Category Archives: Reflections
Some days, it’s hard for me to believe that God loves me. I look at my life and see all of my sins and failures, and I think…How in the world can God love ME? On days like this, I see myself as being worse than nothing. My faults are the sum of my identity. Who am I? What a stupid question! My name is Liar. It’s Gossip. It’s Unfaithful. THAT’S who I am.
There are other names.
I know I’m not the only one who has had days like this. I think that teenagers are especially susceptible to this issue, but everyone faces it. Believe it or not, I think these days of difficulty have meaning. They are meant to show us that we have a fundamental question in need of an answer.
WHO AM I?!
That’s what we’re screaming out when we go through these rough days. When we can see nothing but our faults, when all we look at is our shortcomings, we’re begging for a definition of who we are. And our mistakes come readily to mind. We think, “Well, I must be Liar because I lied to my parents the other day” or “I’m Thief because I stole that CD”. This is all too easy to do.
I look at my sins (and they are many), and I can’t accept myself…much less can I understand how God can accept me after all that I’ve done and continue to do and most likely will do in the future. Who in the world am I that He should love ME?! Ever asked yourself that question? Let me answer it for you.
You are His child, His beloved.
We all mess up, you guys. Nobody’s perfect. The problem is that we identify ourselves with our mistakes. We are so focused on what we do wrong that we cannot see what God sees: an image of Himself. Your mistakes are not who you are, and it’s not who I am, either!
Listen to the song below.
Your name isn’t “Regret”.
It isn’t “Thief”.
It isn’t “Gossip”.
It is “Loved”…”Forgiven”…”Child”.
Your identity is in Christ, not in your own shortcomings. Remember that, you guys!
My name is Child of God. What’s yours?
I LOVE THE EASTER VIGIL. That’s going to be a pretty important point to keep in mind. As I’m typing this, I’m still bursting with excitement and joy…and the Vigil Mass ended a little over an hour ago. So, as a way of venting my uncontrollable joy so as not to annoy everyone around me, I’m just going to post some thoughts/reflections on the Easter Vigil itself. Here we go (imagine my super excited face)!
1) Do you guys not just LOVE the symbolism with the Easter candle?! The church is dark. Everyone is quiet. Then, from the back of the church, there comes this light. The deacon sings out, “The light of Christ!” and, as he processes up the center aisle, the servers light the candles of the faithful and we pass the flame along to each other until the entire church is aglow. Christ was dead! We were a people in darkness! The Church mourned! But now, on this holy night, He breaks the chains of death, as the Exultet says, and He brings His light to us. We, in turn, pass that light–that faith, that love–to one another. It’s so great! You have Christ, the large Easter candle, the light of the world. Then you have us and, alone, we can’t make much of a dent in the darkness that surrounds us. But united together, all of us burning with love and faith in Christ and looking toward Him Who first gave us this light, we can dispel the darkness. LOVE that!
2) The joy at the Easter Vigil is just infectious. We can’t help but be ridiculously joyful, though! Anyone who walked in and didn’t know what was going on would probably seriously wonder what in the world had happened to make everyone present sing out and smile as much as they do. That is the kind of joy we should be carrying with us in our daily lives. This joy of Easter, of the Resurrection of our Savior, should be a constant light in our lives. His love for us and our bond with each other dispel all of the darkness of evil! The hatred and sin of this world stand no chance against such joy–nothing can take Christ from us.
3) I love the readings at the Easter Vigil. I know they’re long, but they’re beautiful. It’s like we’re saying, as the Church, to all of the catechumens present, “You want to join the Church? Here is who we are–listen to the story of salvation history and understand what you’re entering into.”
4) One of the responsorial psalms we sang today said this: “I will sing to my God who delivers me from death, into life, into freedom, through the sea”. At first, I sat there thinking, “The Exodus was such a great act of God’s saving power.” Then I thought, “Wait a minute. Baptism. Baptism is also a great act of God. Yes, I will sing to God, who has delivered me through baptism and even now calls me to share in His life.”
