Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation was not just a yes to the be the mother of Jesus but also a yes to the Cross. Today we recall the suffering she willingly accepted, to watch her beloved Son be brutally tortured and killed. She chose to swallow this unimaginably bitter pill because she trusted in her Son’s mission, the salvation of the world and the victory of the Kingdom of God.
We, too, will have to suffer in this world. We don’t often expect to encounter suffering in our lives, which is pretty shortsighted, seeing as Jesus specifically told us that we would. We might look back and remember some bumps along the way, but as we look forward, we imagine smooth sailing, and we’re rattled when things don’t go as we anticipate. But just as Jesus and Mary had to accept the cup of suffering in order to fulfill God’s greater plan, so too will we have to pick up our crosses.
Some of the hardships and injustices we will experience will seem senseless and bleak, and we will struggle to understand how these things could possibly fit into God’s plan. But a God Who could transform the Cross from a sign of brutality and death to a sign of life and resurrection can take the ugliness in our lives and use it to work for good. He can bring meaning to the darkest, most desolate moments of our existence. And He does not leave us alone in them. He is there right beside us, along with His Mother. She gave her fiat as an act of hope, that the suffering that awaited her would not be the end. We, too, are called to give a fiat amidst all the sufferings of this life and trust that none of it will be wasted.
Image: Ella Boshoven, Mother of Sorrow / PD-US
Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the Gospel cites one of the most popular and widely known Bible verses.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” John 3:16
This verse is so familiar that even nonbelievers have heard it. Why is it so popular and why does it ring so true, its message imbedded into the mind of everyone who reads it? The words may have become slightly mundane and people may have forgotten why it is so powerful. I myself have read it too many times to grasp the meaning entirely.
The Gospel connects to the first reading for the feast. It is part of the story of Moses in the desert, when God took pity on his people and saved them from deadly seraph serpents by giving them a bronze serpent to look upon and be healed.
“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3:15
In a sense, as Christians today, we are wandering in the desert and still complaining like the Israelites did. We need a Savior. Fortunately, God loved us so much that He sent His Son that we can believe in and we can be saved from death itself.
We were chosen to belong to our heavenly Father long before we were born to earthly parents. However, when we were brought into this world, sin entered into us, causing separation from Him. Jesus had to seek us out once more in order to save us. Living in this fallen world makes this more difficult because we need to choose Jesus too.
If we do choose Him though, He gives us a great promise. Once we actively seek him out, we are guaranteed to bear great fruit, just like the first disciples. He sought each one out and called them each by name. Imagine being called by your name by Jesus! He has called you for a specific purpose and has a special plan just for you. Jesus healed the sick and drove out demons. He is asking us to do that now.
“Brothers and sisters: As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Col 2:6
We are truly made in the spirit, breathed into us by the Lord of creation, and therefore our lives and actions should be conducted based on the Spirit’s will for us. That we are united as brothers and sisters in Christ should hold deep significance and bring us closer together since we are all being sought after by Him, not only to be closer to Him but to each other.
The scripture is full of metaphors regarding light and darkness. Much importance is placed on remaining in the light and shunning darkness. However, there is also significance in the areas of light and darkness held within ourselves. A battle between the two wages in all of us; even if we have chosen to live a life with God, we are bound to hold some darkness within ourselves because of the sins of this world.
“For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9
Jesus ignites a light in each of us that will never falter. This light is filled with the power and authority of Jesus Christ, which will always overcome the darkness. Thanks to Jesus Christ, this light can and should be released to bring light to others. Jesus showed this to us when He cast out demons and eventually died on the cross for our sins.
“For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” Luke 4:36
The entire world could go dark, the sun’s fire could go out, and all the stars in the sky could fade away, but the light within us given only by God will never be extinguished. A time may be coming when this world will turn dark, but God has guaranteed for us true and everlasting light
The book of Revelations has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. Regardless of the deep meaning this scripture may hold, the way it is written will always provoke images of great beauty and wonder. The descriptions contained within it do not apply to anything in this world. Its words allow us to get a glimpse of what is not in this world, so it makes sense that we would struggle to understand their meaning.
What is clear from the book of Revelations is that Heaven will be glamorous. We were destined for glorious surroundings and a life more wonderful than anything we can imagine. Thanks to the grace of God, His only Son came to save us and to allow us to keep the faith that we may someday achieve the glory that can be found in the presence of God.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51
The Lord has made several promises to His people, most of which refer to the coming of His Son in the gospels, but there are more that have not yet been fulfilled. The book of Revelations can instill some fear for this reason. The end of the world is based on many promises, but these are not completely understood because we do not know what the results will be yet.
This is why our faith is so crucial. We need to have faith that the Lord loves us. He loves us so deeply that we are permitted to see the glamour and glory of His world and have confidence that we are meant to share it for eternity
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.'” Matthew 19:23
I seem to quote this gospel verse often lately. In this current age, this particular passage appears to reveal the truth of our world even more than the world where Jesus actually spoke the words. The world of today has become a world of abundance and privilege. Its rewards are easy to obtain, but doing without them or giving them up is a harder sacrifice.
The allure of the world can convince people that Heaven can be enjoyed right here on earth. This might be one of Satan’s greatest lies. He makes us want the cars, money, houses, whatever other signs of wealth others around us may have; then he leads us to believe we can’t live without these material goods. It is hard to sacrifice or forego what is right in front of our eyes when we don’t know because we cannot imagine the wonders Heaven has to offer.
