The Hope of Heaven

So many thoughts to reflect on this Sunday, some coming from personal time in prayer, some from Mass for the first time in nearly two months in community, and some from conversations with others. This time is short, the end for which we are created is everlasting it is eternal, we live here for such a short time, but our hope is eternal. It is what gives me hope, hope in the Risen Christ who has survived this earthly experience and He shows us the Way to do the same.

The one question that keeps coming back to me is what is the “Reason for your hope “? What is the reason for my Hope? That is the question posit to us at Mass by Peter today. My husband Deacon Richard heard the word of God as he proclaimed the Gospel and then broke open the homily today with this answer for hope: “God has our back.”

For some it may seem as if God did not have our back, because of job loss, isolation, church at home and not in community, public graduations cancelled, school at home and not with fellow students and friends, deaths experienced alone and those in hospitals dying alone, weddings cancelled or postpone. You may ask the question how did God have my back in all of that mess and still for some those things have not gotten any better.

Well, I would say God is always in the mess of things even when we don’t understand it , can’t hear him, and we ask what are we suppose to do about it. I sense He is forging a transformation, a new church revived and longing and desiring for Him, because we know now as we have never known before what it is like to be separated from Him and the body of Christ. He is showing us how to have the domestic church, to make Sunday a day of rest and Sabbath, to enjoy the beautiful weather.If you have not noticed except for one or two days of heavy rain we have had gorgeous skies , cool breezes and Sun. Families are gathering for dinners, praying together, riding bikes, taking walks , playing board games again, connecting in new ways. We have learned to evangelized using social media, live streaming masses, using zoom, FaceTime, twitter, instagram, google duo, and the internet in holy ways. Nothing can separate from the Love of God.

Of course we could go on complaining about what we don’t have as yet, but how much better it feels to be grateful for what we have been given. If we look back at these past 8 weeks we will see how the Spirit guided us and protected us. Maybe it was help from grandparents with homeschooling your children, maybe it was a meal sent for you an essential worker, maybe it was a generous donation from a neighbor. Maybe you received a card in the mail or a driveway greeting. He has had our backs, and will continue to have our backs .

The Holy Spirit has been with us since our baptisms and sealed in us at our confirmation, the spirit is alive and well in us. It is evident by all the different ways graduations are celebrated with drive by cars with balloons and signs, teachers finding ways to visit their students safely with gift packages, people are showing appreciation to the essential workers among us, parents are working from home in new and creative ways and learning patience as they teach their children, pastors have become creative in getting the word out to their communities and the world, colleges , schools and universities have not stopped teaching using the virtual world of the internet for good. I could go on to what has come from this, I am sure you have many examples as well. I give glory and praise to our Creator who always has our back and will never abandon us, He may be in disguise but He is among us.

Let us pray together for all those who do not believe as yet in the Power of God who is Risen and who gave us the Holy Spirit so we may know God always has our Back and that is The Reason for My hope, the Hope of Heaven the Risen Christ . Alleluia! Amen.

7 Miles

Today the reading takes us from Jerusalem to Emmaus . It takes this pair 7 miles to get back home. I don’t know about you but I walk on average 2 – 3 miles a day, so to think they walked 7 miles one way and 7 miles back to Jerusalem! Wow, what an encounter it must have been , because they also walked back at night in the dark, tired , exhausted but now the encounter they had experienced with Jesus gave them the spiritual energy to make the journey back again .

7 is also a complete number which is very significant in scripture. Jesus only meets them when the journey is exactly 7 miles to Emmaus, and they leave Emmaus only when the encounter is completed with Jesus to return to Jerusalem . Only when their eyes were opened and their hearts burning to share the good news with others would they have the spiritual energy to embark on the journey to meet the 11 and the woman who witnessed the empty tomb and many others.

Jesus also did not reveal himself to them in Emmaus until he was invited into their homes to break bread with them. He did not force himself on them he hid himself. Actually he was going to continue on until the invitation came from them to share a meal at their. He waited till their hearts were open to receive and encounter Him in the breaking of the bread.

