Thursday, March 31, 2011

Through the Eyes of a Child

You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
- Ephesians 5:8
We are all children of God. But we don't usually think of ourselves as actual children. We see ourselves as adult children, but that's not how we are called to live. We are called to live as children, little children, kids.

Children are innocent, trusting, honest. If you tell a child that something is true, they believe you. They love with a passion. They're curious, always asking questions, always wanting to know more. They put their whole self into everything they do. They find joy in the little things. And at night they sleep peacefully, knowing they are loved and protected, looking forward to the next day.

We can live like this too. Believe what Jesus tells you. Love Him with a passion. Stay curious, ask questions about your faith, keep growing. Put maximum effort into everything you do for the Lord. Find joy in the little everyday things. And at night sleep peacefully knowing you are loved and protected.

Pay attention to the children in your life. Watch what they do, how they act, and see what you can learn from them. How can you apply their attitude to your own life today?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy Re-birth Day

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
- Psalm 23:1
Psalm 23 is probably the most well-known of all the psalms. Although quite short, it is filled with beautiful images and promises. And it has special meaning to me today. Nine years ago today, I gave my life to Jesus, and was born again of spirit and water with my baptism into the Catholic Church.

It was the culmination of a two-year journey to find the truth. I had many doubts, many questions, many fears along the way. But by the time I stepped up to the font, I was at peace. I knew, as the psalmist did, that Jesus was my shepherd, my teacher, my guide, my protector, my savior. And I knew that once I gave my life to Him there would be nothing else I needed, nothing to fear. I knew He would always be there for me, ready to give me everything I could need.

And so He has. Since that day He has given me a husband, children, friends, food and shelter. He has got me through some tough times, and has filled my life with joy and blessings. I remember the night of my baptism well. I treasure it. Sometimes I wish I could go back and relive it. Then I see how far I've come spiritually since then, and I am excited about how much further I can go. I wonder where I will be nine years from now...

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Do You See What I See?

The LORD said to Samuel: "Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart."
- 1 Samuel 16:7
This is the scene where Jesse is presenting his sons to Samuel so God can choose one to be the next king. Samuel sees the eldest son and assumes God will choose him because he looks and acts the part. But God pays no attention to appearances, positions or social standings. God looks into our hearts, and judges by what He sees in there. He chose David, the youngest of Jesse's sons, the lowly shepherd boy, to be the king.

How often do we judge people by their appearance? I am guilty of this frequently. We assume that someone who is well-dressed and appears to be in control must have a great life. But someone in older, worn out clothes who looks disheveled must be struggling, or doesn't care how they look. Often, if we get to know these people we discover the opposite is true.

If only we could see people as God sees them. If only we could see past the outward appearances and look into their hearts instead. In fact, that's not so hard to do. If we can take the time to get to know someone, talk to them, listen to them, we will start to discover who they really are. We can get to know their hearts, and start to see them as God sees them.

We should remember that God sees us in the same way. He doesn't see how we look, how we dress, and He doesn't care what our position is at work or whether we're in the cool mom clique. He only sees what's in our hearts, how we feel, how we care, how we love. Make sure your heart is beautiful, and seek to see the beauty in others' hearts regardless of what your eyes see.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Role Models

The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?"
- John 4:28-29
The Gospel reading of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well that we will hear this Sunday has two important messages for us. First, we learn from Jesus how we are to treat other people. In His time, men did not speak to women they did not know, especially if they were alone. Plus, she was a Samaritan woman, and the Samaritans were hated by the Jews (and most everyone else). On top of all that, she was a sinner. We are told she was gathering her water in the middle of the day - most people would be inside taking a siesta during the hottest part of the day. This tells us that either she did not want to see anyone else, or that she was not welcome among them, both signs that she was a sinner, an outcast. Jesus confirms this when He comments that she has had five husbands, and the man she is with now is not her husband.

Despite all this, Jesus breaks all the taboos and speaks to her, even preaches to her, giving her the good news of His living water. He shows us that we should not be afraid to break down barriers and transcend social boundaries to reach out to the people who need to hear God's message.

We can also learn a lot from the woman herself. In fact, she's quite a role model for us. That might seem a little surprising given what we've just learned about her. But despite her failings, she also had many good qualities. First, she had an open mind. When Jesus was talking to her, she stopped what she was doing and listened. She asked questions. And she accepted the answers. She considered all that Jesus told her, and believed Him. We should do this too. When Jesus speaks to us, we should stop and listen. And we should ask Him questions. It's okay to question our faith, that's how we grow, but we must be prepared to listen to the answers God gives us, and if we feel in our heart that these answers are the truth, we must accept them.

