A Gift from Mary

This meditation occurred to me while praying the Rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament on Saturday, May 23, 2015. I immediately scribbled down in my journal all that I could remember from the experience. The writing is short, informal, and plain, but it was a moment of profound prayer as Mary, Our Mother, communicated an intimate message to me about my life and my vocation. The symbolism in it is rich and holds such deep meaning for me, but I will allow you the freedom to prayerfully ponder it for yourself without my commentary. Perhaps Our Mother can speak to you through it as well.

The third Joyful Mystery, the Nativity of Jesus.

As I open my eyes, I look up and see Mary standing in the cave, holding Jesus so joyfully in her arms, looking at him with a mother’s love. I can’t help but smile along with her while she gazes on our infant Lord.

I am on my knees before them, feeling unworthy and baggage-laden, but full of love for them both. In my hands I hold a heavy sack. Suddenly, Mary turns her head and looks me in the eyes with the same loving gaze she has for Jesus. She stretches out her hand, smiling, asking me to give her my heavy burden in exchange for Jesus. I hand her my heavy sack, and she gently places baby Jesus in my arms.

I gaze into my Savior’s eyes, which lock onto mine as he smiles a baby’s smile. These tiny eyes look into the depths of my soul. He knows everything about me. He sees every scar and open wound. He also sees my great love and longing for him. Still he smiles.

While I was lost in the gaze of baby Jesus, Mary opened my sack, shook it out, and turned it into a radiant chasuble for a priest. While still holding baby Jesus, I glance up to her as she covers me in the vestment—a gift from her to me—a priest for all eternity.

Responding to God’s Call: Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Today we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, who is a remarkable example to us of what it looks like to lay down one’s life out of love for God and one another. Maximilian Kolbe was a Franciscan missionary priest who founded the Militia Immaculata, a movement that encourages total consecration to the Blessed Mother, and he died in the Nazi concentration camp in Auchwitz, where he offered up his life in place of another prisoner.

This amazing act of self-sacrifice is a reminder to all of us that there is a higher purpose to our lives than simply seeking to fulfill our own desires and securing a comfortable future. In the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours today, Saint Maximilian Kolbe writes about God’s plan to use us as His instruments, and the freedom that comes from obedience to His will. He says, “It is he who, declaring his adorable will to us through his representatives on earth, draws us to himself and whose plan is to draw others to himself through us and to join us all to himself in an ever deepening love. […] Obedience raises us beyond the limits of our littleness and puts us in harmony with God’s will.”

Our society today balks at this kind of obedience, this surrender to God. Our society preaches that freedom comes from following our own desires and placing ourselves at the center of our own worlds. We know, however, that true freedom comes not in doing what we want, but in doing what we ought out of love. I think one of the most difficult things for us is surrendering not to God’s will in the general, abstract form, but surrendering to God’s imagination of how He desires to use us as His instruments in this world. One of the deepest desires of the human heart is to be useful, to have purpose, to be used by God in a meaningful way. Our place of surrender, of obedience, is in allowing God to work in our lives and to use us in ways that we don’t always expect or want at first. I’m sure that being a prisoner in Auchswitz and giving up his life in the way he did was not what Saint Maximilian Kolbe had planned for his vocation. I doubt he realized at the time how great of an impact that act of love, that act of active acceptance of God’s invitation, would have on the world for generations to come.

So too does God desire to use you and me in ways only His imagination knows. In today’s First Reading from the Book of Joshua, God reminds the Israelites of how He has faithfully taken care of all their needs as they follow after Him, just as He takes care of ours when we follow Him in our own lives. Where will our eyes be set when He invites us, each day, to lay down our lives out of love, so that He can work through us to touch the lives of others? Will we be focused on ourselves and securing our own daily comfort, or will we be ready and open to respond to His call? Pope Emeritus Benedict said that, “The world will offer you comfort. But you were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness!” Let’s follow after Christ, follow after Saint Maximilian Kolbe, in living lives of greatness through surrender to the unconventional and even surprising ways, big and small, that Our Lord will invite us to love. Only in this way can we experience true freedom, peace, and joy. In the words of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, “Let us love our loving Father with all our hearts. Let our obedience increase that love, above all when it requires us to surrender our own will. Jesus Christ crucified is our sublime guide toward growth in God’s love.”

In being crucified to our own will with Christ, we too will rise with Him in the joy of the Resurrection.

True Freedom in Christ

This reflection was given at an adoration and benediction service on August 12, 2015.

Brothers and sisters: That I, Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.  Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.  Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” –2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Click here to listen: True Freedom in Christ

What’s Your Golden Calf?

“When the people saw that Moses was delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for that man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.'” -Ex. 32:1

When God seemed far away from the Israelites in the desert, they grew impatient and rebellious. Instead of waiting with faith on their one true God, they turned to a man-made god that they could see and control on their own–a golden calf. They worshipped this idol instead of the God who gave them life and led them out of slavery, but who they couldn’t control. It’s easy for us today to scoff at the kind of idolatry the Israelites took part in. But don’t we do this in our own lives? We all have things we turn to instead of God when it feels that He is distant or not active enough. What is the “golden calf” that we trust and worship more than Our Lord? Is it our own ability and self-determination? Is it money, other material things, or other people? Let’s be courageous in giving God permission to crush all the golden calves in our lives, and humbly ask that He never cease drawing our hearts back to Himself–the only One worthy of our worship. +

Are We Listening?