Jesus gives me and you that same freedom to choose to invite him in or to let him go on his way. 7 miles to encounter Jesus, 7 miles to bring the good news to others. 7 miles changed lives for the two in Emmaus and the many in Jerusalem that day, that same Jesus wants to walk those same 7 miles with us today. ITE, MISSA EST”

Here I am Jesus, I come to do Your Will

The Readings and Gospel for today could go in many directions, but it seems that the theme I am hearing the most from many sources including the Deacon that I happen to be married to is” What is the will of God?” And how do I follow it?

How do we follow it, how do we know it and do we even desire it at all?As I ponder these questions myself I remember the wisdom of St. Ignatius of Loyola. When discerning we must decide if we are in a good place to make a decision, in other words are we in a state of grace and moving closer to God and not away from God. Are the decisions between two good things?What advice we would give to a friend making this decision? If I was on my death bed pondering the decision I have to make ,would I still be happy with my Yes or No to God’s will. What if I am at my final judgement before the throne of God, would I still be happy with how I followed God’s will?

Of course spending time with God’s words in scripture, church teachings, and “Knowing” that I am “Loved” child of God is foundational to following God’s will and recognizing God’s call to me. I also must believe that if it is God’s will and call He will also give me the graces and strength to follow it and He will send me good guides and friends on Earth to help hear it. Yes, God’s sends earthly messengers to us, God with skin I call them, they may be in a checkout line at Walmart, or your friend in the pew at Church, you never know where He will encounter you in your day.

As I listened to the many sources this morning that support me in my relationship to the Father , two things stayed with me. The first is a quote from the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen that my husband quoted in ending his Homily this morning:” You will never be happy if your happiness depends on getting solely what you want. Will what God wills and your Joy no man shall take from you.” And the second was From Father Paul’s homily I listened to livestream from St. George Catholic Church in Baton Rouge, “The will of God is the only way to Holiness and Holiness is the only way to Heaven.”

So now the questions for you and I to ponder, consider and pray with today. Am I willing to trust in God’s grace and God’s will to follow in His plan ? Do I know in the deepest caverns of my heart and soul, that God loves me and desires what is only for my Good. Perhaps today spend some time thinking about the choices you will make , how will spend your time, talent and treasure and is that your will or God’s will?

It all sounds so good and so easy on paper it is not so easy to carry out or to even hear or recognize, because the noise of an unholy spirit or the world blocks out the Good and Holy voice of our Creator, but trust God is greater and He has the final word. So today I pray that we together may come to know His will this day and everyday until we meet Him face to face.

Mother Mary intercede for us, Jesus save us, God Love us. Amen

Looking back before Looking forward

I have been itching to write for a few months now and resisting the promptings of the Holy Spirit, but this morning in prayer He was very insistent so I begin again.

Before we can make any adjustments to how we want 2020 to be I feel it is very important to look back at how we lived, prayed and served in the past year. Last night in the homily at our Church our Priest asked us to consider looking at what we did right and take those things forward to the New Year and leave behind all the mistakes and regrets , I added that second part.

Three questions I find helpful is to ask yourself, what do I need to continue, what do I need to stop doing and what do I need to start? I am sure when you look back you will find many blessings that God has given you, starting from a place of gratitude is the best way to begin this pondering. Then how do you want to respond to God in thanksgiving for all the many wonders and blessings you experienced . Remembering blessings can also come from tears and sorrow. Why? The Enemy of God ( Lucifer, Satan) thought he had the victory when Jesus took his last breath on the cross, but Jesus always waits till things seem so dark and desperate until he acts, he acted boldly in the resurrection and ascension, he had the final word. He transformed a hopeless dark situation into light and hope for all those who believe in Him. He continues to do this for our suffering world and the suffering the Church is undergoing today, we must never lose hope in the Power of Jesus( God saves)

If we remember well the story, Jesus came as a baby in a manger among animals, one reason it is thought, because everyone loves babies and we would not be scared of a infant. He grows up just like any other child and as he grows in wisdom and grace he teaches us how to do the same, he shows how to suffer and die, but also how to rise from the ashes of pain and suffering. He never abandons us, he left us with a small powerful host, his very body to consume as often as we can to sustain us until he brings us home. He left us with the Holy Spirit, who by the way is guiding the fingers typing this today, because it is being prompted by that Spirit to write.