The woman's next action is also a great example for us. She left her water jar and ran back to the town to tell everyone about her encounter with Jesus. Remember, she was shunned by her community, an outcast. But she didn't let that stop her. She was so excited about what she had learned that she overcame any fear or discomfort she might have felt and started spreading the news. And she must have been very persuasive, as the rest of the town immediately went out to see Jesus for themselves. Many believed simply because of what she told them, and many more were converted after spending a couple of days with Jesus. This woman, this one sinful woman, led to the conversion of almost a whole Samaritan town.

The message for us here is clear. We should be willing to proclaim our faith to anyone who will listen. We need to put aside fear of ridicule, and trust that our testimony will be accepted. If we choose the right words (with the help of the Holy Spirit) and let our excitement lead us, people will listen. We aren't called to convert entire towns, not even entire families. But maybe a neighbor. A colleague. Another mom at school. Look for opportunities, God will always give them to you. Then the next step is up to you. Leave your water jar, cross that boundary, and speak.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

You, Me and Them

But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
- Romans 5:8
We all know that Jesus died for our sins. He died for my sins, He died for your sins. But what about everyone else? How far did it go? What about a dishonest store owner? What about a thief or a kidnapper? How about a child molester or a murderer? Saddam Hussein? Hitler?

Yes. Jesus died for all these people. He died to save all sinners. There is no sliding scale for sin in His eyes. All sin offends God. And all sin is wiped out by The Cross. More than that - all sins are forgiven by God. He loves us so much that He will not allow any barrier to stand between us and Him. From the silliest slip, to the worst crime you can think of, all is forgiven by God if we repent.

Earlier in this same chapter, Paul talks about how it is not so hard to die for someone you love. But to die for someone who has hurt you? Or someone who has hurt hundreds of thousands of people? We probably couldn't do it. But Jesus did. Because He loves all of God's creations, and wanted to bring us all back to Him. His death and resurrection took our sin, buried it, and created a bridge back to the Father. To find that bridge, all we have to do, all any sinner has to do, is repent. Ask for God's forgiveness, and He will show you the way home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sing Like No One is Listening

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sign psalms to him.
- Psalm 95:1-2
I love to sing. No, I'm not in the choir, and I'm not a particularly good singer. I don't even really like anybody else to hear me singing. But I love music, and I love songs about Jesus, about much He loves us, and how much I love Him. Songs like that really move me, and I can't help but sing along, whether it's a Christian rock song on the radio, or a hymn at mass.

Do you join in the singing at mass? Why do we sing anyway? Singing as a form of worship is a tradition that goes deep into the past. The psalms are songs that were written and sung many hundreds of years before Jesus came to Earth. After His death and resurrection, the disciples continued to include the singing of psalms in their worship services. They probably even sung them at the last supper, which is the model for our modern mass.

St. Augustine said that song is the language of love, and that when we sing we pray twice. Think about all the songs you hear on the radio, or have in your collection. How many of them are about love? 90%? A romantic dinner wouldn't be complete without music. A wedding wouldn't be as joyful without singing. And what kind of party doesn't have a good soundtrack to create the right mood? The mass is all of these things: a romantic dinner, a wedding, a celebration. Music and singing help create an atmosphere where we can let our love flow during our worship.

Sometimes I can't always find the right words to express how I feel. But I can always find a song that does it perfectly. And often that song will find me just when I need it, either on the radio, on my iPod, or during mass. Music moves me, and the right combination of music and words can lift my heart and bring tears to my eyes.

God gave the gift of music to the musicians and cantors and choirs who join us each week. He didn't give that gift to all of us, but that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how bad your singing voice is. Lift it up in song and prayer anyway. To God it sounds as sweet as the angels.


Check out some of these songs which have really touched me:

Josh Wilson - Before The Morning
Mark Schultz - Back in His Arms Again
tobyMac - City on our Knees
Chris August - Starry Night
Rebecca St James - I Thank You
newsboys - I Am Free
Tenth Avenue North - You Are More
MercyMe - I Can Only Imagine

Also check out K-Love radio - 107.3 in the Pleasanton area.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Look Under the Rock

The LORD said to Moses, "I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink." This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.
- Exodus 17:6
The Israelites had escaped from Egypt, and had begun their 40-year journey through the desert. As soon as they ran out of water they began to complain. But God provided for them by producing water from a rock that had been struck by Moses' staff. Did the water just miraculously spring from the rock? Or did Moses uncover an existing underground water source by breaking the rock? The answer doesn't matter. The point here is that when His people had a need, God provided for them.

