On the Path to Shalom

Are you a strong willed or stubborn person?  Do you find yourself struggling to let go of your will to embrace God’s will which leads to His peace?  I do.

Growing up in a German family, my parents believed in the value of hard work and instilled in my sister, brothers, and myself the trait of persistence.  True, this persistence can show itself as stubbornness but this trait, which my mother would often tell us that all Germans have, can be good and bad.  In today’s first reading (Acts 16:1-10) we see that Paul is persistent in seeking the will of the Spirit of Jesus.  He recognizes that when his preaching is not welcomed in a specific locale that Jesus doesn’t want him there.  Instead of being stubborn and insisting with his own will that these people will accept his preaching, Paul moves along until he is welcomed.  At the end of the reading we see Paul recognize that God had called them to preach in Macedonia and not in the province of Asia, Mysia, or Bithynia.

Paul teaches us to accept those times we are rejected as simply God nudging us on our journey.  So many times I know my stubbornness comes out and I resist those little nudges of the Lord.  I think when we resist those nudges we challenge the Lord.  He so often lets us go on our own way and all we find is resistance and frustration.  It must bring a smile to His face when we cry out to Him as we realize our foolishness in being stubborn and going our own way.  If only we would learn our lesson and lay down our own desires to simply follow Him.

winding-pathIn the Gospel reading (Jn 15:18-21), Jesus reinforces this lesson by telling us that we will meet with resistance, “no slave is greater than his master.” Surely, in our travels we will endure difficulty but if we only step back, look to Jesus, and let Him run the show, we will find oneness with Him and experience His peace.  No doubt, we will find shalom, that peace beyond the peace of this world.  We will find  Divine peace.

 

The Velveteen Rabbit, The Beatles, and Jesus

Last weekend my husband and I escaped the city for the day and went on an adventure which included good food and a fair amount of exploring.  As we were wandering around we came across a large fleatique.  We happily went inside to discover one of the largest collections of “stuff” we had seen in a long time.  There was booth upon booth of gently used and once passionately loved items.   Right in front of our eyes was anything one could ever not need and then some.  As I looked around, I thought of the Velveteen Rabbit, the Beatles, and Jesus.

pasadena-rose-bowl-flea-market-antiques

In today’s Gospel (John 13: 31-35) we hear Jesus give us a “new commandment: love one another.” But what does it really mean to love another person and do we truly follow that commandment in our lives?  There are a myriad of books and theories about love out there and it seems like almost everyone has an opinion on the best way to show your love, especially around Valentine’s Day.  When I was a kid I had a keychain that said “love is being best friends.”  It was given to me by my “best friend” at the time.  If I remember correctly we weren’t best friends that long and I honestly have not seen her since we graduated high school.

Our experience of love in childhood often sticks with us and teaches us lessons about the meaning of true love.  Do you remember the story of the Velveteen Rabbit? I can still picture that beat up rabbit, stuffing coming out of him, missing an eye, fur all matted down or simply worn away.  That rabbit experienced love.  It was not a love requiring prim and proper perfection but one that was deep and true, a love which wore on that rabbit like a glorious badge of honor.  The love the Velveteen Rabbit experienced brought him to life just as love brings us to life.  I think that is why Jesus asked us to love each other.

As I look around and see those who have expressed great love to me, I don’t see a love that could be on display in a china shop.  Instead, I see the real stuff of life.  I see the long hours holding broken hearts and wiping away tears, the laughter we all need at times, the quiet gentleness of times being faithfully present with no words spoken.  Bits of love, like these, keep us living and breathing.

It doesn’t take much to think about how Jesus wants us to give of ourselves, to authentically seek Him within others without falling to self-serving goals or bloated egos.  The love Jesus wants us to experience and give brings us to life and sustains us.  It is all we need….just like the Beatles would sing,

All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

Isn’t it amazing how love can be found in the oddest of places, even a fleatique.