So as you begin your pondering on 2019 and your actions going forward, listen to the still small voice inside of you, drown out any negatives thoughts they are not from God and then put your pen to the paper or your fingers to the computer.

May God bless you abundantly my friends and family, Be not afraid, God saves and He keeps his promises. Be assured of my prayers for you in the year ahead and pray for me whenever the Spirit prompts you. Happy and Holy New Year to all.

We all bleed the same, Mandisa

Today as I was working out at the gym this song from Mandisa was playing on my iPhone. I had heard it many times before and believe strongly in the message . But today it made me pause and think about the lyrics .

We all bleed the same
We’re more beautiful when we come together
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided

Woke up today
Another headline
Another innocent life is taken
In the name of hatred
So hard to take (hey!)
And if we think that it’s all good
Then we’re mistaken
‘Cause my heart is breaking (tell it, ‘Dis)

Are you left?
Are you right?
Pointing fingers, taking sides
When are we gonna realize?

We all bleed the same
We’re more beautiful when we come together
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided
If we’re gonna fight
Let’s fight for each other
If we’re gonna shout
Let love be the cry
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided

Tell me, who are we
To judge someone
By the kind of clothes they’re wearing
Or the color of their skin?

Are you black? (black)
Are you white? (white)
Aren’t we all the same inside? (the same inside)
Father, open our eyes to see!

We all bleed the same (we all bleed the same)
We’re more beautiful when we come together
We all bleed the same (we all bleed the same)
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided
If we’re gonna fight
Let’s fight for each other (fight for each other!)
If we’re gonna shout
Let love be the cry (be the cry!)
We all bleed the same (we all bleed the same)
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided

Only love can drive out all the darkness
What are we fighting for?
We were made to carry one another
We were made for more, said
Only love can drive out all the darkness
What are we fighting for? yeah

We were made to carry one another
We were made for more!

We all bleed the same (we all bleed the same)
We’re more beautiful when we come together (let’s stand united!)
We all bleed the same (we all bleed the same)
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided
If we’re gonna fight
Let’s fight for each other (fight for each other!)
If we’re gonna shout
Let love be the cry (be the cry!)
We all bleed the same(we all bleed the same) (bleed the same)
Let’s stand united (let’s stand united)
Let’s stand united!

So Father God, I pray
That our families will come together right now
And seek Your face
You will forgive our sins
And You will heal our incredible land
In the name of the only Savior, Jesus Christ
Amen

In light of the divisions in our society right now it is clear to me that these words reflected upon should make us all stop and look at how we are all the same , created in God’s image and likeness. Why do we make it so difficult. We continue to fight each other and we all suffer. How beautiful it would be if we could all come together and stop fighting for our piece of the pie or being afraid of someone who looks different from us or acts differently. Inside we are the same . We all come from God and we are returning to God. He has given us this life, to take care of it, to bring others to Christ , to serve one another , to give him all glory, honor and thanksgiving, for we deserve none of it, it is all gift from a generous God.

I had a wake up call to my own prejudices, feelings and opinions just a few years ago when my daughter Kristen told she was dating an african american male. I was not my best self nor did I treat him well or my daughter. I had to face things in myself that were very difficult. Thankfully, this young man had patience with me more than deserved at the time. I have since come light years from that day because of God’s mercy and Israel”s( My son in law) forgiveness.. This young man is now my son-in – law and the father to my biracial grandson Oliver Jai. Because of this experience my eyes have been opened to see the world as it really is today and it hurts me to know the pain that my son-in -law, my daughter and my grandson will have to endure because the world sees color as the division. I fear for them when driving in a car ,or if they choose to live in a neighborhood where everyone looks the same except for them, or when they walk into all white church and get stares from the congregation and not acceptance and welcome. Division, and prejudice, does end in color but along so many others lines, political, religious, gender, education I could go on and on.

