Feast of the Ascension – 2023

Depending on where you are in the world, there is the possibility that the feast of the Ascension will supersede the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The Ascension fell on May 18 this year and either your local diocese or conference of bishops will have decided which readings will be used for this Sunday. So, to cover all my bases, the reflection here is a reflection on the Feast of the Ascension. The YouTube video for the week considers the Gospel for the Seventh Sunday of Easter. No matter which place you went first, and even if you don’t make it to the other reflection, I hope that something here will be meaningful for your week.

It in interesting that we hear the story of the Ascension as told by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles for the First Reading, and then the Great Commission from St. Matthew for the Gospel. This is the final moment of Matthew’s Gospel, it is how he concludes the whole story.

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations

Matthew 28:19

I love reading different Bible translations. I find language fascinating and if I could have all the time in the world, I think I would have studied Biblical Greek and Hebrew so I could go back and read these texts in their original forms. One Bible translation I find particularly interesting (I’ve mentioned this before in other posts, but it’s been a while), is called The Message. It is originally a Protestant translation, but there is a version which includes the books the Catholic Church maintains as the original canon of Scripture. This translation was intended to be a more “modern” translation. The translator, a pastor named Eugene H. Peterson, explains it this way:

I became a ‘translator’…daily standing in on the border between two worlds, getting the language of the Bible that God uses to create and save us, heal and bless us, judge and rule over us, into the language of Today that we use to gossip and tell stories, give directions and do business, sing songs and talk to our children.

The Message, pg. 12

Peterson is good about being upfront that this Bible isn’t meant to replace other study Bibles or translations used for liturgical practices. This is a reading Bible, a “let’s get to know one another” Bible. I love how he chose to translate the passage I quoted above.

Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life

Matthew 28:19

It is the same thing, but I find the word “train” to hit a little differently. I also find the phrase, “in this way of life” impactful. In order to train someone, first we have to know what we are teaching. For a lot of us, this might make us suddenly uncomfortable. This even makes me uncomfortable to a certain extent. For a large part of the Church’s history, the laity were not part of the teaching apparatus of the Church. Clergy and religious, who were able to receive additional schooling, time for prayer, mentorship, etc., were the ones looked to for passing down the faith. As time has passed, the Holy Spirit has inspired the Church to encourage all the baptized to take Jesus’ Great Commission to heart. These words aren’t simply for clergy, they are for all disciples.

Each one of us is called to be a disciple. A disciple is someone who not only follows a master, but promotes and spreads those teachings which they have received. Jesus lays out for us very clearly what He expects of His disciples. And it’s not always easy, especially when you consider Peterson’s translation in The Message. We are asked to train everyone you meet. Everyone? Even people we don’t like? Even people we will only interact with once? Even people we converse with online?

This is the thing about the Great Commission of Jesus. To be a disciple doesn’t mean living according to the teachings of Jesus when it’s convenient, or on Sunday mornings. It is an all or nothing kind of thing.

But before you get scared away. Consider this. Jesus doesn’t ascend into heaven to get away from us. Pope Francis explains it better than I can in his homily for the Feast of the Ascension in 2014:

“Jesus departs, he ascends to Heaven, that is, he returns to the Father from whom he had been sent to the world. He finished his work, thus, he returns to the Father. But this does not mean a separation, for he remains forever with us, in a new way. By his ascension, the Risen Lord draws the gaze of the Apostles — and our gaze — to the heights of Heaven to show us that the end of our journey is the Father. He himself said that he would go to prepare a place for us in Heaven. Yet, Jesus remains present and active in the affairs of human history through the power and the gifts of his Spirit; he is beside each of us: even if we do not see him with our eyes, He is there! He accompanies us, he guides us, he takes us by the hand and he lifts us up when we fall down. The risen Jesus is close to persecuted and discriminated Christians; he is close to every man and woman who suffers. He is close to us all; he is here, too, with us in the square; the Lord is with us! Do you believe this? Then let’s say it together: the Lord is with us!”

How beautiful is this! We are called to be disciples, but we do not do it alone. Never alone. The tasks of discipleship are challenging. We can’t get around that. This feast forces us to take a good look at our lives. Are we living out the tasks Jesus has given us? How can we more fully realize Jesus’ desire for our lives? Where is Jesus calling you to go out and train everyone you meet?

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Sixth Sunday of Easter 2023

Today’s video is a good one and I hope you take the time to go watch it. It’s only about 10 minutes long, and that’s on the long side for me. But I couldn’t help it as in it I’m sharing a few specific moments when the Holy Spirit has moved me into action. There’s a funny story in there also so you should check it out.

