Embracing Christ’s Suffering

Pope Francis spoke about the sacrifice of the cross, explaining how as followers of Christ we must embrace suffering, because it is through the suffering and death of Christ that his love is made known to us.

“Always, even today, the temptation is to follow a Christ without a cross, rather, to teach God the right path,” the Pope said. Like Peter we maybe say: “No, this will never happen.”

“But Jesus reminds us that his way is the way of love,” Francis said, and there is no true love without Christ’s self-sacrifice. We must embrace suffering, because as Christ told his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Christians cannot be absorbed by the world’s vision to live an easy life, but rather to go “against the current,” pointing out the challenge to self-centeredness found in Christ’s words, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my cause will find it.”

“In this paradox is contained the golden rule that God has inscribed into the human nature created in Christ: the rule that only love gives meaning and happiness to life,” Pope Francis said.

Spending our time, talents and our energy only to save and take care of ourselves actually leads to loss, to a “sad and sterile existence,” he explained. Whereas, if we live our lives for the Lord, set on fire with love, then our lives will be fruitful and we will have genuine joy.


Psalms for Lent Week One


PSALM 25

Lord, I come before you in prayer.
My God, I trust in you. Please do not let me be humiliated; do not let my enemies triumphantly rejoice over me!
Certainly, none who rely on you will be humiliated. Those who deal in treachery will be thwarted and humiliated.
Make me understand your ways, O LordTeach me your paths!
Guide me into your truth and teach me. For you are the God who delivers me; on you, I rely all day long.
Remember your compassionate and faithful deeds, O Lordfor you have always acted in this manner.
Do not hold against me the sins of my youth or my rebellious acts! Because you are faithful to me, extend to me your favor, O Lord!
The Lord is both kind and fair; that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live.
May he show the humble what is right! May he teach the humble his way!
The Lord always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant.
For the sake of your reputation, O Lordforgive my sin, because it is great.
The Lord shows his faithful followers the way they should live. (NET)

REFLECTION

The prayer begins with an entreaty that starts in a general way (vv. 1–3) and then becomes specific: the psalmist wants to be instructed by the Law of God, and to be forgiven (vv. 4–7). He then goes on to reflect on the way God does things, contemplating God’s goodness (vv. 8–10) and then (after a brief interruption to request forgiveness: v.11) describing the good things that the Lord does for those who fear him (vv. 12–15).

As well as petitioning for pardon and divine protection, this psalm pleads with the Lord to instruct the heart of man and help him follow the Lord’s ways. When making the same petition, the Christian relies on Jesus’ promise to send the Spirit of Truth from heaven who “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:2, 6; cf. 16:13) and asks the Father for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 

2017 Tops in Catholic Social Media

Recognizing bold and effective evangelization in the new public square

The Fisher’s Net Awards is a way to encourage and recognize churches, ministries, and apostolates who have drawn from the Church’s rich history of using art, design, and technology to reinvent the proclamation of the Gospel for a modern age in the new public square.


TOP BLOGS

Yes, blogging is still a thing. This category recognizes the best Catholic blogs and their bloggity blogging bloggers. Here are the 2017 picks.

Carrots for Michaelmas carrotsformichaelmas.com

Fr. Z’s Blog wdtprs.com/blog

Life Teen lifeteen.com/blog

One Peter Five onepeterfive.com

Our Franciscan Fiat ourfranciscanfiat.wordpress.com

Shameless Popery shamelesspopery.com

Simcha Fisher simchafisher.com

These Stone Walls thesestonewalls.com 


TOP WEBSITES

The internet continues to be the place where people of all walks of life gather to exchange pieces of their lives. We share ideas, pictures, stories, movies, and more there. It is truly the new public square and undoubtedly where the apostles would go to proclaim the Kingdom if they were commissioned today. Here are the best overall 2017 websites.

Church of the Resurrection corlansing.org

EpicPew epicpew.com

EXALT exaltplano.com

Impacting Culture impactingculture.com

Migrants + Refugees migrants-refugees.va

St. John XXIII Catholic Community stjohn23.org

Those Catholic Men thosecatholicmen.com

Word on Fire wordonfire.org 


 

TOP PODCAST

With technology what it is today, anyone can have a ‘radio’ show. If you’ve got interesting things to say or interesting people to ask, this is an amazing way to share your Catholic identity with the world in a time when it’s desperately needed. Here are the 2017 picks.

