Tag Archives: Jesus

Betrayal

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John 13:30 So he (Judas) took the morsel and left at once.  And it was night.

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Judas, one of the original twelve, Jesus right hand man and treasurer.  So many of us know him as the one who betrayed Christ.  Yes, Judas was the betrayer.  Yet through his story, we are challenged to look at our own “judases” in perhaps a new, softer light.

Who among us has not felt betrayed?  Have we not all seen betrayal doled out to others in our lifetime. In my own family, we had a betrayer.  A supposed man of God, baptized and baptizer, treasurer of his church, well respected in every circle he ingratiated himself into.  Yet this man was a man of horrible choices and severe personality disorder who raped and pillaged the women in his midst. Who even in his dying breath was violent in that he killed his wife in cold blood because she suffered Alzheimer’s and then shot himself, rather than asking for the respite he most definitely needed.  Like Judas, a man, who through the many choices in his life up to his last breath chose the darkness over the Light.

In my Bible study today, I was reminded of this man from my past as we talked about Jesus, washing feet, eating one last meal with loved ones, and of course Judas and betrayal.  It is Passover, and Jesus knew that His hour had finally arrived. (John 13:1)  He had humbled Himself to become man to teach us a new way to be.  He had performed signs and taught of love and forgiveness. We find him in the upper room, ready to share what He must surely know is His Last Supper with these twelve imperfect humans whom He has tried over the previous three years to teach and strengthen and love. Judas is there among The Twelve, with his life of poor choices, self interests, and frustration at not being able to make The Son of God adhere to his whims.  Had Judas not recently complained when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, had anointed Jesus feet out of her love for Him and her foreboding of the changing attitudes that would only mean death for her Teacher?  Judas, who is about to make a very horrific choice, is to become the betrayer of Emmanuel, God Among Us (His creation).

So it is time for a Passover meal and The Twelve are at the table, reclining, dirty feet and all on the cushions set at table, waiting to be served.  Jesus, who in coming to us as a simple man and having disrobed His Glory when arriving here as a mere Babe to a poor carpenter’s family, arises to humbly serve His Twelve, in love and respect He takes on the humble service normally provided by the lowest of servants.  He disrobes and pours the water in a basin, much like He will soon pour out His Blood for the forgiveness of our transgressions.  Ever so tenderly, He takes each precious foot and begins to wash it and then dry it with the towel around His waist.  No one is left out of this washing.  Not Peter with his protesting nor Judas with his betraying nor those who most likely sat there in awe wondering if they were His favorite.

Has anyone ever washed your feet?  I’m not talking the pedicure you just received from the local salon so your sandals look pretty in summer.  I am speaking of whether someone you respect as a good man has taken your feet into their hands and washed and dried them with a cloth around their waist.  I have had this happen twice while participating in our church’s Christ Renews His Parish retreat.  The last service at this retreat is when our priest washes each participants feet.  When Father Paul washed my feet, I cried.  I cried because, who was I to have my priest lower himself and touch my stinking, dirty feet. I cried because I knew that it was my job to go out and wash the feet of others.  An overwhelming task of which I alone am not worthy of undertaking.  Yet, I hold fast when trying to humbly serve The One Who Sent Me to His Promise “I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in (me) will carry it through to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) Yet in our lesson today, Christ, The Son of God, The Messiah, The Savior of the World, Emmanuel, is washing feet of everyone, those who love Him and the one who will betray Him.

When Jesus is done with the foot washing, he arises and puts his outer garments on, much as He will put on His glory at the Resurrection.  He, The Teacher, who has given so much of Himself to the ones He loves, continues in these final hours to reach out to The Twelve to teach them a better way to live; a life of humble, simple acts of love to all, to the least, even to the betrayers.

Jesus then gives them a warning, a prediction, of sorts while feeling troubled that one of them will betray Him. Of course, none of The Twelve know of Judas stealing from their coffers nor of his hardened heart nor of his being tempted by satan and allowing satan to enter him.  They are confused and questioning.  Jesus does not condemn.  He does not bring to light in front of the others Judas’ sins in the past nor the sin he is about to partake in.  Jesus simply places a morsel of dipped bread into Judas’ hand.  Judas has been caught so to speak.  He must surely know that Jesus is on to him.  It is his last chance.  Confess!  Confess! is what I want to yell at him.  It is about choice.  Judas, you have the chance right now to make a different choice, change your heart and your ways.  Jesus is offering you with love and respect a different way to be, just as Jesus offers this to each of us no matter our sin.  Alas, Judas is a stubborn one with a plan of his own, and no willpower against the temptation of satan.  He leaves quickly and heads into the night, into the darkness, leaving the Light of the One who came to Save him behind in the upper room.  Jesus, the Light of the World, must surely know that all of The Twelve in the end will betray Him in their own way.  Yet, He continues on through these Last Hours showing love and forgiveness even unto His Final Hour.