Today’s reflection is a throwback post which I’ve modified slightly and copied below. One of the stories I share in the video is about my tattoo and how it was a Holy Spirit moment which lead me to that choice. I hope my story of how the Holy Spirit spoke to me encourages you to listen more attentively to His movements within your own heart.


I have a tattoo. I don’t think I’ve shared that here. It’s on my wrist, as you can see, and it references Deuteronomy 30:14. Last summer, Deuteronomy 30:10-14 was the First Reading one Sunday. On that day, I felt these words of Scripture pierce my heart in a way I never had before. This is the passage in full:

Moses said to the people:
“If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God,
and keep his commandments and statutes
that are written in this book of the law,
when you return to the LORD, your God,
with all your heart and all your soul.

“For this command that I enjoin on you today
is not too mysterious and remote for you.
It is not up in the sky, that you should say,
‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’
Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’
No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out.”

Deuteronomy 30:10-14

The last part, about carrying out the commands of God, was what struck me. God’s Will isn’t so far away I have to strive to find it. It is not too mysterious, not some lofty thing I cannot attain. It is already written in my heart. Do I have the courage to carry it out?

So many times in my life I have allowed myself to become trapped by the grandness of God’s plan and how it is too big for me to see my part in. While this is true, God’s ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts my thoughts, and yes, His grand design for the whole world is beyond my comprehension, that does not mean I don’t know anything at all. I don’t know where God will take me in 10 years, in 5, in tomorrow. What I can know is God’s Will in this present moment. How? Jesus tells us over and over in the Gospels: 

Love

Love your enemies. Love your neighbors. Love yourself. Love God. Act out of love for God. Pray because you love God.

What do you need to do, now, in the present moment? Love. And in the next moment? Love. And in all the moments that follow? Love.

This is HARD! Especially when love looks like cleaning up after a sick child in the middle of the night, or forgiving a colleague for a hurtful comment. Love is sacrifice, love takes courage, love is selfless. 

I can give a recent example. 

Ben had left for a 3-4 week trip and we were only on day 3. The day Ben left, Nathan (the 1 year old) threw up twice, once in the middle of the night in his bed. He was fine for a day and then was sick again the following. The rest of the kids missed their dad, were tired from a week of school and other activities, and generally needy. Gabriel, the 3 year old, was especially insistent for every moment of my attention he could get. And I just couldn’t take it. I was snappy all morning, harsh when I didn’t need to be, impatient and generally awful. I knew it and I chose to lean into selfishness instead of following Deuteronomy’s advice.

Our big 4 kids had piano practice so they were out of the house for 2 hours. I let Gabe and Nathan watch some Bluey (of course, Bluey!), and I sat down with my coffee. The reality of the morning and my behavior hit me. I was so discouraged. I almost went and got my book to distract myself and get a break from it all. 

Then I felt it. The little nudge, the random thought that you don’t know where it came from. “Don’t run away, sit here. Sit here and then do something to make it right.” So I did. It was probably the first moment I truly tried to do God’s Will all day. I sat, and then came the next nudge, “Write to them.” I got out 5 cards and I wrote apology notes to each one of my kids (Nathan excluded, I just gave him extra hugs). I apologized, I asked for forgiveness. I also let them know, according to their ages, how one specific behavior was not helping our family thrive. I asked them to think on it and see if it could be a place to work on. I told them I loved them. 

I left the notes on their pillows and went peacefully to read. For about 30 seconds because it was time to turn off Bluey but that’s ok. I had followed God’s Will for those moments, my cup was being filled with grace and His Love.

I’d love to say we had a beautiful day after the kids read their notes. I’d love to say they had marked improvement in behavior, that I was was gracious and gentle from that moment forward. They did not, and I was not. But it was still better. I reigned myself in faster, I spoke more calmly. It was easier to make the right choice faster, even if I initially made the wrong one. I had become more attentive to God’s Will in the present moment because I had practiced it earlier.

I have grown so much in my trust in the Holy Spirit since hearing this reading. It has changed my relationship with God and encouraged me to form a deeper bond with the Holy Spirit. I chose to get the tattoo because I want to keep these words ever present with me, “God’s Will is already in my heart, I have only to carry it out.” This is not a lesson I will ever be done learning. 

God has grand designs for each of us. Perhaps we have already seen Him working in our lives, perhaps we are wondering when it will all begin. No matter what God’s larger plans are, His perfect Will for each of our individual moments is the same: Love.

P.S. As a woman and mom, I know I have gotten trapped in the lie that everyone else needs to be served before I can take care of myself. Self-care is a big topic is popular society and it is important. We do need to take care of ourselves, but in a way that does not lead to selfishness or entitlement. It takes practice, it is a work of discernment. If you struggle with the line between no-care, self-care and selfish-care, take it to prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to pay special attention to this area and to inspire you to rest how and when you need to rest, and to recognize when your focus on rest is inhibiting your ability to do God’s Will.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Fifth Sunday of Easter 2023

Jesus tells us in the Gospel passage for this Sunday:

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6-7

Not only is this another one of the “I AM” statements we talked about last week, but this is the basic roadmap to get to Heaven. Jesus is the Way. He is the way for all of us. Not just the ordained, not just the religious, not just the uber-religious little elderly ladies who go to daily Mass. All of us.

