Catholic Girl Journey

All things new

In the midst of a brutally cold start to winter, it can be hard to imagine the newness of springtime with the grass turning green and buds ready to burst  into flower. But in a way, Christmas and New Year’s Day are all about beginning again and starting anew.

The celebration of Christmas lasts for 12 days and near the middle is the first day of our calendar year. One can see the correlation between celebrating the birth of a child as the beginning of not just the child’s life, but also a new start for the family into which the baby is born. I find it rather significant that Christmas and New Year’s Day are so close together.

If we go deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation, we might be aware that by the simple act of  becoming man, Jesus has blessed and sanctified the everyday actions of family life. Eating, sleeping, working, learning and teaching were all things that the Holy Family engaged in as Jesus grew to maturity. The venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “Our Lord spent three hours in redeeming, three years in teaching and thirty years in obeying…” Jesus was part of a family for 30 years, being a dutiful Son, not just to God the Father, but also to His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph. Do we consider our work, both household chores as well as our occupation, as something holy? Do we consider the relationships within our family as something sacred, especially with our parents? Do we respect the body’s need for rest and give it the amount of sleep it needs? How about the need for food and drink?  Do we hurry through our meals or do we take the time to enjoy the flavors and seek to nourish ourselves with a healthy variety of foods?

The calendar that we follow numbers the years based on the birth of Christ. While man has been on the earth much longer than 2,018 years, in a way creation was started again with the birth of Jesus and our daily life was sanctified  through this gift.Perhaps as we begin another year, a good  resolution would be to be to cognizant of the holiness of daily life in order to grow closer to God.

May you have a blessed new year in the journey God has planned for you!

Catholic Girl Journey

The gift exchange

A Blessed and Merry Christmas!

What constitutes a good Christmas for you? Fifty percent of the gifts you receive you like and will actually use? Is it less or more? In this season of giving, somehow even though it is “the thought that counts”, the culture is obsessed with the gifts we receive and what we do with them. But what about the giver?

Have you ever thought you found the perfect gift for someone only to see the happy expression of receiving a gift freeze on their face as they try to find something nice to say? In that circumstance both the giver and the receiver are disappointed. The receiver wonders what the giver was thinking when they picked out that gift while the giver is wondering why the receiver does not like it. After a few experiences like that, it’s easy just to give up and give gift cards so the receiver can buy whatever he/she wants or needs.

It’s one thing when a gift is not functioning or too small/large. But sometimes, if you give a gift a chance, you end up liking it much more than when you first received it. Sometimes other people’s perspective is deeper than we care to admit and their gifts do have purpose and meaning even when we don’t think so upon receiving them. It’s the same with God’s gift to us: His Son, Jesus.

Jesus is a gift in the truest sense of the meaning: a voluntary transfer between two people without compensation. He puts His glory aside and takes the form of one of his creatures, man, with the sole purpose of dying in order to save us. He spent His time on earth to teach us how to live as the Father wants us to live, in His love. We may think that when we “put Jesus on”, His ways may not fit us well. But if we keep trying, He may just become our favorite gift of all.

God knows us much better that we know ourselves and the gift of Jesus fits every person perfectly. It’s only when we cast God and His gift aside, in favor of what we think we need and want, that we find ourselves less than satisfied. Perhaps Jesus will be a gift we not only treasure, but give to others as well.

Catholic Girl Journey

Seeking Jesus

I would like to say that I was fully concentrating on Mass this past Sunday, but I have to admit reminders of my seasonal extra long to-do list kept popping into my consciousness. I shouldn’t have been surprised when after receiving the communion host, it stuck to the roof of my mouth. It was almost like Jesus asking me to be still and silent; pay attention to Him. After all, He will only be physically present for a few moments in the host until it dissolves. Could I spare the time?

Advent is the preparation time for Christmas, and while it’s great that we want to prepare to celebrate with family and friends, the most important person to celebrate with is Jesus, who truly is the reason for the season. In the journey of life, Jesus has told us “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:33) If we seek first a closer relationship with God, won’t all the blessings of this celebration be even better?

In some regards Christmas preparations are like preparing gifts for a birthday party for everyone else except the one whose birthday it is. Can you imagine celebrating the birthday of a parent/spouse/child/friend by giving gifts to everyone EXCEPT them? What about if you went out and celebrated but didn’t invite the guest of honor? The Church, in her wisdom, gives us the time to prepare for Christ’s nativity with 4 Sundays to call us to reflection and repentance. In making time to seek Jesus, finding out what our stumbling blocks are and clearing them out, we prepare our minds, hearts and souls to receive Him. By celebrating Him first, we are better attuned to be able to bless others with His love and peace.