So we are left with the knowledge that our choices will draw us closer to the Light of Christ or leave us wondering in the darkness.  Just like Judas, our life is made up of a multitude of choices every moment of every day.  These choices will culminate into the whole of our life.  A life, if we choose, of living in the Light of God or wandering in the night of separation from His Light.  “As long as it is day, (we) must do the works of Him who sent (us).” ( John 9:4 )  Those works include how we deal with our judases.  Are we filled with anger, condemnation, darkness?  Do we plot our revenge so that everyone might know of the hurt we have been dealt?  Do we hold that grudge for eternity?  I’d like to think that though we are human and prone to grudge holding anger, we might look to Jesus and walk in His Light of humble love and respect. It is not our place to condemn nor judge.  It is God’s place to judge with a Holy Judgment at the time He sees fit.  For God does not leave us to deal with our judases alone.  He strengthens us and endures our pain with us, no matter the situation.  He also provides us with an unending peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) when we give Him the darkness and stay to the Light.

Though many were angry when the man in my family passed, I was not angry, nor filled with condemnation for him.  Rather, I was then and most days still am filled with an incredible sadness that he chose as an example for his life the same darkness that Judas chose.  So many choices he made could have been different and would have brought him despite his sin to Christ.  Jesus, who watched over this man’s life as He watched over Judas’ life would have welcomed both of them Home to Him had they only realized their sin and asked forgiveness from the Great Forgiver.  If Jesus had been willing to forgive them, then who am I to hold on to my unforgiveness?

Praying that each of you find your path to forgiveness with the judases in your life.

May you find Gratitude and Peace in every moment,

Joan

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To Be a Witness, If My People, Day 6

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“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

 

Today, in our If My People prayer pilgrimage Day 6, we are looking at those final words Jesus spoke to the disciples before he ascended into heaven to be with the Father.  Evangelization, plain and simple… We are to go everywhere, teach everything and baptize everyone.  It doesn’t get more forthright than that when looking at what Jesus asks of us.  If He knows that I am fully capable of going, teaching and baptizing, then why do I find this direction from my Savior so daunting and overwhelming.  Who am I to evangelize?  I’m comfortable in my faith and uncomfortable when forced to be anything other than a Catholic mom who walks the spiritual side in her life by attending Mass, practicing the Sacraments, raising her family in the faith, teaching Sunday School, going to Bible studies and writing in her blog.  I like the easy way.

“To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living Mystery.  It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.”  Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard

 

Several years ago, this quote by Cardinal Suhard was printed on the back of our Parish bulletin.  I was so filled with joy when I read and thought about the meaning of this quote.  It seemed so natural, easy.  No street evangelization.  No asking strangers, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” No Bible Thumping. No propaganda.  Not even stirring

people up with insults and insinuations that they needed to get right with Mother Church.  Just simply living my life as a mystery… a prayer… in such a way that only God’s existence would complete my life and make my life story valid.  The most compelling way to share the message of the Gospel, the Good News of His coming, to bring wild hope to others, would be to live a conscious life for Him, to bring Him glory. Jesus came to redeem the assault of evil on our lives and to offer another way to live, filled with mercy, love, kindness for the least of our brethren rather than revenge, eye for an eye justice, and a harsh life of fulfilling man’s law in God’s name.  Somehow, this idea of evangelization seems more fulfilling, an easier way of following His path that makes sense to me when I see how He treated the least of His followers in the Gospel.  He did not judge nor condemn the sinner begging for healing.  How many times did He chose the more difficult aspect of healing His people’s faith through forgiveness?  “Your sins are forgiven.  Go in peace and sin no more.” A much more important healing for each of us than the easier physical healing that many of us have begged for over the course of humanity.  And yet, He lovingly and faithfully healed physical ailments as well. So it must be for each of us to find a way to live as a Mystery for Him through our willingness to show steadfast love, tender mercies, unabandoned hope, unasked for forgiveness.

Soren Kierkegaard: “All genuine instruction ends in a kind of silence, for when I live it, it is no longer necessary for my speaking to be audible.”

So we look at the propaganda that goes on in the name of evangelization and realize that many times it is not love, mercies, hope, nor forgiveness.  It comes down to the words.  Are you saying the right words with the correct tone of voice?  Are you saying the words loud enough and often enough and to everyone?  In the end, it truly is not about the words.  People will agree or disagree or be noncommittal with our words.  We must begin the hard work if our life is to relay the sense of God’s existence, to show our beliefs, values, convictions into our daily life; our worship, our work, the sustainability of our life, our interactions with others.  This is our witness.  As James said in 1:22, ‘Be doers of the Word and not hearers only.  Thereby deceiving only yourself.” To be doers and not hearers only we must do two things.  First, we must commit to a God Centered, not culture centered life.  We must seek out His Will and conform our thoughts, emotions, words, and actions to what we know He is leading us to.  Then we MUST respect the silence, the quietness with gentleness and kindness towards others.  We quietly go about showing steadfast love, tender mercies, unabandoned hope, and unasked for forgiveness to whomever crosses our path, #BlackLives, #BlueLives, #AllLives, #MuslimJewishProtestantHindiCatholicAgnostic………  We leave the judging and condemning to God, who loves us with a Holy Love and who judges with Holy Condemnation.  We become His living Mystery.

Praying that each of you may step out into Evangelization with steadfast love, tender mercies, unabandoned hope, and unasked for forgiveness to all whom cross your path.

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment,

Joan Marie

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Peace Pilgrim, If My People, Day 5

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Jeremiah 29:11-13: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

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His desire, as I contemplate His Word for Day 5 of my If My People prayer pilgrimage for our nation, seems as if it should be that we are at peace with and in Him.  It is His desire for us to know that His plans for us are joy, and hope, and peace and a future, as individuals and as a nation.  We only need turn to Him in humility and prayer with open eyes and open hearts.  So as I think of peace and prayer and a simpler life for each of us, I am reminded of Peace Pilgrim.