Follow Me: A Lifetime Journey

In Today’s Gospel reading (John 21: 1-19) we encounter Jesus standing by a charcoal fire on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, waiting for Peter and the other disciples. Jesus invites Peter to come to Him at the place they first met.  He invites Peter to renew his life, find his identity within Jesus and then move forward and follow Him.

Jesus also invites us on a lifetime journey through our own struggles and triumphs.  We are continually given opportunities to encounter the Lord in our daily lives, find Him dwelling within us, and have the strength to truly follow Him in our lives.  Today, I share with you a beautiful story of faith, love, and courage in the life-changing journey of Carol Glock.  Through her battle with cancer, Carol encountered Jesus, learned more about herself, and is continuing to follow Him.

1811317highres

Miracle Breast Cancer Cure Inspires Survivor to start her own Nonprofit

 Carol Glock, a breast cancer survivor from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania knows how taxing the journey to recovery can be for a family. “On June 6, 2013, I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  I was told that I had a 20% chance to survive,” said Glock.

“My tumor started as an eight-by-seven centimeter mass in my left breast. I was shocked.  There is no breast cancer in my family history and I was receiving periodic mammograms.  However, inflammatory breast cancer progresses rapidly, often in a matter of weeks or months.  When you are diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer it’s typically at stage 3 or 4.”

Dr. Thomas Julian, a surgical oncologist and breast cancer specialist at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), part of the Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network, informed Glock about a clinical trial underway at the hospital of an investigational drug for inflammatory breast cancer, called Neratinib, that targets and blocks proteins that help cancer cells to grow. Once accepted and enrolled in the study, the results of the treatment were almost immediate for Glock.   On July 17, 2013, she was informed the tumor in her breast was nearly gone!!

“The doctors told me that inflammatory cancer grows fast but it also responds fast to treatment.   By August 28, 2013, my ultrasound did not show a mass in my breast.   My response to the treatment was very rapid and very good,” she said. After receiving chemotherapy, radiation and having a mastectomy, Glock was declared cancer free.

“I have a 90 % survival rate for 5 years and 80% after that.  I realize that because of the nature of my cancer it could come back again, but I plan to remain vigilant and put my trust in the excellent team of doctors that took care of me,” she said.

“I attribute a lot of recovery to my faith, hope and spiritual prayer life.  Prayers were requested from friends and relatives throughout the United States and Spain. Also, my parents had a plaque with my name placed in the St. Perigrine Garden (patron saint of cancer) in Boynton Beach, Florida.  Glock said her family’s incredible support made all the difference in her battle with cancer.

“My son, Justin, chose to live at home just so he could watch over me and help my husband.  My youngest son, Jonathan, made himself available for oncology appointments and was with my husband during my long surgery. My oldest son, Jason, also was wonderful throughout the entire difficult time,” she said. “My cancer treatment was excellent but key to my recovery was the prayer, love and support of my family and friends,” Glock said. 

“Due to the miracle of my cancer recovery,” Glock was driven to start her own nonprofit to educate and raise funds about breast cancer awareness and to encourage other breast cancer survivors to consider participating in a clinical trial.  For more information go to www.glockfoundation.org 

Christ is Risen, Alleluia

“Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!”

The beautiful sequence we pray at morning Mass ushers into our hearts the hope we so longed for all of Lent, the hope of new life. Our “victor King” is reigning in our hearts as we open our hearts to His Mercy which He so gladly pours into us. Whether this past Lent was good for you or you barely made it through here we are at Easter Sunday morning. It is a new beginning and the Lord welcomes all of us to embrace the beauty that awaits us just like the beauty of a colorful sunrise.

In the Gospel reading for today (John 20: 1-9) we hear about Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb and Simon Peter, along with the “other disciple,” running to find only “the burial cloths.” The disciples did not understand but the “other disciple” believed and we too have the choice to believe that Christ Jesus has obtained for us a new life.

