Happy Birthday, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati!

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was born in Turin, Italy, on the eve of Easter on April 6, 1901. What a joy for Alfredo and Adelaide (Pier Giorgio’s parents) to hold their newborn baby boy and celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ! God of all creation blessed the Frassati family with a son as the entire world began to celebrate the Resurrection of His Son. 

Today is the 120th birthday of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. I imagine, while he was alive, his family showering him with affection and birthday blessings. “Buon compleanno” would be said all throughout the house—throughout Turin by those who knew him by his good works. 

My favorite part of celebrating someone’s birthday is writing a birthday card. The little gesture of picking out a card, writing an inscription that tells them about their quirky qualities, how thankful I am that they are in my life, prayerful wishes for health and blessings from God. Many of my friends are not Catholic, but I do not fail to thank God in their birthday cards because they are alive and healthy. A reminder of the gift of life. In Bl. Pier Giorgio’s letters, when a friend or family member had a birthday coming up, he too would thank God for their life and health. 

Last year, with all the COVID-19 precautions, many of us probably didn’t get to celebrate our birthdays with loved ones nor Easter with our communities. The contrast of last year’s celebrations and this year’s made me think of the date of Bl. Pier Giorgio’s birthday, April 6th. Being born in the first week of April, his birthday would fall in the cycle changes of the Triduum and Easter—Jesus’ death and Resurrection. On some birthdays Pier Giorgio would reflect on the death of Jesus and on other birthdays he would reflect on the Resurrection of Jesus. Reflecting on life and death was something I did a lot this past year. 

On the eve of Easter, I joined my community and sang profoundly, Alleluia. A reminder that there is so much life and goodness in the world, so much to be thankful for. Throughout his life Bl. Pier Giorgio had brought much happiness to all those around him. He cared greatly for his family, his friends, the poor and sick of Turin. As today’s responsorial psalm reminds us that “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord,” we know that this goodness was shared by Pier Giorgio to everyone he encountered.

Birthdays are special. Blessed Pier Giorgio prayed for each of his family members and friends on their birthdays. Today, we will pray for him on his birthday. In one of his letters to his friend Bonini, Frassati writes, “I would like for us to pledge a pact which knows no earthly boundaries nor temporal limits: union in prayer.” To join in prayer and celebration on the 120th birthday of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, click here.

Image shows Bl. Pier Giorgio, an avid lover of the outdoors. [Public Domain]

Humility

Jesus went to the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it,
but he could not escape notice.
Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him.
She came and fell at his feet.
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth,
and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.
He said to her, “Let the children be fed first.
For it is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied and said to him,
“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go.
The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed
and the demon gone.

Mk 7:24-30

I’ve been Catholic for a while now. But today’s Gospel reading—from my experience at least—has been among the most misunderstood of all Gospel passages. At least to me it is simply based on “anecdotal evidence.” This event in the Gospels is termed as the exorcism of the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter.

The Gospel passage is pretty simple. Jesus is running His ministry, goes to Tyre, enters a house, sees a woman whose daughter is possessed by demons; the woman pleads for relief for her daughter, Jesus appears to rebukes her first, the woman pleads again, the woman’s daughter is healed. In the midst of the miracles Jesus performs throughout His time on Earth, it’s a pretty run of the mill event: Jesus goes to a town, frees a woman’s daughter of demonic possession. A miracle, right? I’m often told by my non-Catholic friends this is an example of Jesus’ “unsympathetic” nature. “Why doesn’t Jesus just heal the woman’s daughter immediately!? Why make an allusion to a woman being a dog!?” It’s more complex than that.

