Who Has Done The Father’s Will?

If we stood in front of Jesus today and He asked the question, “who has done the Father’s will?”, what would our response be?

Today’s Gospel highlights a conversation Jesus holds with the priests and the elders who were the leaders and intellectuals of His time. These men had established themselves as worthy of respect, but Jesus speaks boldly against them, saying that tax collectors and prostitutes will gain entry to the kingdom of Heaven before they do.

If this conversation took place in our time, who would Jesus be talking to and who would the “tax collectors and prostitutes” able to enter Heaven be? This past year, our world has been turned upside down; many people have lost their way and questioned their faith. Yet, in our darkest hour, the light shines brightest. The Father still asks us to “go out and work,” but we grow weary and lack hope. We want to refuse the Father’s request at first, but we can always return to Him, assured He will welcome us back.

This is a key message for the season of Advent, which falls in the “darkest” time of the calendar year, when days grow shorter as we approach the winter solstice. In this period of waiting, we have the opportunity to renew our strength in the Lord. He will give us the strength to go out and work. Amidst all the chaos of the events of this turbulent year, His servants will shine. In the small acts of kindness we perform each day, we are doing the Father’s will.

To Be Without Sin

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I must admit that for most of my life, I did not understand the meaning of the this solemnity. I thought it observed the miracle of Mary, a virgin, conceiving the Lord, Jesus Christ. Imagine my surprise when I learned that this feast day actually marked Mary’s own “immaculate” conception. From the very moment Mary was brought into existence, she was destined to be the Mother of God. Since she would need to carry the divine body of Jesus within her womb, she would have to be pure and without blemish.

I often find it difficult to imagine what it would have been like to know Mary as she was growing up. She was without sin, and other than Jesus Himself, the only human being who lived her entire life sinless. Being a sinful person myself, It is almost unfathomable to envision someone who did not sin, especially taking into account all the adversity she encountered throughout her life.

The gospel grants us a small glimpse of Mary’s demeanor when she gives the Lord her “yes.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Perhaps the best way to conceptualize Mary’s character is to consider her ability to submit herself completely to the will of God. Amidst all the fear and alarm she must have felt, she never turned away from the Lord. This turning away from God is what causes us to sin. When I reject His desire for my life, it is because I think I know better than He does and try to take control of it. Mary gave her life to God without question; as Christians, this should be our ultimate goal–to give ourselves to our Lord and Savior. What a blessing to have Mary as the perfect example of what it means to be a servant of God.

Rise and Walk

One day as Jesus was teaching,
Pharisees and teachers of the law,
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem,
were sitting there,
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. 
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence. 
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus. 
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.” 

Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves,
“Who is this who speaks blasphemies? 
Who but God alone can forgive sins?” 
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply,
“What are you thinking in your hearts? 
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he said to the one who was paralyzed,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” 
He stood up immediately before them,
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God. 
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God,
and, struck with awe, they said,
“We have seen incredible things today.”

Luke 5:17-26

Friends, in today’s Gospel we are given the story of the healing of the paralytic. In my previous reflection on the healing of the blind man (based on Luke 18:35–43), I pointed to the blind man having faith in Christ despite being literally blind. He could not see Christ raising Lazarus, could not see Christ turning water into wine, couldn’t even see Christ multiplying loaves of bread. However, despite this, in his heart of hearts, he believed in Christ and the miracles He could accomplish. He had faith, despite being literally blind. How many of us could say the same and remain firm in the faith despite being able to literally see what Christ has done in our lives? Do we have the faith of the blind man? The majority of us are not blind, yet we often struggle in our faith. The blind man gambled [correctly] the Lord would see him and heal him only if he asked, and He did. In contrast, the men around him rebuked him and “asked him to be silent.” The Lord healed him anyway, stunning those who rebuked this man’s faith.

I say this here because there are similar elements in the narrative of  today’s Gospel. Once again, faith inevitably triumphs. This time it involves a paralytic and the Pharisees.