But its not just about race as I said already it is also about the divisions of political agendas and parties. It is sickening to watch both debates , Republican and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. We are fighting against each other and like the song goes we should be fighting for each other, joining together in our differences, finding common ground, dialogue, searching for truth, fighting for the good for the whole human race, not just our piece of the pie. It is not ours anyone, we just lease space here, we are to take of it and each other until we are called home. Because we will be held accountable for what we have done or not done in our lifetime here on earth.

Jesus came to show us the way, the truth and the life. He lead with Love always, he used righteous anger when necessary, he forgave, he healed, he suffered and was persecuted for us, all of us. We must stand together and witness that love . God is love, he created us for love and to be love, yes we have fallen many times and so he came and sent his son to rescue us again, now we must respond to that Love by being Christ to a hurting world. Hurt people, hurt people and I heard it was said, that healed people heal people. Let us all pray we can be healers in our world today.

Mercy or Judgement

This week Deacon Richard and I were confronted with these two alternatives, to judge or not to judge, to be merciful or not to be merciful.

By the very nature of his vocation to the Diaconate and our call to holiness through our Baptism we decided together to choose mercy and forgiveness. It is not always easy, but the choice in front of us this week gave us the opportunity to be Christ to a person who had perhaps been falsely accused and was hurting. We are not sure whether he is or not, but that day it was not for us to judge.

By the grace of God and praying with each other first, the Deacon approached this man sitting by himself and offered words of encouragement and support. Later that same week we saw this gentleman again and it was easier this time because we had acknowledged him before and he knew we were praying for him and his situation.

It is only by the grace of God that we are not in his situation. We left the restaurant that morning feeling blest by the experience that God placed in our lives. Free from any guilt and feeling the Grace that the Holy Spirit led us to be merciful that day.

God’s ways lead us to freedom, as He forgives us we too must also forgive and be merciful.

To Pay Homage

Today 3 Wise Kings followed a star, and after hearing the homily last night I was informed we really do not know the exact number who followed the star which brought them to Bethlehem. Apparently many more than 3 Kings.

As I reflected and contemplated this scene I envisioned the line that is formed to receive the King in the form of Bread and wine at all the Catholic churches around our world today. I watched as we all processed bringing our own gifts of Frankincense , Gold and Myrrh. We are dressed like Kings and Queens because we are about to receive a great Gift. But do we realize the gift, we too are approaching the Babe of Bethlehem but in the form of a tiny piece of Bread and a sip of blood from gold chalices. Why Gold, because we are receiving the Most High King .

I don’t always consider this vision as I get up from the pew to receive the Eucharist, the great King who so wants to nourish me for the week ahead. As I stroll back to my pew with His body having touched my lips or perhaps my hand I so try to hold on to the scent, the feel of HIs body and blood entering mine and the sacrifice it took and the humility for Him to come to me like this each and every Mass.

The other thought is how am I changed by it and how do I share it with others . If the Eucharist is the greatest gift we have received , why don’t our faces and actions reveal that to others. Folks , I am questioning and others this week especially are asking me where are the young people? If we are not changed by what we receive and our faces do not show the joy of the Eucharist we will continue to see less of our younger generation who are attracted to the music and the feel good language of the Healing and feel Good churches that do not require any commitments , commandments repentance and reconcilation or the practice of the Beatitudes of The King. The healing churches can heal through community but there is one major gift lacking the Babe of Bethlehem housed in the Tabernacle waiting for us to adore Him and receive Him.. God does work in mysterious ways and I believe he works there in the healing churches too and perhaps as we pray He is doing just that and leading them home by a route we have yet to understand. However I must say, we have the Grace Trifecta , Prayer, Sacrament, Word. We have another trifecta of truth the footstool, the 3 legged footstool, magisterium( Apostolic ) sacred tradition ,and Scripture. We are not our own authority. But each must be given the grace of faith to search and find the Truth and the Way and the life. I am sixty two years old, and God has been so patient with my journey, and I am still on a journey. I just pray that somehow when I leave Church after each Mass my face, my actions will reveal to others who have yet not found the truth they will want to ask me what is the Joy and hope you have found I want that too.

May God be with you and bless you with a Holy and Happy 2019.




