“Follow Me”: Being Led Where We Do Not Want to Go

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Fellowship of The Ring

As I consider the sadness and struggles of this pandemic time, I can identify with Frodo’s sentiment.  Three months ago, I truly couldn’t have fathomed a world where friends didn’t gather, people couldn’t go in to work, children didn’t attend school in person, and families stayed home… where shops, restaurants, and theaters were dark…  where hugs had to become air hugs from 6 feet apart.  The tragic reality of illness has shaken the social and emotional fabric at the core of humanity.    

As much as I identify with Frodo, I find equal inspiration and encouragement in Gandalf’s response. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us (Tolkien). We have received everything from an all-powerful, loving, and merciful Creator.  Everything we have and everything we are has been bestowed on us by God.  Our very creation is a gift from Him that we have received.  So also, we have received from Him our identity and our mission. Our identity in Him, our relationship with our Heavenly Father is the core from which all else flows.  And He has created you and me for a purpose, for a mission.  We don’t get to choose the time in which we live, but we can choose to receive our mission from God, the one who chose to create us in this specific earthly time and place.  Frodo may not have initially loved receiving the mission he was given, but he chose to receive it.  He chose to move forward each and every day of the adventure, saying yes to the mission he was given. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ words echo a similar sentiment:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”

God has created each of us in this specific time for a specific purpose and mission.  It seems He is giving us an opportunity to mature in our faith… Jesus associates maturity with greater surrender and selflessness, a disposition of being led rather than leading oneself.  The Gospel tells us Jesus says this signifying His death and how it will glorify God.  It is not a sin to be upset, hesitant, or genuinely wish God had not put us where we are.  We also know we are limited in our humanity.  We cannot see the bigger picture.  And Jesus, the Son of God, received the greatest mission of all.  His receptivity and acceptance of his mission restored all of creation to its Creator. 

We all have a part to play in the story of salvation.  Our piece of the puzzle is here and now.  We can partake in the ongoing movement of humanity toward God.  We may wish that a pandemic “need not have happened” in our time.  But we know who our God is.  We know He is good.  We know He gave His only Son for our salvation, and we know that by Christ’s death, suffering has become redemptive. 

So knowing these truths, we must ask God for the grace to be grateful that we are living in such a time as this.  For we know He has created each of us and gifted us life in this time for a purpose and for an ultimate good.  We must decide “what to do with the time that is given us.” 

Christ’s words from the Gospel that I mentioned above were to signify “by what kind of death he would glorify God.”  Christ willingly received His mission from the Father out of a heart of love.  So too, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us receive our mission and decide what to do with the time given us by God from a posture of love for our good Father.  From where we stand, it may not look appealing, comfortable, safe or sane, but when the Father calls us out of the boat He is our security and He will not forsake us.  The Gospel passage concludes: “And when he had said this, he said to him, ‘Follow me.'”

Let us decide what to do with the time we are given. Let us follow Him.

Hope, O My Soul


Hope is the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul . . . that enters . . . where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.” (CCC 1820)

Today is my mom’s birthday, which is fitting since I felt called to write on a virtue I have learned from and observed in her: Hope. My mom radiates a steadfast love for the Lord. She possesses an enduring faith. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen her place her trust in the Lord time and time again, a virtue that had been growing in her years before I was born. My mom has experienced trials and tragedy beginning in her childhood that would make many question God – yet her trust in and love for Him is what has defined her life. She has truly placed her hope in the Lord and she knows He is faithful to His promises. As Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Right now, the world at large is in need of hope. What does is mean to have hope? It is important for us to remember that hope is something we can grow to attain, that we can come to possess. As Catholics, we understand that Hope is a virtue. It is one of the three theological virtues – faith, hope, and charity – meaning it relates us directly to God and disposes us to live in relationship with the Holy Trinity (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1812). Hope is rooted in God.

Through the eyes of faith, we see that Hope is the response to the desire for happiness that God has placed in the heart of humankind (CCC 1818). Our desire for happiness is good; our longing to have something to hope for has been placed within us by God Himself. And what is it we hope for? “In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere ‘to the end’ and to obtain the joy of heaven” (CCC 1821, emphasis added).

