Catholic Girl Journey

Challenging the comfort zone

As part of the gift I gave my niece on her high school graduation was a magnet that read, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I’m wondering if I really bought it for her, or because I need to be reminded of that.

Jesus’ teaching challenged the comfort zone during His time on earth, but He also  continues to challenge us in our time, especially in a secular culture. While it may not seem a big issue today, when Jesus talked to a woman He did not know, He was breaking a big taboo from His culture. Today, it may be easier for us to remain silent rather than speak the truth, but that is what we are called to do. Just like the woman at the well that Jesus spoke to, when He ignited her heart with the truth, she left her water jug and went to announce that truth to those who had previous shunned her. By our actions and our words, we are called to evangelize and bring the good news of Jesus to those around us.

As I search for a new job, some family suggested that I apply to companies closer to where they are located. While I don’t want to waste the time and resources of another company if I’m not ready to consider relocating to a different state, trying to determine if this is God’s will for me is not easy. I love my parish now and am active in many different ways. I have the opportunity for daily Mass and adoration is available 12 or more hours each day. Researching parishes in the new area, they seem to be active in different ways and may not have daily Mass or adoration. If my faith support system is not there, is a move a good option? Or am I so comfortable in my routine now that the thought of not having the same in the new location is serving as a deterrent? Perhaps moving to a location would allow me to try new ministries and grow my faith in different ways. Maybe the real challenge to my comfort zone is: can I allow Jesus to lead me where He wants me to go by providing a job offer in the location where I am to be, either my current location or a new one?

Jesus never promised His followers that life would be easy or that we would be comfortable with everything He asks us to do. He only promises that He will be with us every step of the way and that by doing His will, we will be happy in this life and forever with Him in the next.

 

Catholic Girl Journey

The gift of time

We measure it in the smallest of increments. We use it to mark milestone achievements and to remember special occasions. We complain about never having enough, but usually waste more of it than we should. Time is a precious gift from God, when have you thanked Him for it?

Time and space are two aspects that apply to God’s creation, but not to God. He is beyond time and space since He is eternal. He is without beginning or end. Yet He chose to become a part of His creation at a particular moment. Jesus, the second person in the Triune God, experienced the effects of a body changing from a wee  babe to an adult man. I wonder if, as a child, was He able to heal Himself immediately after scraping His knees? Or was He patient and let His body heal over time? He celebrated special occasions, like the wedding feast of Cana. And He experienced tears as He wept at Lazarus’ tomb, even though He knew He would bring him back to life. Being united with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit did not lessen the intensity of the pain and suffering of His Passion and Death; He felt each strike and lived each moment of agony. Yet it was all a gift of time for us.

Being in time and space allows us to journey, to prepare ourselves for eternity. We are given the option to choose: with God or without God. In order to be able to make the final choice upon death, we need to know a bit about what we are either choosing or declining. Every day we get the opportunity to meet God through His creation and learn more about Him. We get to practice following the example that Jesus gave us. If we say ‘no’ to Him one day, we can change our minds the next and say ‘yes.’ Saying ‘no’ to God damages the relationship we have with Him, but through the sacrament of reconciliation, we have the opportunity to repair the relationship and repent of our choices. All this is possible with the gift of time and through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

We cannot speed it up and we can’t slow it down. We can only live each moment we are given. Let us live each one through the grace of God, with the peace of God and for the love of God.

Catholic Girl Journey

Who art in heaven

As I was praying the Our Father recently, an odd question popped into my head: Why do we state where God is? It’s not like there are multiple gods out there which we need to differentiate. It’s not like He changes locations with the seasons that we would need to keep His whereabouts in mind. And how is it that we humans can definitively know where God is?

Heaven is not about a physical place or space, as we define location. Rather it calls to mind that God is not a being limited to our world. He is Creator of all, so His signature is on everything we see around us. That helps us to bring Him to mind and ponder what He is like. After all, what better way to get to know someone than to look at what He has created? But creation does not fully reveal who God is, rather provides us examples of what God is like. Creation can lead us to a relationship with God, but not to God Himself.

