gold and black crucifix
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
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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
white building and people standing near water fountain
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
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Lent, Lent, Self Care

Yep, It’s Hard – Forgive Anyway

27 February 2021

Matthew 5:43-48

Have you ever been to Disneyland or Disneyworld? If so, you’ve likely climbed into a boat and sailed through the puppeteering land of It’s a Small World. If you’re anything like me, you’re humming the song in your head right now, and in three hours, you’ll still be humming it. Sorry about that…

Today’s Gospel contains a pretty famous line “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). But why? Well, we have to keep reading. “For he makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust” (Mt 5:45). Indeed, it is a small world, and we all reside in this same world. As much as it might chafe our human understanding of fairness and justice, God’s care extends to every person, whether friend or foe.

Forgiveness is hard, in part because sometimes we feel like when we forgive an injustice, we’re accepting the behavior or ratifying it. Our desire for justice may want to see another punished, or for the person who harmed us to feel the hurt that they caused. But that’s vengeance. Vengeance only increases the amount of evil in the world, and the world already has enough evil. Wouldn’t you agree?

In forgiving, we have to make peace with the fact that we may never understand those who persecute us or their motives. Our persecutors may never be sorry. But that’s really not our business. Remember that God alone “searches mind and heart,” (Rv2:23).

Forgiving is demanding work, and it doesn’t mean that you won’t bear the pain and wounds of past wrongs, but it does mean that you will unbind yourself from the person who wronged you and have the freedom to move on in life.

Meditation

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heaven Father, for he makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust. Mt 5:45

Lent Devotional 2021
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Lent, Lent, Mass Reflection, Self Care, Women's Ministry

What’s Wrong with the World Today

26 February 2021

Matthew 5:20-26

What’s wrong with the world today? Several decades ago, the London Times asked this question of essayists and orators – people who by that days’ standards were “influencers”. G. K. Chesterton, the famous writer, philosopher, and lay Catholic theologian, responded to the Times. He wrote:

Dear Sirs:

I am.

Sincerely yours,

G. K. Chesterton

Those are sage words even for the problems of today, and I’m carrying them with me during Lent. There’s a lot wrong in our world today, but righting the wrong starts with me. It begins with letting go of anger and being reconciled the people in my close circle. As today’s gospel shares, “if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gifts there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23-24).

Turning the well-known verse of Matthew 7:3 into first-person, “Why do I notice the splinter in my brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in my own eye?” My small actions will not fix the whole world, but they might fix the little sliver that God gave me to toil within until my journey on this life is complete.

Elizabeth Tomlin

Meditation

What’s wrong with the world today?

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

pile of thin white circles of sacramental bread
Eucharist

Bread of Heaven

Mark 1:12-15

First Sunday in Lent

With the Gospel Acclamation today, the faithful hear this verse, Matthew 4:4, One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” We take this to mean earthly bread, our sustenance that fuels us for our daily tasks. However, last year, many of us went without heavenly bread for months at a time. Maybe you can’t receive the Eucharist now because you don’t have access to in-person Mass, or you are avoiding the church building due to health concerns. 

I went without the Bread of Heaven for three and a half months in 2020, and one of the first times I received the Eucharist after churches re-opened in New York, was at my daughter’s First Holy Communion. Not only was I receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood again, I was finally receiving this gift again in communion with my Church family and sharing this precious gift with my young daughter. 

Anticipation of the Banquet

We anticipated this special moment for weeks, carefully preparing ourselves. I’m not simply talking about reviewing sacramental prep lessons, rehearsing hand placement for receiving the Body of Christ, ironing her dress, and fluffing her veil. Our preparation included the Sacrament of Penance. Our family, away for the Eucharist for months, hungering as we watched Mass on TV and recited the “Prayer for Spiritual Communion” in unison in our living room, approached the healing sacrament together the day before the first in-person Mass. Not only had we been away from the Body of Christ for months, we had been lacking His sacrament of mercy. Anticipating this joyful reunion, I was determined that the souls of each of my family members would be clean and whole tabernacles for Jesus, present in the Holy Eucharist. 

That was at the end of June. Today, I have the opportunity to receive Jesus every day. However, I’ve noticed that I’m not always as attentive to my mental and spiritual state as I was when I was in the desert last year. 

Lent is an Invitation Renewed

This Lent, Jesus is offering us a new opportunity to come back to him with our whole hearts. This season invites us to stop, reassess, and reconnect with the one who loves us and sacrificed all for us. We are still living lives of daily uncertainty. Everything is not back to normal. However, just as the angels ministered to Jesus in the desert, God sends His angels to tend to us in hard times (Ps. 91:11). Do we trust this? Do we recognize that our Lord, like us in every way but sin, understands hardship, dryness, uncertainty (Heb. 4:15)? 

When we are surrounded by the wild beasts of illness, instability, financial hardship, and even the Bread of Life is inaccessible to us, the Word of God “is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Let us reflect on the scripture and permit it to draw us closer to Jesus, the Word become flesh (John 1: 14), our sustainer, redeemer, and brother.

Nancy Belmont

Meditation

How can you be more intentional in your preparation to receive the Eucharist?

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