Consider several things. The Pharisees saw Christ cure the sick. However, despite all this, it could be said they were literally blind. They could see with their own eyes that Christ and God the Father were “one.” They refused to entertain the idea the messiah was in front of them and walking the earth “to fulfill the law.” Can you imagine what it would be like to walk among Jesus? Think at this point how it would be if you were a parent. You remind your child to not touch the stove when the gas is on. Why? Because it’s hot and your child will burn their hand. DUH. However, they don’t listen. I can’t fathom how God the Father must have thought at seeing the Pharisees being so obstinate. “THE EVIDENCE IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!” anyone would exclaim. For those who are parents, how many times have you had to scold your child time after time, often for the same thing? Do we not go to confession often for the exact same sin, time and time again, seeking absolution? Does the priest yell at you? No. Mind you, I do not have the patience of a priest. (I’m trying, God!)

However, this doesn’t happen. Instead, example after example does nothing to sway the hearts and minds of the Pharisees. Miracle after miracle changes nothing. Historically, disease, for the Pharisees at least, was a sign of sin. So what does Jesus do? He does something so decisive that there can longer be any unbelief. However, the Pharisees are too wrapped up in their own plans and their own honor to ascertain God’s mercy when Christ heals the paralytic. The Pharisees simply say, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies?” They don’t marvel at the Lord’s grandeur, they simply question. Instead of marveling at what had just taken place, the Pharisees still doubt. Let’s say I ask Christ tomorrow to win the lottery.  However, instead of winning one million dollars, I only win ten thousand dollars. How obstinate and ungrateful would I be if I instead said, “meh.” It’d be something else, right? How often do we want God to give us a sign so we can follow His plan? And how often are we not open to what He tells us, simply and directly because we’re too focused on achieving our own plans? Similar to my last reflection, there is also a similar element of “rebuke” that also takes place here.

Remember when I referred to my last reflection in regards to the blind man’s faith? We should all be similarly impressed with the faith of the paralytic. Think about it—neither the blind man nor the paralytic needed any signs. They simply believed and knew Christ would help them. The paralytic’s faith in Him was so strong, it overcame literal adversity. If he couldn’t walk, he’d ask others to carry him to Christ. I’m reminded of that brilliant moment of friendship near the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Frodo Baggins, physically and mentally exhausted carrying the One Ring, tells his friend Samwise Gamgee he cannot walk any longer. He’s exhausted, he’s battered, he looks absolutely defeated. If Frodo does not throw the One Ring into Mount Doom, evil will triumph. Now imagine the paralytic: “And some men brought on a stretcher a man.” He could not physically walk to Christ. Here, Samwise Gamgee takes the initiative, “Come on, Mr. Frodo. I can’t carry it for you…but I can carry you!” (Cue the manly tears.) (Yes, I know I am quoting the film and not the book.)

The paralytic’s faith moved him so much it didn’t matter. If he couldn’t walk, he would make sure he saw Christ.  It didn’t matter to his friends if the paralytic couldn’t walk, either—they brought him in through the roof just to make sure Christ saw him. Theirs was a living faith.  It was so strong, it moved him and them into action. Their living faith was far stronger than the durability of a Thomistic argument.  What have you done to seek Christ face to face today? What do we do when we don’t measure up to the faith of the paralytic? What have we done in order to make sure we receive His grace?

In the midst of all this, remember that we too are the Body of Christ. The paralytic struggled physically to see Christ, so his friends helped him. Oftentimes, in moments when we can obsess over clericalism or scruples over which form of the Mass is better, remember that our mission—as established in the great commission Christ professed—is to bring others to Heaven. There are many Catholics at this time who may, because of the pandemic or economic reasons, feel unable to move, frozen. Do we help bring those individuals to Christ as the paralytic’s friends did?

