From forsaken to praise

Have you ever heard the first few words of a beloved song, and instantly know not only the rest of the words but the meaning of the song as well? The fourth set of Jesus’ last words are the Israelite version of a popular song; one that travels from the depths of nothingness to glorifying God.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Matthew 27:46

Taken at face value, these words are uncomfortable to hear and seem downright scandalous to be coming from the mouth of Jesus. If Jesus is the Son of God, the Second Person in the Trinity, how can He be forsaken or abandoned by God the Father? It doesn’t seem possible! Why would Jesus waste His precious last breaths speaking something that can seem blasphemous?

Yet Jesus is not spouting some random words, but is quoting the songs that were popular to the Israelites of Jesus’ time: the Psalms, or more specifically He quotes the beginning of Psalm 22. It is The Prayer of an Innocent Man, attributed to David, and contains four sections. The first 12 verses are very sad, yet they mirror what happens at the crucifixion. “All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer…” (6) describe the actions of the crowds at the crucifixion in all four Gospels. “You relied on the Lord — let him deliver you…” (9) is recorded in Matthew, “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him.” (Matt 27:43)

The second section of Psalm 22, verses 13 through 22, contains a description of one who is dying, “Like water my life drains away..” (15) as well as descriptions of those watching. It’s not just the people the Pharisees have convinced to deride Jesus, but also the Roman soldiers when it references “…they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.”(19) These two sections are very sad to read; and joy seems to be as far away as another planet. 

Sections three and four of the Psalm are all about praising God. They are such an about-face, that one reading it may wonder if the last two sections belong with the first two. “For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.” (25) If the Jews watching heard Jesus and started thinking about the Psalm, did they remember this line? Or, as it conveys in the Gospels, are the words  misunderstood, thinking that Jesus is calling out for Elijah because this Psalm would have been too descriptive of what was happening? Was this an invitation, to those who knew the Scriptures inside and out, to be challenged one last time by Jesus, but not in condemnation, but rather as an invitation, to repent and praise God? 

The fourth section of the Psalm seems rather prophetic with phrases like, “All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God…” (30) This seems to convey that the ancestors are dwelling before God in eternity. Perhaps it’s the very last verse that sums up what Jesus is accomplishing by dying on the cross. “The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.” This is the whole mission of the Apostles and all who have followed in their footsteps. By our words and deeds we proclaim the love Jesus has for us, including to die and rise from the dead, so that there is no place where His love cannot find us and to know we won’t be trapped in death forever, but rather can be in the presence of God. 

What starts as a depressing topic is turned around to be a source and call for joy. I wonder if any of those at the foot of the cross realized what Jesus was saying —  either at the moment or after the resurrection — and came to believe in Jesus? However, Jesus’ words are not meant for just those who lived at that time, but are meant for us to ponder as well. Do we turn away from sin, seeking God and praising Him for all that He has done for us? Or are we like those around Jesus who mistakenly hear something else so that we don’t have to think about the damage our words and actions can cause? 

At the foot of the cross

The third set of the last seven words of Jesus is addressed to His mother, Mary, and Saint John the Beloved Apostle. These words take a little family and transcend their relationship throughout all generations. 

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19:26-27

Mary and John stood  at the foot of the cross. They could  do nothing but watch and pray. Yet, they are there for Jesus, to support Him as a family does when one member is suffering. They are the witnesses of His final hours, and  while it is painful to watch, this is the reason Jesus came to earth — to suffer, die, and rise for the redemption of our sins. They have the courage to stand amongst those who believe this is the end of the disturbance that Jesus has brought about with His teaching. I would have thought they would be fearful for their lives as well. But perhaps their love for Jesus was stronger than any fears they may have had for their own lives. Maybe it’s because John was the single Apostle to stand at the foot of the cross, that he was spared a martyr’s death that all the other Apostles eventually faced. I can only imagine the trauma and emotional strain of watching a beloved friend be executed in such a brutal manner that  the price of this witness may have cost him more than a martyrdom would have.

The exchange that Jesus directs from the cross has long been taught by the Church: it’s at this moment that Mary becomes Mother to the Church and Mother of All. John is the sole representative of all the Christians that shall live in the ages that follow. John receives Mary and cares for her needs for the duration of her lifetime. However, Mary’s needs have not stopped there, but rather they have been transformed to care for all God’s children, and directs us to do God’s will in the charity we share with our neighbor. Likewise, we continue John’s work by seeking her intercession and guidance to draw closer to God.