Are you personally finding it difficult to have hope right now? If you are, you are not alone, and God wants to meet you there and grow this virtue in you. If you do have hope, praise the Lord, and let’s keep going! I know there is plenty of room for all of us to grow deeper in this beautiful virtue. And the world needs it.

The first step is re-establishing our faith in Jesus Christ and our trust in God’s promises. The Catechism gives us a simple, practical, yet profound way to both “express” our Hope and “nourish” it so it may grow: prayer. And specifically, praying the Our Father, “the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire” (CCC 1820).

So today, I ask you to join me in praying the Our Father, specifically asking the Lord to increase Hope in each of us. I encourage you to pray it slowly, pausing after each line, to allow the Truth to sink in and to profess it whole-heartedly to our Father in Heaven. This is an act of faith that will serve to remind us of the truth, the truth in which our hope is grounded. I also encourage you to call to mind Scriptures that you lean on in times of trial. Dwell on these truths to nourish your hope. I will list some Scriptures below that have been nourishing my soul lately:

Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

John 16:33 — These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

We must stay grounded in God’s truth. He is faithful to His promises. This will be the source of our Hope.

My friends, it is a blessing to be united in prayer with you in the midst of this difficult time. I am praying for each one of you – that the Lord is especially close to you and that you are drawing near to Him. I encourage you to take a minute now to thoughtfully pray the Our Father. …and can I ask a favor? Can you lift up my mom on her birthday — the woman who first taught me what hope looks like? I know she will appreciate that gift! Lifting up you and your intentions, my friends. May God be with you.

Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.

St. Theresa of Avila, Excl. 15:3

A New Heart and A New Spirit

“Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the LORD, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit” -Ezekiel 18:31

Here we are, a little more than a week into Lent. How are you feeling about your Lent thusfar? You may be feeling good in your Lenten commitments, having successfully passed on any chocolate or being off of social media. Maybe you have created time each day for intentional prayer. Or maybe you are feeling discouraged… maybe you haven’t kept up on Lenten commitments or you still haven’t quite decided what to “do” for Lent. Firstly, wherever you are right now, God sees and loves you. He is pleased with anything you have offered this Lent and He desires to draw your heart closer to His. Wherever you are, today’s Gospel verse Ezekiel 18:31 (see above), reminds us what lies at the heart of this season — a renewal of our hearts and spirits.

The Lord promises us a new heart and a new spirit when we seek His forgiveness. “Repent” is the first word of John the Baptist’s Gospel proclamation, and it’s always our first step in uniting to the Lord. No matter how many times we sin, whether it be a stumble or a big fall, the Lord receives us back when we repent and ask His forgiveness. In its original Greek, the word translated as repent is metanoia, which means to turn around and literally change direction. To repent is to turn ourselves around, away from our sin, to change direction and face Christ. He is already facing us, loving us even in the midst of our failings, but He asks us to turn away from those failings and the hurt they cause ourselves and others. He wants to transform us, to renew our hearts and spirits.

Lent is the liturgical time for us to dwell on this reality of the Gospel. I encourage you to read through today’s readings or listen closely to them if you are attending Mass. They guide us beautifully through a Lenten reflection far superior to anything I could write. Through these Sacred Scriptures, God speaks to us of His desire to forgive us and His desire for us to forgive others. Forgiveness brings freedom. God invites us into this freedom at every moment. Metanoia is the first step… repenting, changing direction from the darkness of our sin to the light of Christ. Through this action we take toward Him, God will give us a new heart and a new spirit. Our Lenten penances or practices are ways for us to live out our repentance. They are sacrifices and commitments that help foster in us a truly penitent spirit. And this contrite spirit is what God is seeking, for it leads us to Him, the One who is able to transform and renew our hearts and spirits by His all-consuming Love.

Lord, show each of us what we need to sacrifice or commit to this Lent to truly grow closer to you. You know each of us in our uniqueness and you know what we need. Guide us so that we may all emerge from the penitent spirit of Lent with a truly renewed heart and spirit this Easter. We all these things in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirt, Amen.

Stepping Out of the Boat and… wait, did you say walk on the water?