Now mind you, there is a little more to this.  Everyone glorified God after the miracle was done. Christ only sought God’s glory when He healed the paralytic. I only say this because how often do we seek gratitude in doing an act of charity or a favor for a friend? Instead of desiring the “thank you,” do we instead remember we are here on this Earth to glorify God? Oftentimes, we should also remember to purify our own intentions and make sure the reasons we do certain things are for the right reasons. 

Now that we are in the season of Advent, let us not forget the reason for the season. We are awaiting the celebration of the birth of Christ. Oftentimes, Advent is called a season of waiting. But are you going to Him, instead of waiting for signs as the Pharisees did?

The Childlike

Today we enter the season of Advent, the time we as Christians are called to wait. Considering the circumstances surrounding our world this past year, it seems that everyone is waiting for something–the COVID vaccine, who our next president will be, or just for the end of 2020. We are waiting and hoping that this period of trial will come to an end.

The gift of hope is deeply rooted in this act of waiting. Advent is a gift because we actively participate in the waiting God asks of us. This waiting is hard when we have no idea how long we will have to be patient, and patience is not the easiest quality to maintain. Nevertheless, the Lord has proven to us that He will always deliver great miracles at the end of the wait. So we can have hope although we have no idea what might await us. We can trust that the result of what we hope for will be greater than what we could possibly imagine.

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.For I say to you,many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,but did not see it,and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Luke 10:24

This past year has been difficult, and in many ways unbearable, but we are now at the beginning of a brand new liturgical year. We are fortunate to start this year fresh with new, and as Jesus describes them, childlike eyes. We are still waiting for Jesus, but He is coming for the salvation of His Father’s children, for you and me.

“On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” Is 11:10

This Advent season will be unlike any other, but if we look at it with childlike eyes, we will appreciate the season in new ways. God will bless our lives during this time of waiting; we simply need to be open in order to see these blessings.

Lord, Thank You

As he was entering a village, ten persons with leprosy met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.” LK 17: 11-19

I once attempted to do an activity where I reflected on where I saw evidence of God in my childhood, my adolescence and my adulthood. Having had a difficult childhood this exercise proved to be too much….very much like reading the ordinary time, end of days reading for today! I did not want to go back because there were many wounds and a lot of unreconciled pain. I called my sister for confirmation that it as a bad as I imagined it! I needed proof for the pit in my stomach, the tears on my face and more importantly so I did not have continue this activity any further.

Now here I am fully knowing how faithful the Lord is (or so I think), and I reach out in want of desperation! My sister listened and then reminded me, it was not always bad. “There weren’t numerous, but there were moments,” and she listed things that tore my heart in a better way, going to the park, learning to read time, and watching movies…these cherish small moments with our father and our aunt.

My sister is a non-believer. When we talk about God we do not always end up in a good place. There is judgement on both ends. In that moment, God knew I needed my sister to pull me back. Moreover, as she recalled these moments, I thought she does not know God but she sure is grateful…and I who practice my faith; I needed this refresher, to look back and give the lord thanks.

The gospel reading for thanksgiving took me away. I am one of those lepers, who asked for healing, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us” me! I received healing but I did not return to give thanks and praise… I was not grateful because I did not realize that I had been healed.  I wanted to stay wounded, and go straight to despair. “As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned.”

We have an opportunity today and every day to wake up and be thankful, thank HIM who heals and saves us! We should not forget, but we do, to hold on to the evidence of his faithfulness, the wounds that he heals, the steadfastness of his promises. God has never let us down, so every day ( it’s a reminder for me), I will say thank you Lord, not just for this day on earth (I have to grow this prayer) but for everything you have done for me, for the people in my life, for allowing me to know you.

How much does the Lord care for those of us who are close to him? How much does the Lord care for those who we think are not close to him? How much does Lord care for those who glorify his name, live as children of the resurrection and give HIM thanks, for things received and things not yet received? “He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me.” (Psalm 50:23) It was a stranger, not one of the chosen people of Israel, who returned to thank God!

