Lenten journey

In a few weeks Lent will begin. It is a time of reflecting in the darkness. Its a journey being transformed through the light by the death and resurrection of Christ which brings new life to each of us. For several years, I taught kindergarten faith formation. I have to say although chaotic at times, it is one of my favorite groups to teach. Their little minds are easily fascinated and soak in everything you teach them. One of my favorite lessons was teaching about Lent with the analogy of the butterfly.

Dear friends, there is a butterfly in each of us waiting to be transformed in beauty, and released from the captivity of the cocoon.

Our sin is the cocoon that traps us within. It is the blanket of death in spirit that wraps us tightly, imprisoning us from life, joy and happiness.

During Lent, we reflect on these things that separate us from God, the sin that kills our soul, entrapping our spirit. Through the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are cleansed, set free from the chains that tie us down. The beauty within, the butterfly, emerges revealing the new life of joy. At this point in our journey, we reach a peak moment on the mountain of our faith and are closer to God than any other moment in that season of our journey.

I think the beauty is that each liturgical year, we are able to go through this process of transformation, of growing closer to God, unlike the butterfly who only goes through it once.

Think about Lent as the season of the cocoon. The season leading up to Lent is a season of gluttony. During Lent, we begin to look within and abstain from those things that we have indulged in, particularly our sin. During Holy Week, at Easter we see the transformation, the great release of our spirit, freely embracing our faith and the love God pours out for each of us. This is the height of the season, the Agape of love that covers us, lightening our load on our journey to strengthen us for the new road ahead.

This Lent, I invite you to look at it as a journey of reflection, release and transformation. Receive the ultimate sacrifice and love as if it were the first time you went through this season, as if you had never heard the Passion of Christ. Embrace it and be strengthen and fed for the journey that lies before you.

Crazy in love…with Jesus!

 

“Crazy in love with Jesus!”

“Crazy in love with Jesus,” a message one of my awesome sister’s in Christ sent me.  I think that’s the best crazy comment I have ever received.  If I’m going to be called crazy, YEP, I want to be CRAZY in LOVE with JESUS.

What about you?  Are you CRAZY IN LOVE WITH JESUS?

I can’t think of any better Valentine than Jesus.  I can’t think of anyone who has ever loved me more.

When I think about His love, I know I am precious in His eyes.  He desires my heart completely and pours out His love, compassion, mercy and protection daily just for me.  He thinks I’m perfect just the way I am, with all my flaws and blemishes.  I am valued more than gold and jewels.  I am beautiful to Him, a perfect flower, created just for Him.  How could I not give my heart completely to Him?

red heart on a old opened book ii
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Ironically Valentine’s day is the feast day of St. Valentine who was brutally beaten to death for defying the Roman Emperor by marrying couples.  Interesting that the day we celebrate love around the world is a feast day of a saint who was martyred in the name of love.  Similar to the story of my Valentine, Jesus, who was brutally beaten and crucified out of love for me and for you.  It’s His love I want to receive this Valentine’s day.  Because God is present in all things in my life, I receive this love in scripture, in my children, my friends and family, in nature – breathing in the fresh air and observing the birds of the air.

God has promised me a greater love story in my life.  The only thing He asks of me is to allow Him to fill every crevice of my heart, for me to “be satisfied” in Him.  This Valentine’s day, I am giving Him my heart, the ultimate Valentine card and my time will be spent adoring Him, soaking in His very presence.

As you peer into the eyes of your loved one on Valentine’s Day, remember that each of us reflect the love of Christ.  Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you and may you each be filled with the love of your HEAVENLY FATHER and be embraced in the arms of JESUS.

The next time you think of CRAZY, ask yourself am I CRAZY IN LOVE WITH JESUS?  If your answer is YES, then you are right on target with the best kind of crazy.

How much do I love thee?

 

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.  In this way the love of God was revealed to us; God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him.  In this is love; not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:7-10

Have you told yourself you love you lately?  If not, take a moment and do so.  And then take a moment and ask God how much He loves you?  How did He respond?  Did you find the answer unexpected?  What about when you told yourself you loved you?  Did you find that difficult?    

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.  Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:  The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God.  This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being.  For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence.  He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.”