I’m currently being trained as a Lay Dominican. (Then again, learning as a Lay Dominican and as a Catholic never ends. The journey of faith and towards sainthood is always present until death!)  I’ll be fully professed in August. We’ve recently had a discussion on the Bible and what are called “historical-critical” methods and how to read the Bible proper, especially as the Vatican doesn’t have a wholesale guide on how to read every *single* passage of the Bible. Believe it or not, the Vatican doesn’t! We of course have doctrines and traditions of the faith that mandate a certain reading of the Bible. And this is where one has to be careful of reading certain passages and letting our emotions get the best of us. I’ve heard plenty of individuals ask me, “Well, did this woman teach Jesus to be tolerant?” Well, no. Because to suggest otherwise would be to suggest Jesus lacks what is often called the “divine intellect.” This isn’t exactly new. We may have heard of “rogue” priests who say things that distort Church teaching, but this is a larger historical problem. And the Truth always prevails! Arius of Alexandria caused a scandal in the 4th century when he suggested Jesus was *not* the Son of the Father, but a “first” creature who became divinized and got a promotion. This scandal is often called “Arianism,” and historical figures as far as Isaac Newton believed it. Saint Nicholas, according to legend, once punched Arius for promoting this heresy. (Now, don’t go around doing this!)

That being said, how do we answer to some folks who claim Jesus in this Gospel is unsympathetic? 

Let’s break it down.  

First, it’s important to note that the woman called Jesus “Lord.” Not “sir.” “Lord.” Like many other individuals who come across Jesus, this woman knew and believed Jesus was the Son of David, God’s Son, the Lord, and the Messiah. This woman never met Jesus but knew and believed. Her faith was truly great, and so great, despite her despair at her daughter suffering for so long. She didn’t need signs to believe, and this woman was not a “doubting Thomas”; she truly believed through the thick and thin. No doubt she also heard of many stories of Jesus’ miracles—healing a leper. Healing a paralytic.

The woman’s faith will soon be tested. This is made all the more apparent if you read Matthew 15’s retelling of this event: “But He did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked Him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us’” (Matthew 15:23). Imagine that! Asking Jesus, and Jesus simply does not respond. I am sure we have all felt this in prayer—not getting a response, and simply not getting the response we expect. Even Jesus’ disciples tell her to go away! Throughout history, and through the lives of the saints, we are given plenty of stories where their faith is tested, and they are rewarded. But can you imagine being at home and not getting a response during countless days of prayer? Sure. We all can. But this woman was in front of Jesus and His disciples! I’m often reminded of the story of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes who was mocked by the townspeople and insisted the grotto was where it was. Of course, she was proven right. This woman’s faith will also soon be rewarded.

Then Jesus says, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” It’s this passage, my non-Catholic friends tell me, that makes Christ “unsympathetic.” This is where analyzing the language and context of the books of the Bible is important. This is especially the case as the Bible was, of course, not written in English. As some of you know, the Gospels were written in Greek. In Greek, there are two words for dogs: kunaria and kyon. Kyon refers to wild dogs, kunaria refers to dogs that are pets. Obviously, one term is more affectionate and endearing than the other. At that time, many people referred to the Canaanites as “wild dogs” (i.e.: kyon). (Tyre is a Canaanite region.) But Jesus refers to kunaria, or pets. The woman herself is not insulted and, in the original Greek of the Gospel passage, says, “Lord, even the [kunaria] under the table eat the children’s scraps.” In many ways, the woman used the word “pet” in a larger analogy: she already saw herself as a follower of Christ, in the same way a dog follows their master, or owner. And isn’t Jesus the Master? In many ways, this already rings true to me. All Dominicans are referred to as “hounds of the Lord.” (St. Dominic is often portrayed with a dog. St. Dominic legit is a saint whose intercession you should ask for if you’re a dog owner!)

This woman was not insulted; she was happy to think of herself as a member of Jesus’ household, one of His favorite pets! Jesus then immediately grants her prayer. These analogies aren’t terribly new throughout the Gospels, either: even at the Last Supper, Jesus refers to the twelve apostles as “children.” In this woman’s great humility, she was not insulted; she merely asked for anything. Of course, it is at this moment, the woman’s faith is rewarded and her daughter is free of demonic possession. What can we learn from this woman? She inspires us to persevere and place a childlike trust in Him. Jesus Himself says, “Great is your faith!” Do we place the same faith in Jesus when the times are rough? Do we give in to others who tell us to go away and not persevere in prayer? Ash Wednesday (and the start of Lent) is next week, and I often wonder if we’re all placing a childlike faith in Jesus. And is our faith as great as the Canaanite woman’s?