I tend to believe that it was an existing but hidden underground water source that God led Moses to. Why? God knew that the Israelites were thirsty and had run out of water. But He took no action until Moses asked for His help. This makes me wonder if they could have found the water on their own, if only they had bothered to look. If, instead of moaning and complaining to Moses as soon as things got a little tough, if they had used some common sense and ingenuity, they might have discovered the underground spring.

Maybe God works like this in our lives too. He knows what we need. But sometimes He waits for us to ask. And sometimes He doesn't immediately answer, because He knows that if we just try a little harder, we can solve the problem ourselves.

So the next time you feel that God isn't answering your prayer, stop and take a look around. Think it through again. Is there an answer to your problem that you haven't considered? Try and look at things from a different angle. Dig a little, and maybe a solution will uncover itself. And have faith that God will eventually give you what need, one way or another.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Climb Every Mountain

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
- Matthew 17:1
Does Jesus try to lead you? Do you let Him? How would you feel if He asked you to go to a remote place with Him by yourself?

When Jesus led His disciples up the mountain, they were treated to a wonderful experience: the Transfiguration. If we allow Jesus to lead us, if we go where He asks, who knows what wonders lay in store for us! We have to trust Him though. He always has our best interests at heart, so even if we're not sure where he's leading us, or why, we should trust Him and follow Him without question.

Another reason Jesus often went up on a mountain was to pray, in secret and without distractions. We should follow Him there. We should pray with Him up on that mountain, be with Him, spend some quality time with Him without distractions. Only through prayer like this can we deepen our relationship with Him. You can't get to know someone if you don't spend time with them. And you can't get to know them deeply if you're always in a group with other people.

So follow Jesus up that mountain. Experience His glory and spend some quality time with Him. Then ask Him where else He wants to lead you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Saved by Grace

He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.
- 2 Timothy 1:9
God saved us and called us to be holy, not because of anything we've done, but because that was always His plan, even before time began. Jesus was with God right from the beginning, and His saving grace was bestowed on us long before He came to earth as a man and died on a cross.

We don't think much about Jesus existing before He became man, but both He and the Holy Spirit were always a part of God. Jesus is the Word that God spoke, the Word that created the world. The Holy Spirit is the breath of God, the wind that sweeps across the waters of the abyss while the earth is still a formless wasteland, and He is also the breath of life that God blows into Adam.

If we are saved because it is God's plan, and not because of anything we've done, does this mean that what we do doesn't matter? No. We are saved and called to be holy. Being holy means doing God's will. And God's will is that we love our neighbor as our self, and believe in the truth of the Risen Jesus.

Jesus has been bestowing His grace on us since before time began. Mary will also pour out her many graces on you, if you ask her to. So pray for that. Accept the graces of Jesus and Mary, and use them to lead a holy life, just as God called us to do when He saved us.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Restless Soul

Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
- Psalm 33:20
When you are apart from someone you love, you are restless until you are reunited with that person. You long to be with them again, and you wait anxiously, impatiently for that day to come. You know there is something wrong; a piece of you is missing. And you won't feel complete until the pieces are back together.

In the same way, our souls are not at rest until they rest in the Lord. Until we accept Jesus, there is a hole in our heart, and soul is constantly searching for the truth. Deep down we all feel that searching, that longing, even if we don't always recognize it. But when we can admit to those feelings, that's when we're ready to let our souls rest where they long to be; with Jesus.

And Jesus is just waiting, waiting to fill that hole. As much as our souls long to rest in Him, He longs to rest in us. When we allow this to happen, our hearts are filled with His love, and our souls are at peace.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

You Want Me to do What?

The LORD said to Abram: "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you."
- Genesis 12:1
God said the same thing to me in 2003. I was born and raised in England. In 2000 I came to San Francisco for some job training, and met the man who would become my husband. When he asked me to marry him three years later, I knew that saying 'yes' would mean leaving my family, my friends, my home, and moving to a new country. I didn't hesitate.

Planning a wedding from 3000 miles away wasn't easy, plus I had to organize my move America at the same time. My whole life fit into 15 boxes, and my visa didn't come through until two weeks before the wedding! But despite the pressures, the headaches and the complications, there was always an underlying current of calmness that came from knowing that everything would work out. Not once did I think I was making a mistake. I believed that this was God's plan for me, and therefore He would take care of everything. And He did. The move and the wedding went without a hitch.