Love seems so natural and so simple yet we struggle with it.  We probably struggle with loving ourselves more than anything.

WHY?

I think we are the hardest critics of ourselves.  We see every fault, every failure.  We know every hurt, every negative word said to us.  I think these things aid us in the inability to truly love ourselves, to truly love the person God created in us.  We fail to see the person God sees in us because of the awesome critics we are.  So if you truly listened to God once you asked Him how much He loved you, I’m sure you received a very different answer than you expected.  Sometimes, we just don’t have the capacity and the ability to see how unconditional God’s love is.  It is a hard thing to grasp because of our sin and what we see within us.

I want to share a personal story of a young woman who knew God, yet didn’t have a friendship with Him.  She had not allowed Him to companion with her for many years throughout her life.  Her vision of God was as a disciplinary, one who saw her faults and was displeased with her.  One day, she found herself lost.  She looked up to the Heavens and began to pray.  As the days went by, she began to notice this growing desire for something.  She began to read books about God and her faith.  As she read and as she went to Mass, her heart began to desire more.  As the “bread of life” was raised before her eyes, she felt this ache in her heart.  When she approached the Eucharist, she felt this grave anticipation and hunger as her heart began to beat faster.  She had received Holy Communion for years and had not felt this deep desire to consume the Host of her Lord.  As she consumed it and drink the blood of Christ, she felt this warmth consume her and immediately a tear fell from her cheek.  In that instant she realized the love that her Heavenly Father had for her.  Every Mass thereafter, she longed to receive Jesus, to feel herself being transformed through the love He has for her in the sacrifice He made for her and does each time she goes to Mass.  This desire continued to grow throughout the days, the weeks and months.  She found herself almost daily at the foot of the Host, soaking in the very presence of Jesus in Adoration.  His comforting embrace in her sorrows of her days were her “refuge and fortress.”  She couldn’t wait to rush off to go have lunch with Him, to soak in His love that radiated in the silence of her heart when she was before Him in the chapel.  This love grew beyond what she could ever have imagined.  He was present when she was weak, when she needed comfort from her tears.  He gave her strength to endure the days ahead and courage to follow Him.  He protected her and calmed her fears and lifted her up on eagles wings to fly over the sea of despair into the heights of the mountains.  As she saw all that He was doing in her heart and in her life, she began to place her trust in Him.  Her life, through suffering, flourished in love as she had found her first true love and entrusted her life into His hands.  She had discovered a loving friendship that had been pulling her from the day she was born that would fulfill her greatest desire of communion with Him into an unimaginable happiness – through her joy and pain.  She knew this flame of love would never burn out.  It may be a little dim at times but will always be refueled through the thirst and hunger that is always fulfilled in the love of her Heavenly Father and the sacrifice of her Lord as she receives the grace from the “bread of life” and “the fruit of the vine.”

God meets us where we are and when we are open and ready to receiving Him.  Sometimes that time is in the midst of a trial in our lives.  When that time comes, a true love story is sprouted.  It is an unimaginable love that grows beyond anything you have experienced.  If you haven’t opened your arms to receive the love God is waiting to share with you, today may not be a bad day to start.  Blessings always.

 

Dying to self, realizing that all is God’s

 

“You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” Ephesians 4:22-24

What does it mean to die to self and be a follower of Christ?  In this world we live in today, what does that look like?  How can I truly be as Christ is to me?  How can I, like the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies, “produce much fruit,” John 12:24?

agriculture arable barley blur
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Pretty serious questions.  I often ponder these questions in my life along with am I fulfilling God’s Will by  acting on the answers to the above questions.

Is my heart truly mine?  Are my hands and feet truly mine?  How about the money in my bank account, my possessions or the children I am blessed with?  The more I contemplate this, the more my answer is – if I die to self and follow Christ, the answer to those questions would be no, they are all God’s.

When I lay down my heart and allow it to be in union with Christ, I will love others as He loves me.  I will embrace each person as if he or she were my brother or sister.  I would pray for them as if they were a part of me.

When I allow Christ to be my hands and feet, I will feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked.  If I see one of my sisters and brothers injured, I will pick them up and attend to their needs.  I will be a true servant to each of my brothers and sisters, giving of myself.

