A Walk in the Garden

A few years ago I was telling a friend some difficult things I was going through.  After describing my situation and things I was experiencing, she said it sounded like God was digging in deep.  He was pulling some weeds, tilling the soil, doing some dirty work… because he was planting something new.  He was laying the foundation for a garden.   

You know those moments when God finds a way to speak a perfect word to your heart?  A word of peace, of joy, of comfort…  Whether it comes through the words of a friend, seeing something that speaks to you, or a sense in a chapel or out on a hike, God finds perfect ways to communicate to us.  (Which He probably does way more often than I actually pick up on!)  Looking back on those words from that friend, I see clearly how God was speaking to me in that moment and how in that time God was laying groundwork for me to step into my vocation of marriage.

Today’s Gospel, Jesus’ parable of the sower, brought me back to the beautiful word my friend gave me years ago and the sense of consolation that came with it. My heart longs to be that of rich soil, not the path, rocky ground, or thorns which do not receive and cultivate the word of God and bear fruit.  Jesus’ words have me asking myself, What does it mean to be rich soil?  It seems that a heart poised to receive is key – to receive the words of our Father in prayer, through the Scripture, through a friend or experience.  However God comes to us, we must be open to receive Him.  In this way the rich soil of our hearts may actually take in, nourish, and give life to the word of God and grow a garden that can bear fruit. 

This image of a garden moves me more deeply than I can describe.  I have a feeling it is because the Garden is what we were created for.  Our hearts were designed to inhabit God’s perfect Garden.  There is a deep ache within each of us for that paradise, especially as it represents perfect communion with our Father.  Perhaps we can each take a moment today to find the garden God has sown in each of our hearts, where we can meet Him naked and unashamed.  We are a work in progress, surrendering again each day to the Gardener’s perfect hand.  May we allow Him today to enrich the soil of our hearts and lead us into communion with Him.  He wants to walk with us.  And in these days of much anxiety, uncertainty, and fear, we must remember He is always walking with us and making our hearts into a garden. 

To continue praying and reflecting on this imagery, I highly recommend listening to Matt Maher and Audrey Assad’s song Garden here.

You walk with me
You never leave
You’re making our world a garden

Garden · Matt Maher | Composer, Lyricist: Audrey Assad

“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.

The Art… or Heart of Christian Hospitality

In today’s gospel, the Pharisees ask Jesus which commandment is the greatest… and He more or less gives two answers. (Jesus is very clever like that.)  The first commandment is the greatest and “the second is like it.”

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

-Matthew 22:37-40


Jesus teaches us that loving God with our whole heart, mind, and soul is inherently connected to loving others. 


I recently listened to a Catholic podcast on hospitality (for link to the podcast episode, see below or click here – I highly recommend listening!).  This has had me thinking and praying…  What does hospitality mean for us as Christians and what does it look like lived out?  I know it can look different for each person, depending on stage of life, vocation, etc, so it calls us to pray about what it looks like for each of us.  But at its heart, hospitality is a universal Christian call.  One of the priests on the podcast makes a beautiful connection between hospitality and receptivity.  In fact, ‘warm reception’ is a synonym for hospitality.  This receptivity, or openness, is not only at the heart of a hospitable person who opens their door to warmly welcome a visitor, but also at the heart of the visitor who openly accepts (receives) this gesture.  Being hospitable doesn’t require a perfectly clean home, the ability to cook a fabulous meal, or having a guest room – it requires a heart open to a visitor, or any person you encounter.  At the heart of Christian hospitality is a quality of being present to the person and the moment.  Thusfar, I’ve spoken of hospitality in specific terms of welcoming a guest, which is what I initially think of when I hear the word.  While this is a very tangible and beautiful example of hospitality, it is a specific example and many of us can think hospitality doesn’t really apply to us unless we often welcome visitors into our home.  (Though I do hope we will think of these things the next time we do host a friend or family member in town). 