5) The catechumens. The people who, at the Vigil, are baptized and/or received into full communion in the Church. I love that the Church makes them wait, teaches them for a year and prepares them, and then welcomes them with all the faithful gathered to witness.
6) The renewal of our baptismal promises struck me tonight. That, for me, really emphasizes the communal aspect of baptism. While it is a personal calling from God, it is also that which marks me, which unites me in a special way to all of the people standing with me. We have all received the same baptism because we profess faith in the same Lord. We ARE the Church!
7) THE EXULTET. There are not words for how much I LOVE the Easter Exultet. There’s this one part of the old translation of the Exultet that I really love. It goes like this: O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer! That just resonates with me. How utterly weird does that sound?! But it’s so true at the same time! Sin is terrible and it has consequences, but that’s what’s so amazing about God–He can take even the most hideous things that human beings do and turn them into something beautiful. He can take sin and change it. He can take death and make it life. He can take a blight on human history and make it into a shining memorial of His love for us. How great it that?!
8) When we pray the Litany of the Saints for the catechumens…just yes. That, to me, expresses the love of the Church as the Body of Christ. We’re saying to those who about to come into the Church, “Come here with us! Welcome!”. And, as a gift to them, we offer them prayer. That’s what we bring to them–that’s what the Body does. We’re showing them most especially at that point what the Church is really about. She is steeped in prayer and love for the other, and so we lose ourselves in prayer for our brothers and sisters.
9) I’m not sure how to put this, but if you really think about it for a second, it just all seems so absurd. I mean, only yesterday we were all crying as we venerated the Cross–a cross, for goodness’ sake! A shameful instrument of torture and death! And then, tonight, we sing out joyfully…about the One who was crucified, the One who died the most painful and shameful death possible. We go from tears and sorrow to joy and laughter in a matter of hours! How ridiculous does that sound? But THAT’S the power of the Resurrection! THAT’S the power of God’s love for us. The darkness doesn’t last for long–our God does not leave us orphans. He comes back! He rises from the dead and, later, sends His Spirit among us to guide us in His love.
10) The dismissal. The Mass is ended, go in peace! Alleluia! Alleluia! Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Alleluia! We end Mass with that word: “ALLELUIA”! “Praise the Lord”! That’s what we’re saying! Praise the Lord for all He has done for us! Praise Him for His sacrifice! Praise Him for the glory of His Resurrection! Praise Him for His mercy towards us! Praise Him for dispelling the darkness of sin and conquering death! Praise Him for loving us so deeply and so sincerely! In the words of St. Augustine, “We are an Easter people, and ‘alleluia’ is our song“!
Okay…I think I’m done now.
It’s Good Friday. So…notice anything different in the Church’s liturgy today? It was probably pretty somber, right? No covering on the altar, not a lot of singing, no consecration…weird, huh?
We are a liturgical people, and liturgy marks the Church’s year. We have prayers that are said at different times of the day and, every single day, there is a Mass being celebrated. Except on Good Friday. Mass is at the center of the Church–it is the heartbeat of the Church. There’s this nice steady rhythm all throughout the liturgical year with daily Mass and then, all of a sudden, the Church’s heart skips a beat on Good Friday when no Mass is celebrated. Why?
Christ has died. That’s what we remember in a special way on this day. Today, He was beaten, mocked, abused, and tortured. He was scorned and left to die. So today, as the Church remembers the Lord’s Passion, as she walks with Him along the road to Calvary and stands at the foot of the Cross as He breathes His last, her heart stops. It stops at the sight of her Lord being struck for the sins of her people. It stops at the sound of “Hail, King of the Jews!” and the sound of the whip tearing into her Master’s back. It stops as she sees her God fall beneath the weight of the Cross and the burden of sin that He carries with Him on His shoulders–all for love of her. She watches as her Lord gets up after falling on His way and looks straight at her, with unimaginable love and pain in His eyes.