FB_IMG_1458822447255

I am reminded of the joy of the resurrection every morning when I look out my bedroom window and see a beautiful sunrise. Even though we know, in our minds, that Christ’s love is always present, we can be overwhelmed by darkness and despair. We stand in the dark, like barren trees, waiting, watching, and hoping things will change. I am sure all of us have experienced dark times in life. It is so often like being trapped in a place where you know, deep in your heart, the Lord doesn’t want to see you hurting but you can’t seem to pull yourself out of the dark pit. To get out of the darkness we need to be like the other disciple. We need to come out of the tomb and just believe Jesus is risen and we too can rise. He is offering us new life if we just surrender to His loving care, His healing touch, His guiding Spirit. Then, as if we have never seen a sunrise ever before, our gaze moves to the risen Son of God and we are astounded. We realize, with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective, we too can rise out of our darkness. The sky lights up with the colors of life and we rejoice, only our God can create such beauty and promise.

Today, on this Easter Sunday morning, let us all truly allow the Son to rise in our hearts, in our lives, and embrace the beauty of His love for each one of us, individual and unique. He has brought us a new life, a new beginning and it doesn’t matter whether we kept our Lenten promises perfectly or if we struggled to observe just one day of lent. His offer of a new beginning is real and for each one of us. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus we are given the chance to embrace the glory of creation in all the facets of life which reveals His love.

Happy Easter my friends!

Scripture quoted from: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032716.cfm

Veni, Sancte Spiritus!

Come, Holy Spirit, come! Who doesn’t need the Spirit of God with them every day of their lives, guiding, counseling, and carrying their hearts always to God? I know I am crying out to the Lord for the seven-fold gifts of His spirit which we receive today. Praise you Jesus, praise you always for leaving us your Spirit with the gifts of Awe and Wonder, Courage, Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding, Right Counsel, and Reverence!

8LW7100Z

The Pentecost Sequence (liturgical poetry) prayed today before the Gospel says it all:

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.

Now, let us go out and share these gifts with all those we encounter today. Blessed and Happy Pentecost to all of you! May we always embrace all the Holy Spirit brings into our lives.

“In” and “Of”

Two words, one syllable each, two little letters in each word, yet such powerful and distinct meanings to “in” and “of.” Jesus prays to The Father about not just the apostles but all of us, His disciples, dwelling “in” the world but not “of” the world. The big question all of us must ask ourselves; am I “in” the world or “of” it? The answer is evident in how we act, what we say, what we do, and the fruit which comes from our very existence.
Let’s look at the fruit we produce. Is it good, juicy and life-giving, is it bad, spoiled from lack of use and care, or maybe we just can’t see our fruit!

notes-and-queries-rotting-006

While we are “in” this world, if we strive to live our lives close to the Lord through prayer, frequent reception of the Sacraments, and loving participation in our parish and diocesan community; we will produce good fruit and not be “of” this world. Well, we will surely falter at times and be caught up with worldly values, but Jesus knew this would happen. Even Our Mother at Fatima encouraged those who had fallen into worldly ways to simply “come back.” So, if you find yourself there, return to prayer, make a good confession, receive Our Lord in the Eucharist, and encounter the living Christ who yearns to dwell intimately in your heart. It is amazing how Jesus Christ can take fruit which we thought was surely rotten and transform it into something good and life-giving.
So many times we just can’t see the fruit we produce. We don’t know whether it is good or bad. We find ourselves standing in the midst of an orchard, with fruit all around us but we don’t know how to pick it up. At these times, we run the risk of watching our precious fruit rot in front of our eyes due to lack of use. Our God given gifts have the opportunity to produce good fruit for the Kingdom of God, if we use them to help others. The key is to take our eyes off of our dilemmas and focus them totally on Jesus which in turn causes us to reach out and help our sisters and brothers in Christ. If we do this, we will suddenly discover we are producing good fruit, we are sharing it with others, and it is not going to waste.
It all starts with choosing to be “of” the world belonging to the Lord and not to the materialistic and self-centered world. Let us hold the prayer Jesus offers for us today close to our hearts. He is taking care of us, holding us close to His Most Sacred Heart, and protecting us out of a deep, personal, and passionate love for all of us.