The Christian essence of hospitality is its sacrificial and serving nature.  It’s the sacrifice of your time, your energy, yourself to receive another person, even, and especially, when it’s unexpected or last minute.  This can happen with a visitor from out of town, or a stranger at church who strikes up a conversation maybe looking for someone to talk to for a moment, or something as simple as being present and receptive to the person working the register at the coffee shop or grocery store.  For many of us, welcoming visitors into our homes may not happen often, but we all encounter strangers, acquaintances, friends, family – others – everyday.  These are all our neighbors.  Our current cultural challenge is to be present or to be receptive to our neighbors…  to love our neighbors… to welcome each as though he or she is Christ.  This can be more simple than we think.  Making eye contact with the person ringing up my coffee order, instead of checking my phone.  Saying hello to her and asking “how’s your day?”  Taking a moment to ask an acquaintance at church or work how he is doing.  Being receptive to those around us, as Christ is to us in every moment.  The two commandments Christ speaks of today are so interwoven because loving God is to receive from Him… and this moves us to love to our neighbors.  “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  When we love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul, we are transformed to see every person for who they are – a soul loved by God, a soul whose very human nature reflects God.  We see Christ in them.  And we learn to welcome them as such. 

In our culture of inwardness, where it is easier to stay inside of ourselves, in our bubble, and not extend ourselves out into the reality around us, we can easily begin to lose touch with our call and ability to be present.  This not only challenges our ability to extend hospitality, but also to receive the hospitality of others.  We feel bad if someone offers to help us…we don’t want to inconvenience them…it will be easier to just take care of this on our own…  We are uncomfortable receiving. (Listen to the podcast for more on this).  This doesn’t mean we must forgo all sense of personal boundaries and, for instance, lose the ability to end a conversation when necessary or decline a visitor at a truly inconvenient time for your family.  Though, if we fail to practice and become aware of how to live hospitality and receptivity in our day-to-day lives, we may miss opportunities to share Christ’s warm reception and hospitality with others when He is calling us to.  It can be a great challenge to stay present to our reality.  But it is in this very reality that we meet God and others.  This is the receptive heart of hospitality – being present to opportunities, big or small, to serve another. 

It may just be my perception… reading through my modern lenses and bias… but in the first reading today, I perceived Naomi being uncomfortable with Ruth joining her.  As though it would be easier if Ruth stayed with her native people and Naomi was able to go on her journey alone.  But Ruth has a heart full of love for God and wants to be with her mother-in-law Naomi out of her total love – heart, mind, and soul – for the Lord.  His love takes us outside of ourselves and our inner worlds and connects us to each other in the tangible world.  It leads us to our neighbors.  But the source of this kind of service must be the love of God.  We must first allow ourselves to receive His love so we can emulate this authentic love to our neighbors. 

As the Lord leads each of us into our vocation, our mission, or as He guides those of us already in our vocation, I pray we are each given opportunities to extend Christian hospitality in many ways.  Some days it may be sacrificing time you ‘need’ to get something done to be present to a friend, a parent, your spouse or child, or a fellow friar or sister in your community. And sometimes it may be hosting visitors you know through a friend of a friend and welcoming them into your imperfect (maybe even slightly disorganized) home with the respect and attentiveness you’d give to Christ. The Christian host is not defined by the perfection of her home, but by the warmth and openness of her heart.  But a Christian does not have to own a home to be hospitable or to be a host in the Spirit of Christ.  He can be a young person, living anywhere, who extends a warm, open heart to those he encounters. 

Let’s pray together for an awareness of what Christian hospitality can look like for each of us – in our individual stages of life, in our vocations, or wherever we are on our path of discerning our vocations and the mission God is calling us to. 

Lord, how are you calling me to be more hospitable in my life?  How can I be more receptive of others?  Help me to receive your love more deeply into the crevices of my heart, mind, and soul.  Transform me and conform me to your heart, so I may understand what it means to be truly hospitable, to truly love my neighbor.  Thank you, Lord.  In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we pray all of these things.  Amen.         