Sometimes we are called to step out of the boat.

As my husband and I were approaching our wedding day, we would say, “We’re stepping out of the boat together!” In prayer, my husband had had an image of us stepping out of the boat, like St. Peter, walking toward Jesus. We had spent time dating and discerning marriage with each other and had experienced a lot of confirmation that God was calling us to live out the vocation of marriage together. Even in the confidence that this was God’s plan, there was a reality that we didn’t know what our journey as husband and wife would look like. We were stepping out into the ocean of unknown, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, praying that we’d always have the grace to keep our focus on Jesus.

We’ve been married under a year and a half, and this stepping out of the boat theme has continued! Most significantly, we relied on this image as we became parents. Every day as a parent can bring surprises and unknowns and encourages us to be open to the waves or the calm while relying on Jesus’ guidance. It’s an exciting and truly joy-filled adventure.

Currently, my husband and I are in the midst of another “stepping out of the boat” situation, facing some big decisions for our family. And even though there is fear as we look at each other and say, “well…we are stepping out of the boat again,” we have confidence in the Lord, as He has never failed us before. He has proven the power of His guiding hand to each of us, first as single individuals, and now as a couple, over and over again. He calls us out onto the water, where the uncomfortability and risk are apparent, but where we have the choice to stay close to Him… through prayer, through trust in His promises and provision, through His grace and knowing His love for us.

Because we are currently in the midst of a stepping out (or more like jumping out) of the boat season again, there is an uncomfortability as we are asked to step into the unknown and to cling more truly to Christ. Christ calls us. He asks us to follow Him. It may often be uncomfortable and feel risky. It may look very risky from a worldly perspective. But the risk is where God can show up most clearly. He reveals Himself and His power. There is a theme and a refrain through the chapters of Exodus. God is revealing His Divine power to the Egyptians and Israelites. He is revealing who He IS. “…that they may know that I am the Lord” (cf. Exodus 7:5, 14:8, 29:46, emphasis added). We worship the same God. And His actions in our lives reveal who He is. He reveals Himself and His power not only to us, but to those we know. Our lives can point others to God as He calls us and we follow, putting our trust in Him. And so in the middle of the uncomfortable, risky times, preparing to step out into the waters ahead, we must trust His promises and stay focused on Christ. He never fails us.

As we look back, we will see His unmistakable fingerprints in our lives. He always leads us into goodness that we couldn’t have imagined or planned ourselves. This is who our God is. And this is the adventure of life with Christ. Our stability is truly in Him alone. And it’s a stability beyond anything earthly. His promises are true. “Do not be afraid, my child. I am with you wherever you go.” How is He calling you to step out of the boat and place your trust in Him? Whether it is not clear to you right now, or very clear, you can trust that He is with you and guiding you. Let us open our hearts to His Love, listen for His guidance, and follow where He asks us to come. Even if it means stepping out of the boat into the unknown.

Awakened by the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood

“So there are three who testify,
the Spirit, the water, and the Blood,
and the three are of one accord.”

1 John 5:7-8

At church this past Sunday, we stood in line to receive a personal dousing of Holy Water from the priest in renewal of our Baptisms. My baby girl had finally fallen asleep in my arms, but you better believe she awoke when she felt that Holy Water spray her! Luckily, and no doubt in God’s freshly bestowed grace, she fell right back asleep. Earlier during the liturgy, drops of the Precious Blood of Jesus in the Eucharistic form of wine woke her from her slumber as the priest placed them upon her teeny lips. Twice on Sunday she was awoken by sacramental encounters with Jesus. 

