The Fourth Sunday of Easter 2023

While our Gospel passage doesn’t include the specific phrase of Jesus’, “I am the Good Shepherd,” I decided to run with it anyway. It is the immediate next verse following the Gospel for this Sunday and it is so much more than a nice pastoral picture. If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, then we are His sheep. And, unless you have had experience with sheep in a field, it might be surprising that this isn’t the most flattering of descriptions.

Sheep just aren’t smart. They don’t seek out quality food, they eat whatever is under their noses, even if it’s the roots of the plants they ate yesterday. If they fall or roll over onto their back they can’t get back up. Literally, if they end up on their backs with all 4 feet in the air the gases in their stomach will redistribute and they will die within 24 hours. If they are threatened by a predator, they have no defensive capabilities except to attempt to run away.

While sheep aren’t smart, they aren’t without good qualities (thank goodness!). Some of these qualities are highlighted in the Gospel today. Sheep know the voice of their shepherd. They are very good at distinguishing between their shepherd and a stranger. Perhaps even more importantly, they won’t willingly follow a stranger. Sheep are very obedient, provided they are in the shepherd’s presence. They will go wherever he leads them, even if it is somewhere they wouldn’t normally travel along that path in their own ramblings.

Sheep, as you can see, are not able to take care of themselves very well. They need a shepherd. We, when left to our own devices, are often not all that great at taking care of ourselves either. We need a shepherd. Jesus knew this about us which is why He calls Himself the Good Shepherd.

Jesus isn’t just any shepherd. That adjective “Good” is important. He is the Good Shepherd because, as He says:

I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:11

No one expects an ordinary shepherd to sacrifice his very life for his sheep. The sheep can’t defend themselves, so whatever killed the shepherd would surely take the rest of the flock as well. Not so with Jesus. By laying down His life for us, He protects the whole flock, removing forever the threat of death which terrorized us. Jesus isn’t any old shepherd, He is the Good Shepherd.

This isn’t just a description, this is part of Jesus’ identity and therefore God’s identity. Jesus says: “I am the Good Shepherd.”

I am.

When Moses asked God who was sending him to the Israelites, God said, “God replied to Moses: I am who I am. Then he added: This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). The name of God we are able to perceive, I AM. We know Jesus is God, and we know Jesus was a good Jew. He doesn’t use this phrase lightly. Jesus is revealing to us something intimate about who He is as God. This isn’t the only time Jesus uses this specific phrase in the Gospel of John. In fact, there are 7 which have a description that follows.

I am the Bread of Life

I am the Light of the World

I am the Gate of the Sheep

I am the Good Shepherd

I am the Resurrection and the Life

I am the Way and the Truth and the Life

I am the True Vine

We don’t have time to go into each of these at present, perhaps someday each in turn. There are also a few places where Jesus simply states: I AM. One example is when He stands before the soldiers in the Garden. Jesus says, “I am” when they ask if He is Jesus of Nazareth. At the sound of this phrase, they all fall to the ground. “I am” is no ordinary phrase when spoken by Jesus in John’s Gospel and we would do well to pay attention when He uses it.

Though Jesus is human, He is God. We will never fully comprehend Him. I think that is one of the reasons why He used so many of these “I AM” statements. He is revealing more of Himself to us using metaphors we are able to grasp, even if only a little.

There are many, many titles for Jesus. King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Door, Redeemer, Savior, Friend, Brother, the Good Shepherd. In the appendix of my Walking With Purpose Bible Study book from this year there was included the Litany of Praise. If you haven’t heard of it before, I highly encourage you to take some time (you will need some time, it’s long but it’s so good) to pray it. If you are able, this litany in adoration is powerful.

I’ll include a portion here, but do click on the link for the full litany.

I praise You,Lord Jesus! You are the Christ.
I praise You,Lord Jesus! You are Christ, the King.
I praise You,Lord Jesus! You are the Lamb of God.
I praise You,Lord Jesus! You are the Lion of Judah.
I praise You,Lord Jesus! You are the Bright Morning Star.
I praise You,Lord Jesus! You are our Champion and Shield.
I praise You,Lord Jesus! you are our Strength and our Song.
I praise You,Lord Jesus! you are our Way of our life.
Daily Graces.