When I accept that my possessions are not mine but God’s, given to me to use to build His kingdom, I would trust that when my brothers or sisters reach out to me in financial need, I would give what I had to give, knowing that it was God’s to give in accordance with His will.

When I accept that my children are God’s, I would have less anxiety, trusting their lives into the hands of their true Father, their creator.  I would know that the hands that created them within me will direct their paths and their journey in life.

When I truly know that all I have is God’s, when I truly die to myself, my trust and peace will reach the heavens.  I would live the life God intended and I would be fulfilling His Will, building His kingdom here in this temporary home.  I think this is what it means to me to die to self and bear much fruit, just as the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it is then that the wheat is useful.  And so we, like the grain of wheat, will feed God’s people by bearing fruits of the kingdom through our service, love, compassion, and mercy given to us to be Christ in this world that needs it.

Dear friends, is your heart God’s heart?  Are your hands and feet that of Jesus?  Are your possessions God’s gift to use to aid His people?  Are your children His, given to you to spiritually guide and produce abundant fruit in the kingdom of God?  How simple would our lives be when we accept that all that we are and all that we have is God’s and was given to us to serve and love our brothers and sisters.

Forgiveness scores!

One of my memories as a young girl is learning about the “Saints”. Before you sit back and think, well that’s nice and wholesome, I want to explain a little. The Saints I grew up watching and learning about were the New Orleans Saints. Growing up in Louisiana, many of my family members gathered around the TV on Sunday to watch the Saints play football. There was lots of yelling and screaming, jumping and clapping, coupled with some minor frustrations when they didn’t play well, which happened to be often when I was growing up.

These Sunday afternoons coupled with playing football with my brother and his friends, I learned the language of football. I learned about offense and defense, scoring and blocking. I learned running plays and passing plays. You may ask yourself what does this have to do with a “faith blog?”

Ever consider your struggle with forgiveness in the form of a football game?

white american football helmet and pigskin ball
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Humor me as I explain a little.  On the field, you have forgiveness on the offensive side, while anger, resentment and bitterness are on the defensive side. As forgiveness catches the ball and runs down the sideline, anger tries to knock him over, causing him to stumble. Then from out of nowhere, bitterness and resentment come from different angles, diving in for the tackle. At first glance, forgiveness appears to be tackled among the pile of anger, bitterness and resentment and then out of the entanglement, forgiveness emerges. It is as if he gained strength from another source and he gracefully escapes the pile, running towards the ultimate touchdown of glory and peace.

Quite a game! When forgiveness is on the offensive side in the football game, glory and peace will always emerge and will always score. This is a promise from our Heavenly Father as He proved this very thing when His only son, Jesus, died for us so that we may be forgiven.  He also promises to give us the strength we need to emerge from the bottom of the pile to score the touchdown.

So, I ask myself when have I struggled with forgiveness and I ask you, have you battled with forgiving someone?  Although you know it’s the right thing to do, you want to hang on to the anger or hurt within you.  You may even feel justified to not forgive.  Forgiveness is hard, especially when we are on the receiving end of the hurt and the other person continues to go for the tackle.  There is nothing worst than the bondage of unforgiveness.  Our hearts are unable to be free when we cannot forgive.  If we suffer from hurt or brokenness, we are unable to heal and move forward if we cannot forgive.  This keeps us shackled to the past, the brokenness, the pain, the anger, the bitterness and resentment.  None of these are lifegiving for our physical and spiritual needs.  What holds us back from seeking forgiveness if we seek a joy filled life?

Are you ready to be on the offensive side or the defensive side?  Do you want to be bound by anger, resentment and bitterness in the pile up on the football field or do you want to emerge glorious and peacefully through the triumphant offensive moves of forgiveness?

Dear friends, forgiveness is an awesome gift that each of us has been given.  No matter how difficult it may seem and how justified you feel to not forgive, take a leap towards the goal and place your bet on forgiving others.

Have you noticed the sprinkles decorating your faith

Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life…” John 14:6

With the holidays coming around the corner, many of us will be making some yummy goodies.  Some of them may be sprinkled with little candies for decoration or added flavor.  You will bake and decorated them with either joy or stress of trying to bake them with a ton of other holiday things to do.  Either way those who delight in them are filled with sweet joy as they admire and taste your delicious and beautiful holiday treats.

