woman in black long sleeve shirt using binoculars
Bible, Gospel, Lent, Mass Reflection

Who Could Cast the First Stone?

22 March 2021

John 8:1-11

By Cassandra Smith

Most of us have committed sins that are hard enough to utter in the quiet confessional, where we at least have the option of spilling our guts with a screen hiding our faces. There’s at least a pretense of anonymity. Imagine that you are caught doing the worst thing you have ever done, and you are dragged by your arm and denounced to your community.

I hear the sneers, the laughter. The fingers gripped around my arm will surely leave a bruise. I see the blood-thirsty eyes of the people around me, waiting to fling their own anxieties, frustration, guilt, and hatred at me with those stones. These people are not more righteous than me, they just haven’t been caught.

Tears are welling up in my eyes. Could I just go back to the moment before I chose to sin? I see Jesus. I feel my throat close as I swallow a fear-filled cry. I want to plead my case. But how can I defend the indefensible? I’m guilty. I know I deserve the death that’s coming.

What is Jesus writing in the sand? Why have I been released?  

During trials like this, the witnesses would cast the first stones of execution. So what did Jesus write to cause these people to abandon their case? St. Augustine proposed that perhaps Jesus scrawled the sins of the woman’s accusers in the sand.

In the short-term, Jesus saved this woman’s life. Yet her sin remained, and we know that the penalty of sin is death. In just a few weeks, we will walk with Jesus as he pays the penalty for this woman’s sins and for all of our sins. Though blameless, Jesus trades places with us. 

Cassandra Smith

Meditation

“No one has greater love that this, to lay down one’s live for one’s friend” (Jn 15:13). Have you made time to meet Jesus at this seat of mercy yet during Lent? Make a plan to go to Confession this week.

Lent Devotional 2021
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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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grayscale photography of crying woman
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
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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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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
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person holding world globe facing mountain
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
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.