloved brother in-law travelled to accompany her home to the east coast.

Sometimes Serving Means Slowing Down

He convinced her to slow down because once she died, her missions would stop receiving her inheritance money. Despite being relegated to her motherhouse, Katharine counted the next twenty-one years as the most fruitful for her ministry. In her quiet life, she supported her sisters with her prayers and united herself more deeply to the Blessed Sacrament, which imbued her entire ministry. In her frailty, she came to recognize that her ministry did not depend entirely on her, but on God. 

We all have a potential for great holiness. Sometimes, our plans, ambitions, and stubbornness can get in the way. Lord, send us companions who will help us to become as holy as you desire us to be.

Nancy Belmont

Meditation

 Think of a friend who has encouraged you to serve God in a way you had not anticipated. Give thanks for that person.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.