Image Alleluia! He is Risen!

The celebration of Easter begins, for our home, with the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night.  In the early years of the Church, Christians would read the story of our salvation, sing psalms, and pray from sunset until sunrise.  In our modern day, we just gather for about three hours!  Scripture passages include the story of creation, the Exodus, prophecies from Isaiah, and the beautiful Gospel passage of the empty tomb.  Jesus Christ is risen…He is risen indeed!

At our local celebration, seven people were brought into full communion with the Church, and I got a bit teary-eyed!  I sang in the choir, and as I sang the verses during Confirmation, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy.  There is so much richness, so much to treasure in our faith!  How wonderful that seven people have now made a commitment to Christ and His Church!

My prayer is for these new members to feel welcomed by the Body of Christ; to be embraced fully into community.  I also pray that the zeal of these new members  will light a spark in those who may have become lukewarm.  May the joy of the newly baptized inspire us to live as people who truly believe in the power of the Resurrection!  Death and sin have been conquered!  Light has pierced the darkness!  The gates of heaven have been opened to all who believe Jesus Christ is Lord!

Happy Easter!

Image Fifth Sunday of Lent Reflection

I read the following reflection at my Lay Dominican meeting this weekend. (St. Mary Magdalene Chapter, St. Albert the Great Province)  We take turns sharing reflections, usually using the Sunday Gospel reading.

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This weekend, the Church will once again hear the remarkable Gospel passage of Lazarus being raised from the dead.  This miracle is only recorded in John’s Gospel.  It is the last miracle before Jesus’ Passion, Death, and His own Resurrection.

We all know the story: Lazarus is a friend of Jesus, as are Mary & Martha who sent word to Jesus.  In fact, the scriptures say, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”  Their close relationship must have made his delay appear very strange to his disciples.  Generally, when a loved one is ill we try to see him as soon as possible.  But Jesus tells us the reason for the delay: “for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  We have the benefit of hindsight.  We know what Jesus meant, but how confusing was this to his followers?  Jesus had already cured many people of illness, why not do it again?  Here, we see that Jesus is letting everyone know there is something much greater ahead.  Perhaps some of the disciples were mindful of the words of the prophet Ezekiel, which we find in our first reading:  “I am going to open up your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people…”

Throughout this Gospel passage, we see how the faith of the disciples is both deeply challenged and demonstrated.  When Jesus finally says it’s time to go back to Judea, many are concerned about His safety because people there had tried to stone him to death. Yet, Thomas, who generally gets a bad rap, says “Let us also go to die with him.”  Martha meets up with Jesus as He was heading to Bethany, saying her brother would not have died if Jesus had arrived sooner, but then proclaims, “But even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”  The remarkable faith these two disciples exhibited should be an inspiration and model to us!

As Jesus speaks to Martha, he tells her, and us, more about his very being.  He says, “I am the resurrection and the life…”  He speaks these words firmly, and asks her, “Do you believe this?”  Of course, God knows our hearts, but it is critical that we affirm our belief in Him, especially in difficult times.  Martha believed because she knew Jesus personally; He wasn’t just an amazing guy, not just a gifted preacher.  She had encountered the Person of Jesus.  And she was about to witness a miracle that would affirm her belief, and reveal to others Who Jesus is…the Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Healer, the Redeemer, the Lord of all Life & Love!

As the passage continues, John tells us that Jesus wept.  Christ is fully divine but also fully human.  He experienced the sadness of grief, and joined in the sadness of everyone gathered at the tomb that day.  I love this brief verse, because it highlights such a beautiful truth.  Jesus does indeed know our sorrows and hurt, and He weeps with us.

It is surreal to ponder this fully human, grieving man who is Jesus, shift gears…as the Son of God.  Was there a hush in the crowd?  An anticipation of something spectacular?  Were there doubters there as well?  Despite her faith, Martha was concerned about the stench from the tomb; she truly did not know what was about to happen!  There were many disciples there that day, who heard the prayer of Jesus to the Father. He wanted people to hear, and see, and believe!  Lazarus had been dead for four days.  There was no doubt that he was dead.  What could possibly be done?  With a simple sentence, “Lazarus, come out!” Jesus showed that he not only has command of the crashing waves, not only has power to cure disease, but literally has power over sin and death.  Imagine the amazement…the awestruck faces…the tears of joy. “Do you believe?”

We know now that many rejected Him, despite what had to be the most remarkable event they had ever witnessed.  We know from the following verses that some witnesses went to the Pharisees…who then began to plot to have Jesus killed.  This miracle was truly a pivotal point in our salvation history.  As Dominicans, we will meet up with those same doubters within our families, at work, on Facebook.  There will be people who will complain that God doesn’t heal fast enough, that the stench of human suffering is a sign that He doesn’t care.  Some will witness miracles, yet work so hard to deny them.  Yet, just as the Gospel writer John was inspired and led to write about this miracle so we may believe, we must proclaim Jesus as well.  Pray for the right words; pray for open hearts; pray for the conversion of souls.

To end, I will share this text that I discovered while researching reflections on this Gospel passage.  I had been completely unfamiliar with St. Andrew of Crete, but I hope to learn more about him, because this is beautifully poetic:

“Lazarus, Come out!

As a friend, I am calling you; as Lord I am commanding you…Come out!