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

Trust in Jesus to the End

Today’s first reading is about Stephen’s martyrdom. Stephen was stoned to death for defending the teachings of Jesus Christ. He stood up tall and he stood up proud to say what was not of God and what was from God. He proclaimed the good news until his last breath. What a man full of courage. It was the Holy Spirit that guided him to fulfill his mission. I read this scriptural passage and I wonder, was he not afraid? Did he not fear for his life? Did he not worry about the outcome of his actions? Above these questions I think, wow, this man, Stephen, had incredible faith. We have seen the power of incredible faith in many saints who were martyred after him. One thing they all have in common is that they trust in Jesus Christ.

Do you trust in Jesus Christ? Do you fully trust Him? Do you trust that He loves you and will provide for you? Do you trust that He knows and understands your suffering? Do you trust in His promise of everlasting life? All of this the martyred saints believed, giving all their trust and love in Jesus.

During these unprecedented times we should also fully trust in Jesus. The main conversation taking place is around COVID-19: people being infected, people dying, people being worried and filled with anxiety. We question everything around us and everyone who is in authority. Fear and anger have made us mistrust one another. Let’s center back to Jesus. Put your trust in Jesus. He is the one who will ease your pain. He is the one who will make your worries go away. What is God’s plan? How does this virus fall into His plan? Specifics do not matter. I understand that it might be super difficult for us to accept this. But you do not need all the specifics. All you need to do is trust in God. Part of His plan includes you and your salvation. Part of His plan includes you and the forgiveness of your sins. Part of His plan includes you and the love He has for you. Trust in God to get you through this difficult time.  You are precious in His eyes and He wants the very best for you—which is for you to sit with Him in heaven. It’s hard to not worry about the difficulties of this world, but there is great treasure awaiting us in heaven.

Again, I read the scripture passage about Stephen’s death—he was the first of many to die for Jesus. Death is never glamorous and not something we look forward to. However, death is inevitable. It is as guaranteed as the air we breathe. Now I understand that Stephen was not afraid and he was not worried. He was a man that fully trusted in the Lord to take care of him. He fully knew that the Lord loved him. As he was being stoned, he looked up to heaven and fully knew he was going home. In his darkest hour Stephen was trusting in God and said, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

I invite you to pray the Litany of Trust.

stephen
Image credit: Stephen’s Martyrdom, Photograph taken by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. from the Great Hall of Hampton Court [Domain: flickr.com]

Jesus Christ Has Won. Love Has Won.

Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.
O Lord, hear my prayer,
And let my cry come to you.
Hide not your face from me
In the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
In the day when I call, answer me speedily.
—Psalm 102:2–3

The responsorial psalm for today is piercing through my soul. Due to the current COVID-19 crisis in the world, how many of us are crying out to the Lord in distress, praying for a miracle? Many of us. How many of us might be feeling anxiety, fear, and loneliness? Many of us. How many of us are clinging to faith in this time of uncertainty? I hope, too, that the answer is many of us.

The last time in which I celebrated communion, I did not know it would be “the last time.” I had accepted the Body of Christ and rejoiced in a beautiful Holy Hour. I remember feeling FULL, feeling HAPPY, feeling THANKFUL. I am holding on to those feelings of peace as I obediently wait for the church doors to be opened to the public again. But, as I wait, I know that the Church is ALIVE. I know that God the Father loves all His children. I know that Jesus Christ has won.

In today’s first reading, the people of Israel were complaining about the manna bread that God had given them to eat in the desert. They had been wandering in the desert for years, only eating of the miraculous manna bread that fell from heaven to sustain their lives. Yes, they were in the hot and lonely desert. Yes, they did not have a variety of food to choose from. But the people of Israel failed to see the good within the situation that they were in; they had much to be thankful for. First, they were freed from slavery in Egypt—they had been enslaved for 400 years and God broke their chains. Second, they had food and water—the manna bread does not naturally grow in the desert; it was bread from heaven that God provided for His children to eat so they’d be nourished and remain strong. And have you heard of this rolling rock that just followed them in the desert and provided water?

