The Faith to Be Healed

Paul…looked intently at him, saw that he had the faith to be healed, and called out in a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet.” He jumped up and began to walk about.

– Acts 15

Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him, 
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

– John 14

The power of Jesus, working through His disciples (Paul, Barnabas – and us!) can heal others in a profound way – if they have the faith to be healed. The Evangelists tell us several times in the Gospels that Jesus either was – or was not – able to heal people based on their faith.

Do we have faith that Jesus, working through His Bride, the Church, can heal us? Do we have the faith that Jesus actually wants to heal us? That whatever current pain or suffering we experience, from without or within, is not meant to last? And faith that the time of pain can actually bring us closer to Jesus, even when the path is steep and you feel disoriented?

On the flip side, do we have faith that the Lord can make us instruments of His healing in the lives of others, knowing full well our poverty and weakness? Paul was Saul at one point – still somewhat of a piece of work even after his conversion – and yet the Lord used him in ways he could not have foreseen as he was led by the hand to Damascus. When your heart feels crushed or broken, it’s hard to see beyond the pain. But, it is precisely in our crushed and broken hearts that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit want to dwell, revealing their love for us.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will remind us of all Jesus has told us in the Scriptures and through His Church, that He wants to reveal His Father’s love through us and within us. May we keep His word and know His love for us this day!

Pax et bonum,
Andy

Finding the Way

“Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”
—John 14:4–6

If we follow Jesus wholeheartedly, seeking first and foremost to know Him and grow ever closer to Him, then we will be on the right path. We might be led in very different directions than we imagined, we might be confused about the details as we go, but if we stay close to Him, we can trust that we’re on our way to the Father.

Like Thomas, we ask: How do we know the way?

Open your eyes, Jesus says. I am the way.

You are beholding God before you at this very moment. The Father’s house still awaits, but the Kingdom of God is already at hand.

How will you get there? Be with me. Focus on nothing else; do not worry yourself about directions. Stay with me, keep me company, let me delight in you. Relish this time we share together, even when you are disoriented, even when the path is steep. The journey itself is sacred.

The way to Heaven is not by intently navigating our path with maps and compasses and plans of our own making. The only way we’ll make it is with a guide—Jesus Himself. We cannot reach Heaven without embracing the way of Jesus: the way of the Cross, the way of mercy, the way of humility and love and truth.

Wherever God leads you today, seek the company of Jesus right where you are. Please pray for those of us who will be attending the Frassati retreat this weekend, to make the most of this opportunity to grow closer to God. And pray, too, for all those who are unable to attend—that they also will embrace the gift of this weekend and find the company of Jesus right where they are.

So That They May Believe

Gospel Jn 13:16-20

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.
I am not speaking of all of you.
I know those whom I have chosen.
But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.
From now on I am telling you before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send
receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Dear fellow pilgrims,

It is late, so I will just send a few brief thoughts regarding today’s readings.

I can just imagine Jesus saying this after the washing of the feet, which seemed to turn the duties of servant and master on its head. This gesture of our Lord’s is similar to other gestures that challenged the understanding of the many social ways by which humans categorized themselves, but here, He is underlining the fact that the washing of the feet should not lend themselves to thinking that He is actually below them in authority.  Judas makes that mistake, he takes the opportunity to have authority over Jesus, to manipulate Jesus in some way, but even this is in accordance with God’s plan, what God had said would happen.

The whole first reading is St. Paul going through the Biblical lead-ins to Jesus, saying that all of these things the Jewish people knew to be true were actually pointing to the veracity of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus was all about recontextualizing what people saw as the way to appease temple leaders or the way to become holy, He was the answer to all these things, the sacrificial Lamb and the Way.

The main thesis of these passages is that all things are ordered towards bringing God’s people back to Him, letting them know that He is the Alpha and Omega, the one true God. God takes on human flesh, washes His followers feet, allows betrayal…for what? For exactly this: for bringing His sheep back into the fold. To show them that He is I AM, the one who is, who was, and ever shall be.

That is also the main point of everything in our lives, as well. All things should lead us to a closer walk with Him.  Maybe today (Friday), try praying more to God in question form, like “What are you trying to teach me about yourself?” in a tense moment of the day, or “I know you want to teach me something, here, but I can’t see it yet. Where are you in this situation?” Sometimes knowing and proclaiming an ultimate purpose will help you pray and then listen for an answer.

In the peace of Christ,
Alyssa

Stoned

“But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice…  My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.” –John 10:2-4; 27-29

“Does anyone know what it is like to be stoned?”  The teacher realized in retrospect that was probably not the best way to phrase the question to a group of eight-grade students, who promptly burst out laughing.  Needless to say, it was not the martyrdom of St. Stephen they were picturing in that moment.