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. She carried Jesus within her womb and raised Him, protecting His young life and supported Him during His ministry. Once again she is called to accept God’s will as she watches her precious Son slowly die in agony. Her pain is as sharp as a sword, just like Simeon predicted all those years ago when Jesus was first presented in the Temple. One could even ponder as to whether or not she knew what would happen and how things would end. Yet even if she did know about Jesus’ inevitable crucifixion, His resurrection needed to follow His death. Each moment Jesus hung on the cross must have felt like a lifetime. But Mary had declared herself the handmaid of the Lord and she trusted in Him, no matter the cost. 

Let us ponder what it means to stand in support of Jesus on the cross. Is our love for Him stronger than our fears? Do we seek to do what God calls us to do? Do we trust God even when it seems that the worst possible thing is happening? Calling out to Blessed Mother Mary and St. John, let us ask for their intercession as we progress through this Lent and pick up our daily crosses.

Stealing into heaven

The second set of the seven last words of Jesus were addressed to one of the men being crucified with Him, the man commonly referred to as “the good thief.” Let’s take a look at Jesus’ response to that man and dive deeper into the possibilities of what prompted it.

“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:43

Merriam-Webster defines amen as an interjection that is “used to express solemn ratification.” When Jesus uses it, it’s like putting the whole phrase on a billboard of flashing lights with lots of exclamation marks. It calls our attention in a big way and makes us take careful notice of what is being said. This is not just for the person being addressed, but rather for all of us.

“I say to you…” is very simple phrasing, but carries a great weight to it. The “I” in this case is really the great “I AM,”  the one who is the cause of all life. The word “say” is very humble and perhaps a more illustrative word to use is “declare.” Jesus makes it very clear that what comes next is absolute for this man, beyond any shadow of doubt. 

In this physical realm that is measured in time and space, having a delineation of time, the word “today,” indicates the immediacy of the action that’s about to take place. Jesus assures the man that He will be joining him in the most perfect state of bliss there is: the paradise that is heaven. This thief seems to be stealing one more thing, bypassing any purging and going directly into communion with God. 

For those still on earth, this can seem an outrage, after all this man even admitted to his crimes. Surely he must be punished! (As if being crucified was not punishment enough?) If we look at the preceding verses, 39-42, the man does three things that most people spend their whole lives trying to do. First, he acknowledges Jesus as God, but not in a statement of belief but in correction to the other man who is also being crucified with him. His chastisement is a teaching moment for all of us, that even in difficult situations, we can and should speak up for the Truth. Secondly, the man admits that the crucifixion is just punishment for the crimes he committed; he is indeed taking responsibility for the sins he committed. Lastly, he petitions Jesus, not for forgiveness or to go to Heaven, but humbly asks just to be remembered. Perhaps he is struggling to forgive himself for the actions that have put him on the cross. Since he believes in God, I don’t think he would doubt God’s ability to forgive, but rather seeks a lesser blessing. He is, before all the world, changing from a thief into a saint. 

Jesus’ powerful response reminds us all of what a life spent seeking a relationship with God is all about. It illustrates that while we have breath within us, it is never too late to turn back to God, acknowledge our sins, and pray. While the man still had to deal with the trauma of such a painful death, knowing that upon its cessation he would be welcomed into heaven must have restored his hope and eased his mind. Even in His final moments, Jesus brings healing and comfort to those who acknowledge Him. 

In this time of Lent, let us look at the example of this “good thief” and see where we need to humbly repent of our sins, turn back to God, and spend time in prayer — both for ourselves as well as for others. 

The last words

The Tre Ore, or Three Hours of Agony, is usually a reflection of the last words of Jesus on Good Friday, conducted between noon and 3 PM. Rather than try to squeeze a reflection of each phrase into one post, I thought it would be better to spend each week this Lent reflecting on just one of the seven last phrases Jesus spoke on the cross. 

“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:34

This text is often referenced when we are urged to forgive family and friends who have become estranged to us, or who have caused harm to the relationship we have with them. It is lifted up as the model for all Christians: to forgive others, regardless of what they have done to you, up to and including death. However, our human nature continues to grasp for control over situations and experiences; we may say we forgive another, but end up holding on to the hurt and sometimes using it as a weapon against the person who originally wronged us. In trying to avoid future hurt, we want to be the first ones to strike in defense of ourselves. 