Catholic Stuff You Should Know catholicstuffpodcast.com

How-to Catholic madetomagnify.com/category/podcast

The Art of Catholic matthewsleonard.com

Catholic Hipster catholicdrinkie.com/hipstercast

Catching Foxes catchingfoxes.fm

Coffee & Pearls sterlingjaquith.com/coffee-and-pearls

The Liturgy Guys liturgicalinstitute.org/the-liturgy-guys

Pints with Aquinas mattfradd.com/pints-with-aquinas

 

His Gift and Our Gift

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

In this wonderful season of hope that is fulfilled through the incarnation of God in his Son Jesus, the “Word becoming Flesh”, we joyfully receive the gift that is above all other possible gifts. Yet, in this time of celebration, many broken souls and relationships are trapped in a season of despair and a lack of hope.

As people of faith, what is our task in this world as it relates to reconciling one another? There are so many divisions that exist in this world. Noted priest, author and professor Henri Nouwen, asks us to consider what we intend to give as our gift at a time when we are receiving God’s gift of Jesus. “All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God. The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible. Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life.”

I would suggest we reflect on Henri’s words, and hopefully find that path of reconciliation with those we have hurt, or possibly accompanying others in finding the healing of reconciliation in this season of hope, joy, and peace. In Jesus, God and God’s love “hits the streets.” In this broken world, where can we bring God’s love and reconciliation as our gift?

Reflecting Reflections – Day Eight

Richard Rohr

Over and over, Jesus lays this path before us. There is nothing to be renounced or resisted. Everything can be embraced, but the catch is to cling to nothing. You let it go. You go through life like a knife goes through a done cake, picking up nothing, clinging to nothing, sticking to nothing.  And . . . you can then throw yourself out, pour yourself out, being able to give it all back, even giving back life itself. That’s the kenotic path in a nutshell. Very, very simple. It only costs everything.

Living Faith

We have seen incredible things today. Luke 5:26

We are rightly amazed when we read or see a miracle occur. Yet far too often, we characterize that action as being something others can do, certainly nothing we could never do, because, after all, it’s Jesus doing that. But we are called to be Jesus. We are called to be his love. Wouldn’t a kind word or action to someone who desperately needs some affirmation of their worthiness in life be something incredible or miraculous to them?

Henri Nouwen

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.  Isaiah 11:6

Jesus the Christ came to realize that vision. The final vision is that not only will all men and women recognize that they are brothers and sisters called to live in unity, but all members of God’s creation will come together in complete harmony. How can you keep the vision of the peaceable kingdom and God’s beloved community alive in your sphere of influence?

Magnificat

Your sins are forgiven. Luke 5:20

Sin is many things but most importantly it is separation from God. It is a willful movement away from him. And what does God do about this action on our part? He hastens to have us return. He unceasingly calls us back to communion with him through repentance, that opposite path of distancing. Stop running from him – stop – for he seeks to embrace you in his love.

The Word Among Us

Here is your God . . . he comes to save you. Isaiah 35:4

God is unconditionally devoted to us and continues to pursue us even when we continue to mess up and distance ourselves from him.  He never abandons us even though that is often our thought. He seeks us and desires us. But that doesn’t always mean he will solve the very thing that we are trapped in that keeps us from being open to him. We need to stop and listen for him.  

Give Us This Day

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. . . . I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
– Thomas Merton

 

Reflecting Reflections – Day Seven

Living Faith

And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” Mark 1:7

Transparency for Jesus. John the Baptist was this wonderfully pure and focused messenger of preparing for salvation. History is replete with disciples of Christ who have helped us deepen our understanding and relationship with the Jesus by what they said and how they lived. Who has done that for you? How have you done that for others?

Henri Nouwen

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.  Isaiah 11:6

Jesus the Christ came to realize that vision. The final vision is that not only will all men and women recognize that they are brothers and sisters called to live in unity, but all members of God’s creation will come together in complete harmony. How can you keep the vision of the peaceable kingdom and God’s beloved community alive in your sphere of influence?