Take these words in, “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God? None but this foreigner. “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21). In my judgement of my sister, I did not think that she could help me or be instrumental in my spiritual growth! I was hoping she help me go to despair. And here is the lord reminding me again, you too were far away from me and I used everything and everyone to bring you back.

Lord, thank you, for my sister (put whomever you need in here). For her compassion and her love. Thank you for giving me a friend in her and many friends to bring me closer to you. Lord remind me you are in her, as you are in me, and remove thoughts of judgement, I too was a stranger to you Lord. Help us have healthy discussions to grow spiritually. Lord use me; speak to her through me, just as you have spoken to me through her! May we continue to encourage one another to serve our neighbor! Lord allow us to, move closer to you, wherever on the path we are.

Help us all (especially those whom I dare to judge) to realize lord, we have been healed, we are healing, we will be healed.

For this and for all your blessings we praise you our God! For your goodness and your mercy!

Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Healing of the Lepers at Capernaum (Guérison des lépreux à Capernaum), 1886-1894. Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.89 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.89_PS1.jpg)

Awesome Sights and Mighty Signs

Jesus refers to the end times of this world in the gospel reading; He tells us what must happen before His second coming. The path to eternal salvation is not easy and will become terrifying as the end approaches. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” Luke 21:11 How is it possible not to live in fear knowing all this must come to pass?

Many of us are about to celebrate Thanksgiving. It may not be so easy to find reasons to be thankful this year, which has been filled with many of the signs Jesus described, particularly a plague. However, Jesus also assures us we do not need to be afraid. Now that is a gift for which to be thankful! Our faith in the Lord will not only save us at the end of the world, but our devotion to Him will keep us safe while these insurmountable odds stack up against all those dwelling in this world before that time. We have our Savior who has promised never to desert us. Although others in the world may perceive these signs as reasons to fall into despair, we have the blessing of knowing these wars have already been addressed on the cross at Calvary. Furthermore, the war has been won and we are allied with the Victor.

This Thanksgiving may appear very different than past celebrations of the holiday. Many will be separated from their loved ones, but no one will be alone at the feast because Jesus will be attending each of our celebrations, the best Guest and our reason to be thankful, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day of our existence.

The Third Servant

In today’s Gospel reading, the parable of the ten gold coins, Jesus calls us to be good stewards of the gifts we’ve been given, to grow and develop the skills and resources we have and use them toward building His Kingdom instead of sitting idle. A key element in this story is how the third servant, bewildered by his master’s ways and unable to understand him, buried his talents away out of fear. Instead of taking a chance and investing them, or even placing them in the bank, where they would gain steady interest, he avoided his responsibility and just let them sit. What angered his master about this response was not the amount of money he returned but the fact that he let fear hold him back from doing good, from gaining anything at all. He allowed his fear to paralyze him.

The Lord has entrusted each of us with particular gifts, and we are called to respond by employing those gifts in service to His mission for us. But too often we allow our fears to hold us back from developing our gifts to fruition. We are tempted to compare ourselves with others, to doubt whether our gifts will be good enough, whether our contribution even matters. We allow our pride to keep us from offering our gifts to the world, preferring to hide ourselves away rather than face the possibility of failure.

But when we give in to fear and allow ourselves to be controlled by it, we miss out on what God has in store for us. He wants to see our gifts, however humble they may be, placed before Him as an offering. If we entrust them all to Him, we can be sure that He will not leave us disappointed. God will provide what we need when we need it; there is no reason for us to live in fear.

During these November days, I am noticing just how little daylight remains. The night seems impossibly opaque and pitch-black, and its darkness encroaches little by little, day by day. It can feel all the more somber after this year of darkness and uncertainty. But as the daylight wanes, let us ever keep in mind that we are children of the day, for we bear the Light of Christ within us. It is only during a pitch-black night that we can recognize the beauty of the twinkling stars; similarly, it is against the backdrop of darkness that our own gifts are meant to shine brightly. But that can only happen if we step out in faith, trusting in God even amidst our fear. During these dark days, when we can’t see anything around us, let us not cover up the Light within us but rather respond to God’s call to illuminate the darkness.