True forgiveness calls us to not only let the hurt go, but to let God be the judge — that is to give God control of that relationship. Those who offend us may not realize the hurt they have caused, and at the same time, we may not realize what the offender has going on in their life that made them say or do what we found offensive. While this does not excuse their actions, we cannot correctly judge another as we do not know what was in their mind and heart. 

Forgiveness of deep hurt takes not only time, but Divine intervention. It’s not something we can immediately will ourselves to do. The feeling of being hurt can be overwhelming. We may even call to mind this text, but waves of hurt continue to wash over us, threatening to drown out any possibility of forgiveness. Did Jesus feel this way on the cross? Is that why He made sure to speak these words aloud, so that we could follow in His footsteps of asking the Father to help us when we want to forgive others when our pain is too great? 

It’s all too easy for us reading this line over 2,000 years later, to feel entitled to judge the actions of the Jewish leaders and the Roman soldiers. They crucified an innocent man and we have a tendency to condemn their actions. We want to shake a pointed finger at them and tell them how bad they are for killing Jesus. Yet Jesus pleads to the Father on their behalf, asking for mercy since the people involved didn’t understand the magnitude of what was happening. How can we condemn the leaders and soldiers for their actions, when Jesus and the Father have forgiven them? Perhaps these words are also meant for us not to judge those who did treat Jesus poorly and to forgive them as Jesus and the Father did. Maybe this is the first challenge for us as Christians: to take that wagging finger and point it back to ourselves, as it is our sins from yesterday, today, and tomorrow that required Jesus to be put to death. 

To forgive is to literally give up the claim of punishment or revenge. Forgiveness is truly a gift of love. It takes both prayer and practice. During this Lent we can reflect on where we need to practice forgiveness in our relationships and pray to Jesus and the Father to help us give this gift to others so that we can begin to repair the broken relationships and perhaps be forgiven of the wrongs we have caused to others.   

Destination: Mass

At a recent Mass I attended, they took a page out of the Superbowl playbook and gave a play-by-play explanation of the Mass. But I must admit that it was the first thing they said that got my brain pondering.

The Mass with commentary, as it was referenced, didn’t take much longer than a normal Mass, and consisted of a short, high-level overview of what was going to happen and why, followed by that portion of the Mass. The commentary was only inserted about five or six times, and gave a general explanation; no deep theology was presented, but enough to remind those who know and encourage those who don’t know to go deeper. 

The commentary began before Mass started, introducing what was happening and explaining the first portion of the Mass. The first action for Mass begins before the Mass itself, what I would consider the gathering of the congregation. However, the way it was phrased was, “You’ve arrived.” I’m sure that choice of words was used purposefully, but it was these words that made me think. If they had used the same terminology of “gathering,” I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Using the phrasing that is common to those who use navigational aids to get them to their destination really caught my attention, and if I may admit, made me giggle.

Attending Mass should be our destination, the way we start off our week being nourished by the Word of God. Mass isn’t a checklist item of something we’ve accomplished, but a participation in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Arriving at a location indicates that we are present to what is happening and our focus is on the experience unfolding. The commentary was a great way to call attention to the different parts of the Mass and to be engaged with them, to be present and participatory and not to drift off into indifference just waiting for the end to come. I’ve seen and heard many jokes about how many times Catholics sit, stand, or kneel in one Mass, yet these position changes can help us pay attention and focus on our relationship with Jesus through the various parts. 

The Mass is the closest we can get to heaven while on earth. We receive instruction from the Word of God in the Liturgy of the Word. And the summit of it all is the Eurcharist: the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus made present for us to receive in a simple, yet transformed, piece of unleavened bread. It is through the Eurcharist that we nourish our souls via this physical encounter with Jesus. Being replenished in this manner, we are then called to go forth into the world and share what we’ve received: the time, talent, love, and mercy of Jesus bestowed upon us. 

It is important to be “here and now” when attending Mass. To do this, make every effort to be aware of each portion of the Mass and its importance in your relationship with God. The more we approach Mass as a weekly destination on earth, the more prepared we will be for our final destination: heaven.

Making life tasty

This past Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew (5:13-16) calls us to be “salt of the earth.” We are all familiar with the importance of salt in cooking, but how are we to be “salt” to others?