“As I looked about the world, so much of it impoverished, I became increasingly uncomfortable about having so much while my brothers and sisters were starving.  Finally, I had to find another way.  The turning point came when, in desperation and out of a very deep seeking for a meaningful way of life, I walked all one  night through the woods.  I came to a moonlit glade and prayed.  I felt a complete willingness, without any reservations, to give my life – to dedicate my life – to service.  ‘Please use me!’ I prayed to God.  A great peace came over me.”  Peace Pilgrim

Honesty with ourselves focuses our awareness on the true relationship between the actions of our body, speech, mind and the effects of these actions on our nation.  For there to be true change in our nation toward one of respect for all people we must still the distractions of our minds, such as fear and anxiety, to “grasp the truth” (Mahatma Gandhi) of how we effect our nation.  As the Dalai Lama  states, “I believe in justice and truth, without which there would be no basis for human hope.”  Most importantly, as Jesus, our Savior, has taught us that the greatest commandment is to love our God with our whole heart-mind-soul and secondly, to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mathew 12:30-31)  If we are able to place our faith, our trust in God’s plan for us, then he will bring peace to our nation by our realizing that in serving and supporting others regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disabililty, we are serving Him who knows the plans He has for each of us. Where there is suffering His plan most surely calls for us to soothe it with compassion, mercy and justice.

How does one calm the anxiety, fear, anger that is so rampant among many in our nation?  The brain is a magnificent organ which is able to process thousands of subconscious stimuli while allowing us to focus on one thought at a time.  Over the course of time, these thoughts begin to flow one into the other, much like waves in the ocean.  Thoughts may be about our trying to relive a past event, worrying about future events, awareness of all that is happening in our nation from civil unrest, separation of peoples based on skin color and religious beliefs, to terrorism here and abroad.  St Paul to the Philippians (4:4-7) tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again,: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  The the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  So we are to rejoice, not show anger, worry, anxiety in the state of things which we have no control over.  We are to show kindness at all times.  For the Lord is near, we must only seek Him in others we encounter.  We are to have no anxiety, but rather we are to pray at those times we find ourselves separated from His plan for our life.  A plan of prosper, hope, a future….

“To be at one with God is to be at peace…peace is to be found only within (one’s self), and unless one finds it there he will never find it at all.  Peace lies not in the external world.  It lies within one’s own soul.”  (Ralph Waldo Trine)  Our faith in Him leads us to a path of peacemaking in our thoughts, words, and deeds.  The emergence of peace will only come about when we have learned to respect the rights of others: people, of all color, beliefs, abilities differences.  Respect is evident by our honest appraisal of our lives in relation to others, sensitivity to the injustices endured by our brothers and sisters, and experiential changes that are consciously determined by what we know to be true.  We do not turn from our own or others suffering.  Rather, we look through the lens of compassion at the reality of our nation.  In honesty, we see the injustice around us and we begin to look after ourselves and one another in a kind, sensitive, and healing manner.  We find our voice and begin to speak out in love and truth for those who cannot, ourselves included.  As Jimi Hendrix sang, “when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”  Where once we routinely closed our eyes and returned to the safety of our habits and unconscious actions, we now have the ability to open our eyes to what is happening around us and respond with honest actions out of compassion.  This is our spiritual journey, moving from unconscious to conscious choices in our thoughts, words, and deeds leading to a life of simplicity and harmony.  This is our path to peace.  As stated by Martin Luther King, Jr., “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”

Mildred Lisette Norman, better known as Peace Pilgrim, was just a normal person, like you and I, who took on a personal mission for the last 28 years of her life to bring awareness to peace among mankind.  On January 1, 1953, she began her personal pilgrimage for peace and walked 25,000 miles until her death on July 7, 1981.  On her pilgrimage, she vowed to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.”  She lived a simple life as a pacifist, vegetarian, and peace activist.  There was no organizational backing for her pilgrimage, no hashtag label to separate her from others, and no money to provide food and shelter.  Her only belongings were literally the clothes that she wore, a  blue tunic which read “Peace Pilgrim” on the front and “25,000 miles on foot for peace” on the back of the tunic.  Her message was simple,  “This is the way of peace:  overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.”  By the end of her life, Peace Pilgrim became a frequent speaker at churches, universities, and for local and national radio and television programs.  Peace Pilgrim was able to respond to the suffering she saw in the world around her by opening not only her own eyes, but those of the people around her.  She was able to bring awareness to others of the need for peace through the simple act of walking.  “No one walks so safely as those who walk humbly and harmlessly with great love and great faith.”  (Peace Pilgrim)

May I simply step out with my eyes open to the suffering around and within me.  With simplicity and harmony, I seek the path of peace through my thoughts, words, and deeds, knowing that He is ever with me in my seeking.

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment!

