Thursday, April 23, 2009

His Mercy Endures Forever

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. --Matthew 5:7

Some people have a passionate devotion to Our Lady and the rosary. For whatever reason, I'm not one of those people, and really never have been. Even some of the great saints admitted they had no love for the rosary. For me, my devotion is the Divine Mercy. The whole Church celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday this past weekend, so in a way, it was like getting a second feast day. There's an indulgence attached to it, too--not too shabby!

There is something so attractive to me about mercy--can you blame me? ;) The most incredible thing about embracing Catholicism is the constant, tangible graces and forgiveness we encounter in the Sacraments. We don't deserve a bit of it, yet God continues to pour it out on us anyway.

Mercy and hope are so central to the way I live my life--it's too short to waste on pessimism and worry. It's for this reason that the Divine Mercy is such a good fit for me; on days when things aren't going so well, or the future is uncertain, I can turn to the devotion and petition Him for mercy, trust, and strength. It never fails to give me the grace I need to handle my struggles, at least for that particular moment.

More than that, though, it helps me to be the sort of person the Lord asks me to be. There is more to the Divine Mercy than gaining it for ourselves, our reflecting on the triumph of the Cross. Each time we pray the chaplet, we remind ourselves not only that He is infinitely merciful, but that we are to be infinitely merciful. He trusted the Father, and we should trust the Father. He loved all sinners, and we should love all sinners. It is a call to forgiveness, to peace, and to charity.

Over the Lenten season, one of my additions was praying the chaplet at least three times weekly, mostly when I was home to sing it. Over the course of that period, I found myself given pause before saying something against charity. I forgave even when I would have rather held a grudge.

When you approach the Divine Mercy as more than just a bunch of prayers or slogans on rosary beads, when you embody it as a life philosophy, it changes you both mentally and spiritually. It sanctifies you, and makes you more like Christ. In my opinion, anything that can achieve those results is worth considering.

Jesus, I trust in You!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lord, I believe!

This past weekend at the Easter Vigil, my pastor gave the usual Easter homily with all of the right things--Christ being triumphant over death, our eternal life resting in the truth of His resurrection, and the mourning of Lent that so obviously turns to joy with the ringing of the Gloria bells.

Then, something he said caught my attention:
"A lot of people seem to believe that those who have faith also have these ideal, perfect lives, never experience sorrow, and always live with incredible joy that their
salvation brings."
I chuckled at this. Before I was saved, I knew a great deal of people who forced themselves into a facade of Christian perfection and happiness, even in the worst of times. Unfortunately, it didn't send the right message to me at the time--I wrongly assumed that I, too, needed to radiate such perpetual joy to represent my newfound faith. This assumption was extremely destructive to my spiritual life, and was only discovered and corrected a few months ago. (Thank God for Confession--if I hadn't admitted my feelings of inadequacy, my confessor would have never realized how misled I was. I'm so glad we caught it when we did.)

My interest piqued, he started to take an unexpected turn in his homily that, to my surprise, addressed one of my deepest issues with being a Christian:
"That is not faith. I can't speak for you, but my faith has never been perfect and unwavering. Faith is not perfect belief. Faith is saying 'Lord, I have no idea where my life is going, and I'm insecure, but I believe you have this under control.' It's saying 'Lord, a lot is going wrong in the world, but I trust you are taking care of us.' It's saying 'Lord, I struggle, but I still believe you will keep your promises.' Real faith doesn't have to be perfect, just heartfelt."
And this is the truth, despite what we might see from others. God is there all the time, not just in our good moments. In fact, those valley experiences are when He desires to draw even closer to us! He came for the sick, not for the healthy, remember. It's for that, perhaps, that I'm most grateful.

Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!

Hope springs eternal!

One of my favorite quotes for this season is from Pope John Paul the Great (Soon to be a saint, I bet!). It's so relevant for the turbulent situation we're not only facing here in America, but globally. Plus, it's about hope, which earns my admiration by default. :)

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are an Easter people, and hallelujah is our song!