Image: Andrey Mironov, Parable of the Talents / CC BY-SA 4.0

Judgement

The end of November marks the end of yet another liturgical year, and in preparation for this conclusion, we listen to scripture about the final judgment of this world. These scriptures are read every year, so there is nothing inherently new or surprising. Nevertheless, the Holy Sprit has the ability to enter into our souls at any and every moment in our lives and can transform a passage from the Bible into new revelations to be gleaned from it. The Holy Spirit is always talking to us, and He speaks through the Word of God.

He is breathing new life into our scriptures this year. This world is not the same since the calendar year began back on January 1, and we, as children of God, have also been changed throughout the course of it. We have suffered so much heartache, struggle and true fear. We were expelled from our home, the Church. Of course we would interpret scripture differently–we can look to it as a source of hope and faith. Take the story of Zacchaeus. He was a tax collector and a sinner, but when he had a chance to see Jesus, he stopped at nothing just to catch a glimpse of his savior. As most know, Zacchaeus was “vertically challenged” and had to climb a tree in order to do so. Jesus saw Zacchaeus for not only who he was, but who he would be. Zacchaeus repented and offered up everything he had for the greater good. Jesus, in return, celebrated with Zacchaeus, for He had found another soul that was lost and now was saved. “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10

The truth is that with the conclusion of each church year, we come closer and closer to the final judgment and the end of the world. We must stay awake and be vigilant because we do not know when the final day will arrive. It is time to stay focused and give all we have to help the greater good of all God’s people just as Zacchaeus did. This world is fleeting, the goods of this world will pass away, and all that will be left is our Lord and His loving mercy.

Turn to Him

As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging,
and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.
They told him,
“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
The people walking in front rebuked him,
telling him to be silent,
but he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me!”
Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him;
and when he came near, Jesus asked him,
“What do you want me to do for you?”
He replied, “Lord, please let me see.”
Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”
He immediately received his sight
and followed him, giving glory to God.
When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.

Luke 18:35–43

Dear friends,

How good it is to be writing for Frassati again! Rather than speak as if I were lecturing at the bully pulpit, I’ll speak to reach hearts and minds and try and be as succinct as possible. (No promises.)

In today’s Gospel, we are given the story of the healing of the blind man. The blind man, pleading to be recognized by Jesus, has his sight restored. Jesus tells the blind man, “Have sight, your faith has saved you.” It is an indeed an example of Christ’s miracles, but there are several takes I have on this narrative, especially in our climate these days in regards to our faith in Our Lord and in Holy Mother Church.

In my life, this Gospel narrative has several personal elements that deeply resonate with me. There are three crucial moments as I reflect on today’s Gospel:

  1. There is the crowd “rebuk[ing] him” and “telling him to be silent.”
  2. Christ then tells the man, “…Your faith has saved you.”
  3. The final element of my reflection pertains to “giving glory to God” after such a miracle has occurred.

First, how often in our lives have we reached out to the Lord? For many of us, especially at the beginning of this pandemic rife with mortal and economic loss, many of us may have felt brief or extended moments of confusion, heartbreak, maybe even despair. For me, it was a particularly turbulent moment in my life—I had no choice but to leave my PhD, the academic career I had envisioned for over a decade was now gone, and I found myself suddenly unemployed. I couldn’t find work for many, many months, and I was diagnosed with PTSD. With social distancing mechanisms in place, I, and many others, may have felt displaced from our prayer communities. I felt directionless. Some friends told me, in the midst of their despair, their belief that the Church, too, seemed in crisis. They subsequently said all was in flux, the Church was now in crisis, and they thought the world was ending.

