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

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?

Catholic Girl Journey

Resurrection of the dead

“I look forward to the resurrection of the dead…” It’s one of the beliefs of Catholicism that we acknowledge every Sunday in the Nicene creed as well as in the Apostles Creed. But do we say it because it’s part of the prayer or do we really mean it?  

What does it mean to rise from the dead? In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that question is raised and answered in # 997, “ In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body.” As Jesus was the first one to rise from the dead, we can look to Him as an example of what to expect.

Unrecognizable may be one characteristic used to describe Jesus’ risen form. Mary Magdalene, and the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not realize who Jesus was and the eleven thought He was a ghost when He first appeared to them. Was it His glory that confused them? Or was He able to hide his identity by changing His appearance? Or was it because they did not think He was alive that they could not recognize Him because they were not expecting to encounter Jesus? It was only with the intimacy of words: being called by name and in the blessing and in the breaking of bread, which were actions they were familiar with Jesus doing, that they were able to see that it was Him.

What was not hidden or healed were the wounds of the crucifixion. He showed the eleven His hands and feet and bid Thomas to put his hand into His side. By these wounds Jesus healed the relationship between God and humanity and as a result, they are glorified too. They no longer remain a source of pain but become a reminder that through suffering there is the promise of life eternal. In this glorified state Jesus is able to appear and disappear, even in rooms that are locked. And to prove He is not just spirit alone, He eats and drinks with His disciples.

It can feel a bit like science fiction to try to imagine the resurrection of the dead, but God did give us minds to think, ponder, imagine and dream. Those who are not pleased with their looks in this life hope that they can change their appearance in the next, but that is human vanity speaking. If Jesus’ wounds were glorified, would not our imperfections also be glorified? Perhaps those who feel the effects of an aging body hope the resurrected body is from their youth or prime. But do we limit God’s ability to transform our weak, human form in His glory?

I don’t know what I will look like in the resurrection of the dead, but I am looking forward to being amazed at God’s glory. Just looking around at the symphony of nature, which is fleeting daily, I know He will make a masterpiece of me. I can’t ask for anything more.

Catholic Girl Journey

Love and mercy

Love and mercy, that’s what I remember being taught about a God from my Catholic elementary teachers. How different now is my understanding of what these these two things mean.

I came of age in post-Vatican II. No longer was the Baltimore catechism used; instead it was ‘draw what God’s love looks like to you.’ Mercy, to a young child, seemed to indicate that no matter what you did, it was okay. I must admit there were a few times a a young adult that I remember thinking, “it’s okay if I miss Mass; God will forgive me.” Yes, I was confident in God’s mercy, but my attitude at the time was taking for granted His mercy.

After being so assuming of His mercy, I now have a great respect and appreciation for it. Through the practice of the Divine Mercy chaplet, and the corresponding novena, I have learned the true cost of His mercy was Jesus’ passion and death. By reciting the chaplet, I call on God the Father to remember the passion of Christ and ask for Him for mercy, not just for me, but for the whole world. How incredible that He gives us humans the ability to invoke His mercy in such a mind-blowing and comprehensive way!

It is fitting that that after a week celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, the intensive octave is capped by the solemnity of Divine Mercy Sunday. After all, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus restores the divine relationship with fallen humanity. We will continue to sin and God’s mercy will flow abundantly to those who return to him with contrite hearts. First we thank Jesus for all He went through (Easter) and then we thank Him for what He continues to bestow (Divine Mercy Sunday). But these eight days can’t capture the joy and festivities of such a compassionate and loving God, and so the Easter season continues for a full 50 days and includes the celebrations of the Ascension and Pentecost. God truly is rich in kindness and plentiful in His blessings.  

God the Father loved us so much He gave us His Son. Jesus loved us so much He gave us His life. By this love we are able to be children of God. And when we choose our own selfish ways, we can turn back to the love to God by being sorry for our sins and find ourselves in the warm embrace of His mercy. God is Love and Mercy.

Catholic Girl Journey

Thorns and nails

We are just about to start the most holy week of the year. Thorns and nails play their part in the Passion of Jesus, but they can represent our sins in a much deeper sense.

When I think about thorns, roses are the first thing that come to mind. While roses are not the only plant to have thorns, they are probably the most familiar. Roses are so beautiful and human nature’s tendency is to reach out and touch, only to find out that the beauty comes at a cost. So it is when we become enamored with a sin that is attractive to us at the surface level. We may be so caught up in how it affects our senses that we may not realize how dangerous it is to our spiritual life. Sins of vanity and pride can often disguise themselves in a beautiful way and later reveal their hidden peril. Sometimes the disguise is a bit more ordinary; thorns can be found among shrubs and leaves, too. Those who are prudent and watchful may be able to recognize the dangers before their soul is scratched or pierced.

Nails are a different story. By themselves they are useless. But when they have the force of a hammer to drive them, they can be deeply embedded, securing one item to another. Nails can be used for good, but the nails driven into Jesus to keep Him on the cross are like the sins we know are wrong, but still intentionally commit. Our act of willful choosing is that hammer driving the nails into Christ. It’s the times we choose our way over God’s, or when we walk away from a relationship with Him. When we choose to sin, do we only look at our temporary gain? Or do we recognize the cost of that sin, especially the damage to our relationship with God?

As we remember, reflect on, and celebrate holy week this year, let us thank Jesus for all He endured to save us. We should acknowledge our transgressions, the thorns and nails that we personally added to his suffering. This is the first step in taking ownership for our actions. With more awareness of our choices, we can begin to change from our sinful habits and draw ever closer to Christ.