Magnificat

A voice cries out In the desert, prepare the way of the LORD!. Isaiah 40:3

The primary condition for a fruitful and rewarding Advent is abandonment and surrender. We must let go of all our mistaken dreams, our conceited poses and arrogant gestures – all the pretenses with which we deceive ourselves and others with. Have you looked in the mirror of your life yet? What is your life preparing for?

The Word Among Us

I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Mark 1:8

The Holy Spirit has many purposes. He reveals God’s love to us. He helps us understand Scripture. He teaches us how to live as brothers and sisters. He holds the Church together and moves us to work for the kingdom of God. And so much more! How is the Holy Spirit working in your life?   

Give Us This Day

I am not worthy. Mark 1:7

Worthiness. So many of us are challenged to see ourselves as worthy. John, the great messenger for the coming of the savior, Jesus, explains the inexpressible gift that was coming to all humankind – Christ’s gift of himself. While none is worthy of this wholly unmerited gift, it should, however, be the most precious gift that we seek in our lives. How do you value the gift of Jesus Christ in your life?

Richard Rohr

Kenosis, or self-emptying, is revealed in the Trinity. The Cappadocian Fathers of the fourth century saw that God the Father, who is Love, completely empties God’s self into the Son; the Son empties into the Spirit; and the Spirit empties into the Father. Incarnation flows from this kenosis that is inherent to God’s nature. Jesus’ entire life demonstrates how God loves unconditionally and selflessly.

Jesus had only one “operational mode.” In whatever life circumstance, Jesus always responded with the same motion of self-emptying—or to put it another way, of the same motion of descent: going lower, taking the lower place, not the higher. We as Christians, need to get back to the foundations and the One we follow, Jesus Christ, through a practice of self-emptying and incarnation. These are both key to a deeper connection with our faith.

Reflecting Reflections – Day Six

Living Faith

Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.’ Isaiah 30:20-21

We are challenged to always follow the Lord’s way, especially in times of difficulty. In these times, when the wind is fiercely in our face, we struggle and battle to get through it on our own. But the Lord is telling us to lean into him by simply turning our back to the wind, and feeling him behind us, pushing us along, ever so gently.

Henri Nouwen

It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to the end.  Deuteronomy 11: 12 (NIV)

Both Henri and Pope Francis speak eloquently of how we are brothers and sisters with all of creation. How do you care for and reflect the beauty and majesty of God’s creation?

Magnificat

At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity. Matthew 9:36

God bends down to care for the lowly. He sees and cares for all of us. He seeks to transform us in and through his love. In this way, he became human and came to us, in love, as a child in need of love. Who are you reaching out and loving today?

The Word Among Us

Go to the lost sheep. Matthew 10:6

How many are lost in this world? What are they searching for? Where can they find true happiness? These real questions are surrounding so many in this world. Today’s reading is asking us to both tell our story of our joy and happiness, and to also be that example of Christ love to others.  

Give Us This Day

The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few. Matthew 10:37

Jesus is not only calling the disciples, he is calling us! To do God’s work, we must be open to being guided and nourished by the Spirit of God.

In a world that is despairing, in a world where violence and hatred have reared their ugly heads, what work are we called to do so that the love of God reigns? What preparation do we need to bring healing to a sin-sick world? Through prayer and being open to the Spirit, we are being prepared for the work of making a better world.

Richard Rohr

Love is the outflowing way that we must relate to God and to everything [because everything flows from God] and the outflowing way we must relate to each individual person.

Practicing Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence expands our realm of conscious freedom to choose love. God cannot and will not give us any gift that we do not want and freely choose—usually again and again.

Reflecting Reflections – Day Two

Henri Nouwen

“Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit” Luke 23:46

Letting go of someone we love can be incredibly painful. How do remain faithful to His will and yet understand at a certain point it’s time to let go and let God? We will be faced in life with one of the toughest decision ever, to say: “Do not be afraid … I love you, God loves you … it’s time for you to go in peace. … I won’t cling to you any longer … I set you free to go home … go gently, go with my love.” Saying this from our heart is a true gift. It is the greatest gift love can give. But it’s hard, really hard, It’s only through the strength I receive from Him that I have the courage to be this messenger.