Can you spare a few extra moments in reflection of what Christmas is all about? Will we respond to the message of the angels? Can we look at the signs in the stars and start the journey towards His manger? Can we prepare our minds, hearts and souls to be a gift to baby Jesus? He’s not an item on the checklist. But if you give the Lord of Time but a moment, completely and without reserve, you give Him the best gift of all: yourself.

Catholic Girl Journey

Wisdom of a paradox

Jesus ate and drank with sinners. His parables included giving more to those who had, and taking away from those who had little, as well as a landowner who paid the same full day’s wage to each worker no matter how long they toiled. And the ultimate paradox, is that through His crucifixion, Jesus saved us, giving eternal life to those who believe. With the bible littered with these examples, how are we to ever understand them so that we can apply the lessons to our lives?

I was knitting recently and started pondering that question, as knitting busys my hands so that my brain can think. Theological ideas can be hard to grasp even when they are straightforward, so wrestling with contrary ideas can be even more complicated. In a pause of my thought process, I turned to my knitting pattern, actually a chart of stitches, to confirm yet again that I was following it correctly. It was then that I realized how much knitting had in common with the paradoxes of the bible.

In knitting, there is really only one stitch, it just depends on which side you’re viewing it. On the “right” side, it is a knit stitch, but that same stitch on the reverse is a purl stitch. By including the reverse, or purl stitch in patterns, all various designs are created. Advanced knitters manipulate these two stitches to create lace, cables, bobbles, and all sorts of shaping. But in the end, it’s all just one stitch.

Then there is the pattern chart, like the one I was using. The “right” side, or that which faces out, starts at the bottom left, and the first row is read from left to right. The even rows are the back or “inside” of the garment and in a chart are read from right to left. Charts often indicate that a blank square equals a knit stitch on the front but a purl stitch on the back. That means reading from left to right on an odd row, I’m knitting the stitches and when I’m on an even row, or the back side, I’m purling those stitches. Why is the chart written that way? So that you can see what the final result of the pattern you are knitting will be.

Putting the lessons from the seemingly contradictory bible passages into practice is like knitting from a chart, only we may not see the whole chart, only the next ‘stitch’ we need to make in our lives. Or we may forget that above and below that knit stitch on the right side of the garment are purl stitches, the ‘backside’ of the knit stitch.

I’m not the first to struggle these seemingly illogical teachings. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, acknowledges that some teachings can be difficult to a logical mind, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to the  Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor 1:22-25) Like following the knitting chart pattern, while we may see the big picture of the results, it can be confusing to try to understand the details in the same way. One has to keep on knitting before the chart begins to make sense, usually as the pattern starts emerging. Faith, hope and prayer keeps us open to God’s wisdom, allowing us to get a stitch or two deeper in His mysteries and teachings.

Catholic Girl Journey

Fearless

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Mt 14:27)

These three phrases of a quote from a recent daily meditation book struck me as I read them. I know I’ve seen and heard them a thousand times, but it’s almost as if they jumped off the page and entered into my brain prompting me to think.

There are two commands that Jesus issues in this short passage.  The first is “take courage.” There have been a lot of quotes about courage from famous people over the years, and there is a general sense that courageous people do not lack fear, but rather they push beyond it, maybe even using it to propel them through their situation.

Jesus told his disciples to “take” courage. There are 28 definitions for ‘take’ in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, but I think the one most applicable here is; ‘to receive or accept whether willingly or reluctantly.’ Jesus was offering courage to them but it was their choice to accept it or not. Today, even if we reluctantly accept the courage Jesus is offering, we will be able to move past our fears instead of letting them rule us.

Why should the disciples have been courageous? Jesus identified Himself so simply: ‘it is I.” Just as God revealed Himself in the burning bush to Moses, “I AM WHO AM”, Jesus’ ‘I’ had the power of God behind it. The courage that Jesus offers us is not just faith or trust in Him, it’s acting on the word of Jesus and allowing Him to lead us completely.

The second command in this short passage is: “do not be afraid.” To be afraid is not just to be full of fear but to be especially fearful of a future evil in response to an action. Jesus does not want us to live our lives looking at each moment with the expectation that something bad is going to happen. If we live by the courage He gives us, even if we do experience a malady, that courage will carry us through. But if we persist in being afraid, we let just the possibility of evil to overwhelm us.

There will always be challenges in life. Let us take the courage that Jesus offers and fearlessly follow to where He leads… heaven.

 

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.