Her heart stops.
And, with this sudden stop, the Church calls us to recognize what has happened here. She says to all of us, “Look, my children. Look at what is happening. Stop! Reflect on this.” Listen to the Church, listen to the liturgy. And stop.
THE QUESTION OF THE DAY: JUST WHO IS THIS POPE FRANCIS?
Everyone’s talking now! Who is this new pope? What’s he gonna be like? I think that, if we pay close attention, we already have a pretty good idea of this pope’s character and of the direction in which he will be taking the Church. Let’s examine the evidence.
FIRST CLUE: HIS NAME
Admittedly, there are quite a few saints with the first name Francis, but the one we all automatically think of is St. Francis of Assisi. (If you’re trying to put a name with a face here, think garden statue with a bird.) “Francis, rebuild My Church!” Those were the words of Christ to this beloved saint. St. Francis was of noble birth, but he turned away from his wealth in favor of a humble life of service to God and to the Church. Personally, when I think of St. Francis, I think of peace, love, calm assurance, and complete trust in God, all of which are embodied in the well-known prayer attributed to him.
“The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi”
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
SECOND CLUE: HIS FIRST WORDS AS POPE
After his election, Pope Francis came out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s basilica to give his first papal blessing. Before this blessing, Pope Francis asked all of the people to take a moment to pray for HIM. That, to me, speaks volumes. Not only is that a great act of humility, but I think it also shows that Pope Francis wants to be in touch with the people and that he wants to bring the faithful together as a united Body. Below is the full text of his remarks and the footage of his address.
Address of His Holiness, Pope Francis I, on the Occasion of His Election
“Brothers and sisters, good evening. You know that the task of the conclave was to give Rome a bishop. It seems my brother cardinals went almost to the ends of the earth to find one.
I thank you for your welcome.
The diocesan community of Rome has its bishop. Thank you.
First of all, I would like to offer a prayer for our bishop emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together for him that the Lord bless him and that the Mother of God protect him. ‘Our Father who art in heaven. … Hail Mary, full of grace. … Glory be to the Father … .’
Now let’s begin this journey, bishop and people, this journey of the church of Rome, which is the one that presides in charity over all the churches — a journey of brotherhood, love and trust among us. Let us pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there be a great brotherhood. I hope this journey of the church that we begin today — and I will be helped by my cardinal vicar, here present — will be fruitful for the evangelization of this so beautiful city.
Now I would like to give my blessing. But first, I will ask a favor. Before the bishop blesses his people, he asks that you pray to the Lord to bless me, the prayer of the people for the blessing of their bishop. Let’s pray for me in silence.”
(He gave his blessing “urbi et orbi” [to the city and the world]).
“Brothers and sisters, I’ll leave you. Thank you so much for the welcome. Pray for me. We’ll see each other soon. Tomorrow I want to go to pray to Mary so she would watch over all of Rome. Good night. Have a good rest.”
THIRD CLUE: HIS IMMEDIATE ACTION
After his remarks to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis called Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, to inform him that he plans to visit the former Pontiff in the coming days. Talk about coming out full steam!
SO, WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS SAY ABOUT THE NEW POPE?
These three things that we have seen today, in addition to his humility and loving service as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, say that Pope Francis will be working to keep the Church in touch with the Truth of the Catholic Faith while also seeking to reach out to the multitudes who are most in need of our service and the Gospel. He brings with him to the See of Peter a profound amount of humility, faith, and love. I, personally, cannot wait to see where he takes us next.
May God bless His Holiness, Francis I, Bishop of Rome! May he govern the Church for many years to come! May the Father watch over him, the Son protect him, and the Spirit guide him!