Let the stench of your body prove the resurrection.

Let the burial linen be undone so that they can recognize the one who was put in the tomb.

Teach them how all creation will be enlivened in a moment when the trumpet’s voice proclaims the resurrection of the dead.”

St. Andrew of Crete; Homily 8 on Lazarus   (8th century Archbishop)

 

Photo credit: © Cunaplus | Dreamstime.com – Garden Tomb Photo

Image The Journey Begins

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the beautiful liturgical season of Lent.  Like many Catholics, my forehead is covered with ashes and my stomach is pretty much empty.  I struggle with fasting every year.  It’s not that I eat big meals (except when Bruce cooks!) but I do snack a lot during the day.  Days like today bring to mind how much I rely on snacking for comfort, and even to fill time.  Something to work on during these 40 days.

I have somewhat grandiose plans for Lent 2017.  I believe it’s because the first two months of this year have not been as fruitful as I had hoped.  My physical health issues impacted my ability to concentrate.  But with a new month, and a new Lenten journey, I have a new burst of motivation.  I rarely do well with New Year’s resolutions, but I do better with my Lenten commitments.  I. Am. Determined.

Lent has three main elements: Prayer, Fasting, and Alms Giving.  I don’t always focus on all three, but after listening to the homily tonight at Mass, I realized I need to.  I usually do well with the first two, but not the third.  Hmmm…

I made a new prayer journal, and will ask for prayer requests weekly on my Facebook page. I had taken a break from this activity for a while and I feel the need to begin again. Praying for my friends is a great honor, and brings me joy.  Added to that is a beautiful journal from Blessed is She, a wonderful online community of Catholic women across the country.

I fast from things and activities more than from food. (Well, there is always some yummy snack I set aside for the season!)  Over the years, I have had some incredible things happen through this spiritual discipline.  I’ll write more about that later this week.

Thinking about alms giving gives me pause.  Bruce and I already support our church and some ministries…as do many other Christians.  We are not special in that sense.  But perhaps we are being challenged to do something extra, even just once.  And perhaps it is not a call to be generous with money, but with our time instead.  Definitely worth praying about!

Of course, all of this is to help me focus more on my relationship with Jesus.  Worldly comforts can distract us; sin separates us.  It’s time to clear the clutter from our spiritual lives so we can see and know our Lord better.

How do you walk through the season of Lent?  Share your thoughts below, not to boast but to give each other ideas.  Maybe your idea will help someone experience a Lenten journey like never before!

 

Image New Year, New Post

So, it’s been a couple of months since I have written here.  I’d like to say this was a planned sabbatical of sorts, but it wasn’t.  My mind was just cluttered with some holiday projects for home and church, plus a general sleepiness I get in the dreariness of winter.  Am I awake now?  Only through the benefit of caffeine!

In all seriousness, I have been thinking a lot over these first two weeks of the new calendar year.  I realize we all need time to refocus and regroup occasionally, and that time for me is now.  While my mini epiphany coincides with the start of 2017, it’s more than that.  I look at my various projects for the church and diocese, in my craft room, and even unfinished posts for this blog.  2016 was a good but exhausting year with many things left incomplete.  My health has taken a hit, which is certainly a contributing factor.  But God has gifted me, all of us, with another day. We are not promised tomorrow, but will we do with today?

And so, I have pretty paper selected for a new prayer journal…I have a list of books I hope to read…I have two short pieces I have been asked to write for publication…and my husband and I have shifted our prayer time to coordinate with his new work schedule.  It is my hope that 2017 will be a year filled with doing things I believe God has called me to do.

I read a quote attributed to EWTN founder, Mother Angelica.  She said. “I’m not afraid to fail,…I’m scared to death of dying and having the Lord say to me, ‘Angelica, this is what you might have done had you trusted more.'”  Ouch.  If you are like me, you are well acquainted with procrastination and distraction.  You know, as I know, that we could do so much more if we just focused on the task at hand.  We could be more fruitful in all aspects of life if we learned to trust God even more.  I ask myself, how could I possibly write a book?  How in the world will I lose weight with all my mobility issues?  All the while, the psalms ring in my head…

Trust God at all times, my people!  Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!

Psalm 62:9

This has always been my favorite psalm, but I realize how much more I need to embrace the full message.  Trust God at ALL times.  Not some of the time.  Not when it is easy or convenient.  ALL times.  I need to trust that God has already equipped me with what I need to do the things He has put in my heart.  Now it is time to move forward, even if slowly.  For me that means read more, write more, exercise more, BE more the woman God has called me to be.  This is not a new year’s resolution.  This is my proclamation as a Child of God!

How has the start of 2017 been for you?  Share your thoughts below.  And let me know how I can pray for you.  My new journal needs some new entries!

 

#MondayMercy: Visit the Sick

I realize it’s Tuesday, but this #MondayMercy post was stuck, unfinished, in my head for the last 24 hours.  Time to sort out the many thoughts I have for this work of mercy:  Visit the Sick.  I knew I wanted to relate it to this month of Pregnancy & Infant Loss, so I decided to

Back to School Evangelization

Today, my fourth (and final) Called to Witness column was published in The Catholic Post.  I have enjoyed this writing project, and might pick it up again in the future. However, at this time, I am getting ready to serve as the President of the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women.  With my added duties,