Living Faith

“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” Isaiah 11:1

The imagery suggests the need for a new beginning, to spring from the very origin from which David and his dynasty arose. That beginning is found in the birth of the Jesus. He is the hope we have been waiting for. Is there something in your life that seems dried up? Think again! Look at all of the enemies of your hope and then rejoice in the life that is to come.

Magnificat

“Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” Luke 10:21

The transformative nature of coming to Christ is a wonderful picture of how we obtain that childlike nature. The cruelly voracious individual is made meek, the angry man into gentleness, the fierce into mildness, the proud is now humble, and the annoyed is now pleased. Help me Lord to incline myself towards you today that I might be all that is good and gracious in the childlike.

The Word Among Us

“The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.” Isaiah 11:2

This reading brings back the words of Confirmation and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I am particularity drawn to the gift of Fortitude or Courage. The dictionary defines courage as the ability to confront fear in the face of pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. Christians identify courage as the virtue of fortitude, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church says “enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions.”

When Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke out for the poor of El Salvador, he knew he was putting his own life in danger, and he was strengthened by the courage that is a gift of the Holy Spirit. What are we challenged with in our lives? How can we call upon the gift of courage to strengthen our faith in stepping out to serve the least, the lost, and the forgotten?

Give Us This Day

“The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them” Isaiah 11:6

As Pablo Picasso wisely remarked late in his life, “It takes a long time to become young.” As I recently witnessed the first steps of our first grandchild, I was amazed at the wonderment that filled my heart as I watched his joyful bounding in the garden. Three days into the season of Advent and our readings remind us of the need to recall our child nature. To once again be led by an unflinching and unwavering trust in the Lord. Let us, with childlike wonder, embrace the unconditional love of God.

Richard Rohr

“Putting on the mind of Christ” . . . [is] what we are actually supposed to be doing on this path: not just admiring Jesus, but acquiring his consciousness. Cynthia Bourgeault

When we seek what is truest in our own tradition, we discover we are one with those who seek what is truest in their tradition. There is a point of convergence where we meet each other and we recognize each other as seekers of awakening.

In Scripture St. Paul writes, “May the mind that is in Christ Jesus also be in you” (Phil 2:5). This is the truest depth of our Christian tradition, what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus. We are called to recognize, surrender to, and ultimately be identified with the mystery of God utterly beyond all concepts, all words, and all designations. This is our destiny.

Strengthened in Stillness

Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:11)

In the noise and distractions of everyday life, we can find it difficult and uncomfortable to be in silence. Fr. Ron Rolheiser notes “Achieving stillness seems beyond us and this leaves us with a certain dilemma, we need stillness to find God, but we need God’s help to find stillness.”

The disordered world continues to challenge faith. We seem to either see God as distant in chaos or in chaos choose to distance ourselves from him. When we find ourselves feeling distant from him, it is at this moment we should find a place where we can be still in silence.

Fr. Rolheiser tell us that silence creates the space for itself. “Sometimes when we feel powerless to speak words that are meaningful, when we have to back off into unknowing and helplessness, but remain in the situation, silence creates the space that’s needed for a deeper happening to occur.”

In that moment of stillness, I have found comfort in reflecting on the words of this prayer:  “Lord, still my heart so that I may know that you are God, that I may know that you create and sustain my every breath, that you breathe the whole universe into existence every second, that everyone, myself no less than everyone else, is your beloved, that you want our lives to flourish, that you desire our happiness, that nothing falls outside your love and care, and that everything and everybody is safe in your gentle, caring hands, in this world and the next.

Friendship

Henri Nouwen said that “Friendship is one of the greatest gifts a human being can receive. It is a bond beyond common goals, common interests, or common histories. It is a bond stronger than sexual union can create, deeper than a shared fate can solidify, and even more intimate than the bonds of community. Friendship is being with the other in joy and sorrow, even when we cannot increase the joy or decrease the sorrow. It is a unity of souls that gives nobility and sincerity to love. Friendship makes all of life shine brightly. Blessed are those who lay down their lives for their friends.”

A dear friend just found out they are very sick. While this sickness has a hopeful path to recovery, it is still a great concern to me. Through a mutual love and service to the church, we have come to appreciate and care for each other. Through God’s grace and healing touch, I will look forward to visiting the house where we worked together, to once more shake the walls with our laughter. It was in this house that our friendship began.