This is what we say we believe. And yet how often it is that reality crashes into our lives and leads us to forget these words from the Eucharistic Prayer. We say here that it is our “duty and our salvation” to give God thanks at all times, throughout our lives, no matter what else is going on. At first glance, that might not sound like a big deal. After all…He definitely deserves our thanks, doesn’t He? But it is these words with which we often struggle the most.
Better yet, here are some examples from my life. Let’s see if any of you guys have ever felt like this:
“Lord, I know that it is my duty and my salvation always and everywhere to give You thanks, but I just failed a major test and I really don’t feel like offering You thanks right now.”
“Lord, I know that it is my duty and my salvation always and everywhere to give You thanks, but one of my friends is in the hospital and I just don’t see the reason to give You thanks right now.”
“Lord, I know that it is my duty and my salvation always and everywhere to give You thanks, but my grandmother just died after a long illness and I’m sorry, but I just don’t feel like thanking You for anything right now.”
“Lord, I know that it is my duty and my salvation always and everywhere to give You thanks, but one of my friends was just diagnosed with cancer and I just don’t feel like offering You thanks right now.”
You see? Reality hits, and we just can’t bring ourselves to offer God thanks at all times and in all places. So, as my theology teacher said earlier this month, what do we do? We look to the Master.
“At the time He was betrayed and entered willingly into His Passion, He took bread, and giving thanks, broke it…He took the chalice and, once more giving thanks…” (Eucharistic Prayer II)
On the night before He suffered and died for us, Jesus gave thanks to the Father. How big of a statement is that to us? Knowing what He was to suffer, knowing that He would face rejection, knowing that His friend would soon betray Him, knowing that He would be mocked and insulted…knowing all of that, Jesus chose to offer thanks. Our Lord knows all too well what it is to experience human suffering and weakness. But here, He shows us that even when we are facing the Cross it is possible to still praise the Father.
As hard as it is, let’s take our cue from the Master.
I was browsing through my email inbox one day when I noticed that one of my contacts on Yahoo! Answers had asked the following question: “I don’t feel like I’m a good Catholic. What should I do?”. The question troubled me. As it turns out, this person did not consider himself to be a “good Catholic” because he was struggling with sins in his life.
We so often look at our lives and realize how sinful we truly are (a fact that we would do well to remember). But our problem comes when we fall into despair rather than ask God for His mercy and grace. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at my life and seen my many faults and failures before me and, in those moments, I’ve just been ready to give it all up. Seeing all of the things I’ve done and failed to do in my life so far is discouraging and, honestly, it makes me feel weak and powerless. And why should that be at all surprising?!
We’re human beings and, yes, we sin (whether we like to admit it or not). We must remember, though, that there is One who loves us in spite of our sins. There is One who is able to give us the strength to move on even when we are faced with the evidence of the many times we have fallen in the past. It is on Him that we must depend, and not ourselves.
It troubles me to hear the conversations, see the emails in my inbox and the posts on the internet about this because, so often, people seem dangerously close to giving up on everything. If you’re reading this post and experiencing feelings of despair, I would encourage you to pray to God for strength and forgiveness.
Below, you guys will see two excerpts from The Diary of St. Faustina. In these two passages, St. Faustina recorded the conversations between God and a sinful soul and God and a despairing soul. If you’re like me…you’ll see a bit of yourself in these passages. The despairing soul deaf to the Lord’s cry? I’ve been there before. Read these. They’re great, helpful…and tremendously encouraging.
Conversation of the Merciful God with a Sinful Soul.
Jesus: Be not afraid of your Savior, O sinful soul. I make the first move to come to
you, for I know that by yourself you are unable to lift yourself to me. Child, do not
run away from your Father; be willing to talk openly with your God of mercy who
wants to speak words of pardon and lavish his graces on you. How dear your soul
is to Me! I have inscribed your name upon My hand; you are engraved as a deep
wound in My Heart.
Soul: Lord, I hear your voice calling me to turn back from the path of sin, but I have neither
the strength nor the courage to do so.
