Sunday, February 24, 2013

February Catholic Bloggers Link Up Blitz

Here are two posts from this month about my Lenten journey and hopefully at the same time will provide some Lenten encouragement to all!!

"Your faith has saved you"

Since January I've decided to commit in a deeper way to studying and reading Scripture more frequently and thoroughly. I've started by reading through the Gospel of Matthew very slowly. I've used a few different resources to supplement my reading. One is an app on my phone; iPieta. It is an absolute must have for any Catholic with a droid, iphone, tablet, or ipad, it is amazing what you can find on there!! Specifically I have been using a few items under the section "Bible Commentaries" on the app: the Haydock Bible Commentary and the Catena Aurea. This has really allowed me to dig into Scripture and have a better understanding of what is said and what is happening.

I've been amazed at the ministry of Jesus as I've been reading, especially the times Jesus heals people. One thing that really caught my attention while I've been reading is what He says to them after they have been healed; "Go; be it done for you as  you have believed." (Mt 8:13)... "take heart daughter; your faith has made you well." (Mt 9:22)... "According to your faith be it done to you." (Mt. 9:29) ...

I read this and am amazed that just their faith has made them well. What I've read has just been perfect for where I am. We're kind of at an in between point of the semester. The excitement on campus from our students following a National Conference in Florida which 6,000 people attended has worn off in many ways, we begin spring break at the end of the coming week, and there are just over 2 months left of the semester. Lately, I've found that I feel like my faith is being put to the test a bit. Not that I'm doubting anything, just that I feel like I really have to persevere. Which is one of several reasons why I am so glad I've been reading the Bible.

After reading these miracles I found myself thinking about my own faith, not in a comparing type of why, just in a wondering way. It's the same sort of feeling I had while I was in Rome in the fall, where every corner you turned (it seemed) someone had been martyred for the faith. I wondered then and for weeks that followed...would I have that great of faith? To look death in the face and stand up for what I believe knowing that if I did so I would die... I like to think I would, but that takes a lot of faith! I thought the same as I've been reading through Matthew, would I have the courage, strength and faith to approach Jesus and ask Him for something so great? Again, I like to think I would but in the situation I just don't know.

This past Tuesday I went to confession, thank the Lord for this gift! I confessed my sins, the priest gave me some feedback and encouragement, I was given a penance, I stated an act of contrition, and was given absolution - all the key components to receiving grace we don't deserve from God. Before I left the confessional, the priest said, "Go your faith has saved you." I laughed and thought to myself, THANK YOU LORD! It really was a neat moment, a God moment. I returned to the pew and thought how truly blessed I am to not only know and love God, but to accept and seek His love.

Thursday I had another reminder of how small my faith often is when I heard the Gospel proclaimed during Mass from Matthew chapter 7 verses 7-12...

"Jesus said to His disciples: 'Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you them, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.'"

May we increase our faith this Lenten season and continue to grow closer to Christ as we pick up our crosses and unite our sufferings with His.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lenten Reflection 1: Time to pick IT up!

It has been several months since I have posted anything here. An awful lot has happened. One,  I got engaged and now am only 110 days from being married!!  Two, I had the honor and privilege of going on a pilgrimage to Rome with 100 friends and co-workers – I still sit back and think about what incredible places we visited and people we had the privilege of listening to. Three, there is the never ending, always exciting, constantly learning happening in my role as FOCUS Team Director at Seton Hall. This position has allowed me to learn so much about myself and how to serve others well. Four, about a million more things in between!! During this Lenten season, among a few other things I am committing to do (or not do) I will be posting at least weekly during this Lenten season about my journey through Lent as a missionary, fiancĂ© and disciple and lover of Jesus Christ.

Our Church is beautiful, I am constantly reminded about the goodness of God through one of the greatest things he’s given us; the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. Those words alone: “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic” should amaze us and always leave us stunned at the incredible gift we have been given. There is no better time to remind ourselves of this gift than during a few very important periods in the Liturgical year, the season of Advent, the Christmas season, the season of Lent, and the Easter season.  Each season stands out to us in different ways; not only by which color the church may be decorated in or which color our priests wear, but during each of these seasons we are asked to change our attitude – to prepare ourselves with expectant anticipation or penance to call something to mind that we normally may not. We are invited to in a greater way consider the acts of Christ Jesus.

Which act of Christ is more important? His birth? Or his death and resurrection? I was asked this about a year ago; I was caught off guard by the question and was unsure how to respond to be honest. Since I’ve been asked I have considered this several times throughout the year. One reason I think the answer is simple because you can simply look at the lengths of time of the Liturgical seasons. Advent is only 4 weeks, Christmas a little over a week, Lent is well over 40 days and the Easter season can be as many as 50 days! Based on that alone isn’t it clear which act might be seen as more important? Anyways, yes, Jesus Christ was born not just to live and perform miracles but to die…to die for us. Jesus Christ was born to die on the Cross to save us from our sin…so that everyone in the world might have a chance at salvation. And of course He died so that He could rise. What a reason to celebrate!!

This year, like always, Lent began on Ash Wednesday and the Gospel reading from that day has been stuck in my mind all week long. Part of the Gospel reading on Wednesday was from Matthew chapter 6 and addresses fasting. Here is Matthew 6:16-18:

“And when you fast, do not look dismal like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Each Lent I have to remind myself often why I have chosen to fast from something or to do some additional act of prayer or service… it is not and cannot be to draw attention to myself or to somehow benefit my own physical good – no, but rather it is to more completely align my will with the will of God the Father’s and to unite what little suffering I endure to the suffering of Jesus Christ on the Cross. I need to remind myself that every small act of self-denial should only be directing my thoughts, energy, and actions to the Cross and the Man on it. So this Lenten season there are a few things I want to do, but one of the things I want to do especially well is summed up in Mark 8:34-36.

“And He called to Him the multitude with His disciples, and said to them ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?’”

Let’s follow Him well during this season of Lent. God bless you.