Mind you, let me stop right here. I am not a “doomer.” I tried to be as empathetic as I possibly could with my friends, completely understanding how deeply lonely and heartbreaking this time was and still is. Some have been more active in talking to me; a lot of folks simply needed personal space. This time was and is turbulent in different ways for many of us, in a myriad of ways. I lost several family members and friends. I later contracted COVID-19 and became sick for quite some time in the spring. I was later reinfected with COVID-19 in late August. However, despite these times of trial and tribulation, my faith in Him was strengthened. This was also a sentiment I found with several of my friends: their faith was strengthened, not weakened. But how? Why? Amidst all this, how often have we given into stinging “rebuke?” Either from friends from ourselves? Perhaps we are not literally gathered amongst large crowds now, but the threat of stinging rebuke is still there. From ourselves. The maxim that “we can be our harshest critic” is not entirely without merit. Especially if we sometimes struggle with catastrophizing our interior lives. (Anyone? Sometimes I struggle with this! Struggling with anxiety is a real thing! But praise be to Jesus that I offer this to Him!) How often in the midst of these tragedies have we remained “silent,” instead of turning to Him, the Lord and Savior who died for our sins? He who wept when His friend Lazarus died? He who showed mercy to a thief being crucified next to Him? Turn to Him—He truly understands. If you’ve ever been mad at God or disappointed, whether it be with life, anxiety, or singleness, you can tell Him. He can take it. And Jesus will love you all the same.

Second, in my life, getting to the point of “your faith has saved you” could be the most difficult. Because we sometimes we may thrive on a quick, immediate emotional response in our consumerist society. We may want things now. In my life, I have realized that upon getting what we have wanted from prayer, we may then become lukewarm. We may sometimes have the tendency to turn to the Lord only in moments in despair. (More on this in my third point.) But the larger issue I want to point out is that no prayer is wasted. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said to a group of pilgrims that, “We can be sure that there is no such thing as a superfluous or useless prayer. No prayer is lost.” Often, I have been told that when we pray, God may think with His divine intellect one of the following things: “Yes;” “Yes, but not the way you expect, here is something even better;” “No;” or “Later.” While we cannot ascertain with our mortal intellect the divine intellect, we have probably had one of these moments that our prayers were answered in magnitudes even greater than we could have ever wanted!

Imagine a world where there was no guarantee the blind man could have ever been healed. The blind man must have realized this small possibility. Obviously, Christ was always going to heal the blind man, but this was never a certainty in the mind of the blind man. I think the larger point to “Your faith has saved you” is to realize the point that it’s always possible that our prayers may never be answered in the ways we expect. And yet, we turn to Him. And we should. I think the larger issue that some of us may not realize is that in the midst of our tribulations, we may subconsciously believe we are beyond reproach or may not need to repent. How often do we feel relieved when we go to confession? Like a clean slate. The blind man felt lost—literally and figuratively. The issue we may not realize from reading this Gospel narrative is that we pretend we are beyond reproach, pretend we are not sinners, and we then become literally and spiritually “blind” to even our own spiritual blindness. Like if you desperately needed glasses to see. Like a glass half full. Like if you went out in the cold without a coat. One way we grow into much better young Catholics is to recognize how lost we are—how truly we actually need Jesus. Do we recognize this in prayer? It may be a hard thing to admit, mainly because it requires a large amount of humility in our lives. When the pandemic first hit, when I was first diagnosed with PTSD, and when I found myself temporarily directionless, I turned to Jesus. Who else would I turn to? I was a blind man, begging to see, temporarily becoming a recluse for many, many months. There was nobody I would rather turn to. Tell Jesus you love Him and how much you need Him. You’ll be surprised how readily He welcomes you with open arms. There are still many moments where I struggle with spiritual blindness, for our path to sainthood is a continual process for the rest of our lives. Remember you want to aim for Heaven, not purgatory, because you don’t want to miss. (Bad joke, I know.) Would I say I’m a much more mature and confident man than I was at the beginning of the year? Absolutely. Am I a saint yet? No, but I’m trying, Jesus.