I smile now whenever I hear the story of St. Stephen’s stoning, remembering this anecdote and also how, as a small child, I heard about this martyrdom of Stephen (and others) and decided that I too, wanted to be a martyr.  Not because I was particularly holy, nor because I had any real tolerance for pain (ha!), but because like every child I wanted to imagine myself as a hero.  Every child dreams of being the courageous one, the strong one, the one that stands up to evil and saves the world.  “I want to be the coward that runs and hides, or that stands there doing nothing” said no child, ever.

But often time reveals in us more weakness than courage.  Not only do we fail to stand up for those under attack, we pick up stones ourselves.

For most of us, the stonings that we experience—as victims, bystanders, or participants, are verbal rather than physical.  If I am honest, I still fear these more than the physical.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  This childhood rhyme so often shouted across the playground is patently untrue.  As I have participated in healing ministry over the last few years—for myself and for others—I have seen lifelong hurt and damage from name calling and other forms of rejection, that last longer than any bruises or physical trauma.

The antidote, to both wounds and cowardice, is to hear our name being called by Jesus.

When I know who I am, more properly Whose I am, I am less vulnerable to the lies of those who would attack me.  The truths that Jesus speaks into my heart, about who I am, who He made me to be, can undo and heal the lies that I have believed over the years.  And when I know who is calling me, and where I am going, with His grace I can have the courage to follow, even if like Stephen it leads to death.

In a world in which our identity in Christ is questioned or even lost, we seek all sorts of counterfeit measurements to validate and give us worth.  How arrogant and absurd to claim superiority in the amount of melanin in our skin, the amount of education or experience on our resume, the amount of income on our tax returns.  Let us pray for the peace that comes through knowing that we are all called by the same Good Shepherd.

Remain in Me

Domenico_Morelli_-_Conversione_di_san_PaoloToday’s first reading describes the dramatic conversion of St. Paul. Before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul was “breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,” and yet today we remember him as a great evangelizer and prolific New Testament writer. What happened? Nothing less than an inbreaking of divine grace.

For the powers of humanity, there are a great many situations that are beyond hope: souls that have been irrevocably corrupted, systems that are beyond repair. But for God, no one is beyond hope. No matter how hardened a person, God can break through any barriers to offer them mercy and an opportunity for transformation. He stopped Paul right in his murderous path, turned him away from Damascus and out into all the world a changed man. He channeled Paul’s zeal toward its natural, rightly ordered purpose: building up the Kingdom of God. In the same way, our own human purpose can only be understood through an encounter with the divine.

Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him (John 6:56).
Jesus has given Himself to us in the Eucharist as an opportunity for encounter with Him, that we too might be transformed by His grace. He instituted this sacrament so that we might share a radical intimacy with Him. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati understood this deeply—he received Communion daily, meeting Jesus every morning and carrying Him throughout the rest of the day. This is the key to his sanctity: not Pier Giorgio’s own goodness, but his openness to divine grace, to deep intimacy with and vulnerability before God.

“I urge you with all the strength of my soul to approach the Eucharist Table as often as possible. Feed on this Bread of the Angels from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles.”
—Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Conversione_di_san_Paolo_September_2015-1aThe great things that Paul achieved after his conversion stemmed from this intense closeness with God and awareness of God’s perfect love. This is what opened Paul’s heart to allow God to work through him rather than imposing his own will. When the scales fell from his eyes and he saw his life with sudden clarity, he fell to his knees in humility before God. Throughout the rest of his life, as he wrote and preached and converted a great many souls, he was ever aware that it was all due to God working in him: It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). Paul knew all too well the cold, cruel man he would be without God, and thus he was able to recognize that any good fruits that flowed from his work were not due to his own power or talent or goodness, but from Jesus Christ working through him.


1. Domenico Morelli, Conversion of Saint Paul / PD-US
2. Caravaggio, The Conversion of Saint Paul / PD-US

Seeking the Will of the Spirit

Dear fellow pilgrims,

Today’s first reading (found here) reminded me of a YouTube video I recently saw (found here) where a CFR friar talks about receiving a very clear and immediate answer to God when he asked Him, “Lord, is there anyone You want me to meet today?” Turns out, there was, and this friar was given a very specific description of him (something like, down to “a red hat, tan pants, and his name is David”). The friar followed the voice of the Spirit, Who even gave him a specific place to watch out for this man. Long story short, this friar met a man who fit this description exactly, and they ended up praying together spontaneously on the street. Nothing visibly miraculous happened, but this friar was so inspired by his experience that him and other friars continued to pray this prayer in the morning and waited to see what would happen, with expectation and willingness to be a fool for Christ stopping people on the street to say “Hey, I heard from God that I was supposed to meet you” (in so many words) and seeing what happened next. As this prayer practice spread, more miracles were occurring, some dramatic, like instant healings of chronic injuries. Turns out, God had some ideas and purposes just waiting to be asked for specifically.

