Catholic Girl Journey

Can’t or won’t?

As a child, I remember saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”  However the words we use can be damaging to ourselves or to others. The language we  choose, especially for self-talk, can influence our outlook negatively or positively.

After a long day at work, I was on my way to the fitness center for a short workout but I really just wanted to go home. That thought kept going through my head: I don’t want to be here.  I also had  certain expectations of how my workout would go. After getting into the swing of it, I was waiting for the wave of energy to kick in. Instead, it seemed to just get harder. ‘I can’t do this,’ I thought to myself. I wanted to stop and sit down. But after sitting all day at a computer, I knew this was the best thing for me. I’ve done this workout for weeks, I thought, why was it so hard today? Why did it feel like it was impossible?

Is it can’t or is it won’t? I didn’t really want to work out when I drove to the center. Was my lack of  enthusiasm for working out making me feel that I was incapable of doing so? Since I had been working out regularly, I knew I could do it. Maybe it was more about the expectations I had about how the workout would go. It seemed that my efforts were being blocked because I really didn’t want to exercise.  I did keep going, but at a slower and more deliberate pace, and I let go of my expectations.  In the end I was able to not only finish the workout, but to feel good about completing it.  

While exercise is vital for the body to function properly, we also need to ‘exercise’ our spiritual soul. How often do we say we can’t do something, like weekday Mass, adoration or a rosary, but what we really mean is that we won’t. We let our feelings or our expectations get in the way. Sometimes, even when we get into a groove, we can face a challenge. However, if we persevere it will be to the betterment of our soul.

The call for perseverance is issued throughout the Scriptures. Jesus even questions, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8) We are not promised that our choices will be easy or our tasks without effort. But it’s when we continue on, even during our hardships that we come closer to God. “Happy the man who holds out to the end through trial! Once he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12).

 

Catholic Girl Journey

Magnify the Lord

Mary’s magnificat is the prayer of praises that Mary proclaims when she meets with Elizabeth in Luke’s gospel (Lk 1:46-55). Traditionally it is prayed during daily evening prayer. For about ten years I have been using a daily prayer book, called the Magnificat, for morning prayer, Mass readings and evening prayers. Yet it was only recently that I started to ponder if I could pray Mary’s prayer as my own.

Mary is God’s perfect creation. She was gifted with immaculate conception and she never sinned during her life. She first and only thought of herself as His handmaid. So how could such a sinner like me pray one of her perfect prayers? In a way, it’s all about the attitude.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” God has given me everything, how can I not rejoice in the Lord? My life may not be perfect but even if I thank Him for the basic gift of life, this statement should be mine to make with the same joy and gratefulness.

“From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name.” I always thought this referred only to Mary, but for anyone who is pursuing a relationship with God and hopes to one day be with Him in heaven, i.e. a saint – even an unknown one, that person is blest and the Church does pray for all the saints in heaven. However, we cannot achieve this on our own; it is God who makes it possible. It is the Almighty who invites us into heaven and calls us to be holy, like Him.

“He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” This is like a mini examination of conscience. For example, as we praise the Lord for rewarding with fairness, we may find that we are being sent away empty, not because God does not love us, but because we are already filled and we need to share what we received and empty ourselves so that God can fill us up again. By reviewing our daily activities each evening, we can identify what we need to work on the next day.

“He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.” Lastly, we are reminded that we are part of a family, not just a biological one that we are born into, or the one we grow up in, but the family of God. He has made a covenant with His people, starting in the Old Testament and it continues to this day through the Church.

Despite our imperfections, Mary’s magnificat can be our own prayer to God, thanking Him for all the gifts He has given to us, acknowledging His work within our lives and His help in what we need to focus on to be better and thanking Him for being part of His family.

Catholic Girl Journey

The strongest weakness

God knows we all have weaknesses; too many that we may only choose to acknowledge just a few. But what about God; does He have any weaknesses? Is there anything He can’t do?

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he calls to mind the paradox of the cross. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Cor 1:25). The weakness of what the cross appears to us, is the instrument that God uses to save us. What kills a man has now become our salvation. It’s amazing to think that God can take our weakness and allow His greatness and glory to be revealed. Who could have known, that as Jesus hung on the cross, He was redeeming us? Only those few with faith, standing at the foot of the cross and believing that God could bring good out of it. In the eyes of the world, it seemed foolish keeping the vigil below a condemned man. The world may call us foolish for kneeling before a crucifix, but I’d rather be called a fool by the world, than a fool by God.