Once I arrived at my new home in Sunnyvale, California, my life was quite different than it had been in England. Not only were all my family and friends now 5000 miles away, but my husband's family were also far away, on the other side of the country in Pittsburgh. He had some wonderful friends who immediately welcomed me, but it was not the same. Not the same as having my sister next door, my parents in the next town, and my friends just a phone call away.

But again, despite the distance and all the changes in my life, I never felt lonely or alone. There was always Someone there with me, always Someone to comfort me and reassure me that this was all part of the plan. Even when I became pregnant immediately upon returning from our honeymoon, even when I was suffering from terrible morning sickness, even when I was planning the birth without my family and friends here to support me, I had peace. God had a plan for me, and He was there with me every step of the way.

Now here I am, almost eight years after God told me to 'go forth from the land of my kinsfolk.' I have a wonderful husband, a strong marriage, two precious children, a circle of friends that is growing all the time, and involvement in several ministries that enrich my spirituality more and more each day. If I had said 'no' to God, I would have none of this. I can see now why I had to leave my home and make a new one here, and I praise God that He gave me the strength and courage I needed through all the uncertainty.

It's not always easy to trust God, especially if we can't understand why He's asking us to do a particular thing, or what the end goal is. But He absolutely always has our best interests at heart. Our God is a loving God, and He only wants what's best for us. So put your trust in Him, even when it seems He's got it all wrong. Let Him do His work in your life, and peace will certainly follow.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Faith First and Foremost

Jesus answered him, "Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."
- Matthew 4:7
How often do we put God to the test? Before I was baptized, when I was still looking for answers, I desperately wanted a sign from God. I wanted to be sure I was on the right path. I would look up at the sky, hoping to see a certain cloud formation. I would pray and ask God to give me 'a word.' I would open my Bible randomly and expect to read a verse of confirmation. But God never gave me the sign I was looking for, and it wasn't until I stopped asking for one that I began to feel God's presence. When I realized that true faith cannot be built on signs, that's when I allowed my heart to open to God, and He immediately filled it.

We cannot, and must not put God to the test. That's not how He works. By asking for a sign, we're saying that we don't really believe in God. And even if He did give us a sign, faith based on something we have seen would be weaker than faith based on what our heart tells us is true. The Apostle Thomas only believed in the Risen Jesus when he had seen the wounds in His hands and feet and side. Jesus said to him, "You believe because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet still believe."

Now, I'm not saying that people who have seen miracles, or who have had a personal experience of God have a weak faith. But faith has to come first. Mary, the greatest and most perfect of all the disciples, had that faith. At the wedding at Cana, Jesus performed His first miracle. He didn't want to, and at first he refused. But Mary had faith. She believed that Jesus would help, but more importantly, she believed that He could help. Jesus had never performed any miracles before that point, but Mary told the servants to fill the jars with water because she had faith. The faith came first, then the miracle.

After I opened my heart to God and gave my life to Jesus, after I had made my profession of faith, then I began to have some of the experiences I had searched for. In prayer I will often hear 'a word.' Most times if I open my Bible randomly I will find a verse that gives me just what I need. I believe I have even felt Christ put His arms around me, and whisper in my ear. I am still waiting for that image in the clouds though :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

To Err is Human

Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned.
Romans 5:12
When someone dies, we often try and comfort ourselves by saying things like 'death is natural,' 'dying is a part of living.' But death is not natural. When God created humans, He created them to live forever. We were never supposed to die. Death entered the world through sin, the sin of Adam and Eve. If they had not sinned, we would not have to die.

Because man sinned, we have death. And because of Jesus' death, we have life. I find that fascinating. The very thing that was never supposed to be a part of our nature, is the thing Jesus uses to save us. The result of our biggest mistake turns out to also be our saving grace. God took that mistake, and used it for something wonderful.

He can do that with us too. Every little mistake, God can take and turn it around and use it for good. Forgot to buy fries at the store? Here's your chance to make a healthier alternative. That bag of clothes you keep forgetting to drop off at the charity store? Your friend who just lost her job could really use them now. Forgot to take your camera to the latest school event? Now you have time for that mom who really needs someone to talk to.