Jesus: I am your strength, I will help you in the struggle.
Soul: Lord, I recognize your holiness, and I fear You.
Jesus: My child, do you fear the God of mercy? My holiness does not prevent Me
from being merciful. Behold, for you I have established a throne of mercy on earththe
tabernacle-and from this throne I desire to enter into your heart. I am not
surrounded by a retinue or guards. You can come to me at any moment, at any
time; I want to speak to you and desire to grant you grace.
Soul: Lord, I doubt that You will pardon my numerous sins; my misery fills me with fright.
Jesus: My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can
measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth;
for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my Sacred Heart be
pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then,
with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your
misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy. Do not argue with Me about
your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to me all your
troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace.
Soul: You have conquered, O Lord, my stony heart with Your goodness. In trust and
humility I approach the tribunal of Your mercy, where You yourself absolve me by the hand
of your representative. O Lord, I feel Your grace and Your peace filling my poor soul. I feel
overwhelmed by Your mercy, O Lord. You forgive me, which is more than I dared to hope
for or could imagine. Your goodness surpasses all my desires. And now, filled with gratitude
for so many graces, I invite You to my heart. I wandered, like a prodigal child gone astray;
but you did not cease to be my Father. Increase Your mercy toward me, for You see how
weak I am.
Jesus: Child, speak no more of your misery; it is already forgotten. Listen, My child,
to what I desire to tell you. Come close to My wounds and draw from the Fountain
of Life whatever your heart desires. Drink copiously from the Fountain of Life and
you will not weary on your journey. Look at the splendors of My mercy and do not
fear the enemies of your salvation. Glorify My mercy.
Conversation of the Merciful God with a Despairing Soul.
Jesus: O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and
confide in your God, who is love and mercy.
-But the soul, deaf even to this appeal, wraps itself in darkness.
Jesus calls out again: My child, listen to the voice of your merciful Father.
-In the soul arises this reply: “For me there is no mercy,” and it falls into greater darkness,
a despair which is a foretaste of hell and makes it unable to draw near to God.
Jesus calls to the soul a third time, but the soul remains deaf and blind, hardened and
despairing. Then the mercy of God begins to exert itself, and, without any co-operation
from the soul, God grants it final grace. If this too is spurned, God will leave the soul in this
self-chosen disposition for eternity. This grace emerges from the merciful Heart of Jesus
and gives the soul a special light by means of which the soul begins to understand God’s
effort; but conversion depends on its own will. The soul knows that this, for her, is final
grace and, should it show even a flicker of good will, the mercy of God will accomplish the
Jesus: My omnipotent mercy is active here. Happy the soul that takes advantage of this
Jesus: What joy fills My Heart when you return to me. Because you are weak, I
take you in My arms and carry you to the home of My Father.
Soul (as if awaking, asks fearfully): Is it possible that there yet is mercy for me?
Jesus: There is, My child. You have a special claim on My mercy. Let it act in your
poor soul; let the rays of grace enter your soul; they bring with them light,
warmth, and life.
Soul: But fear fills me at the thought of my sins, and this terrible fear moves me to doubt
Jesus: My child, all your sins have not wounded My Heart as painfully as your
present lack of trust does that after so many efforts of My love and mercy, you
should still doubt My goodness.
Soul: O Lord, save me yourself, for I perish. Be my Savior. O Lord, I am unable to say
anything more; my pitiful heart is torn asunder; but You, O Lord… Jesus does not let the
soul finish but, raising it from the ground, from the depths of its misery, he leads it into the
recesses of His Heart where all its sins disappear instantly, consumed by the flames of love.
Jesus: Here, soul, are all the treasures of My Heart. Take everything you need from
Soul: O Lord, I am inundated with Your grace. I sense that a new life has entered into me
and, above all, I feel Your love in my heart. That is enough for me. O Lord, I will glorify the
omnipotence of Your mercy for all eternity. Encouraged by Your goodness, I will confide to
You all the sorrows of my heart.
