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.

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.

Divine Mercy Sunday 2023

Happy Divine Mercy Sunday! This specially named Sunday is always the first Sunday after Easter. St. Pope John Paul II instituted the day in the year 2000. The Church’s teaching on the endless mercy of God has been present from the beginning. However, Jesus chose to reveal to St. Maria Faustina in the 1930s a special look at His ocean or font of mercy.

My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. … Let no soul fear to draw near to Me. … It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.

St. Faustina, Diary, no. 699 –

It comes at no surprise then that our Gospel reading showcases Jesus’ unfailing mercy. It has been mere days since the Resurrection and Jesus has already appeared to the disciples. Just not all the disciples. Thomas, for whatever the reason, was not with the other disciples when Jesus came to them. In his shock, and likely fear and confusion, he clings to doubt.

Unless I see the mark of the nails and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.

John 20:25

Because we know the whole story, we tend scoff at Thomas’ assertion. “How can he possibly have the gall to make such a demand?” “Where is this doubt coming from, doesn’t he trust his friends?” “If I were in his place, I would have believed them.” And while yes, perhaps Thomas should have trusted more closely in his friends’ claims, I find Thomas to be exercising a very human response when we are left out of a crowd.

FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out, encourages us to make strange choices. No one wants to be left out of something new, fun, or different. As human beings we were made for community, but sometimes we confuse authentic community for the cool crowd. Think back to your teenage years and consider the choices you made out of FOMO. Maybe they were benign, like wearing a certain color t-shirt or getting a specific haircut. Maybe they were a bit more drastic – drinking alcohol at too young an age, getting a piercing without your parents’ permission, sneaking out at night. While you are, hopefully, past these growing pains, FOMO still has a part to play in your psyche.

Commercials, marketing campaigns, billboards, YouTube and Instagram ads – all of these rely at a certain level on FOMO. They want you to see the next best thing, what are your friends clicking on, what’s the latest trend or fad in an area of interest for you.

It’s even in the knitting and spinning yarn world people – I know because I’m actively following a FOMO rabbit hole right now. Long story short, you can spin yarn on a spinning wheel. Cool, I have 2 (and I love them both, don’t make me choose!). You can also spin yarn on spindles, which are basically sticks with a weight at the bottom that you spin like a top and use that spinning to twist wool fiber into yarn. Slower yes, but you can make thinner yarn and it’s just another way to achieve the same result. This is not a fast craft so why not embrace the slow nature of the make.

Acorn Support Spindles” by grizzlymountainarts is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

For whatever the reason, YouTubers are popping up with spindle spinning and now, guess who wants a spindle? Yep. Guess who already has one in the mail and used sweet puppy eyes on her husband so he would also get her one for her birthday? Yep. Because of course you need more than one, they are little and there’s so much yarn to spin!

FOMO. It’s a thing. It’s not always a bad thing, but it’s a thing we have to acknowledge plays a role in our lives. Depending on the topic or situation, we might react to it differently.

I am reacting to my FOMO by acquiring 2 spindles, and being very strict with myself not to get any more (there’s a hot resale market. I know, you think I’m crazy, but that’s ok), until I know if this is a new craft I want to spend time on. I’m engaging in the established community more as I learn more about spinning and enriching my overall understanding of fiber crafts. While calling it a natural progression seems a bit too much like permission to lose self control, it is still related to interests I already have made room for in my life. However, I acknowledge this is a potential slippery slope, so I need to proceed cautiously.

Thomas took a more aggressive approach to his FOMO episode. Not wanting to be left out or undone, Thomas makes a wild assertion about what level of proof he needs in order to be convinced. We’ve seen this before in our lives – a wild bet, an outlandish or fantastical claim, making or accepting a dare – all done to impress the group and be accepted by it.

We call Thomas “Doubting Thomas” because of this series of events. He doubts, not just Jesus’ resurrection, but I believe his place in the group. Why didn’t Jesus wait for him to be back from whatever errand he was on? Why had he been left out? Was he someone less than or inferior to the others? Notice how Thomas doesn’t just need to see Jesus, but to touch Him as well. No one else had done that, surely his bravery would be rewarded in some way, if only just to be considered an equal again.

Doubts. We talk about how seeds of doubt are sown in our minds and hearts. Doubt is such a deceptive thing. It’s one of the primary weapons the Devil employs against us. Doubts come to us in little one liners, often out of no where. “If you really loved your wife, you’d let her get as many spindles as she wants” ……. sorry, couldn’t help it. But really, the phrase “If you really” usually ends with a seed of doubt planted. Consider these possible endings.

If you really….

  • wanted that job, you would have found a way to get it.
  • loved your kids, you would be at every single soccer game no matter what.
  • were beautiful, he would have asked you out.
  • were successful, she wouldn’t have left you.
  • are fun to be around, that specific group would be your friends.
  • believed in Jesus, you wouldn’t have been in that accident.

Doubt, FOMO. They go hand in hand. The Devil wishes for us to be in a state of continual doubt and FOMO. Doubt makes us question what we are doing, who we are, and what we believe. FOMO makes us constantly chase after what we perceive we are lacking, even if we aren’t lacking anything at all. This cycle of doubt and fear will lead us down a path of destruction in quick order.

Thank goodness we have a Sunday like this Sunday. This Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, shows us that there is nothing to fear, nothing to doubt. Jesus’s Divine Mercy is boundless, endless, and ever present for us. We don’t have to doubt it. We don’t have to be fearful that He will keep it from us. Jesus is waiting for us to reach out to Him. He wants nothing more than to shower us with His merciful love. I cannot say it better than Pope John Paul II:

As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles, and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!
Lord, who reveals the Father’s love by Your death and Resurrection, we believe in You and confidently repeat to You today: Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world.

St. Pope John Paul II, Regina caeli message prepared for Divine Mercy Sunday, April 3, 2005

Jesus not only requested a day to be set aside for us to commemorate and celebrate His Divine Mercy, He also instructed St. Faustina to pray a chaplet to divine mercy. If you have never prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet before, I highly encourage you to find some time this weekend. It is prayed on rosary beads, but takes about half the time as the rosary. Not that time should be a factor, but it’s also good to know what you’re getting yourself into. Check out the Hallow app’s guide to praying the chaplet.

Daily Graces.