So the next time you make a mistake, first, don't beat yourself up about it. We're human, and we have been making mistakes from the very beginning. Instead, take a step back, and see if you can see how God may want to use that mistake for His purpose. What good can come of that mistake? How is God going to turn it around? Work with Him. Adam sinned and death entered the world. Jesus died, and gave us life everlasting. With God, all things are possible.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday Special

Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
- Matthew 6:1
The Gospel reading we hear today tells us what we are supposed to be doing during Lent: almsgiving (v2-4), prayer (v5-6), and fasting (v16-18). It also tells us how we are supposed to do these things: in secret.

If we make a big fuss about our Lenten activities, who are we hoping to impress? Our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers? What good is that? If we are living a good Christian life anyway, they already know what kind of person we are. Sure, they might be impressed with the extra effort we're putting in. They might even be persuaded to follow our lead. But that shouldn't be why we do it. If it is, then the only reward we'll get is a pat on the back from our friends.

No. During Lent we do these things for love of God, love of Jesus. And God sees everything we do. So if we keep our Lenten activities to ourselves, we can be sure that we are doing them for the right reason: for love. And when we do them for love, our heavenly Father will reward us in ways unimaginable.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

No Greater Love

Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.
- Psalm 51:6
This is something I don't immediately consider when I think about something I've done wrong. I know sin saddens God, and I usually think it's because I've hurt someone that He loves. But a sin against another person is also a sin against God, the creator of that person.

When someone hurts a member of our family, we take it personally. If someone hurts your own child, you feel the pain intimately. God's love for His children is so much deeper than we could ever imagine, so how much deeper must be His pain when we sin against one of His children?

When someone hurts a member of our family, we want to retaliate, to get even, to make them pay. But God doesn't. No matter what we do, He always wants to forgive us. Even the most evil crimes like murder, abuse or abandonment. God still wants to forgive us and draw us back into His love and His family. And if we honestly repent, that's exactly what He does.

There is always hope. There is always a way back. And there is always a Father waiting, with open arms.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Learn to Love the Serpent

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?"
Genesis 3:1
Do you like snakes? They get a pretty bad rap. They have a reputation of being dangerous and sneaky. Why do so many people fear them? Maybe it's the way they slide around on their bellies. No arms or legs, but they can move fast when they want to. Maybe it's the long, forked tongue, or the noises they make. Or maybe it's because many of them are in fact dangerous.

For us Christians, it goes deeper than that though. It goes right back to this passage in Genesis. Although the text talks of a 'serpent', most people picture a snake while reading this. The snake represents the devil, and is blamed for tricking and tempting Eve, and causing the downfall of Man through Original Sin. When God finds out what the snake has done, He curses it, and puts enmity between it and all of humanity.

What struck me as I read this verse though, was the fact that this creature is still one of God's creations. God created everything in this world, and everything He creates has a purpose. He made the serpent the most cunning of all the animals. For a reason. Maybe it was to test Man, to see how we would use the free will He gave us. Whatever the reason, the serpent was one of God's creatures. God loves all His creation, and so should we. We might despise the serpent for what it did, we might fear snakes because of their physiology, but we are still to love and respect all of God's creatures.

This reminds me of Judas, who we'll be hearing a lot about over the next few weeks. He too was one of God's creations. Like the serpent, he had free will, and allowed Satan to lead him. But God still loved him, and Jesus will die for his sins on Good Friday. Jesus dies to save everyone, from the worst criminal to the highest saint. If Jesus loves us so much, can we not at least try to immitate that love? Jesus dies for that guy who cut you up in his car. Jesus died for that woman at the gym who is always spreading gossip. Jesus dies for the boss who drives a new Ferrari while denying you a pay rise. Jesus dies for the mom who never returns babysitting favors.

God loved the serpent who led us into sin. Jesus loved the man who led Him to the death that freed us from that sin. Let us try to exercise some of that same love for the people that betray us.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bad Weather

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
Matthew 7:25
This verse seems to be describing the weather many of us are experiencing at the moment! Hopefully all of your houses are built on rock, and will not suffer the fate of verse 27. We should hope that our spiritual houses are built solidly too. Otherwise, as soon as a storm comes to buffet them, they will collapse and be ruined.

Spiritual storms can come in many varieties. Seemingly never-ending unemployment. Terminal illness. Ridicule or abuse. Even small things like burning dinner can build, niggle and erode. If we don't have strong foundations, the storms will eventually destroy the house.