Jesus said He is the Way (we are going to say “way” a lot today). He is not one choice among many, He is not just the best option before us. This is a definitive statement. Before we go any further, it’s important to recognize something so basic we often over look it. We are not God and cannot put limits on Him. I know, call me crazy, but we as creatures don’t get to decide the choices of the Creator. Jesus tells us He is the Way, and if He desires that all people come to the Father through Him, He’s going to figure out how that is going to look in a world with a multitude of religious beliefs. We might not understand it, but that’s not what we are called to do. So for the sake of this reflection, let go of any concern about how others will get to heaven. YOU have heard Jesus’ words today and they were meant for you to ponder.

The question then becomes, what are we, who have heard these words of Jesus, called to do?

I’m going to throw a lot of quotes at you today, mostly because others can say this much more eloquently than I can. But I’ll toss in my “in plain speech” after to keep things very practical.

First quote: Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate in which he is quoting Vatican II:

I would like to insist primarily on the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to each of us, the call that he also addresses, personally, to you: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44; cf. 1 Pet 1:16). The Second Vatican Council stated this clearly: “Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord – each in his or her own way – to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect”.

Gaudete et exsultate no. 10

Every single one of us is called by God. We are each uniquely made by Him for a specific purpose, no one was made as superfluous fluff to be a filler in this world. This means God personally knows you, loves you, and desires to have a relationship with you. He wants you to become like Him in as many ways as possible. To become as close to God as you allow Him to transform you into – that is holiness.

Second quote: From the conversations between Abbé Joseph de Beaufort and Brother Lawrence, a monk in the 1600s.

That our sanctification did not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for God’s sake which we commonly do for our own. That it was lamentable to see how many people mistook the means for the end, addicting themselves to certain works, which they performed very imperfectly, by reason of their human or selfish regards.

The Practice of the Presence of God, pg. 18

God made us who we are, with distinct passions, interests, talents, and personalities. He doesn’t want a hundred thousand million clones of the same perfect person. If He did, He would have created us to be. We are all different. The point of the Christian journey isn’t to lose our unique selves so that we come to be a perfect model of St. Therese or St. Thomas Aquinas or even Mary. We can do a great many good and even Saint-like things and still make no forward progress in our spiritual journey. It’s a bit like running on a treadmill. We got a lot of exercise, but we didn’t actually go anywhere. We turned the means into the ends. What, then, is the real end we should be seeking?

Third Quote: Also from the conversations between Abbé Joseph de Beaufort and Brother Lawrence.

That many do not advance in the Christian progress, because they stick in penances and particular exercises, while they neglect the love of God, which is the end…That there needed neither art nor science for going to God, but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him, or for His sake, and to love Him only.

The Practice of the Presence of God, pg. 15

Love of God. That’s the end. That’s what heaven is. To stand in God’s presence, to bask in the Creator’s light, to feel the intensity of His love for us and for our whole being to love Him back. This is what our end goal of life is. Jesus is the Way to the Father because Jesus shows us in a real and tangible way just how much God loves us. Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Jesus is our blueprint. If we love like Jesus, we will know the Father.

The next question then is how? How do we orient our life so that we do all things for love of God? A few quotes here:

Two from St. Terese of Lisieux

You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.

Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.

St. Mother Teresa

Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do things with great love.

One more from Br. Lawrence

The time of business, does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God inn as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.

The Practice of the Presence of God, pg. 22

In real life, this means being patient and loving even when my 2 year old is being obnoxious at Mass (see the video for this week if you want quite the story). It means folding my husband’s shirts the way he likes them folded even though, in my opinion, my way is faster. Wishing the person who just cut me off on the high way a pleasant day. Getting up mid-breakfast with a smile on my face to make my 3 year old a second piece of toast that I knew he would want and offered to make before I sat down but he insisted he wouldn’t and has since changed his mind.

In case you haven’t guessed, these are all real life examples, from this week alone. And I failed in each of these opportunities to love God through the people He placed in my life.

The wonderful thing about God (there are too many to count , this is just one of them) is His infinite patience with us. No matter how many times we fail, He extends a hand to help us up. Likewise, no matter how many times we succeed, He delights in us and in our desire to be close to Him. God does not get tired of us.

So the last question is one for you. What does this kind of love look like in your life? Or perhaps put another way, who does this love look like in your life?

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com