Third Sunday of Easter 2023 – Road to Emmaus

I’ll be honest, I was a little stumped by this week’s Gospel reading. Maybe not stumped, but unable to hone in on a single idea for the brief video reflection that I wanted to create. So, I ended up merging two ideas, more or less successfully.

First, I mentioned the invitation of the disciples to Jesus into the house where they were going to spend the evening. More on that in a moment. Secondly, I spent the rest of the video talking about how this story is a type of analogy for the Mass. I was inspired by a homily given by Bishop Robert Barron, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share it in full for anyone interested. You can find it here.

For this accompanying blog post, I think I want to spend a little more time with the first point I made. Jesus is the master of the invitation. He calls, He doesn’t command, His disciples to come follow Him. In the Gospel of John, two of John the Baptist’s disciples begin to follow Jesus. He asks them, “What are you looking for?” They ask Him where He is staying. In the perfect one-liner, Jesus responds: “Come and see” (John 1:38-39).

Again and again, Jesus invites people into His circle. In the Gospel today, the disciples do not recognize Jesus on the road. Even as He opens their eyes to the Scriptures He fulfilled, and as they reflected afterward they realized their hearts were burning within them in Jesus’ presence, still they do not recognize Him. They would have missed Him entirely if they hadn’t extended the simple offer of hospitality. Jesus made to go on, but they stopped Him.

But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”

Luke 24:29

They led Jesus inside, and it was in the breaking of the bread that they finally recognized who He was.

We have the same choice before us every single day. Do we invite Jesus in, or do we go about our day without opening the door of our hearts to Him?

Here are a few ideas for consciously and concretely inviting Jesus into your daily life:

  • Morning Offering Prayer – there are many versions of this prayer, some are short and simple, others more complex. The basic structure of this prayer is to offer your day to Jesus, in all it’s ups and downs, to unite yourself with Jesus throughout the day, to seek His assistance in your day, and to proclaim your love for Him. When we homeschooled, we began each day with this prayer: Dear Jesus, I offer you this day, my works, my joys, my sorrows, and my play. Please help me to be good today. I love you Jesus, Amen. That’s it, it doesn’t need to be fancy. This site has a whole bunch of Morning Offerings if this one isn’t a good fit for you.
  • Setting daily check in prayer times – maybe you pray an Angelus at noon. Maybe you say a rosary while you walk every day. Setting up specific, routine, prayer times is a great way to reconnect with Jesus throughout your day. The Hallow app is great for this. You can set reminders within the app and have the prayers or reflections you want to utilize queued up and ready to go. (The link provided will give you a 3-month free trial of the full version of the app if you haven’t made an account already. This works best on a computer. I do not gain anything monetary or otherwise if you choose to use my link).
  • Frequent the sacraments. When was the last time you went to a daily Mass? What about Adoration, Confession, or other liturgical celebration offered by your parish? Invite Jesus into your schedule by prioritizing these opportunities.
  • Coming from Chiara Lubich and the Focolare Movement, be intentional about recognizing Jesus in your neighbor. When you are in the presence of others, see Jesus in them. Jesus can be encountered in every single person you come in contact with each day. Even if they aren’t your favorite person, Jesus invites us to love them as He does. For more on this, check out my post about the Cube of Love.
  • Find some inspirational saint quotes and Scripture verses. I have a friend who loves to be reminded of the things she has read, so she puts post-it notes everywhere. One over the kitchen sink, one or two on the bathroom mirror, the visor of her car. Anyplace that catches her eye or where she spends a lot of time. She changes them up also, which I think is so wise. We can start to glaze over things we see on a highly regular basis. Either changing the quotes around, or switching up the color of paper they are written on, can help avoid this.
  • Add your own ideas in the comments. It would be great to hear your ideas about how to invite Jesus into your everyday life. What works for you? What do you want to try?
Daily Graces.