Hunger for Love

Many of us remember the impact Blessed Mother Teresa had on our world, and clearly her legacy is proving to be a beacon of God’s love, especially for the poor and marginalized. On the topic of love, she once said: “There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives, the pain and the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor may be right in your family. Find them and love them!”

Love-One-Another-300x297

In today’s Gospel from John (15: 9-17), Jesus tells us again to remain in Him and to get to know Him—then we will find love. How do we remain in Him? How do we get to know Him? These are common questions from all of us seeking the ultimate love. The quest to understand one’s purpose and meaning in life is something which grows stronger as we age. Eventually, we come to realize we are not in control, and despite all of our struggles to force God to do things according to our plan, we are powerless. Our only recourse is to surrender to God’s Grace, accept the love He offers us, and trust in His plan for our lives. This is hard to do for those who are type “A” personalities—always pushing themselves to do and be superman or superwoman.

In our own relationships, the more we know and understand a person, the more we grow in love for them. At the same time, as we grow closer to others, we can develop the bad habit of taking them for granted. So many times it is not our intention, but life is busy and we assume those closest to us know of our deep love for them. Often, it takes traumatic events to snap us out of these bad habits.

Last summer, a dear friend and prayer group member lost her battle with cancer at the young age of 52. Walking with Jackie in her journey to the Lord solidified in my heart the importance of expressing love and appreciation through loving actions. Her death opened my eyes to those hungry for love, those in my own family, and those in my community. It is painful to see the hunger for love dwelling so close to home, even in our own hearts sometimes. But if we have the courage to recognize it as Blessed Mother Teresa says, we can find the power dwelling in the depths of our hearts to respond with great love, the love Jesus commands us to have for one another.

Remain In Me

Today’s gospel reading (John 15: 1-8) is the familiar story of the vine and the branches. Sometimes when we encounter scripture stories or verses that are familiar to us, we shut down, failing to listen, because we already know the story well enough. Sadly, when we do this, we miss what the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to us in the scripture. We close our hearts to God and separate ourselves from the life-giving vine.

john_15_4_by_draw4life

Jesus gives us sage advice in this scripture when He tells us, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” Sometimes it is hard to truly know that Jesus is “remaining” with us. It is so easy to put human characteristics on Jesus, distrust Him, and think He will surely abandon us. Distrust and fear of abandonment are two of the biggest issues many of us deal with on a regular basis. Jesus knows this and has experienced all of the same difficulties. It was not too long ago that we read the passion narrative during holy week and saw Judas abandon Jesus. Imagine how Jesus felt when Judas, a constant companion who traveled with him for three years, betrayed and handed him over to certain death. Surely Jesus was deeply hurt by Judas just as we are hurt when someone betrays our trust and walks away from a close personal relationship. Often, we are left with the burning question in our heart, “What am I to do?” “How do I overcome these feelings of loss?” “Will the relationship ever be the same?” It is at these times in life that the advice Jesus gave today of remaining in him is the most important advice we could ever receive.

If we remain in Jesus, we keep Him in our hearts; we look only to Him, rely only on Him, we will never be disappointed or abandoned. Remaining in Jesus, seeking only Him to guide everything we do in life, is the best way to avoid the deep pain of abandonment. Nothing will hurt us deeply if Jesus has the dominant role in our lives, if He truly reigns as King of our hearts. Jesus is the safe bet, the sure thing, the One who will always be present. Jesus remains with us and asks of us a simple request, “Remain in me…” because He knows what happens when we don’t and He so desperately wants us to find wholeness, peace and joy in this life and be with Him in the next.