Joan

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Peace of God, If My People, Day 3

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Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

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It is with a heavy heart that I begin my blog tonight for Day 3 of If My People forty days of prayer for our nation.  Sadly, as most have heard already, another heinous act of violence has occurred in Nice, France, during their Bastille Day celebrations earlier today.  A terrorist drove a lorry into people leaving the fireworks display, killing 80, injuring 100 with 18 of those in intensive care at last count.  Ismail Khalidi, an American-Palestinian writer, described the scene immediately following the attack in these words, “I’ve never seen a stampede like that. I have never seen that level of chaos and hysteria and terror and a total lack of information about what’s going on.”  Now, both presidential candidates are speaking of the US engaging in war against the terrorists though using different strategies.  My heart aches with sadness at the incomprehensible, unwarranted violence that we as a global community are once again faced with tonight.  Trying to make sense of the senseless and feeling the anxiety of “if them, then me.”  When will we start seeing this type of violence on our streets?

In my Bible reading today, I came across this verse Job 37:1-2At this my heart trembles and leaps out of its place.  Listen to his angry voice and the rumble that comes forth from his mouth.”  Though Job is describing God and His Majestic thunderous voice which brings marvels to all under the heavens, it feels like Job is describing the terrorists who we see across all medias with their angry voice rumbling, roaring their hate-filled, venomous ideology at those who are different than they. There is great evil in the world as we have seen in our country since terrorism began to effect us directly on 9/11.  And we tremble with anxiety and fear at it.

So we come to Him with our anxiety, our fear, our grief and tears.  St Paul says to us in today’s Word, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication…let your request be known to God.”  St Paul gives us a way to overcome our anxiety, our fear, our frustration with the way our world is going; we are to hand it over to God.  For He is capable of bringing great change to our world and unsurpassable peace to our hearts. He is aware that the world will have trouble, but we might have peace in Him as He has conquered the world (John 16:33).  So we humble ourselves and bow to Him, pleading for mercy, grace, protection.  Then we wait until we hear once “again His voice roar, His majestic voice thunder; He does not restrain them when His voice is heard.  God thunders forth marvels with His voice; He does great things beyond our knowing.” (Job 37:4-5).  As in Egypt in the time of Moses, God now hears the cries of His People in bondage to the fear of terrorism which is plaguing our world.  He will answer our prayers for an end to this evil and  He will bring us peace just as He freed the Hebrews from the Egyptians.

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We live in a world of great evil.  However, when I calm myself by being in God’s presence in prayer and spending time in His Word, I know in my very being that there is greater love, greater goodness, greater mercy to be seen.  I recall these words from the movie Love Actually, General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.

Though we saw once again a very disturbed man bring great evil to innocent lives, I encourage all of us to be anxious for nothing.  To come to God with our prayers and supplications and with thanksgiving give Him our fear, our frustration and our anxiety over terrorism and world events.  Knowing that when I give my God who is almighty all that I am, He will give me His peace, which surpasses all understanding and guard my heart and mind through Christ Jesus.

Praying for His Peace to wrap around each of us and the people of France tonight so that the God of hope (will) fill (each of) us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13).

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment.

Joan

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Eternal rest grant unto them who passed in the terrorist attack in Nice, France, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.

Amen.

Seek My Face, If My People, Day 1

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2 Chronicles 7:14 If then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.

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My forty days of prayer for our nation began today.  Out of the gate, I am already called to ponder that which fears me the most, differences among people.  Looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14, which is the verse that my friends and I have been praying over today has a number of “if you” behaviors performed by us, “then I” consequences from God.  If we as Christians humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, turn from sin, then God will hear us, forgive us, and heal our land.  Sounds simple enough.  Except for the fear part.

My family of origin is white bread all the way.  I grew up in a small town where we had one  black family attend our school for maybe six months total.  I once met a Jewish kid at an summer theater program.  Other than that, we were all white, Christian, and nondisabled in the area of town I lived in.  Back in those days- before social media created a global community within our world, there was absolutely no discussion of homosexuality and no one even knew about transgender issues.  Just all of us the same, day in and day out.  It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized there was a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors and abilities and lifestyles in the world.  Life was not all white bread.  It was wheat, rye, pumpernickel, and even a touch of sour dough.  And it was beautiful.  I thought that I was living the dream, free of distant family prejudices and fears, unfounded beliefs of differences.  To me separation and segregation and discrimination were just words that had no bearing on my life and thus I assumed were not real to other people.

Then 9/11 happened.  The illusion of safety our country lived with was broken.  America was vulnerable and life became us and them.  Them being terrorist, people of the Muslim religion.  My first moments of discrimination leaking through when my husband hired a Muslim man to work in his lab and I asked why he would hire this man after the planes had just taken down The Towers.  His reply was “Mohamed wasn’t a terrorist on the planes.”  Come to find out Mohamed’s family had suffered tremendously under Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq.  Mohamed showing way more courage than I could ever have when forced to enter the country secretively to check on his mother with the real threat of being caught and killed for doing so. However, fear is strong and it comes to all who lend a blind eye to it.  I felt comfortable with my fear of Muslims, terrorists, ISIS.  Who in our country was not afraid of these people?

Then Trayvon was killed and suddenly we had #BlackLivesMatter.  I could not figure this one out in my thinking.  Of course black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.  To me, there was no white privilege.  There was no discrimination as I knew and had heard over and over that there were laws to protect black people from being discriminated against.  Then Dallas happened and sixteen innocent police officers were shot, five of whom died (Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarirpa, Brent Thompson), at the hands of an obviously mentally ill, hate filled man who chose evil over good, violence over peace at a #BlackLivesMatter protest rally over the recent deaths of two black men in two different states, Alton Sterling and Philando Castille.  This was the moment, when many of us opened our eyes and realized that we as a nation are severely wounded.  Prejudice and discrimination are still alive and well in our country. Suddenly it was time to pray, pray, pray.