God can do anything. He created the world and all that is in it. He knows each creature by name. I think to ask the question of ‘is there anything God can’t do’ is the wrong question to ask. The better question is ‘is there anything that God chooses not to do?’ Yes. God does not force us to have a relationship with Him and He does not revoke His blessings on those who choose not to do so. God does not need us, but He wants us. God is love itself and He wants to share that with us. But He wants us to be willing. Even the angels were given the opportunity to eternally be in a right relationship with Him or not. Just as some angels chose against God and He allowed them; He allows us to make that decision. Unlike the angels, we have every day during our lifetime to choose Him and His will or to go against Him. And every day, in every moment, He calls us closer to Him. While He allows us to make our own decision, He also continues to pursue us to draw us closer to Him.

Instead of bemoaning our weaknesses to God, let us offer them up for His use. Let us petition Him to aid us in choosing His will for us daily. Perhaps after we complete our earthly life, God will show us just what He was able to accomplish through us by being open to Him and offering all of ourselves and every weakness to His will.

Catholic Girl Journey

Living the dream

What would it take to live your dream? Would it be the perfect job? Living in the perfect home? Traveling the world? Winning the lottery? And then what?

Having dreams is not a bad thing, except when they get in the way of living in the present moment. It’s very easy to get lost in the mundane everyday activities. Taking out the trash pales in comparison to watching the sunset on a Caribbean beach. But even in the Caribbean, the trash has to be taken out; how would your dream be different if you were there? One answer might be that since you’re in the Caribbean, you can enjoy the sunset and the marvelous colors of the sky and would be able to ignore the fish-reeking sack in your hand. Might you be able to enjoy the colors of the sky or the beginning twinkle of stars as you take out the trash where you are now? After all God provides the changes in nature around us, it’s up to us to see His hand in it.

“While I may not know you, I bet I know you wonder sometimes, does it matter at all? Well let me remind you, it all matters just as long as you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you, because he made you, to do every little thing that you do…”

When I find myself getting caught up too much in daily activities, I use Steven Curtis Chapman’s song Do Everything to remind myself that it’s not all about me, it’s about where God has me now. This is where God wants me; in a way, it’s His dream for me: to bring acknowledgement of His presence to my daily activities, even when I’m taking out the trash. Rather than dreaming I am on some fantastic beach of His, what about appreciating His wonderful creation that surrounds me? Or interesting people He places in my life everyday?

What we have is right now —this moment. How can we make the here and now our dream? How can you approach this time and space with the wonder of living your dream? Can you make your dream the dream that God has for you?

Catholic Girl Journey

Cost of freedom

July brings the celebration of the United States as it’s own nation. We come together as family and friends to enjoy a picnic, fellowship, and, if we’re lucky, a dip in the pool to cool off. There may be parades where we cheer the veterans who have served our country. Some may remember those who paid the ultimate price to protect the country by giving their life. Perhaps, the true cost of freedom was paid by the sacrifice on Calvary.

The Declaration of Independence acknowledges three gifts that most know by heart: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Over 240 years ago, the founding fathers released this document that put into action a revolution from which the United States would emerge. They acknowledged God as the giver of these gifts. I’ve heard it mentioned that the order matters. You can’t pursue happiness if you don’t have your freedom (liberty) or your life. In a way, the document reminds us of the creation. God created Adam and Eve — that is He gave them life. He gave them the freedom to choose to do His will or their own by asking them to care for the garden and not to eat the fruit of one tree. Otherwise, they were to pursue their happiness by living in communion with God and the rest of His creation. Instead they put their pursuit of happiness above their relationship with God and thus impacted both their life and liberty.

God did not leave man on his own. He patiently gathered the tribe of Israel to teach them His ways and prepare for His Son to pay the price of that first and every sin. Jesus’ pursuit of happiness was to reconcile creation back to the Father through the forgiveness of man’s sins. This journey brought Him to the cross on Calvary, where He gave His very life for us all. The liberty He chose was to free us from our sins so that we can have a opportunity to pursue a relationship with God, both on earth and in heaven. We always have the freedom to choose: to do God’s will or our own. Now when we are sorry for those times we choose to do our will instead of God’s, we can return to a relationship with Him through the sacrament of reconciliation.