As humans sometimes we tend to only focus on the bad and choose to sit with it. We neglect to acknowledge all the good that God has already done in our lives. And at times, even in the midst of living in the good of life, we fail to give proper thanks to God. The people of Israel eventually realized their sin in complaining against God and asked for mercy. God then instructed Moses to make a serpent out of bronze and mount it on a pole; anyone who had previously been ill had only to look at the mounted serpent and would be healed.

How interesting that God chose the image of a serpent to be mounted on the pole. A serpent was the creature that manipulated Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, causing the fall of mankind. A serpent, representative of sin; that is what the people of Israel looked at to be healed—their sins hung on a wooden pole. We also need to look at our own sin. We need to acknowledge our wrongdoings, acknowledge when we complain against God and ask for mercy. We need to look at Jesus Christ crucified on the cross. We need to see the Son of God sacrificed for our salvation. Look at the cross, walk towards it, lay all that is weighing you down at the foot of the cross, and let Jesus heal you.

Throughout the bad that is present in the world, we must keep faith to that which is good. Our faith tells us that the battle is already won. Jesus Christ died and was nailed to a cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Love has won.

These are very difficult and unprecedented times. The COVID-19 virus has affected all of us. But have faith, the Church remains alive. Pray and invite God into your life for peace. The people of Israel asked for prayer—I encourage you to submit your prayer intentions HERE so that, as one body in Christ, we can pray for you as well.

the-bronze-serpent
Image Credit: Moses showing the bronze serpent, mounted on a pole to the people of Israel [Public Domain].

God the Father, Our Father

My earliest memory of learning to pray is closely tied with my mother; as a child sitting with a rosary that I thought was pretty and sparkly, while very quietly mumbling through the words of the Our Fathers and Hail Marys that I did not yet fully know. That memory of learning to pray is always full of love. It’s a warm feeling of someone comforting me and gently guiding me towards good.

In today’s Gospel, this is how Jesus teaches us to pray:

“Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
—Mt. 6:9–13

I am imagining the reaction of the disciples and the crowds while listening to Jesus: Did he just call the Lord his Father? Abba? Dad? For at the time it was acknowledged that God was indeed “Father.” He was God and Father of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. But at the same time, God was thought to be distant, someone far away and out of reach. God was to be respected, praised, and given sacrifice. But He remained at the temple, and you went back home. There wasn’t an established relationship. Jesus changed this. By teaching us to pray the Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer), Jesus taught us how to be in close relationship with God. That He is not just some distant God (as the false gods were) but that we are His children whom He loves, and He resides in our hearts. We are called to have an intimate relationship with God the Father, the same intimate relationship that God the Father shares with Jesus, His Son.

The Our Father is a perfect prayer, divided into seven petitions. The first three petitions are everything that belongs to God, given to Him first: thy name, thy kingdom, thy will. As Jesus calls us to be in relationship with God the Father, He also calls us to be in relationship with one another. Note that we begin the prayer as “Our Father,” not “My Father.” In the remaining four petitions we ask God for ourselves and for our community of brothers and sisters in Christ: give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us.

I imagine God the Father as my protector, and I just want to run into His arms and be comforted by His embrace, knowing that each one of my worries or struggles is minuscule to the love He has for me. Everything is just oh-so-little in comparison to the love He showed by giving up His only Son for me and for you. He has given us everything we need. He has given us all of His love.

Friends, I encourage you to embrace the title of “daughter” or of “son” that’s given to you by the Lord. Allow yourself to be wrapped in the Mother’s mantle and gently rocked in the Father’s arms. To know that His name is Holy, to know that you have a place in His kingdom, and to always be open to do His will.

“At the Savior’s command and formed by Divine teaching, we dare to [always] say, Our Father.”