So today I’m looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14 and I keep focusing on “seek my face.”  The quiet whispering of the Holy Spirit encouraging me to place my faith in God’s perfect love to cast out my fear (1John 4:18) when seeking God’s face.  Seeking God’s face seems insurmountable as 1John 4:12 tells us that “no one has ever seen God”. but we are to find hope in His promise that “if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (1John 4:12).  If God’s love is in us, then we may seek the face of God in those around us; others met in our day to day lives, strangers and loved ones alike, those who look like us and those who are very different from us.  It is easy to seek God in those I love and am familiar with. However, God challenges me to seek Him in those who are different than me, whose race, religion, culture, sexuality are not the same as mine.  This challenge has been overshadowed with feelings of fear and indifference sadly by many in our nation.  But our God remains in us and others, nonetheless.  He never leaves nor forsakes us, calling us to be brave and courageous in our seeking of Him (Deuteronomy 31:6).  It is through God’s grace, my intention to find Him in those very different from me, and with prayer that I seek and find Him in others.  If I can overcome my fear of those different from me, I can transform my heart.  In transforming my heart, I can transform my life.  In transforming my life, I can transform the world.  Prayer, grace, intention these three things, but the greatest of these is love.  Perfect love that casts out my fear of those who are different than me and allows me to seek the Face of God in all….

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

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May you always seek the face of God and may you always be blessed with recognizing His face in the faces of others.

Wishing you gratitude and peace in every moment, Joan

 

 

 

 

You, Jesus, Complete Me.

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Philippians 1:6 “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6. God Completes What he Starts. Art Within the Ar

Artwork by Mark Lawrence, Copyright.  The Battlefield of the Mind Collection inspired by Joyce Meyers.

Giving my heart to him again and receiving his special words to my soul.  Music that made me dance and music that made me cry.  Witnessing that got to the heart of the matter of the struggle to follow His footsteps.  Quiet time to sort out my life and pray and find buttercups in full bloom in the grotto of the retreat center.  Reconciliation to give Him my sorrow over poor choices in the past and present and to find forgiveness.   This was my past weekend at our Parish Woman’s Retreat.

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Buttercups in the Grotto.

Sunday morning, as I entered the chapel, I realized that I had not yet signed the altar cloth and it was “last call” so to speak.  So up I headed, purple fine line marker in hand with final instructions that I could leave a message if I so desired with my name.  I stood pondering what message to leave on an altar cloth that will be brought back to the retreat year after year.  What words to write in this tiny little space that I found had not been written on yet….  It came to me fairly quickly.  The Bible promise that I have held on to since those early days of parenting and MOPS and not knowing what I was doing with my life and being filled with anxiety and struggles just to make ends meet while my husband finished medical school.  The promise that He would complete me, Philippians 1:6.  So I wrote on the altar cloth the simple sentence with a prayer that it would bless the other women present now and to come:

You, Jesus, complete me.  Joan Marie 2016

I headed back to my seat and waited for the big group celebration and then Mass to close out our retreat.  As they had all week-end, our group celebration began with a Bible verse.  Surprisingly it went like this:  “A Letter from St Paul to the Philippians.  ‘I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now.  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. ..And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception to discern what is of value so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.'” Simply put, it was my God promise that I had just prayed over my sisters in Christ not ten minutes earlier.

While I sat there contemplating the meaning of this “coincidence,” the group went on to sharing time.  Woman after woman bravely standing and speaking into a microphone sharing what the retreat had meant to them.  Woman after woman sharing their struggle, their lepers, their pain.  Sexual molestation, substance abuse, death…  I sat listening with my own struggles and heard that small, still voice saying to me “speak My promise to these woman.”  Alas, I am not so brave as to stand in front of just shy of 200 woman and be vulnerable.  I just could not bring myself to raise my hand, though I tried and tried to gather up the courage to say what I knew He wanted me to say.  For that I am sorrowful.

So I am here saying to each of you, now, in this place to take courage.  Do not see yourself as the leper whom others fear.  Do not look at yourself only through your pain and struggles feeling that you are the only one.  We all have pain and struggles.  We all have death and illness and abuses somewhere in our lives or the lives of loved ones whom we care for.  Suffering comes to all of us.  But He, the one who created us, bore our sins, and overcame the sting of death, looks down on us with steadfast love and tender mercies and He completes each of us.  He never leaves nor forsakes us.  He is in each of us helping us through whatever suffering this life brings by giving us whatever it is we lack to get through it.  I am small, weak, and cowardly.  Yet, with his merciful heart and outstretched arms, Jesus wraps Himself around me in those moments of suffering and weakness and completes me so that I am able to stand strong and brave and proclaim His love to all my suffering Sisters and Brothers in Christ.  He promises to do this for you as well.

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Praying that each of you can find the confidence to know in your very being that He who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus, as well.

Amen, Joan Marie

“Little Ways” of Love: Holy Monday, 2015

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Isaiah 61:1-2 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly….”