Making holiday treats sprinkled with decorative candies is a way that many people celebrate and share their love during the holidays.

So what about our faith?  Are there times when God sprinkles your life with sweet grace decorating your faith and trust in Him?

The past few days, I have seen so many simple graces sprinkled upon my faith guiding me to trust in God’s divine will in my life.  These sweet sprinkles have come in several different ways to remind me of His presence and His hands in all that is surrounding me.

Just the other day, I found myself praying for guidance in a circumstance in my life and when I was calling out to God, I received a message from a sweet sister in Christ that began with “Lord, thank you that you are near when I call upon you.  Today, I cry out to you for help…”

Today, I hear the song by Pat Barrett “The Way (New Horizon)”, not once but twice on the radio when I got into my car.  The sprinkles began to pour out two days ago when the verse John 14:6 was playing in my head reminding me that Jesus is my way, truth and life as I lean on Him and the Word of God, placing my trust in His hands.

You may ask what does this have to do with baking and sprinkles?  Often I think we walk through our journey of faith going through the motions of going to church, reading our Bibles, may be doing some Bible study.  And often as this is intermingled into everything else in our lives, we don’t realize the sweet decorative sprinkles God is pouring out in our faith through reminders of His presence and His will in our lives in some of the small things that align with where we are in a moment.  Being open to seeing, hearing, feeling God’s presence reveals a beautiful, decorative faith of trust.

I’m often amazed at the little things that remind me of His presence, His love, His protection, His promise and His mercy.  God hears every word we say.  He knows every thought we have.  He knows our circumstances, our pain and our joy.  And just when we least expect it, He sends us little sprinkles to reveal Himself in that present moment, decorating our faith with His love.  Just as in baking for the holidays, we may be in a joyful moment or a stressful one but His decorative sprinkles will always fill us with joy and delight as He shares His love for each of us, His children.

Listen to the lyrics in the song by Pat Barrett, “The Way (New Horizon).”

Is your deepest desire a communal relationship with God?

“…our belonging to God, our deep bond with him, a relationship that gives meaning to our whole life and keeps us resolute, in communion with him, even during the most difficult and troubled moments” Pope Francis

What is your deepest desire?  Is it a communal relationship with God?  These are both good questions to ponder and reflect on today as you read the Gospel of John, chapter 6.

Todays Gospel reading is one of my favorites.  In fact the series of the Gospel of John, chapter 6, has always been my favorite series at Mass.  I think the reason is that over the years, I have realized the true meaning of the Eucharist in my life.  It is the “communion with Him”.  Before receiving the Eucharist, my heart desires so greatly to be consumed by Jesus as I consume His body and blood and when I receive the Eucharist at Mass, I receive this gift of Jesus’ presence within me that is like no other.

Today at Mass, something happened that brought a deeper meaning to me in the blessings and healing of the Eucharist and the communion with God.  Just before Mass, I was reading The Better Part which is reflections on the Gospel.  In The Better Part, Christ as friend, I had read

“You want more out of your life; I do too.  I am what you’re looking for.  Know me better; listen to me; trust me more.”

Today, before the consecration of the bread and wine, I heard this small voice whisper to me to offer up this Mass for my ex-husband.  A little resistant at first, I remember thinking that is a lot to ask and not so easy today.  After recalling what I had read before Mass, I knew that when the body and blood were raised up, I was to offer the Mass up for my ex-husband.  I was to listen to that inner voice and trust that Jesus knew me better and knew what I needed today.  So, I offered the Mass up for my ex.  After receiving communion, when I went back to my pew to pray, I felt a release as tears cleansed me while I prayed.

I wanted to share this because I think this is an example of desiring and embracing a communal relationship with God.  It’s through the Eucharist that the communal bond – as Father mentioned today – with Jesus as the wedding ring, a union between man and God takes place.

Jesus says in the Gospel today,

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  John 6:35

If you do not believe or have trouble believing that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, read the Gospel of John, chapter 6 carefully and let the words soak in – ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you read this beautiful reading.  He came to earth to not only die for us but to give us life and fulfill us by being present with us in this beautiful Sacrament.