If you have never heard of a baby receiving the Eucharist or a communion line-style Baptismal renewal, don’t worry. These traditions were foreign to me a few years ago. They are traditions of the Byzantine Catholic Church. When I met my husband he introduced me to the Byzantine Rite, an Eastern rite of the Catholic Church in full union with the Pope and the Roman, or Latin, Rite of Catholicism. While the Roman Catholic Church will celebrate Jesus’ Baptism this coming Sunday, we celebrated it last week in the Byzantine Church. In both rites of the Church, especially through the Sacraments, we encounter the Spirit, the water, and the Blood John speaks of in today’s first reading

Some of us may be familiar with this standard definition of a Sacrament: “an outward sign of an inward grace” instituted by Christ Himself. Indeed, the sacraments are physical realities in which we encounter the living Christ and His Holy Spirit. In the three Sacraments of Initiation, Baptism, Confirmation/Chrismation, and the Holy Eucharist, we encounter the water, the Spirit, and the Blood of 1 John 5. (NOTE: In the Eastern Tradition, babies and children entering the church receive the three sacraments of initiation at the same time. Yes, even the youngest, the baby Byzantines, receive a drop of the Precious Blood of Jesus on their lips. This explains why my baby had been awoken by the Eucharist on her lips in church this past Sunday.)

The waters of our Baptism, through God’s grace, signify that we have become His precious son or daughter. The Holy Chrism, or oil, of our Confirmation or Chrismation, is the sign that communicates the seal of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit which were made ours through our Baptism. The Precious Body and Blood of Jesus present in the Eucharist unite us more fully to Him and allow us to enter into the Mystery of the Cross. We are members of a Church that makes the spiritual realities of the faith tangible. We actively participate in these Sacraments to signify our spiritual relationship with the Living Son of God. John’s words in the first reading are a call to action, a call to live out our faith in Christ. The Sacraments of Initiation provide our initial encounters with this Spirit, this water, and this Blood of Jesus. 

The Gospel shows us how this call moves outside the sanctuary of the Church to the world beyond Her walls. Jesus’ healing of a leper reminds us of the cleansing He has imparted on our own souls — and how we can now be His hands and feet to impart this on others. See, we have been healed by Christ not only for our own sake, but also for the building up of the Kingdom. We have been sacramentally initiated, welcomed into the family of the Church by our good Father through His Son Jesus and His Holy Spirit. This is why celebrating His Baptism every year, renewing our baptismal promises, and being doused anew with the waters of the Spirit is so important for our spiritual life. Each week we are nourished by His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. God provides us with the grace we need to share our own healing with others, so that they may know that they are loved by God in this same way, and may be invited into His healing love. Most of us are in a continual process of healing of whatever forms of “leprosy” we are sick with — the Divine Healer continues to heal, cleanse, and purify us. Though even as we are in the process of deeper healing, He wants to use us to bring the people we encounter into His healing Love.

May we all be awoken by the drops of Holy Water that land on our faces and by the drops of Jesus’ Precious Blood that touch our lips. His Spirit is alive and well and among us. In fact, it dwells within us. Let us ask Him how He wants us to share the Spirit, the water, and the Blood that we’ve been so blessed to encounter.

A Great Light

The Christmas season is marked by light.  Lights strung around the tree, candles burning in windows, fireplaces warming homes, storefronts decorated with lights…  Many families will take a drive to go see the lights or see a tree in their city adorned with lights.  The beauty of light clearly draws us in. 

I’ve been rediscovering the glory of light as I watch my 2.5-month-old stare at lights — not just Christmas lights, but any kind of light.  I am realizing that we are born with an innate draw to the gift and mystery of light.  And while my sweet little baby stares with wonder at light, she is often being stared at by the people around her.  When we introduce her to friends and family, people find themselves circled around her, staring in wonder in the same way she herself stares at a light.  I’ve had two friends say in the past week that babies are like campfires — you feel like you can just stare at them forever.  There is a beauty, a wonder, and a joy in the presence of a baby and in the light of a campfire that draws our hearts.  This mystery of light is at the beginning of creation, as God himself created light before anything else (Genesis 1:3).  And this mystery of light is revealed to us further at the beginning of the Gospel, the beginning of our re-creation in Christ, as the Light of the world comes to us as a newborn baby.  How everyone present at Christ’s Nativity must have stared at this baby with an unmatched wonder and awe, as they stared at the One True Light Himself.  

Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.