Jesus: Tell me all, My child, hide nothing from Me, because My loving Heart, the
Heart of your Best Friend, is listening to you.
Soul: O Lord, now I see all my ingratitude and Your goodness. You were pursuing me with
Your grace, while I was frustrating Your benevolence. I see that I deserve the depths of hell
for spurning Your graces.
Jesus (interrupting): Do not be absorbed in your misery-you are still too weak to
speak of it-but, rather, gaze on My Heart filled with goodness, and be imbued with
My sentiments. Strive for meekness and humility; be merciful to others, as I am to
you; and, when you feel your strength failing, if you come to the fountain of mercy
to fortify your soul, you will not grow weary on your journey.
Soul: Now I understand Your mercy, which protects me, and like a brilliant star, leads me
into the home of my Father, protecting me from the horrors of hell that I have deserved,
not once, but a thousand times. O Lord, eternity will hardly suffice for me to give due praise
to Your unfathomable mercy and Your compassion for me.
I hope all of you had a very merry and blessed Christmas! I’m sure there was a lot of work to be done. Houses to be cleaned, guest rooms to be prepared or perhaps packing for travel, food to be cooked, trees to be set up and decorated…a whole long list. It’s always difficult, especially in our time today, to pause for reflection and to really consider what this holiday is all about. Stores would have us believe that it’s all about buying the right gift for everybody. Shows on television would try to tell us that Santa is at the center of this celebration. It’s all about the GIFTS, in the long run. When I say Christmas, most people think of lights, wrapping paper, boxes, stockings. How often do we think of that Child, 2000 years ago, Who came to save mankind?
Okay, so maybe we DID think about Him a bit this holiday season. We went to Mass, heard the Gospel story that we’ve probably heard a thousand times and can almost repeat from memory, that’s all great. But did we stop to think about what it all means? I think one of the greatest problems we face as a Church today is becoming indifferent. We think we know what Christmas, Easter, and all of the other holy days are all about. Christmas is about Jesus being born, right? And if I pulled any Christian aside today at random and asked him/her, I could get the full story about the angel and manger in Bethlehem.
The problem is that we’ve heard the story so many times that, often times, we fail to reflect on its meaning. Christmas is a celebration of the mystery of the Incarnation. It’s our recognition of God becoming man for our sake. Do we think about the great love and humility that Jesus reveals to us at Christmas? He, our God, deigns to become human, one of His creatures, in order to bring a fallen humanity back to Himself. And to rescue us, our mighty warrior comes as a child. Though a King, Christ was born in a stable. The world He came to save had no room for Him…not unlike today. His birth is announced to shepherds, one of the lowest groups in society at that time. From His first moments here on Earth, Jesus is surrounded by poverty. He gives up everything for us with a radical self-giving love that will finally see its climax at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday.
The message of Christmas is one of love and humility. Because of this, Christmas isn’t over on December 26th. As God’s children, we are called to spread this beautiful gift of Jesus with the world: a gift of love and peace even in the face of the most dire circumstances.
Embrace the Christ Child, and with Him, embrace the poor, the needy, the unloved, and the broken no matter what time of year it is.
A blessed new year to you all!
I meant to post this on Sunday and…well, I didn’t get around to it. So, before I share my reflection on the homily that was offered by one of our deacons this weekend, I should probably refresh your memory. Here are the readings that I’ll be referencing (first reading and Gospel reading):
Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,
“I am the bread that came down from heaven,”
and they said,
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
‘I have come down from heaven?’”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Stop murmuring among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
With those two readings in mind, here’s what Dc. Mike had to say. We often think of the God of the Old Testament as this evil, vengeful Being who punishes even the slightest offense. And yet, in the first reading, we see that this isn’t true because we see God’s love and mercy. God had always been with Elijah and had protected him through every trial and danger, but even so Elijah was afraid when Jezebel threatened his life, and so he fled the city.