This is so true. Easter isn't something that lasts for a day, an octave, or even a season. It is something that we relive every day, both in the Mass and in our lives. As long as Christ is risen--and He is, now and forever--that Easter joy should never fade. Even when we don't always perceive it, it's with us. As Papa Benedetto said in this year's Urbi et Orbi message, death does not have the final say. This is good news, indeed!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Watching the installation Mass of Abp. Timothy Dolan to New York. All I can say is that, with no disrespect meant to my own Bishop, I wish I were living in his archdiocese. What an awesome shepherd!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Christ is risen!

He is risen! Alleluia!!!

Vigil was lovely, Easter was great...but I am exhausted. I'll try to blog tomorrow. :)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Had He Not Come

He didn't have to die. Angels could have come to His aid. He really could have freed Himself, if He really wanted to.

But no. That was not the will of His Father.

That, perhaps, is the most painful realization of all: being truly God, Jesus could have gotten Himself out of the torture He was subjected to by His Roman captors. But He did it anyway, choosing willingly to undergo some of the greatest pain of this world for our sake. That's how much He loves us.

I'll keep this short today. In all honesty, Easter joy is already starting to settle in my bones. Papa Benedetto used this quote last night in the Way of the Cross in Rome that says what I wish I could, only with much more eloquence:

"You would still be in a state of wretchedness, had He not shown you mercy. You would not have returned to life, had He not shared your death. You would have passed away had He not come to your aid. You would be lost, had He not come."
--St. Augustine

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
How shall I make a return to the Lord
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the Lord.
--1 Cor 10:16 and Psalm 116:12-13

Today, as I walked to the parking lot at the end of my last class for the evening, the sun was setting. It was just meeting the horizon, taking on the blood red hue that appears in the last minutes before it passes out of sight.

The irony in the symbolism of the moment was enough to make me snicker a little.

We made it; after all the waiting we've done, the Easter Triduum is upon us. It seemed to arrive more quickly this year, at least for me. Perhaps my anticipation made Lent seem less difficult than it's been in years past.

Tonight, the readings hearken back to what are, for me, two of the most astounding scenes in Jesus' ministry: the washing of the discples' feet, and of course, the Last Supper.

What makes these events so special is paradoxical because they are so ordinary and normal. This is the Son of God that kneels before his sinful, prideful, foolish friends to wash the dirt from their feet. If anything, they probably should have been washing His, but even if they had offered, He likely would have refused. He was not only our Lord, but our Servant as well, just as our faith asks us to be--servants to our brothers through our common humanity. That in itself is an incredible mystery, one that I must admit baffles me. Christ was God Incarnate in every sense, yet...fully man. Just like us. Such a simple act of service, humility and compassion only underscores that point.

Then, of course, there was the Last Supper, when Jesus sat at table with these same sinners and gave them not only bread and wine to share, but the incredible gift of Himself. For the first time, He presented them with His Body and Blood--again, freely given, with nothing asked of Him. All He asked of them, and us, was to remember Him in partaking of that same meal. The only difference is that now that He is gone from us in the flesh, the meal we share in the Mass, while still humble, exalts Him. Unlike the Last Supper, we now know without question what it is receive.

"This is My Body," He tells us. Who are we to deny that truth, the reality of His Presence in those gifts? Who are we to question His words, both spoken then and revealed as written by St. John, just as Christ repeated the truth so insistently? Furthermore, He says, "If you do not eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you." Jesus didn't joke about things that grave.

So tonight we lift Him up for adoration one last time, before the table is cleared and stripped bare, and our hymns, like the ones sung that night by Jesus and the Twelve, fall silent.

In a mystical way, the Mass transcends time. We're not just reenacting this. We're there. And now we follow Him to Calvary.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Peter's Tears

My apologies, first and foremost, for not writing this post sooner. I know that you all don't mind, but I like to have something up on holy days. The end of the semester is coming like a bullet train and I've been unfortunately tied down. I do hope to be blogging throughout the Triduum, though.

Passion Sunday (or to many, Palm Sunday) is in my top three favorite Masses in the liturgical year, behind only Christmas Mass at Midnight and the Easter Vigil. That might seem a little morbid, if you stop to consider how gruesomely vivid the Gospel of the Passion is, but I think that's what draws me. Through Ordinary Time, the truth of our salvation is always present--indeed, it never goes away--but Lent brings it to the forefront, with the first major climax occuring at the Passion Sunday liturgy. Suddenly, we find ourselves back in Jerusalem, waving palms and crying "Hosanna!" to our coming Lord. Then, all too soon, we cry for His Blood, and find ourselves kneeling at the foot of the cross.