The refrain of today’s Psalm taken from the Gospel of John (Jn 8:12) reminds us that as Christians, we possess the gift of light, for Christ is the fullness of light.  It is through Christ that we are called into union with the Creator of light, the Father, and made partakers in this light by the fire of the Holy Spirit. We may already be well aware that as Christians we possess the light of Christ, but this Advent, perhaps the Lord is calling us deeper, asking us to receive His light more fully. What area or aspect of your heart or life remains in darkness? These areas may take some prayerful digging to find. Anxiety, fear, hopelessness… Ask the Lord to reveal this place to you, in His gentleness and love. This is where the Lord yearns to be invited. To bring an end to any remaining darkness with the light of life.   

I hope that every light we see this Advent and Christmas points us to the One True Light Himself. The Savior of the world, God Himself, was born to us a beautiful, sweet baby. Come let us adore Him, and stare in wonder at the baby Jesus, the Light who changed everything.  

Adoration of the Shepherds by Matthias Stomer, 1632

Moment by Moment with the Lord

On September 21st, mine and my husband’s lives changed forever as we welcomed the baby who had been growing in my womb for nine months into the world! In her first eight weeks outside the womb, our sweet little girl has already encouraged and challenged me to grow. One immediate change I’ve experienced in my day to day is how little my ideas of a plan or schedule really matter. Of course, the words ‘plan’ and ‘schedule’ mean nothing to an eight-week-old, and that is the beauty (and challenge) of it. By nature, I tend to be pretty go-with-the-flow and not much of a planner, but even a plan as simple as making breakfast and coffee when I get up in the morning may or may not come to fruition in the way I imagine now that I have a little one depending on me. Breastfeeding, a diaper change, and/or a snuggle may all need to happen before I have a chance to take a sip of that coffee. In short, any number of little things can re-route my simple daily plans. Equally as often, I am anticipating my little girl getting hungry only to find that she is perfectly content and smiley, giving me an unexpected opportunity to get something done that I wasn’t expecting to do or enter into that smiley moment with her. As I’ve begun to adjust to caring for my sweet little infant, I’ve realized how it encourages me to be present to the moment. I can choose to cling to my ideal plan and be disappointed or upset when it goes differently, or I can choose to be open to what is most important moment by moment.

Holiness is a calling that asks for our whole present selves first and foremost. God asks us to come into His presence and everything else flows from there. Plans and schedules are not bad at all – they are in fact very good. A plan for our day or our entire life plan can be a beautiful source of Hope. What’s important is that this Hope is rooted in the Lord and not the plan itself. He is the source of all Hope and our plans only matter insofar as we don’t lose the source Himself in the midst of them. We must learn detachment from the plans themselves. And while our plans can be good, meaningful, and holy, God often has surprises up His sleeve anyway. As a good friend of mine always says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”  In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of His second coming, when the “Son of Man is revealed” (Lk 17:30). These Scriptures make me ask myself, “What can I be doing to be ready when the Lord comes?” But I think that question can be misleading. At the center of anything I am “doing” to prepare for the Lord, is the simple act of being in Him. Through the grace of God, made concrete through our baptism and the other sacraments, we are in Him and called to remain in Him (Jn 15:4) moment by moment. The Holy Spirit speaks to us and calls us outside of our own plans into His own. At the core, we yearn to be so attune with Him that we don’t miss His voice because it didn’t fit into our own schedule. 

How do we become more attune with Him? Talk to Him, spend time with Him, welcome Him in to every moment. And as often as we forget to do this, ask Him to forgive us and start again, asking for His help because we can’t do this in our own power. And He will. He will teach us, just like He is teaching me through the presence of my daughter. In a time where my prayer time is sporadic, He is teaching me through the very vocation He has given me. He is speaking a specific lesson to me through my daughter in these first weeks of her life. I ask Him to help me be open with each moment so I don’t miss an opportunity to play with her when she is awake or use the time she is sleeping peacefully to eat something… or write this reflection. My motherly instincts are encouraging me to become attuned to my daughter and what she is communicating to me. And so it is with the Lord… He welcomes us to become attuned to Himself so we may not miss the important things He is communicating to us. How is He currently communicating to you through your life, and how can you invite Him in more fully to each moment?

Lord, I welcome you into this day, into each moment. Teach me how to surrender my plans and live more truly moment by moment with you. In Christ we pray, Amen.