Wallpapers for 2023

I have never attempted the St. Andrew Novena until this Advent season. The novena, traditionally started on St. Andrew’s feast day which is Nov. 30, actually runs for 25 days – Nov. 30-Dec. 24. Not only is this a longer than usual novena (novenas are typically 9 days long), it is also a rather demanding novena. You pray the same prayer 15 times each day. I really wanted to spread the 15 times throughout the day, filling my whole day with prayer, rather than sitting down and saying the same prayer 15 times in one sitting. To accomplish this, I found a simple version of the prayer to put on my phone as a lock screen and had a counter widget that I could click to keep track of where I was during the day. (The widget app is called Counter Widget for iPhone users. I’m not sure if there is an Android version but even if it isn’t this particular app, there ought to be something you can use).

I did not expect to love this novena as much as I did. I found myself praying it almost without thinking. Do you know how you will be singing a song in your head for a while but not be fully conscious of it, and then you suddenly realize you’re singing along? That’s what was happening. These words were becoming a part of me, even deeper than fully conscious thought. I had LASIK surgery during the second half of Advent and the whole time I was having the procedure, this prayer was running through my head over and over and over. It kept me calm, it kept me secure in myself. I’m not sure how I would have made it without this prayer.

As Advent is drawing to a close, I have been feeling a little anxious about letting this prayer go. What’s going to fill its space? I have enjoyed having this special and unique prayer to help focus my month and I’m hungry for more.

I’m not sure I will ever adequately put into words just how grateful I am for all the little details the Holy Spirit has inspired within the Catholic Church. Did you know that even the months of the year have their own unique devotions? Here’s a quick list:

  • January – The Holy Name of Jesus
  • February – The Holy Family
  • March – St. Joseph
  • April – The Holy Spirit
  • May – The Blessed Virgin Mary
  • June – The Sacred Heart of Jesus
  • July – The Precious Blood of Jesus
  • August – The Immaculate Heart of Mary
  • September – Our Lady of Sorrors
  • October – The Rosary
  • November – The Holy Souls in Purgatory
  • December – Advent and the Coming of Christ at Christmas

The Holy Spirit really sparked this idea in me because, in a flurry of typing, I went from, “Well this are nice” to “Oh my gosh I need to make lock screen wallpapers for every month so everyone who wants to pray in this way can have one too!”

So here they are. 11 of my own creations, courtesy of Canva’s design space, free for you to download. The 12th is the lock screen wallpaper I am using this Advent from The Simple Saints website. Big thank you to them for inspiring my Advent this year. I will be using this wallpaper again next year (I chose the blue one with the stars if you’re curious).

I think I’m going to be sticking with the 15 times a day model. That seems to be doable for me. It’s often enough I have to keep it at the forefront of my mind but not so often I find myself running through the repetitions just to achieve a magic number.

If I’ve inspired you to consider trying out praying this way, I’m so excited for you! I intentionally did not put the month on the individual wallpapers so if you find one you want to pray with for longer, you don’t have to try to edit anything. Or, if a prayer really speaks to you and it doesn’t exactly line up with it’s designated month, that’s ok! The Holy Spirit moves us as He will and it’s not always according to a calendar (just ask my editor at and how many day-of-deadline posts I send her because the inspiration wasn’t exactly timely).

I’m not sure I will get out another post before the end of the year. Perhaps, I have an idea mulling around that came to me while trying to equally divide pumpkin zucchini bread batter into 2 loaf pans and wondering about how recipe creators account for the waste left in the pan, on the spoon, and on licked toddler fingers…..hmmm. Just how used to having “waste” or “extra” are we and do we carry that influence into our spiritual journey?

With that, may you all have a very Merry Christmas and a joyful start to your New Year! May Christ’s everlasting peace be with you and yours in this Christmas season.

Remember, December’s wallpaper comes from The Simple Saints website. Not sponsored, but if for some reason these wallpapers or prayers do not work for you and you want to try your hand at designing, everything you see here I made using the free images and templates available on It’s fun to play around with and you just might find something that fits you more perfectly than what I’ve created here. Here’s to a Year of Prayer!

Daily Graces.