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.

Holy Thursday 2023

Holy Thursday, what a day. We heard this past weekend on Palm Sunday the Institution Narrative (the specific words Jesus used when breaking the bread and sharing the wine which we still use at Mass today for the consecration – the bread and wine becoming literally Jesus’ Body and Blood) from the Gospel of Matthew. Today, while it is the liturgically same moment, we read from John’s Gospel. We don’t actually hear an Institution Narrative on Holy Thursday, though any well formed second grader preparing to receive their First Communion will quickly tell you that Holy Thursday is when Jesus gave us the Eucharist. The Church instead, chooses to highlight the Gospel of John which is the only Gospel containing the washing of the disciples’ feet.

This Gospel passage is one of the critical pillars for the formation of the Sacrament of Holy Orders as a sacrament of service. Jesus is modeling for His disciples what it means to be a true leader, it means to serve. Today, we talk about the model of the servant-leader, someone who puts the needs of those who follow them before their own. This is rooted in Jesus’ model of leadership.

Because this reading highlights the roles and duties of ordained priests, I thought it would be a good time to expand upon that to encompass the priesthood we all take part in by virtue of our baptism. The video for today considers how each one of us, no matter what profession or life situation God has called us to, also has a priestly role to play in our corner of the world. Whole college and graduate level courses could be spent on this topic, so I hope you’ll forgive me another 9 minute video for today.

In this space, I wanted to write out for you the quotes I read in the video in full, as well as a few others that I feel support the idea that each of us is called to a priestly ministry. That’s really what this whole blog is all about, taking the everyday ordinary moments of our day and recognizing in them God’s calling to holiness. Each action, each conversation, each moment (however brief) of silence, is an opportunity to do God’s Will and take a step further in our journey of faith. When we come to the Mass, all these little moments can be united with the bread and wine offered by the community on the altar. Together, the bread, wine, and our very selves, are transformed into Christ. We become what we eat, we are transformed into Christ’s Body here on this present earth.

The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all their Christian activities they my offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the marvels of him who has called them out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Lumen Gentium no. 10

Hence the laity, dedicated as they are to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, ar marvelously called and prepared so that even richer fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit – indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born – all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives. (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 901)

In each celebration of the Eucharist, there are two such invocations of the Holy Spirit [the epiclesis] that are at the heart of the divine action of the sacrament. In the name of the gathered assembly, the presider invokes the Spirit to act so that their offers of bread and wine may become the Body and Blood of Christ (the first epiclesis). Then, after the institution narrative, the presider prays that the Spirit may make of this who eat this brea and wine “one body, one Spirit in Christ” (the second epiclesis). Sent by the Father who hears the church’s prayer of invocation, the Spirit gives new life to those who celebrate the sacraments of Christ. So, in their turn, Christians become sacramental realities-living signs of God alive in human flesh through the synergy of the church’s prayer and of the Spirit’s anointing.

In this context, it is not an exaggeration to say that these two invocations bring about two transubstantiations: the first is the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ; the second is the transformation of the believers into the Mystical Body of Christ (Philibert, pg 48-49).

Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:2-4; 9)

The eyes of faith behold a wonderful scene: that of a countless number of lay people, both women and men, busy at work in their daily life and activity, oftentimes far from view and quite unclaimed by the world, unknown to the world’s great personages but nonetheless looked upon in love by the Father, untiring laborers who work in the Lord’s vineyard. Confident and steadfast through the power of God’s grace, these are the humble yet great builders of the kingdom of God in history (Pope John Paul II, The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, no. 17)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).

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.