Catholic Stuff You Should Know Podcast – “Chateau de la Rode”

The Words of Everlasting Life

Today’s readings provide a great opportunity for us to reflect on God’s Word. We read one of Scripture’s most well-known teachings, the Ten Commandments. Perhaps because this ancient Law of God is so familiar, it can be easy to gloss over the reading and not give it much thought. The psalm and Gospel, however, gently guide us back to this very familiar passage of commandments and remind us the danger of taking these fundamental words of the Lord for granted. 

‘Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.’ (John 6:68) 

In God’s gift of this law to the ancient Israelites, the ten commandments, he gave the gift of everlasting life. His Law outlined a way of life radically different from that of the world. He gave them guidelines that would help them live lives that looked different from the rest of the ancient world, lives centered around the one true God and informed by His love, peace, and mercy. These very same commandments of God have the same effect on our Christian lives today. Let’s quickly think about a couple of them… Though worshipping idols today may look different than it did for the ancient Israelites, we are tempted daily to worship false idols – money, social media, career or academic success, etc. Even inherently good things can easily become idols when we begin to place their value above the Lord’s. Another of God’s commandments, our commitment to keeping the Sabbath, to spending quality time each week at rest, can be easily threatened by our busy schedules and many commitments. How often do we truly have time to rest and soak in the goodness of the Lord? Even by beginning to explore these two commandments, we can see how God meant these not as rules to restrict us, but as guidelines to help us flourish and find peace and joy. God teaches us how to center our lives around Him which ultimately brings freedom, peace and joy.

I am grateful for today’s psalm and Gospel because those readings encouraged me to go back to the first reading and really try to open my heart to God’s Ten Commandments anew. I began to realize that my heart was not quite the rich soil that Jesus asks us to be in His parable of the sower. We need His grace and Holy Spirit to enrich the soil of our hearts, that His Word, no matter how familiar we think we are with it, may be planted more firmly and flower more richly than it has in the past. God’s Word is alive and it will flower more and more beautifully as we allow God to till that soil in our hearts. I encourage you to prayerfully think through the Ten Commandments to understand them on a truer and deeper level than you did when you first learned them. (This is the joy and beauty of a living faith! We can always grow deeper in our understanding of our Lord and our faith.) Lord, give us the grace to be open to receiving your words of everlasting life.

Today we celebrate Saints Joachim and Anne, the parents of our Blessed Mother Mary. I imagine this saintly married couple must have had hearts of rich soil, ready to receive the life-giving words of the Lord and live their lives according to His words. Generationally, they passed down a love of Scripture to their daughter Mary, who not only bore the words of Scripture on her heart, she literally bore the Word of God himself, Jesus. And in this reality of Mary’s extraordinary human experience, we can come to grasp a beautiful truth. Scripture is not just meant to be read or heard, but to be lived. Joachim, Anne, and Mary (in a unique way) knew the words of Scripture and allowed those words to live and dwell in their hearts, and thus be made manifest through their lives. This is what it looks like to be a man or woman of faith, to live differently than the rest of the world.

The ten commandments of God are the foundation of His Word. Our Lord Jesus Christ came not to abolish this foundational law but to fulfill it, and exemplified how to live it. In their humble and ordinary vocation of marriage and parenthood, Saints Joachim and Anne each lived an extraordinary existence. They lived out their faith, open to God’s mission for their lives. Through their cultivation of God’s word in their hearts and lives, God brought forth the Word made flesh through their daughter Mary. God wants to bring forth the living Word, Jesus Christ, through each of our lives.

Saints Joachim and Anne, we remember your lives of faith in a special way today. Pray for us, that we may have hearts open to God’s Word, so that Jesus himself may be manifest to others through our lives. Pray for those of us who are called to the vocation of marriage, as well as those called to parenthood, for the grace to live out these calls faithfully. And pray for each of us, that we may be open to God’s Word anew… that our hearts may become like rich soil, ready to receive the Word, understand it and live it, so that our lives may bear beautiful fruit for your glory! Amen.