Do you have a Facebook account or other social media?  Did you ever friend a family member or acquaintance whom you might not have known well, but felt obligated to include them in your circle of social media?  Did they have a different fundamental belief in some area than you and played their God card only for you to be outraged at the error of their beliefs?  Did it get ugly with name calling, blocking, and other outrageousness?  Yeah, I dealt with this last week-end.  Sadly,  Indiana has recently passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  I wish the people of Indiana had listened to Pope Francis when he stated,  “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” — Interview aboard the Papal Plane after World Youth Day in Brazil.  Discrimination is wrong and not of God, simply put.  I cannot wrap my head around interpreting this bill any other way.  Trust me, I have heard it all from devout Christians in my social media circle as well as those in my immediate family who felt the need to defend this act on my Facebook wall.  I fear that until the Supreme Court takes an interest and rules on whether sexual orientation is a civil right, we will continue to struggle with this new discrimination based on the right of the individual to refuse to service another based on their own religious interpretation.  It is saddening.

Which brings me to our Bible passage which is being pondered by Catholics around our world this Holy Monday, as we continue to prepare our hearts for the most important of all holidays in our faith, Easter.  Originally, Isaiah, one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, shared these verses as he proclaimed what God had anointed him as a prophet with a job to do.  Jesus in Nazareth cited Isaiah 61:1-2 when he stood before His people and after reading the verses, He announced “Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18).  Naturally, that did not go over very well with those who had come to the service as they were expecting a Messiah that would come in glory and strength, not a local carpenter who came from an unwed mother.  I am sure that news like that tended to stay around for awhile, small town mentality and all.  (How dare that Jesus think he is the Messiah.  I heard that Mary and Joseph weren’t married when he was begot. No way is he even capable of the job we need done in a Messiah.   Yada, yada.)They did not realize that in the most humblest of circumstances the greatest of God’s purposes are accomplished for His glory.  Thus His Son, the Messiah, was indeed begot by a young, unwed virgin and born in the lowliest of circumstances to the poorest of poor among the people.

So Jesus announces and confirms His mission statement in Nazareth, repeating the words of Isaiah that He has come and with the Spirit of the Lord’s anointing He has been sent to cheer, heal, proclaim, release and announce.  If this is His mission, we as His believers, must find this to be our mission as well.  We are sent to do all these things as we are now His hands, His feet, His heart here on Earth.

So I ask, how is it that we are to cheer the lowly?  Who are the lowly?  The poor in spirit?  Do I trust Him enough to let go of whatever my agenda is to be anointed by Him to perform this cheering which He has called me to?  I am reminded of Mother Theresa of Calcutta stating “God did not put me down here to be successful.  He put me down here to be faithful.”  So it is with each of us.  We must walk in faith and give up our successes and agendas and perceptions on who is deserving of our respect and we must serve others.  Even if this means in Indiana looking past whatever behavior you do not respect, and simply loving and serving the person in front of you, regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, etc.

How do we serve the lowly, whether in actuality or perceived lowliness?  St Therese of Lisieux, a Catholic saint who lived in the mid 1800’s, is known for her Little Ways.  She taught through example that the way for each of us who wants to serve God, need look no further than littleness, simplicity and love.  It is not necessary that we all perform great sacrifices or mighty works to accomplish bringing good tidings to the lowly.  If we live our life doing for others in love and obedience to His calling, we are showing love in the “Little Ways.”  Matthew 18:3 tells us that Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  We must become child-like in our love, devotion, and care of our fellow man.  We must eat with the sinners and prostitutes and tax collectors and homosexuals, without hesitation.  Daily we must attend to them in the little things.  For it is in the little, day to day interactions that we show God’s great love for His glory to our brothers and sisters.  Those whom the world has time and time again tried to infer that they are less than.  The friends of Jesus.  As He did even though it led to His Walk of Sorrow on Good Friday.  For that we give Him our thanks, our love, our life.  Because had He refused to serve those whom He felt were lower than He, none of us would ever have risen with Him on Easter morning, anointed and forgiven and much loved by a Father who had spent an eternity to love us.

Flee to the Lord

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Mark 14:50-52, “And they all left him and fled.  Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.”

It is Holy Thursday in this reading of Mark.  Jesus has just celebrated the Last Supper in which he proclaims to his most beloved Apostles that his body and blood will be given up for each of them as well as each of us who follows him.  Judas, the misinformed zealot Apostle has made his choice and gone to the authorities to hand Jesus over.  Jesus goes to Gethsemane to pray for his Father’s will to be done.  While there, he is handed over to the authorities with a kiss from Judas.  There is a scuffle and a miracle and suddenly the Apostles flee, distancing themselves from their Master, the one who has come to set all of us free through His captivity.  Now this is the part that gets interesting in Mark, where each of us can identify in some way.  Just three short sentences with an unknown character.  A young man follows the posse with Jesus in their midst wearing only his linen cloth, think underwear or loose robe.  Most likely his disrobed body draws attention and the young soldiers grab his cloth trying to seize him.  He flees as well in his nakedness and shame for all to see.

Who is this young man?  Some say Lazarus, who is wearing his burial linen cloth.  Others think Mark is making a brief appearance to show that he was actually present at the time.  Still others claim everything from the owner of the garden to the man who appears again at the end of Mark announcing our Lord’s resurrection.  Will we ever know the true identity of this man?  Is it important that we know who he really was?  Perhaps what is of more importance is to look at why the Holy Spirit felt it important to inspire Mark to include this unknown man in his account of the Passion of Jesus, note that only Mark includes this part of the Passion Story.