Finally, comes the role of “giving glory to God.” This is the both the easiest and potentially the most difficult. Mainly because once we receive something in our prayer lives, we are immediately humbled, enormously thankful. How many times do we shout “Alleluia!” once our prayers are answered? But do we keep the faith afterwards? Even after we know Our Lord is with us and truly loves us? It has once been said we are “an Easter people,” who should always strive to shout, “Alleluia!” The most pressing example of this is what Our Lady must have felt at the Annunciation. Consider this moment from the Gospel of Luke:

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38)

There is the moment of revelation. There is the moment where Our Lady accepts the Lord’s will. However, what people forget is what comes after. Do we try to emulate Our Lady’s example, keeping the faith? Imagine being a young woman, being given such a great mission, probably illiterate, probably scared, coming from Nazareth, where it is said that no good comes from there. (See John 1:46.) Mary kept the faith; we can, too.

Don’t be afraid to pray to God for relief of your burdens. If relief is not in sight, ask Him for the graces you need to endure in these troubled times. He will help you.

Don’t Look Back, Look Forward to Heaven

During holy week at my grandma’s house two things will happen, we will make habichuelas con dulce and we will watch some very old Bible-stories made movies on TV. For some reason one of the most vivid memories about this family tradition is watching the very old Bible-stories made movies. One scene in particular stands out to me, Lot’s wife looking back and turning into a pile of salt and then being blown away by the wind. 

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us to “remember the wife of Lot”. It’s one verse in the middle of a parable and it doesn’t seem to make sense, until you look a little deeper at Scripture. If we are unfamiliar with Lot or his wife, we might be asking ourselves why does Jesus want me to remember her? In the Bible, Lot is the nephew of Abraham (patriarchal father) and his wife was a Sodomite woman. They lived in Sodom. Two angels had come to their family, urging them to leave the city at once because it was going to be destroyed, but they should not look behind them as they flee. Lot’s wife disobeys this order from God and as she looked behind to the city of Sodom, which was in flames, she turned to salt. My little kid brain just could not comprehend this – I was like, woah! God that’s kind of dramatic, all she did was look back. It was nothing, right?

The Father gives us everything that is good and all of himself. He is love himself and He gives all of Himself to us. All we have to do on our part is accept his love. Once we accept God and decide to walk with Him our lives change. They change for the better. A life in Christ is filled with peace, joy, and love. Nothing is missing from this life. 

However, being human as we are, we begin to think of all that we have to give up to walk with God. We give up being angry and mean towards other people. We give up getting drunk and using drugs. We give up being selfish to our own desires. We give up the pleasures of the world. We give up lying to get our ways. There are many things we give up – and sometimes we look back to those moments of “easy fun in the world” and start to want them back. We start to think “just a little bit of it won’t hurt”. What we need to realize when we do this is that we are telling God that He is not enough. By looking back to our old life, as Lot’s wife looked back to her old life, we are telling Jesus that his death is not enough. These are the lies that Satan whispers in our ear. 

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it. – Luke 17:33

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is warning us to not look back on our old life. To live in Christ we must die to our old selves. When we choose to follow Christ we should follow him 100% of the way, not half way or part of the way. We shouldn’t just follow him when it’s convenient and easy for us, then turn around when it’s hard and requires work. We should follow Jesus all the way to heaven! All the riches awaiting for us in heaven are so much grandeur than anything of the world. This is why Jesus says that the man on the rooftop doesn’t need to go back into the house for his possessions. Or, that someone doesn’t need to go back into the field for something that was left behind. God always provides for us! 

We are never alone when we are in the middle of our sins. If ever we feel like we’ve done too much wrong to ever be made right with the Father, know that to be a lie! Lot, his wife, and their daughters were in the middle of Sodom, a pagan city that had sinned against God, and the Father sent two angels to help them escape. God the Father sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to this world to die so we could be set free. And the grace of the sacrament of reconciliation is always available to us. God never leaves you alone when you need Him. Do not look back on your old sinful life, look forward to the new and eternal life that awaits for you in heaven.

Image Credit: Lot’s Wife turning to Salt [Public Domain]