Questions

Todays readings for the feast of the Holy Family stirred in me to take a deeper dive into the scriptures. I often use many books to ponder the Words of the Lord , today was a little different. I spent time with a new journal called Stay Connected a journal for Catholic woman, that lead me to also use the Better part by Father John Bartunek and also the Catholic Cathechism. What stayed with me was Mary’s words to Jesus. She does not speak much in scripture often just pondering and reflecting. So today her question was revealing to me. She is finally questioning her Son. She say’s to Him Why have you treated us like this? I ponder it too, losing Jesus in the temple is nothing compared to what her future with Him will be like. I would imagine she will ask this question to her Son many times in the years ahead. But perhaps we have the same question to ask Jesus, why are you treating me this way this Christmas season? Maybe you lost someone close to you, or maybe you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, perhaps you too have lost a child. Mary’s response may give you some guidance, to ponder and reflect what this life is all about, she treasured all these things in her heart. May her faith in her Son give you hope as you are asked to accept the losses in your own life.  Mary experienced anxiety while trying to find Jesus, does that not make it easier for us to  accept that we too will experience anxiety in our own lives, trying to make sense of this earthly life and its purpose. Jesus went home with Mary after he was discovered in the temple and was obedient. He is teaching us too, how to live a human life with all its ups and downs. He is teaching me how to be obedient to the Father’s plan for my life. Lord Jesus help me today to trust like your Mother. To all my family and friends who have been asked to carry a loss or a suffering, know I unite my prayers to yours today and I rest them on the heart of Mary and Jesus. With Eternal love, Diane

 

Hypocritical Beds

Very recently I was at a gathering of friends and my ears perked up when one person shared a memory they had of the person whose life we were remembering on this occasion.

She shared how her friend told her that she made a hypocritical bed. What does that mean she said? It means your bed is all neat on the outside, but underneath the bedspread your sheets and blankets are all wrinkled, torn and bunched up. You present yourself one way to the world but inside you tell a different story.

That stayed with me for many reasons. Of course the first one is to look at myself. What do I want others to see, do I change based on who they think I am or expect me to be? Or do I present my real self in all circumstances. Honestly, it is a daily challenge, the only thing that keeps me honest is my Daily examen prayer; that St. Ignatius reminds me never to omit. Do I do it perfectly, no, but it keeps me honest with myself and what I am presenting to the world in which I live.

Then I looked at the crisis in our church today suffering from spiritual dehydration over the current charges and allegations against the hierarchy of our church. How have they been making hypocritical beds for so long?. Have they been examining themselves daily? Oh if they could have been following St. Ignatius advice for prayer, would we be in this crisis today.

My Heart wonders what Jesus is thinking. I know he is crying with us and its Holy ministers who suffer as well for the innocent and are caught up with the guilty. Has anyone even talked to Jesus in prayer and asked , Where else should we go but to you Lord ? Lord, I pray with expectant faith and hope that like you allowed Job to experience the Devil’s might and gave Job so much pain and suffering  and than his friends who gave him such poor advice, may we see in this current situation how you brought Light and wisdom to Job., that we may find wisdom and direction and light for our church our family of faith. Let us be careful what friends we are listening to for direction and guidance, and go to the source of Wisdom our Risen Christ. Remembering God is God and we are not it.

Questions or a Tiny Whispering Sound

Today as I reflected on the reading from 1Kings 19:9a, 11-16 my mind latched onto the question Jesus asked Elijah. The voice said to him; Why are you here? Which then led me to think about how many times Jesus asks questions or God has asked questions throughout scripture. Such as Why are you hiding? Who do you say I am? What is truth? Do you love me ? Why do you call me good? What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? What is your life, for you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes? What is this You have done? and more questions…. What if I took each one and ponder them now, what would my answers be? I read this reading so many times and only concentrated on how I am to listen to the Lord in the still small voice of a whispering wind and never saw the question.

Questions are important, as a spiritual director the most important thing I can do for a directee is to listen first and then ask the right questions. Lord help me to listen well and to pay attention first to your questions for me , so that by your grace I may grow in self knowledge and discern the spirits of Good versus evil.

May you hear God today in the whispering wind but listen carefully for the question he may have for you today.