And the same is undoubtedly true for us! There are Incredible works God has for us if we would only ask Him to work through us!

And as I type this, I am convicted by so many things in my life that have felt so obvious to me to pray about further direction. But all too often, I seek God only when I think I need Him. I seek Him in the manner of, “How can You fit into my life, how can You make my life better?” All too often, we are affected by the world around us that tells us, trains us from the core of our identity to the neurological brain networks governing our attention – and all too often, our consequent behavior – that following our desires will make us who we are meant to be, living our dream, speaking our truth, and now more than ever in the social media age of self-understanding, promoting and performing our brand of “yeah, my life is great, let me show you why it’s great.” Somehow, the great lie promulgated in our all-too-connected, consumerist, individualistic society is that life is about maximizing self-cultivation, and that we are all our own best judges over what that looks like.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of pressure. And I think this is where many of us get depressed, including myself: when we internalize the belief that we should know what will make us feel whole, and we either have tried different things over and over and never feel whole and happy, or we just generally feel like we have no clue, we get stuck in a perpetual failure loop. The greater news, and the truly liberating news, is that we. Need. To. Ask. God. For. This. We will not find the path to eternal life, and wholeness in this life, if we think we should know the way.

And that is the broader perspective shift that needs to happen. But what about on a smaller time scale? Basically, our automatic question usually driving our moment-to-moment decisions is “what do I want?” but living with the goal of being one with God calls us to reconsider, “what does God want?” I think we overthink prayer so often; God wants us to get back to basics. And one of the most basic beliefs about God is His Omnipotence, His all-knowingness, while we have tiny pinprick minds in the grand scheme of the universe. A very basic prayer but also infinitely powerful is when we simply ask God about what He desires for us. This first reading tells us just how amazing of a journey we can have in our lives if we harken to, listen for, and follow the voice of God over our own inclinations.

So, I challenge us all to give God our first fruits today. When you wake up, turn to God first, not your phone: “God, Here I am. What do You want me to do today? Is there anyone you want me to meet today? Please give me the grace to speak the words You want them to hear.” However, maybe there’s something that God has been putting on your heart again and again and you keep pushing it off to the side for another day. You know what God wants, or at least wants you to ask Him about, but you have not followed through. Bring that thing to the front of your intentions and give Him full reign over it, surrender that to His power and ask for clarity on what He wants for you.

May our hearts grow every more close with His own.

Pax Christi,
Alyssa

Nothing Will Be Wasted

When I saw today’s Gospel reading, I thought, I’m pretty sure I’ve already written a reflection about this story before. Turns out—yepTwice. So I tried to think about what new aspect I could bring to light from this story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. What stood out most to me from John’s version are these words from Jesus:

When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
—John 6:12

Giovanni_Lanfranco_-_Miracle_of_the_Bread_and_Fish_-_WGA12454Jesus has just taken five loaves and two fishes and managed to feed five thousand people. Not only that, but there are leftovers—twelve baskets full of scraps! There is more food left over than there ever was at the beginning. Which leads me to the question: If Jesus can multiply the loaves with such abundance, why does He ask His disciples to go to all the trouble of picking up the crumbs? Why would He need to be economical about saving all the scraps when everyone in the crowd can be satiated by His grace?

This initiative to harvest every single gift that is given us—even the crumbs—is an expression of gratitude, of not taking anything for granted. At the outset, when the disciples were desperate for food, twelve baskets of bread would have seemed a gift. Why wouldn’t it be now? This too is God’s providence, and it should be gratefully received rather than overlooked.

Мадонна с младенцем под яблоней  Холст (перев с дерева), масло 87х59 см  Между 1520-1526Let us not forget that Jesus started with a few loaves in order to feed the five thousand—He began with a meager offering. He saw, then, in those leftover scraps afterward, the precious raw material for a miracle. We need Jesus to multiply our gifts, but we must begin by doing our own part, offering all that we can, however small it may seem. He will handle the rest.

Only five loaves for five thousand people? A worthy offering. Bread crumbs, broken and scattered around a field? Not to be wasted. Jesus doesn’t overlook the crumbs we give Him; He sees the potential in our offerings. Neither should we overlook the crumbs we receive: the little joys amid a mundane day, the incomplete responses to our prayers, the half-successes as we continue to learn and grow and make mistakes. Our sufferings, too, have value; not one moment of our experience will be wasted. All of it is a gift, to be gathered and given to God.


1. Giovanni Lanfranco, Miracle of the Bread and Fish / PD-US
2. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Virgin and Child under an Apple Tree (detail) / PD-US