Jesus asks us to take an even greater step further. “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are called first will be last, and the last will be first.” Matthew 19: 29-30
We are called to give up everything, in fact, even to give up ourselves for the Lord. Obviously, this is a difficult task especially in this world of grandeur, but we have to remember we are not of this world. This is a world of illusion; Satan lies and we believe we have to hold onto what we have worked to obtain in it. The truth is there is nothing in this world we can hold onto except the Lord and His words.
God never said life here on earth would be easy. The best life involves hardship and sacrifice, and that is why the last shall be first in Heaven
Today is the feast of St. Lawrence, the patron saint of deacons, but it is also the birthday of my grandfather, who passed away a little over a year ago. I find it amazing that God always picks the perfect day for each person to be born. My grandfather was meant to be born on this day; the readings for it depict him exactly.
The responsorial psalm says, “Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.” For my entire life, I saw my grandfather live according to this quote. He was one of the most giving people I ever knew, and he gave without hesitation. He gave without expectation, concern for his own needs, or second guessing; he just opened his hand or his checkbook or his wallet, and he gave all of himself. It didn’t matter whether the recipient was a family member, friend, or stranger–he gave his all to all he met.
Scripture passages can come alive for the people who read them in many ways, but scripture can also find life through the lives of people who read them. My grandfather brought these passages to life because he is the man described by them.
“Whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 6-8
“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” John 12:26
The word of God is living and breathing. These scripture verses were breathed into my grandfather at his conception, and now thanks to his example, these scriptures live within me.
There are definite times when the Lord chooses to reveal himself to His people. We find evidence of this throughout scripture, as in today’s gospel, which is a perfect example, referring to the time of the “fourth watch.” This watch is believed to have occurred between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. It is also known as the last watch of the night. Jesus appeared to His disciples during this period of time in a more mythical sense than others because He actually walked on the water. Before the disciples recognized Him, they actually thought He was a ghost. However, once they realized it was Jesus, Peter proceeded to get out of the boat and walk on the water toward his Lord as well.
Unbelievable events often happen during the fourth watch, not just in Biblical times, but also in this age. God seems to draw close to His people at this time right before dawn. I am sure there are several reasons this time is significant for us and our spiritual journey. The fourth watch signals the end of night and the beginning of the day.
God asks us to spend this time in prayer; it is common to hear the advice to pray first in the morning. This is an ideal time to go to God and ask Him to bless the day ahead and to also take the opportunity to devote the day to God.
Praying first is the best activity for the start of any day, but Peter’s story in this gospel is an incredible example of the undeniable blessing Jesus can provide us when we go to Him at the darkest of all watches and offer Him our complete trust. The special quality this time of day holds can even have miraculous properties when we are open to the power of God. Of course, Peter did suffer doubt for a moment, but Jesus did not abandon him.
The fourth watch can be a time of great struggle, pain, possibility, and trust. This is when the fears and worries we hold for the day to come emerge, but then we allow the Lord to enter in to heal us and give us new hope. We may even feel that we can walk on water!
There have been moments in my life when I found myself in prayer and suddenly the whole world made sense. This happened in a grand and miraculous way that I could not put into words when I emerged from that prayer. Moments of complete revelation are so intense and physically jarring that I actually cannot bear being in that place for long, no matter how wonderful it may be. If that is what a conversation with God is like, I can empathize with Moses when I read about the times he spent with God. I understand why there were reasons for what he had to do in order to be worthy to enter the presence of the Lord.
Thankfully, we have Jesus, our own advocate and savior, to enter into our presence and allow us to experience God, His Father, without fear. Nevertheless, we must always practice acts of reverence.
“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” Matthew 13:41-42
Being blessed to be found worthy to be in the presence of God might just be the greatest experience anyone can have. We are fortunate to live in a time where we don’t have to follow such intense traditions to come close to Him, but that is no reason we should think it’s easier for us than it was for Moses. It might have been easier for Moses because every time he went to approach God, he knew he was properly prepared to hear the word of God. I am not always so confident that I am totally open and ready to hearing the entirety of what the Lord has to reveal to me.
I listened to a homily given by a popular priest who streams his Sunday masses on YouTube. He observed that this world is currently dealing with the problem of indifference, and not because its people do not care or do not like to help their fellow men, but because they are constantly being overwhelmed by suffering. Society is bombarded by media streaming every catastrophe that occurs on this earth. The effect of this bombardment is we lose our ability to move, to take action. How can we help others when there is so much suffering everywhere?
The priest pointed out that we might need to limit our focus. He brought up Jesus as an example: His focus was always on the people right in front of Him. In fact, when Jesus lived among us, the idea of helping your neighbor actually meant you helped your own neighbor. Perhaps, instead of letting ourselves be distracted by everything affecting the whole world, we should concentrate on what is affecting our neighborhood, our family, or our friends. Jesus did this, and look what He accomplished. He saved us all.
One small act of kindness can create ripples that can truly make huge waves. As I read the first scripture for the day about Moses, I found myself wondering why God hasn’t done anything like that recently. It seems as though His people are once again in a situation similar to the Israelites in Egypt, oppressed by their government. Of course, it immediately occurred to me that if He were to part the Red Sea to save us, so to speak, would we even be able to recognize this miracle and act accordingly? With all the media to which we subject ourselves daily, would God’s saving grace be visible?
We as Catholics and Christians may crave a means to help our world, but the way we perceive its current state is causing indifference within us. We have the opportunity we crave right in front of us, in our own community, with the single mother of young children next door or the elderly couple across the street who have had their drivers’ licenses revoked. Together, we can begin to help the world with one act of kindness at a time.