If God is not a being limited to this world, then He is beyond it. When humans first roamed the earth, they had no idea what was above the clouds, as the clouds, sun, moon and stars were beyond their reach. It makes sense that the first definition for heaven in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is, “the expanse of space that seems to be over the earth like a dome.” However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The symbol of the heavens refers us back to the mystery of the covenant we are living when we pray to our Father. … [Christians] are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their lives on earth, but are citizens of heaven.“ (CCC: 2795-6) Does that mean the Our Father is not reminding us that God is elsewhere, but that we are called to live with the hope and anticipation of getting there?

Jesus Christ came down from heaven by being born of a woman and ascended back into heaven after He completed His mission (His passion, death and resurrection). He has bridged the gap between the two realms. He has taught us to keep heaven in mind when praying by using it not just once, but a second time so that we ask for God’s will to be ‘done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Heaven is not a state of mind, but a state of which to be mindful.

Mary at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Washington DC

Describe Mary

There are many words that are used to describe Mary: blessed, virgin, holy, queen, immaculate, mother, etc. Those that come to mind often seem to put her far away from us and make our relationship more formal than intimate. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that she is, after all,  human.

“Mother” seems to be used most often and can be more of a title than just a description. She is: Mother of God, Mother of Jesus, Mother of the Church and our mother, just to name a few. She was a also a spouse and caregiver to her family. Do we ever think of her bandaging the hand of St. Joseph when a hammer went awry? While we don’t know how St. Joseph died, any nursing activities would have been handled by Mary. She also wiped the nose of Jesus and kissed a few bruised knees and elbows as He was growing up. She cooked, cleaned and probably made their clothes. She cared for the needs of both Joseph and Jesus.

Mary did minister to human needs while she was on earth. Now that she is in heaven, her care is spiritual. Her goal is for all God’s children to be with Him in heaven. She has given us the Rosary as a tool for us to ponder Jesus’ life on earth and to help us cultivate a relationship with Him. She does such a good job, sometimes it’s easier to think of Jesus being human than Mary! Even in the prayer that we think of as hers, the Hail Mary, it’s really a vehicle to praise God for filling her with grace, blessing her among all women, and blessing her as the mother of Jesus.

Mary is also a woman of action. She does not sit by and wish that her children would do God’s will. She visits us with messages of correction and direction. Guadalupe, Knock, Lourdes, Fatima, Loreto, and Medjugorje are just some of the few places that Mary has made an appearance. She wants what is best for us and what could be better than an eternity with God? She cares for us spiritually as she did for Joseph and Jesus while she was on earth. She seeks out those who are like herself to spread her message: simple, humble, and loving.

Mary is never far away from us and will gladly lead us to a deeper relationship with God. She is human and can truly understand our needs. Let us put ourselves in her caring hands and walk with her in our spiritual journey to be closer to God.   

Catholic Girl Journey

The first Eucharist

Oh the smell of freshly baked bread; it makes one feel at home. In ancient times, one did not go to the store to buy bread, it would have been made at home. I wonder who made the bread for the first Eucharist?

I love receiving Jesus in Holy Communion and I equally enjoy spending time with Him in adoration, but the perfect round host is vastly different from what was used at the Last Supper. It was an unleavened bread, but was it round or oval/rectangular? Did it have any flavoring to it, like some olive oil or honey? Was it large, like pie-sized, or small, like a dessert plate? While the details may not matter in terms of belief, thinking about them can draw us closer to Jesus, especially to His human nature.

The month of May seems to be popular for children receiving their first Holy Communion and is synonymous with Mary, as she is often crowned during May processions. These two ideas collided in my head and made me wonder if Mary made the bread for the first Eucharist? We know she was in Jerusalem, since she was at the foot of the cross. And being Jesus’s mom, I’m sure she helped His earthly ministry in whatever ways she could. It almost seems like a logical progression: she gave birth to Jesus, and thus provided Him with His human body, so who else would be the one to make the bread that would become the first Eucharist, the transubstantiated presentation of Jesus Himself? And did she continue making the bread that was used for the Eucharistic celebrations after Jesus ascended into heaven?