Now, after everything God did for Elijah, we might understand if He was a little frustrated with the prophet, right? But if you’ll notice from the reading, God doesn’t chastise Elijah. Instead, He sends an angel to offer him food and drink for the long journey ahead of him. This reading alone offers so much material for reflection. As Dc. Mike said to us on Sunday, we’ve all been one or more of the parts of the story. Sometimes, we’re Elijah, afraid and not sure what to do in spite of all God has done for us in the past. Sometimes, we’re the angel offering help to others for the journeys ahead of them. And sometimes, we’re the food that others need to be able to go on.
Moving into the Gospel reading, we see the same thing. Rather than becoming frustrated with the people in the crowd who refuse to accept His teaching, Jesus persists in teaching them. He doesn’t become angry with the people for questioning Him, but He uses that as an opportunity to develop and explain His teaching. From these two readings, then, we learn of God’s love for us and His unending patience with us.
Caution! You are now entering an opinion zone!
We’re always told never to doubt God’s love for us because His love is unconditional. It doesn’t matter what we do, He will always love us and forgive us.
Needless to say, that’s sometimes easier said than done. There are times when we doubt God’s love because we can’t forgive or love ourselves because of something we’ve done. How soon and how easily we forget that we have proof of God’s love for us.
If we ever doubt our worth, if we ever doubt God’s love for us, we can always look at a crucifix. The Father loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. The Son loves us so much that He bore the torture and humiliation of the Cross for us. We are not worthless because we have each been ransomed with the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. If we know this and hold this to be true, how can we ever doubt how much God loves us? And, more importantly…how can we not love Him in return?
If you’ve never heard this song, you really should play the video I’ve posted above and check it out. It’s a great song with, I think, some interesting material for reflection and consideration.
My favorite line in this song is, “What you want, I ain’t got. What I have can’t be bought.” (And no, I don’t just like it because I’m a Southerner and it has the word “ain’t” in it.) This song is about a person who is searching for something more in life and the other person, the Christian, is trying to tell the one searching that Jesus will fulfill his/her needs. It is in this context that the artist says this line. It makes you stop and think: Just what is it that we, as Christians, have that others might be in need of? I have my own idea (which, of course, isn’t the only answer).
Because of our relationship with and faith in Jesus Christ, we Christians have hope and joy in the midst of a world that is full of so much uncertainty and pain and is (more often than not) spinning out of control. And this hope and joy which fill us are beyond material worth…they “can’t be bought”.
I’ll never forget my Physical Science teacher from my freshman year of high school. One day, I walked into his class (my first one of the day), sat down, and he immediately said to me, “Taylor, are you joyful?”. I was in a bit of a snippy mood and wasn’t feeling much of anything except crabby, so I said, “Nope.”. “Why not?” “Um…because I watch the news? There’s nothing much to be joyful about today.” And man did I get a talk after that. My Physical Science teacher, being a Protestant preacher, liked giving me sermons. He proceeded to tell me that world events had nothing to do with whether or not I possessed the interior joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ and believing in Him. He was, of course, quite right (not that I admitted that to him). When I told my friend Annie about this, she kind of laughed. Then I got another lesson. She told me that my problem was that I’d mixed up what it means to “be happy” with what it means to “have joy”. “Happy”, she told me, is the emotion you might have when something pleases you and it passes away when something displeases you. “Joy”, on the other hand, is more of an interior disposition. So, you might not always “be happy” (since stuff happens) but you can always “have joy” (because of your faith in Jesus Christ).
Once again, I’d been schooled.
But I’m so glad that I was told that. All too often, I do mix those things up and I do forget what a gift it is to truly have that interior joy which comes from loving Jesus. So let’s not take that for granted and keep it to ourselves! As Christians, we are called to freely give away what we freely receive. Let us, then, empty ourselves for others and show them the joy of Christ in our daily lives.