This year, I found myself struck particularly by the role Peter played in the Passion. "Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times," Jesus told him. Peter swore to our Lord that he would never betray Him, and never deny Him, yet he did. When faced with pressure and a threat to his safety, the great saint not only denied our Lord three times, but grew enraged and swore at the crowd that was persecuting him. It was only after the cock crowed that he realized just what he had done, and when he did, he wept bitterly.

I wept, too. It seems that I often promise Him so much, yet curse Him again and again with my broken promises and sin. I tell Him that I never want to be separated from him, and I mean it, with a sincere heart! Sooner or later, though, I am always the one breaking that bond of love and grace. It is more than enough to make me feel like a hypocrite and a failure, even in the best of times.

The good news is I've found so much comfort in this "thorn in my flesh," as Paul says in 2 Corinthians.

1) Look at what Jesus did to Simon Peter! Jesus, being fully God as well as fully man, knew without question that Peter would deny Him. Yet before that day, Jesus gave him a new name to replace his given one: Kephas, the rock. In Matthew 16:18, He said to the Apostle, "You are Peter [Kephas], and upon this rock I shall build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it." If he could give a terrible sinner such a critical honor and responsibility, than certainly He forgives me for all I've done. Certainly, He can use me, too, for His glory.

2) Jesus still went to the Cross. He didn't have to do it for Peter, for Judas who betrayed Him, and certainly not for the countless others that would never know Him in the flesh. Still, he went and did it anyway, just because He loved them that much. And, even though I don't deserve it, He loves me that much.

There is hope for me--grace often takes time to change the heart, and I've already grown so much in the past two years. There was a time in myself where the only person that mattered was myself. I am learning now that I am the person that matters least. I'm still not quite sure how to apply that to my life, but faith, I've found, is a learning process.

His Mercy turns lives upside down. I hope one of those lives is yours.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Biblical Humor

Something to lighten up the undoubtedly heavy things to come this Holy Week:

My old student Bible I got from my Confirmation in 2003 pointed out to me this passage from Acts that really made me laugh!
On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread, Paul spoke to them because he was going to leave on the next day, and he kept on speaking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were gathered, and a young man named Eutychus who was sitting on the window sill was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. Once overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and when he was picked up, he was dead. (Acts 20:7-9)
It's really not supposed to be funny, but as my friend Catherine put it, "Maybe that's why homilies should never be more than fifteen minutes long!" That's almost as bad as the random man running naked in yesterday's Gospel...;)

Worry is wasteful...

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we're all okay,
And not to worry because worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these...
--Jewel, "Hands"

Last night it hit me that I'm standing on adulthood's doorstep. I'm not sure if it appeals to me or not. Most of the time it fills me with an equal mix of exhilaration and insecurity. In six weeks, I'll be graduating with my Associate's Degree in Journalism, and in September, I'll be moving away from home for the first time to finish up my Bachelor's, and only after spending some well-deserved time with my other half.

For right now, my studies are my top priority, so in a sense I guess one could say I'm lucky. I don't have a job to worry about losing, a family to worry about providing for, or a roof that I need to ensure stays over my head. Meanwhile, I look at some of my dear friends--most of them older than I am--and see that struggle. The stress of this economy is so much more real to me now that I'm aware of people who are affected by it personally.

What hit me last night was that while I may be temporarily sheltered in the safety of academia, that's not going to last. I need to start looking at my future and, indeed, what's starting to become our future. Again, that notion makes me giddy, but also terrifies me. In a way that's so typically female, I found myself flooded with three dozen different "What if?" flavored questions, the vast majority of them left painfully unanswered. Ironically, I thought then, Maybe this is what people mean when they say you just have to trust God.

Thirty seconds later, I found this quote on a stranger's blog. I don't know about you, but God winks usually don't come any better than this:

"Have no fear for what tomorrow may bring. The same loving God who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. God will either shield you from suffering or give you strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations".
-- St. Francis de Sales