The Invested Shepherd

Consider this: Two men are given the task to care for the treasure you possess and you are asked to choose between them.   Both men appear well intentioned, kind, and trustworthy. The first man is more outgoing, smooth talking, and attractive. He shows us the ease of trusting in him. The second man is rather quiet and tells us that sometimes things can be hard when we ask him to be the caregiver for our treasure. He promises that he is invested in our care but does so in a quiet and meek way. Many choose to place their treasure with the first man, stating they felt an overwhelming draw pulling them in his direction. In contrast, few choose the second man. Whom do you choose?

In today’s Gospel reading (John 10: 11-18) two men are given charge of the sheep: a hired man, who is merely out there for his own gratification, and the Good Shepherd. The hired man, who has not invested his heart, abandons the sheep to the wolves the moment he sees them approach. He is afraid and concerned with protecting himself. The Good Shepherd does not abandon his sheep because his heart is invested and the motivation is totally focused on the Divine Father in heaven. The Good Shepherd is properly ordered in His thinking—looking totally to God. The hired man falls victim to the wolves (evil) because he is consumed by his fears.

Sometimes it is hard to choose in whom to trust with our treasure (lives of faith and love). It can be very hard to deny the first man. He is, after all, more appealing to our senses. Sadly, we often judge by the standards of this world and fail to see Jesus in our midst as the Good Shepherd. We fail to recognize the peace offered by God alone because we have drifted far from quiet prayer—the place we come to know the voice of the Good Shepherd.

When looking at the two different men in today’s story, we want to recognize the truth and peace offered to us by the Good Shepherd. He (Jesus) is invested in His sheep despite pain, hardship, and even death. Jesus does not abandon us to the wolves (evil). Jesus is the Good Shepherd who walks with us when life becomes hard, when the path is littered with thorn bushes that cut our legs and make us bleed. HE walks with us when we are presented with boulders we cannot move or go around but only drill through to the find the other side.

The journey is long and hard, but with the Good Shepherd guiding our way, keeping us on the path with gentle nudges, we find safety and peace. May all of us choose wisely and use our ever deepening quiet prayer to recognize the peace offered by Jesus the Good Shepherd. HE is invested in us, truly loves us, and guides us on the path to wholeness and life eternal with him.

 

“Lord, Let Your Face Shine On Us”

As I write this column, the sun is shining and a flock of birds are gathered and singing in the nearby pines. The warmth of the day is a reminder of the presence of the Lord in our day-to-day lives. Even the psalm in today’s Mass (Psalm 4:2, 4, 7—8, 9) reminds us to allow our hearts to enter into the warmth of the light of God’s love and not to remain in the darkness of sin and death.

The gospel reading (Luke 24: 35-48) reinforces this very point. Jesus enters into the room with the disciples and says, “Peace be with you.” Yet, the disciples are “startled and terrified.” Their hearts doubted the presence of the Lord. Jesus even asked, “Why do questions arise in your hearts?” They so desperately needed the Lord’s face to shine on them, for Him to calm their fears, and for His peace to reign in their hearts.

Just imagine being in your office, kitchen, garage, or yard busy with mundane tasks and Jesus suddenly appears before you and wishes you peace. You see the wounds in His side and hands, but a tremendous sense of anxiety washes over you. Who is this? Could this be the Lord? In that moment, you become aware of the clutter in your heart, the anger, the unforgiveness, and the sin which you avoided confessing the last time you went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You feel shame wash over you and now the anxiety grows stronger. Will HE forgive you? The Lord once again offers you peace. You are completely vulnerable before Jesus, your sins are exposed and HE still loves you. What a beautiful realization of His love for all of us.

“Lord, let your face shine on us!” Let your love wash over our fearful hearts and enable us to come to you just as we are; broken, belonging totally to you, and your beloved. Our lives can be so consumed by suffering, by the darkness of sin that we tend to forget just how much He loves us. Today, as we move about our daily routine, let’s try to make the intentional choice to take a break from the darkness of our lives and step into the warmth of His unconditional love.

As we look into your Holy Face today Lord Jesus, help us to encounter your peace in a new and more profound way.

face of Jesus