This young man causes us to think about frightening or difficult times, when we are asked to faithfully follow Jesus rather than running to those things which bring us comfort.  We have all had these experiences, though different for each of us.  The single mother who must find a way to put food on the table for her children and pay the rent with not enough money for both.  The teacher who struggles to keep the brightest children in her class challenged while encouraging the children with learning disabilities to try and keep up.  The son who must find time to deal with his angry elderly mom while meeting the responsibilities of being a husband and father to his family.  The teen who yearns to be popular but realizes how unsafe it is to follow the crowd into sexual experimentation and substance abuse to gain that popularity.  The missionary in the Middle East who lives with the threat of terrorism daily but knows that God is leading their life to bring His Word to this troubled part of the world.

We all struggle…..  And yet, we are each faced with a choice.  Do we leave Jesus and flee when the going gets tough?  “Thanks, Lord, but no thanks.  I’ve got it from here on my own.  I can take care of this problem better than you.  It’s getting scary and tough to be associated with the likes of you, Lord.  Sorry, but heading out to keep myself safe on my own.”  Perhaps, we head towards Jesus in the midst of our fear and trembling, almost naked, for all to see.  “Lord, it is getting scary here.  Time for a miracle.  I am needing a little help here.  You going to do something to make it better.  No worries though Lord, I’ll take care of this little area over here on my own.”  Yet, when they see we are looking to Him for our answer, we back away and run with our sin naked for the world to see, abandoning Jesus just like his Apostles and the young man in his skivvies did the night of Holy Thursday.

Me, I prefer to keep my  eyes on Jesus, clothed or otherwise.  “Lord, I am frightened here.  I don’t want to grumble.  I don’t want to die.  I have things that I want to do and see and be for You and Your glory.  Even when times get tough, overwhelming, alarming, I hold to Your promise that in the midst of all this mess, You ‘will never leave me nor abandon me’ (Hebrews 13:5).  You, Lord are my refuge so that no one may say ‘flee like a bird’ (Psalm 11:1).  I am strong and courageous as You have promised to always go with me  (Deuteronomy 31:6).  I need not turn and flee when frightening times come to me knowing that you are ever present (1 Chronicles 28:20).

So I take heart that when the others fled Jesus in his moment of great strength, which appeared to human eyes as weakness, there was this lone young man who ventured towards Him.   In his nakedness, he followed Jesus for as long as He dared.  And though he turned and fled when the world seized Him, I am sure that Jesus looked upon Him with great compassion as He does to each of us in those moments.  Knowing each of our hearts, with open arms, He claims over us His steadfast love and tender mercies through the most terrifying of times.  With this we know that unlike this lone young man, we have nothing to flee in fear from.   And so we run into his outstretched arms for the strength and courage we need to endure those most difficult times to bring glory to Him, our Master and Savior.

Via Dolorosa, Way of Sorrows

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Stations of the Cross

i.  Jesus is condemned to death.

 

condemned

sinless Lamb of God

innocently guilty

unafraid, blameless, yet condemned

sinless Lamb of God

you take away the sin of mankind.

majestic reign

humbled as Perfect Sacrifice

sinless Lamb of God

Savior


 ii.  Jesus carries his cross.

 

cross

i am forgiven

sin, separation

my burden is heavy

i am forgiven

daily, Jesus carries my cross with his

grace given

faulty footsteps following Him

i am forgiven

salvation

 

iii.  Jesus falls for a first time.

 

fall

your majesty protects

weakened, vulnerable

most powerful Jesus falling

your majesty protects

God’s weakness is stronger than man’s strength

Angel strengthened

sinless burdened with sin

your majesty protects

Arise

 

iv.  Jesus meets his mother.

 

Mary

full of Grace

humble, willing

Ark of the Covenant

full of grace

knowing Jesus would be about God’s work

prayerful submission

in this suffering moment

full of grace

obedient

 

v.    Simon helps Jesus carry His cross.

 

simon

carrying His burden

human weakness

your cross bearing shoulders

carrying His burden

offering your strength to the Son of Man

comforting the Great Comforter

carrying His burden

servant

 

vi.  Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

 

veronica

gentlewoman’s loving kindness

tender mercy

wiping His sacred blood

gentlewoman’s loving kindness

mark of Jesus’ love imprinted on her

veiled image

offering all she had

gentlewoman’s loving kindness

compassion

 

vii.  Jesus falls a second time.

 

downtrodden

we all fall

oppressed, persecuted

the Lord lifts up

we all fall

come you weary and burdened to Him

Jesus fell

the burden so great

we all fall

arise

 

viii. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

 

weeping

tender mercy of God

Jesus’ suffering

let us weep too

tender mercy of God

along the road He saw ALL women

reaching out

compassion, healing for them

tender mercy of God

comforting

 

ix.  Jesus falls a third time

 

weakened

falls…falls…falls

Jesus carries

every sinner’s tragic fall

falls…falls…falls

twisting, winding sorrowful way to God’s glory

Spotless Victim

undelivered from wicked hands

falls…falls…falls

arise

 

x.  Jesus is stripped of his garments.

 

naked

nothing separates us

vulnerable, indignant

God is with us

nothing separates us

Love of God is with us ALWAYS

embarrassment, shame

God is with us

nothing separates us

Love

 

xi.  Jesus is nailed to the cross

cross

Christ lifted high

Fragrant Offering

Divine Love for us

Chris lifted high

my redemption is found in the cross

Perfect Sacrifice

all people drawn to Jesus

Christ lifted high

crucifixion

 

xii.  Jesus dies on the cross.