Let us give thanks to our creator, not just for our country, but those three precious gifts He gives to each of us. Let us not take our freedom for granted, but look to do the will of God and thank Jesus for paying the price for us.

Catholic Girl Journey

The purpose of the Church

What did Jesus do when He first met with His apostles after His resurrection? He bestowed His peace on them, sent them out into the world, and gave them the power to forgive sins. These blessings were given to men who ran away when the going got tough, who locked themselves in a room because they were afraid, and who did not believe when Mary Magdalene brought them the great news that Jesus had risen from the dead.

These frightened but overjoyed men were asked to walk the way of Jesus; to proclaim His name throughout the world. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21) They were sent out into the world to bring the peace of Jesus to all. This mission continues to our day and is not just the responsibility of bishops and priests, but all Catholics. We need to receive the peace of Jesus and not only hold onto it, but freely share it with others as it has been given to us.

In today’s world it seems when giving that everything has a price or must be negotiated: I did this for you, you need to do that for me or I gave you this, so you owe me that. Instead Jesus gives without expecting to receive it back. “Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” (John 14:27) He gives His peace willingly, without obligation. It is only by our own free will to receive and respond to His peace that we oblige ourselves to follow His commandments. He sets the example to give of ourselves without expecting anything in return.

“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:22-23) In sending them out with His peace, Jesus expected the apostles to help heal the variously fractured bonds that each person has with God. He just doesn’t want people to know about Him, He wants them to know Him. He wants a relationship with them; one that cannot be achieved unless they willingly turn to Him and ask for the damage that sin has caused to be repaired. By giving the apostles the Holy Spirit, He provided His authorization to these men to do what, up until then, only God could do. So by going to the bishops and priests for the sacrament of reconciliation, we are receiving the peace and forgiveness He bestowed on the apostles. While individual members of the Church may not forgive sins on behalf of God, we can forgive the injuries others inflict on us, just as God has forgiven us.

The purpose of the Church is to go out and meet people where they are, share the peace of Christ with them, and when people willingly want to turn back to God, to forgive them their sins so they can start afresh with their relationship with God.The Church didn’t begin with perfect men, but by fulfilling her purpose, she perfects them.

 

Catholic Girl Journey

Walking with us

Recently the daily Mass readings were large portions of the book of Tobit. They serve as a great reminder that God walks with us in everything we do.

Despite being exiled to Nineveh, Tobit strived to follow God’s commandments. Tithing, giving alms, and burying the dead were a way of life for him. He did not think about the consequences of his actions; he did it to honor God. However, Tobit was imprisoned for his good deeds and when he was eventually released, he ended up going blind. Even then he did not curse God or ask ‘why me?’ Instead he prayed to the merciful God he believed in, and asked for death so as to be spared the grief that overwhelmed him. God did, indeed, hear his prayer and he answered it, just not the way Tobit requested. How many times have we asked God for something, only for the prayer to be answered at a later point in time and totally not the way we expected?

As Tobit prepared for his death, he sent his son Tobiah to retrieve his inheritance. To make the journey safely, Tobiah found a fellow kinsman to lead him; in actuality it was God’s angel, Raphael. While we may not always have an angel visible to us in our time of need, they are no less present to us than Raphael was to Tobiah. It was through Raphael’s prompting that God’s will was accomplished: Tobiah married and was blessed with the wealth of his in-laws, the health of his wife, and the medicine to cure his father’s blindness. When Raphael reveals his true identity to Tobit and Tobiah, he brings to light Tobit’s prayer, not just for death to release him from his misery, but for each person he prayed over when he buried them. God heard all his prayers.

“So continue to thank him every day; praise him with song.” (Tobit 12:18) Raphael gives God the glory in the events that unfolded that did indeed take away Tobit’s misery, not by bringing him death, but by granting him life with a son, a daughter-in-law, and seven grandsons. Let us remember to thank God for walking with us daily, for hearing our prayers and answering them the way He wills. God gives us everything; let us joyfully share what He has blessed us with and think not that He will reward us, for He already has in what He has given us.