“The disciples approached him and said, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?'” -Mt. 13:10

Jesus speaks to us in many different, often unexpected ways. During His time on earth, one way He did so was through parables–stories about everyday things which the people were familiar with. We often think that God will speak to us in grandiose, powerful ways that will be loud and obvious. (At least, we wish He would.) But He speaks to us through the situations, people, and experiences of our everyday lives. Are we attentive to Him in these things? Do we recognize His still, small voice as we go through our days? Let’s always be open to however God wants to teach us, speak to us, and direct our paths. Lord, give us eyes of faith, attentive ears, and open hearts to recognize and respond to Your presence every day. +

Let God Fight for You

“But Moses answered the people, ‘Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today… The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.'” -Exodus 14:13-14

I don’t know about you, but I’m always trying to fight my own battles and claim my own victories, even in the spiritual life. Much like the Israelites in the Old Testament, I have my own ideas of how I think things should be and how they should play out. When faced with a seemingly insurmountable “Red Sea” in front of me and “angry Egyptians” behind me (whatever they happen to be that day), I panic and worry. “How is this going to end well, God?” But where is my faith in these moments? We have a God who not only cares about us, but who fights for us! We have to get better about letting Him. We don’t have as much control over our battles as we think anyway, whether they’re personal, spiritual, physical, or otherwise. God will call us to walk straight into the Red Seas of our lives everyday. We have to trust that as we do walk forward in humble faith, He WILL raise the waters and guide us through by HIS grace, not by our own ability. Oh, but letting go of control is so hard for us (ME)! Let’s make it our prayer today to consciously surrender the outcomes of our “battles” to Our Lord, who alone has the power to see them through. Pray with me: “Lord, I can’t see what’s on the other side of all this, but I surrender it to You. I want control, but Jesus, I want Your peace more. I give to You everything weighing on my heart right now. I give You control over every part of my life, and I let go of my desired outcomes. With Your help, I will keep walking forward, no matter how loud the voices behind me or how high the waters before me. I will hold my heart still in Your presence. I do not need to fear, because I’ve placed it in Your hands. Please remind me everyday that You are with me always. Amen.”

Now, let’s let it go, and crack a smile! 🙂 Peace. +

Hope in His Name

“And in his name the Gentiles will hope.” -Mt. 12:21

Even just the Name of Jesus contains such power and hope, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Ph. 2:10). The devil and all his demons scatter at the sound of His Name spoken with faith. Our hope is in His powerful name that dispels all darkness within each of us and within our world. In our times of difficulty, sadness, anxiety, and suffering, let us repeat the name of Jesus in our hearts and on our lips as a reminder that He has conquered all in this world, and that nothing can take away the hope we have in Him. Jesus… Jesus… we hope in You. +

Who is Your LORD?

“I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.” -Mt. 12:6-8

Jesus made it clear that HE is in charge–not us. We are usually better at accepting Jesus as our Savior than accepting Him as our Lord. The dictionary definition of “Lord” is: “a ruler by hereditary right or preeminence to whom service and obedience are due.” As Christians, we must have Jesus as the Lord of our lives. This means that whenever our beliefs, preferences, opinions, and personal dogmas conflict with those of Jesus, we must surrender them to Him. If we haven’t made Him Lord of everything, we haven’t made Him Lord of anything. Let’s examine our lives and find those areas that we still need to surrender to Him. Jesus, grant us the grace to make You our ALL, so that no place in our hearts will be untouched by Your presence. +

Here is Your Rest; Don’t Delay

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” -Mt. 11:28-30

Sometimes we think that God asks a lot of us: follow these commandments, do and don’t do these things, forgive one another, be with Me in prayer, come to church on Sunday, etc… Burdened by the weights of this world, we feel we have no time or energy left for the “tasks” of our faith. But the reality is that what Our Lord asks of us is meant to free us and feed us, to protect us and strengthen us in Him so that we can face the challenges of our daily lives. While the burdens of this world are heavy and draining, those of Our God are light and life-giving. We ask God, “where are you in my life?” but we keep away from Him. Don’t delay any longer. Come to Him. Don’t let the burdens of your life keep you away. He wants to lift you up and give you rest. +

What Will It Take?

“Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.” -Mt. 11:20-21

You and I ask God for many things everyday, which is good. It is good to come to Our Lord with our needs and petitions. Too often, however, we expect God to act as our genie in granting all we ask, when we ask it, and how we want it. The truth is that God is constantly at work in our lives, doing “mighty deeds,” but not always in the ways we ask or expect, or on our timelines. Our faith and trust in Him must not depend on whether or not we feel He’s answered our prayers on any given day. With humility, let us always remember how far and above God’s ways are beyond our human ones, and let us trust in Him because of the faithful love He has shown us through His Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus, we believe and we trust in You. +