Salt, when used properly, is supposed to enhance the flavors of the dish it is mixed within; it is not supposed to be the star ingredient. There is a fine line when adding any spice or seasoning, including salt, as you can’t take it out once you add it to the dish. Salt should be added sparingly, the food mixed well and then tasted before adding any more to the dish. This is the way I view using salt in my cooking. However, salt can also be a matter of preference. Our taste buds are unique to us and each person can taste things differently. To one person adding a particular herb or spice can make the dish unpalatable, yet another may want to add more of that ingredient and the level of saltiness is no different. In pondering what it means to be salt to the earth, my first thought is, “how do I make the Gospel taste better to others?” Yet, I’m not sure if that’s the right question to ask.

The Gospels are the Word of God from every aspect, as they are literally the accounts of Jesus, the Word of God in the flesh when He lived on earth. I don’t think there is anything I can do that can make the Word of the Almighty better than it already is. The message of how God wants a personal relationship with us so much so that He came to live among us and even died a torturous death in order to go to the farthest, scariest, place humanity can go in order to bring His Love and Mercy to all. No, there is nothing I can say that would make it any more appealing to people. 

Some may say that we need to make the message more acceptable to the age and the culture of our time. However at the time of Jesus, His ways were very shocking to the society and against the norms: talking to the foreign woman at the well, touching those with highly contagious diseases, and socializing with the outcasts of society are just a few examples. Jesus didn’t “sweeten” His message to the people at that time, but rather called them to be changed, to be converted via a relationship with Him. He would forgive sins and instruct them not to sin again, that is to say not to fracture the relationship with Him. In John’s Gospel (6:22-69), known as the Bread of Life Discourse, some of Jesus’ followers could not understand or accept His teaching about Him being the bread of life and no longer followed Him. Jesus didn’t chase them down and try to soften His message, but looked at His chosen Apostles and challenged them if they accepted what He said. If people walked away from the Word of God Himself instructing them, I can’t see how I can make the Gospel message any more to their taste. 

So why is Jesus commanding us to be salt for the earth? We can’t change the message, what are we to do to be like salt? Perhaps it’s not what we say, but our actions that show us to be salt of the earth. Perhaps by showing how having a relationship with God, with Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit, we are enriched and live a hopeful life. It’s not about God taking away all the difficulties and smoothing the path of life for us, but rather inviting God to walk with us on our journey, asking for His support and companionship along the way. When others see us even in difficulties being able to have hope in the outcome, there is an attractive quality in that example. In going through challenges, when I say, “God will see me through this,” it’s not some trite sentiment, but rather a pale echo of the Blessed Mother’s yes to the Archangel Gabriel in that I am leaving it in God’s hands to do what He sees best. It is difficult for us to allow God to work in our lives without limiting His abilities. While it’s one thing to petition for a specific outcome, we need to be careful not to be disappointed if God chooses to answer our prayers differently. But when we truly turn our situations over to God, there is a sense of peace that we receive. This peace-filled countenance is also attractive to others and thus making a relationship with God something of interest. This is how we can be true salt to the earth, and in demonstrating the richness of a relationship with God, we are being salt to the message of the Word of God.

To be salt is not to “flavor” the Gospel or to “sweeten” the message, rather it is by living out our relationship with God that makes the Gospel, and a life lived in relationship with God, “tasty.” 

Values in CHRIST

Happy National Catholic Schools Week! This past Sunday the Church I attended brought attention to this special week by having the children of the attached grade school participate in the Masses as lectors, gift bearers, and even ushers distributing parish bulletins afterwards. But it was a detail in the deacon’s homily that really caught my attention. 

In describing what makes a Catholic school unique, Deacon Steven talked about the value system used at the school. It’s quite easy to remember, as it uses CHRIST as an acronym: Courage, Hope, Respect, Integrity, Service, and Thankfulness. All aspects of the education and social support provided by the school are formulated with these values in mind. Each day one of these values is identified for special focus. Upon hearing this, my first thought was, “That’s what I need!” I loved the idea of having one specific value or virtue to focus on within a day. Once one has a prayer routine going, it can be challenging to keep it from being ….well, routine (aka going through the motions). 