Even strong foundations need maintenance. To keep your faith foundations strong, surround yourself with people and activities that continually build you up. Weekly mass is the best place to start. Try to get to know some of the people who go to the same mass as you. Join a prayer group or bible study. Not only will you make new friends who share your faith, but you will be developing and learning more about your faith. When you learn something or share an experience with someone, you instinctively share a deeper bond with them.

Most churches have dedicated women's, men's and youth groups for their parishioners, and these can be invaluable. Sharing your faith with people of the same sex or age helps you to realize that there are many others going through the same things as you. Teenagers, moms, singles etc, each group has their own challenges, and each has something different they need from or can offer their church.

Find a group that best suits your needs. Even if you don't feel that you need support right now, the next storm is right around the corner. You will be surprised how much you get out of it, and the experience and knowledge you bring to the group may be just what someone else needs. You might just be an answer to prayer.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Confess...

All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.
Romans 3:23
Lent is right around the corner; are you ready for confession? Since being baptized nine years ago, going to confession is still the hardest part about being Catholic for me. So I try to avoid it as often as possible, and usually only go once a year when I have to, during Lent. This year will be especially tough. In the past I have always remained hidden behind the screen during my confession, too embarrassed to reveal my sins face-to-face. But in the past year I have come to know all the priests in my parish well, and as an English woman living in America, I know my voice is recognizable.

It's like going to the dentist. I know it's good for me, but I want to avoid it anyway. Comparing confession to a dental checkup is not quite right though. After a dental checkup I feel relief; relief that I didn't get any new cavities, and relief that the whole thing is over for another six months. But that's not how I feel when I leave the confessional. Yes, there is definitely some relief that it is over. But there is so much more. If my teeth feel clean when I leave the dentist, then my whole body and soul feel clean when I leave confession. I feel renewed, uplifted, healed. I am emotional, but comforted. I really do feel like my sins have been washed away, and I wonder what I was so afraid of. Indeed, I am often told I'm actually being too hard on myself. I leave confession full of gratitude for all the blessings in my life, and absolutely sure of Jesus' love for me.

As we prepare for confession this year, let us remember that Jesus died for our sins, the sins that we are about to confess. Let that knowledge fill us with remorse and repentance. After you have poured out your heart to Jesus (for it is Jesus on the confessional, not a priest), believe that you are truly forgiven. Let His forgiveness flood over you, then let your love for Him shine.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Waiting Game

Incline your ear to me, make haste to deliver me!
Psalm 31:3
Lord listen to me! Hurry up and help me out of this situation! Is this a familiar prayer for you? I know it is for me. I believe humans are impatient by nature, and I suffer deeply with it. When I have a problem, I want it fixed now! I hate to wait.

There are three answers to any prayer: 'yes', 'no', or 'not yet'. I think the last one is sometimes the hardest to hear. Lord find me a wife. Not yet. Lord help me get this promotion. Not yet. Lord bless us with a child. Not yet. I was 29 when Jesus called me to follow Him. And I didn't even know I had been waiting all that time. That doesn't make waiting any easier for me. I still want God to answer my prayers right away. I want an immediate resolution.

But the best things DO come to those who wait. Mary had to wait nine months for Jesus' arrival. The Apostles had to wait three days for His resurrection, and then another 40 days after His Ascension for the descent of the Holy Spirit. And we wait now for His glorious return. God works in His own time. Don't be afraid to ask for things from Him, but be prepared to be patient.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's a Blessing. And a Curse.

I set before you here, this day, a blessing and a curse.
Deuteronomy 11:26
In this verse, God tells us that the decision to accept His Word is a blessing and a curse. The blessing side of that is easy to understand. When we accept God's Word we enter into a life where there is nothing to fear, where we are loved beyond imagination, and where there is no death, only life everlasting. How can any of that be considered a curse?

Maybe 'curse' is too strong a word. Maybe 'commitment' or 'dedication' would be better. When we accept God's Word, we commit to living our lives as He wants us to. We may have to give up some things, or change some aspects of our lives. We may be ridiculed by those around us, or worse. But we must remain dedicated to God. It not, if we don't try to keep His commandments, if we don't declare and pass on our faith, if we don't honor God as we should, then we may expect to be cursed.

Do we really have a God who would curse us if we turn away from Him? Of course not. When we turn away from God, we only curse ourselves. By turning away from Him, we shut ourselves off from His blessings, His love, and ultimately His presence. What better description of Hell is there than to be separated from God for all eternity? Don't let that happen to you. Accept the blessing. Dedicate yourself to your faith. Don't be cursed.