B624C9EE-84D2-4905-822B-0CACFF77814E
Image Credit: Art by Jen Norton; Painted prayer featuring the Our Father woven in the branches of an olive tree. [Public Domain]

The Theology of a Snooze Button

“Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.” -Leviticus 19:2

“Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.” -2 Corinthians 6:2

One of the most challenging Lents I’ve had was the year I decided to give up my snooze button. I loooove my comfy and cozy bed, especially in the winter months, amen? I am the girl who sets a litany of alarms, all going off at perfectly-timed 7-10 minute increments to ensure that I squeeze in every last drop of rest possible. My room in the morning becomes a chorus of started and stopped worship songs as my alarms go off and promptly get snoozed.

In actuality, does that lead me to getting more rest? Probably not…okay, definitely not. I usually just end up lying in bed trying to pray but thinking about my long to-do list instead, turning to worry rather than greeting the new day with joyful surrender to all the Lord has for me.

St. Josemaria Escriva wrote about what he called the “heroic minute,” where you get up immediately as soon as your alarm goes off. He talks about it being a conquering of oneself for the Lord, to get up without hesitation and serve the Lord.

This all points to a deeper temptation within all of us…why do we delay our holiness? And for what?

I find myself asking these questions of my own soul, too.

“Now is a very acceptable time…”

What are the things that hold us back from giving ourselves entirely to our Lord? We can buy into the devil’s traps of busyness, fear, frustration, thinking we’re not good enough, thinking it’s impossible, or thinking radical holiness is for other people and not ourselves. We get comfortable in our routine, in whatever the equivalent of cozy beds and litanies of alarms is for you.

Striving for holiness is messy…and uncomfortable. But it is always worth it to dare to live up to the greatness God is calling us to. Will we fail? Yes. But that doesn’t give us any reason to not start at all. With God’s grace, we can do it, as best we can, each day.

Now is that acceptable time to leap out of bed, to dive to your knees in bold prayer, to talk to your friends about God, to wildly and radically love our Lord and other people in whatever way He has designed for your holiness. Eyes fixed on Heaven, we can be holy, all by His grace that sustains us and His Spirit that moves us.

Each time I hit that snooze button on my alarm, it cuts off the worship song that I have set as my alarm tone, and that doesn’t sit right with me. In a deeper way, decisions like these stifle the song of praise that my life is meant to be. I turn inward instead and away from my fullest potential of holiness. Our lives are meant to be a continuous song of worship flowing from resting in God’s heart. He calls us to live fully alive in Him, living in each moment to love Him and love others by reflecting His love. And with Him, all this is possible!

Jesus, make our hearts like unto Yours, so that we may be holy as You are holy. May all our words be Your words, all our thoughts be oriented towards You, and all our actions be an outpouring of Your amazing love. Amen.

What Kind of God

Recently it seemed that a wish was about to come true. It was the wish that I made the last three years while blowing out birthday candles. The wish that I had been working tirelessly for and praying for on a daily basis. I worked feverishly to prepare, past the point of pain, and then on the promised day enlisted all my friends and family to pray as well.   I was confident that God had heard my prayer, sure that it was all finally going to work out as I had hoped.

It did not.

The disappointment was crushing. At first I could only laugh at the horror of it all. But fatigue and frustration fed my feelings which quickly turned black and melodramatic. Not only was there no light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel itself had fallen in, and an entirely new tunnel would have to be built.

The Opposition Voice began to whisper words of doubt and discouragement. “Surely if God were good, He would have heard and answered your prayer…”

I have at times in my life felt a supernatural joy, disproportionate to the circumstances, from a source that had to be More than human. This was the opposite. For just a few moments, my heart felt burdened with an inhuman aching; the pain of promises broken and dreams dashed and all the failed expectations of all my friends and family and those I don’t even know seemed to take over. Miscarriages. Broken marriages. Failed operations. Caskets lowered into the ground. Unanswered prayers of every kind. “What kind of a God do you believe in?” the voice taunted.

The devil always overplays his hand. In his very taunt he offered me the antidote: I believe in a God who is good.

I don’t know how God will bring good into or out of all of these situations. But I know He is good.

This trust in the goodness of God: the virtues of faith and hope—these are the weapons of life in the desert.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus seems to be rejecting not only the Syrophoenician woman’s request for the healing of her daughter, but the woman herself. “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Yikes!