While I love using the Magnificat to frame my morning and evening prayer, it can be difficult to keep God in mind throughout the day. If we are to be Christ-bearers in the world today, living out a Christ-centric life is the goal for all baptized. We are each called to our own mission by God with the gifts and skills He has provided in us. Yet our very human nature can be a stumbling block many times throughout a day. Just like any sport or hobby, practice makes one better able to demonstrate one’s abilities. Reading scripture and talking to God is wonderful, but living a Christ-centric life does not stop with acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God. Rather it calls us to transform and share the love and light of Jesus with all who cross our path. It’s incorporating everything we learn about Jesus and the Trinity into our daily lives, allowing ourselves to be transformed by Him. 

Using a device like making Christ an acronym for a set of Christian values is a helpful tool to put into practice what we learn from Jesus. Can you imagine each day selecting a value (randomly generated perhaps with a roll of a dice?) and placing that value front and center of all you do? How much more could you bring the love of Christ to a business meeting when your focus for the day is on Courage? How could the relationship with your friends be deepened when you practice the value of Respect? Or maybe it’s Service that can help you push through a cranky attitude when you’re around your family? No, it won’t be easy, but focusing on one specific virtue during a day can help reveal where our weaknesses are and hold ourselves accountable each day. 

Lent begins in three weeks, but one doesn’t need to wait until then to put a focus on improving the practice of our faith into which we have been baptized. Now is the time to reflect on where our weaknesses are and what we can do to strengthen the demonstration of our faith to those around us. Hopefully this example either strikes a chord with you and encourages you to stay focused on living out Christ’s doctrine each day, or prompts you to think of your own version to help you shine the light of Christ into this needful world. 

Moving forward

The tree has been stripped of ornaments and all is put away. Twinkling lights are nowhere to be found. The home seems rather barren without the trimmings. The Christmas season is over and it is back to the ho-hum of ordinary time, or is it?

The Christmas season officially ends with two great celebrations: Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus. The Epiphany celebrates the visit of the magi to the infant Jesus. Guided by the light of a star, these wise men, who were outside of the covenant of Israel, sought the child and brought Him gifts signifying His Kingship, His Divinity, and His sacrifice. While we cannot celebrate Christmas every day, at least with the same intensity as the day itself, the season of Christmas reminds us that the light of Christ shines and lights our way towards Him. It reminds us that we are all called to follow Jesus, inviting those who have lost their way or wandered far from Him to return again and seek His light. And when we have a true encounter with the Lord, we are changed and we move forward, not returning the same way we came, but seeking the alternate route that keeps the presence of Jesus with us daily. 

It may seem a bit rushed to celebrate the magi’s visit to an infant one day and on the next day celebrate Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist when He was an adult, but we do need to remember that the liturgical year includes all of Jesus’ 33 years on earth. For many years I thought the Christmas season ended with the Epiphany, but a homily from one priest a number of years ago, urging the congregation to keep the Christmas decorations up until the Baptism of Jesus, corrected my understanding. Upon reflection, this is the perfect ending to the season and a great way to move into ordinary time. Jesus’ baptism reminds us of our own baptism, that we were made new by the waters, washed clean of our sins. It’s what marks us a Christians: those who follow the way of Jesus Christ. This remembrance of not only Jesus’ baptism but also our own gives us the path forward. It may seem like we’re returning to ordinary time, but in reality, we are continuing our journey of faith. We have come down from the mountain of celebrating Christmas and are now walking the path towards our next encounter with God. 

Most of our lives are spent in ordinary circumstances, and that’s okay. It helps make seasons like Christmas and Easter so special; they are like punctuation marks in the stories of our lives. They give us hope and help us keep our relationship with God strong. Ordinary time does not mean God isn’t with us, but rather it gives us the opportunity to seek Him, praise Him, and thank Him for all the ways He’s present to us on a daily basis. The celebratory seasons give us perspective of how to live a journey of faith in ordinary time; we take these shining moments as we move forward in and with the light of Christ. 

Twinkling lights

Christmas is here! It’s a wonder-filled scene to see all the twinkling lights: on the trees, on the houses, and decorating the churches. These small little lights play a big part in the celebration both visually as well as in meaning. 

Our modern age forgets what it’s like to live by the light of the sun. Since the dawn of man, most work was completed during daylight hours, which in the summer was plenty of time, yet in the winter,  the short amount of daylight limited what work could be completed. The ability to create and somewhat manage fire helped to extend the day, but firelight is not as illuminating as daylight, even on a cloudy day. Man adapted to a way of life lived by the sun during the day and the moon and stars at night. The passage of time could be identified by the phase of the moon and the constellations in the night sky. As man began to travel, these heavenly luminaries would guide his way consistently. 

