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.

Catholic Girl Journey

Breaking boredom

When does the familiar become boring? Does routine lead to boredom or is it the busyness of our lives that leaves us unable to concentrate? Have we become so comfortable with Jesus that we don’t even work at growing in relationship with Him anymore?

The folk of Nazareth thought they knew Jesus, after all, He grew up among them. They knew His parents; spoke to Him throughout His formative years. Yet  Jesus, who healed all over the countryside, is not able to perform many miracles in Nazareth. At one point, the people become so angry with His words, they try to throw Him down the cliff outside the town. Are we much different than them? Do we expect Jesus to prove Himself to us?

Routines like Mass, the rosary, and morning/evening prayers can become just things that we do. We check them off the list of what is required and continue about our lives. During Lent we may try to give up chocolate or an extra cup of coffee and keep our Fridays meat-free, but maybe we think of it as just more to add to the checklist. Whose checklist?  Our checklist, the one we think will tally up to get us a pass into heaven when we die. Only what we forget, or maybe never knew, is that it’s not about a checklist, it’s about our relationship with Jesus. And it’s not a once and done. We can become too comfortable with routine, thinking that we know all we need to about Jesus and let daily distractions disrupt the relationship.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of judging an entire Mass based on the homily. If it wasn’t  relevant to our current life, then we feel cheated and complain we “got” nothing from going. But the Mass is more than just a homily; it includes a time to reflect on our relationship with Jesus and our weaknesses that strain it, it includes the Word of God from the Old and New Testaments, the re-presentation of Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary and our communion with Him. Jesus may speak to us at any moment of the Mass…or not. Perhaps it occurs hours or days later when we remember something we heard and it hits home. But if we are so engulfed in our daily lives outside Mass that we have difficulty not just concentrating, but being open to Jesus speaking to us, there is no chance to grow in relationship with Him.

Lent is a time to give ourselves a shake. It’s an opportunity to go outside of our comfort zone. It’s a time to look at our relationship with Jesus and try new ways to go just a bit deeper. Can we turn off the outside world, not pay attention to the time and just listen to every word spoken at Mass? When saying the rosary, can we really mean and believe every single word we speak? Can we make a sacrifice of time and participate in Lenten events at parishes, like the Stations of the Cross or making a holy hour in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament?

Jesus is not bored with us. Let’s make sure our routine of worship does not turn our relationship with Him into a bore for us.

Catholic Girl Journey

Successful failure

It’s only the second week of Lent and already I feel like a failure. Maybe that’s a good thing.

If you remember the movie Groundhog Day where the character re-lived the same day over and over again, the last few days have seemed very similar for me. Each day it seemed like I was always running late, fumbling with whatever I needed to carry, and just when I thought things at work couldn’t get more challenging… well you get the idea. It was like everything was conspiring against me. I know that’s not true, but when you’re trying to live through it, it’s hard not to think that way. Luckily all the issues are really minor annoyances, but when they all stack up together, it can be overwhelming. One morning, in a short burst of clarity, I offered these trials up to Jesus for Lent. Many times when I do this, things don’t seem to be too bad. This time though, the challenges seemed to crank up in intensity.  

What really bothered me most was after getting rather exasperated at work about how something was handled, I remembered the gospel for that day had Jesus saying that anyone who called their brother a fool would be liable to fiery Gehenna (Matthew 5:20-26). While I might not have said it aloud, I had certainly passed judgement about the individuals involved with that same sentence.

What these trials have shown me is just how much I daily rely on God’s mercy and grace. In a way, my failure to respond to these in a Christian manner has revealed some habitual sins that I need to work on and be more cognizant. In addition to being sorrowful, I am encouraged that these situations have opened my eyes and my heart, so that I can let God into these areas and help me become a better person. Isn’t that what Lent is all about; opening our hearts to God for Him to work His mercy and grace in us?

Perhaps true failure is when nothing changes. There are still a few more weeks of Lent to go and, even if it is a bit painful, I trust in God’s mercy to see me through and His grace to help me. And these trials? They are nothing more than opportunities to practice what I believe.

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.