 

death

arms spread wide

humble submission

as He embraced all

arms spread wide

may His sacrifice bring gratitude and peace

every moment

into this sinner’s heart

arms spread wide

rebirth

 

xiii.  Jesus is taken down from the cross.

 

dismounted

holiest of sorrow

unbearable task

burial of our Lord

holiest of sorrow

joseph, nicodemus, love won out over fear

profound grief

Mary held her son

holiest of sorrow

Pieta

 

xiv.  Jesus is placed in the tomb.

 

burial

laid to rest

joseph’s tomb

Jesus wrapped in linen

laid to rest

we grieve his death.  God promises life.

stone closed

yet opened and empty

laid to rest

Resurrection

 

xv.  The resurrection of Jesus

 

Resurrection

go to Galilee

empty tomb

intense desire to encounter Jesus

go to Galilee

now let us be on our way

Risen Lord

Holy Light overcame darkness

go to Galilee

proclamation

 

 

Aside

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, that is the son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and cry out, “Son of David,  have pity on me.”  And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder,”Son of David, have pity on me.”  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.”  So they called the blind man over, “Courage,” they said, “get up; He is calling you.”  So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus.  Then Jesus spoke, “What do you want me to do for you?”  The blind man said to him, “Rabbuni, let me see again.”  Jesus said to him “Go, your faith has saved you.”  And at once his sight returned and he followed (Jesus) along the road.
And so it is even today:
The little one, who knows that home is not a safe place.  Parents who are suppose to protect and nurture and provide for are only capable of neglect and violence.  She is unsafe in her bed, her home, her neighborhood.  She knows too young that evil lurks and safety is at bay.   “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The teenager,who is looking for answers.  She turns to drugs and the occult because she finds acceptance with other misled friends and is unaware of the dangers that she is exposing herself to.  The thoughts in her head constantly running amok as she tries desperately to find a place to fit in, be accepted, be strong. So she chooses to numb her mind with drugs and booze.  She chooses what looks exciting to her and her other broken friends by dabbling in the paranormal and vampire movies and Ouije boards.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The young man, who married too soon while trying to find independence and love.  He tries so hard to finish his schooling, but there are bills to be paid, food to be bought, babies to care for.  Feelings of fatigue from the daily grind of school, work, study, school, work, study, school, work….  Never enough time to just be with his children, his wife, his aging parents.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The new mom, who is so worn out having just given birth after forty weeks of hormonal shifts and weight gain and preparations for the coming little babe in her life.  She has not slept a full night in months between the uncomfortable-ness of her body in the late weeks of her pregnancy and now caring for the newborn in her midst.  Once again, the babe is crying in the night.  And she is just so tired and does not know if she can find the strength to get up and care for the babe one more time.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The father, who thought he had a good, safe job working the factory line.  It wasn’t a career, but the bills were paid with money left over for him and his sweetie to have some fun on the week-ends.  Now he finds himself holding a pink slip in his hand and waiting in the unemployment line.  His sweetie is at the local food bank trying to get food to put on the table for them and their two children.  Their savings account long gone in the first month of his joblessness.  Confusion reigns in his head as to how they came to his point in life.  He has no idea how to get them back on track before they loose their house.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The proud momma, who always put her children first.  Now they are young adults and flying the nest.  She finds herself sitting in a large home with a stranger that she barely recognizes as her husband and more frightening, a stranger that she barely recognizes as herself.  She is so proud of the people her children have become. Yet, she wonders how she and her husband lost themselves in the raising of their children.  She is afraid to continue on to this next stage of life, yet does not know what else to do.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The career woman, who put her job first in her life.  She needed no one.  Not a husband who she might be held accountable to.  Not children who would depend on her during her most productive years. Not her parents, who did little for her other than provide her her very life and little else.  She has gotten to where she is on her own two feet.  Now, she is in the winter of her life, facing retirement, and realizing that it is lonely where she finds herself.  What will she do once she gives up the only thing that has brought meaning to her existence.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The elderly man, who would have been married for 53 years this March, had “the cancer” not taken his beloved wife six months ago.  He walks around in numbness and grief.  He hears his children and grandchildren pleading with him to go on with life.  Yet every night, when he says his prayers, he pleads that Jesus will take him in his sleep.  And yet, every morning,he awakes once again without her by his side.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
The dear granny who was a “looker” in her day, but now finds herself bent over and barely able to walk with “the osteoarthritis.”  She remembers how she used to sway those hips and the workers on the sidewalk would whistle and  hoot when she went by.  Now she sits in her wheelchair in the nursing home, barely able to feed herself and dependent on others.  Her family has forgotten her in the busy-ness of their lives.  She is bored with the remainder of her life and envious of the young nursing assistants who are there to help her.  She thinks to herself that someday this will be their lives too.  “Courage.  Get up.  Jesus is calling you.”
And so it goes….  In our inequities and despite ourselves, Jesus calls us to have courage and get up and follow Him.  Like Bartimaeus, our faith in Jesus saves us as we follow Jesus down the road of our life.   *Format adapted from homily by Father Dustin, St Monica Parish, Indianapolis, In, 12-2012.

Have Courage! Get Up! Jesus is calling you!