Picture the scene at that Last Supper when Jesus picked up the bread made by Mary with a mother’s love, and blessed it, performing the first consecration, and then shared it with the people He loved the most, the men he called to follow Him. Now wrap that all up into the host the next time you receive Communion or are in adoration. It’s food for thought and prayer.

 

Catholic Girl Journey

Invoice from Jesus

If Jesus sent you an invoice, what would be on it? The number of hairs on your head? The number of beats your heart has taken? The number of breaths you have breathed? The amount of food provided by the earth that you consumed? How can we possibly pay Him back for all He has done for us?

Unlike our human tendency to make things even and fair, God knows that we can never make restitution for all He provides. Our relationship with Him is not one of a contract, an equal exchange of goods or services, rather it is a covenant relationship, an exchange of persons. God gives Himself to us, especially in the Eucharist. We give ourselves to Him when we imitate the love He shows us with everyone we encounter.

It’s quite overwhelming to ponder. God has given us all that we have, all that we are, and will continue to do so for our whole life. If we think about it, our human nature says we need to give up all that we have and live an austere life to try to make things equal, so that we’re not relying on God so much. But we rely on Him for every breath and heartbeat; one can’t exactly use less of those necessities. However, God wants us to rely on Him, totally and completely. It gives Him joy to bless those who surrender their lives to Him, not by living less, but living in communion with Him. The term “God’s will” makes it seem like it is something that we don’t want to do. But God made us and knows us better than we know ourselves. His will for us is to be the person He created us to be. Our true happiness and fulfillment will only come when we follow God and do His will.

Let’s put away the tally sheets and scorecards and reach out to God, deepen our relationship with Him, and free ourselves to do His will. Then, that invoice from Jesus will be marked prepaid in full, with His blood from the cross.

Catholic Girl Journey

Called to minister

Do you have a ministry? While some are called to spend their whole lives in service in holy orders, all Christians are called to minister.

According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of minister is ‘to give aid or service.’ Aid seems to be a very appropriate part of the definition, as it implies that a person receiving it is in need of help or assistance. The Beatitudes and the named works of mercy call us to be open to opportunities to help others in their need. Sometimes we are called look deeper and provide help in ways we may not have expected.

An Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is a lay person who has been granted the privilege to distribute Holy Communion during Mass and/or immediately following to those who are unable to attend due to sickness or circumstance. On the surface, it seems quite simple in the Mass setting. As an individual approaches, the minister says, “The Body of Christ” when offering the host, or “The Blood of Christ” for the chalice. The recipient says, “Amen” and the sacrament is given. But in that moment, the recipient is coming to the Lord for His sustenance. One can look at an extraordinary minister as just a vehicle used to dispense the sacrament or an active participant in the exchange.

Being an extraordinary minister, I can’t say I’m totally comfortable giving out Communion and I hope I never will be, for when it becomes comfortable will be when I feel I don’t have appropriate respect for the Eucharist. I approach it with a mixture of awe, knowing I’m unworthy, and a bit of fear of messing up (like spilling the ciborium).

Recently I was asked to substitute at a Mass I normally attend. There were many faces I recognized and various attitudes of those receiving. However as one woman received, she seemed troubled. I did not recall her from the past and I can’t say it was one thing in particular, but rather the whole act of receiving that formed the “troubled” thought in my mind. Immediately another thought followed that I should pray for her. I don’t know who she was or what help she needed, but if through my prayers she could receive the aid she needed, then I felt obliged to pray for her. Perhaps other extraordinary ministers routinely pray for those who receive from their hands. For me though, it was a defining moment that the ministry can go deeper than what is expected if I am open to God’s will. 

We are all called to serve God in many ways, but even the simplest and most obvious can be deeper if we remain open to God’s call. Our yes to God is never a once-and-done response, but a continual call. How are you called to serve or go deeper?