A new twinkling light in the night’s sky was noticed, probably by most people, not just the three travelers, or magi, who visited Jesus. The difference is that they studied the meaning of this new light and found it to be the announcement of a royal birth. These men have been called wise men, and indeed, that is a title that suits them  and salutes the action they took upon learning what the rising star meant. They didn’t have to travel the distance to visit the baby, they could have sent an envoy. Or they could have just ignored it, since the baby was a foreigner to them, a person who would be of no consequence to them. But they opened themselves up to encounter God and they were changed because of it. 

All these tiny lights at Christmas remind us that we are to reflect the light of Jesus to others. We are like the thousands of little twinkling lights in the night sky in comparison to the main light of Christ. Our lights form spiritual constellations for others to find their way to Jesus. Our light is transformative, not because of who we are, but that we allow ourselves to be transformed by the Light of the world. Without the convenience of electric lights, the world in winter would be a very dark place. Christmas is the celebration of the light of little baby Jesus coming into the world to lead us out of the darkness of the winter night and into a world of hope, light, warmth, and love. May the spirit of Christmas inspire you to twinkle and share your light with those around you. 

Just like cookies

It’s the final days of Advent and the big rush to get ready for Christmas is on. In the middle of this rush, we need to take the time for God, He can enlighten us in the simplest of ways, as long as our hearts and minds are open to Him.

Baking and Christmas, for me, go hand-in-hand. I have had to cut down from the seven different kinds of cookies I make, since being a remote worker means I no longer have an office to distribute the goodies, but there’s still plenty that I make and give as gifts. I always challenge myself to try one new recipe each year and over the years the other varieties have changed from what I originally made. In my first apartment on my own, I made the same recipes my Mom did and that I liked. Now there are only two that are from my childhood. While I don’t remember which Christmas my Mom gave me her Mirro Cooky Press (no that’s not a typo, that’s actually how they spelled it), I have been making the spritz cookies each year ever since; that’s probably about half my lifetime. Over that timeframe I learned my one brother-in-law, who isn’t overly fond of cookies, actually liked them and would choose to eat them. Each year he gets a whole tin of spritz cookies from me. 

As I was pressing the cookies out, I became nostalgic thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve been making these cookies. While I have learned many lessons about being efficient in making them, the process is far from perfect. It seems the first few cookies just refuse to stick to the cookie sheet, requiring my intervention. Sometimes that means just a little coaxing to cut the dough from the press and the shape looks like what it’s supposed to be, a wreath. Others are very stubborn and I end up with little pieces that I do my best to reassemble. Some do come out nicely and cut well with a simple twist of the press. I noticed this year that even the nice ones needed a bit of “hands-on” from me — tapping down the pointed tips that are formed when the press is lifted up. “What a needy bunch I have this year, “ I thought, “always wanting a bit more love from their maker.” It was this thought that made me think of my Maker and what kind of cookie I am to Him? Am I the kind that He has to reassemble, or am I more like the ones that just need the rough edges smoothed out?

There are times, as I slide the cookie sheet into the oven, that I wonder how many nice cookies I’ll have, and will I have enough to package up in gifts? In terms of volume, there are plenty to give away, but one wants to give out the nice ones, not the misshapen ones. There is a bit of baking magic that happens in the oven, as only the most difficult ones are the oddballs of the batch. Yet, those oddballs taste every bit as good as their prettier neighbors. The gift packages may not win any baking consistency championships, but somehow with the red and green sugars sparkling on them, the majority of the spritz cookies convey my love and the spirit of Christmas. Isn’t that the true meaning of Christmas: the Love of God takes human form to restore our relationship with our Maker through the Holy Spirit? Won’t we one day sparkle and shine in heaven after our rough spots are smoothed out and our imperfections removed in purgatory?

The oddball of the first batch is my quality assurance tester. Again, I am amazed that a few simple ingredients can come together and make music in my mouth. I wonder if God feels similar whenever we choose to do His will and assist others in their needs?

I never realized how much we are like cookies: we are all beautiful in our own unique way and tasty too! We should never give up on the oddballs, since God doesn’t either. Lastly, we need to be open to God to allow Him to reveal Himself to us in all the little things we do. May you and yours celebrate Christmas with the love and sparkle of the Spirit!