But despite the apparent harshness of Jesus’ rebuke, the woman persists, and cleverly turns around this unflattering epithet: “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”

Scripture scholar Mary Healy notes that not only is this Gentile woman filled with chutzpa in her persistence, but she is the only person in all of Mark’s Gospel who addresses Jesus as Lord. This remarkable recognition of Jesus’ sovereignty comes not from an Israelite, but from a foreigner. She pays Him homage, falling at his feet, and in her reply expresses confidence that His goodness will include Gentiles as well.

Her faith and her persistence move Jesus to grant her request. Her daughter is healed.

The Syrophoenician woman turns out to be a model of Christian faith…She refused to take no for an answer—and her boldness is rewarded. The clear lesson in this story is that the Lord does hear our prayers, and even his apparent refusals are meant to awaken in us a yet deeper faith, which opens us to receive the gift he has for us. Few sayings of Jesus are recorded more often than his reassurance that what we ask in prayer with faith we will receive. –Dr. Mary Healy

Lord, grant us the grace to trust always in Your goodness, even when we cannot see your plan.

Michael_Angelo_Immenraet_-_Jesus_and_the_Woman_of_Canaan

Source: Healy, Mary.  The Gospel of Mark. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academics, 2008) pp. 143-145.

Image: Michael Angelo Immenraet [Public domain]

He Knows Your Heart

“The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” -Hebrews 4:12

Your heart is known.

Each and every part of your heart is known by our Lord, even the parts no one else knows about, the parts that carry our deepest desires and our deepest scars. And to be known by God is to be tenderly, intimately loved by God. There is nothing to be afraid of in Him knowing all of us, because He loves us totally and completely.

God knows our hearts and loves our hearts. He desires to so badly pour His love into every nook, cranny, and crevice of our hearts. The Lord waits for you in each moment to fill your soul to overflowing with His dazzling peace, with His wondrous light that shatters all darkness.

Sometimes we can find ourselves crying out to God with questions of, “why?”, “how?”, or “when?”, especially when we are struggling. God always hears and answers these questions, but oftentimes with a “who.” In those moments of uncertainty and questioning and wrestling, God so tenderly answers by pointing us to Himself.

You see, the more we know who God is and who we are as His beloved sons and daughters, the easier it is to trust that He has got every single one of our whys, hows, and whens on His Heart, too, and that He’s already working on it before we can even utter a single word.

When He knows our hearts, He loves our hearts, and everything on our hearts has His complete and total attention. He is always working for our good, in every situation.

Let yourself be known by God, and receive the beautiful intimacy of who God is, for He is love.

Praying in the Name of Jesus

There are probably a lot of souls that have been saved because of their grandmother’s prayers.

This was the thought that was said almost two years ago during a Frassati Bible study. We were studying the Gospel of John; somehow the conversation went from the topic of healing to the works of St. Augustine, which led to talking about St. Monica because it was her prayers that helped her son’s conversion, then we were talking about the intersession of our heavenly mother the Blessed Virgin Mary, and at the end of that discussion someone said that there were probably a lot of souls which have been saved because of their grandmother’s prayers. The entire discussion was led by the Holy Spirit.

Today’s Gospel reading is about the paralytic man who gets up, picks up his mat, and miraculously walks to his home. It’s an incredible and powerful passage in Sacred Scripture. Jesus’ ministry was growing; people had come to know about his preaching and healing. While he was at Peter’s house many went over to see Jesus. So many people went to see him that the house was full—there was no room for anyone else to enter. But there was this group of friends determined to see Jesus. You see, their friend was paralyzed and unable to move, but they fully believed Jesus could heal him. As there was no room for them to enter the house through the front door, they cut a hole in the ceiling and lowered their friend into the room where Jesus was. Can you see the magnitude of their faith? Who knows the distance that they had already traveled while carrying their friend to get to the house? Then they get there, and instead of things being easy, it gets complicated. They are blocked from getting to Jesus, who, they know, can heal. I imagine them talking amongst each other at this point encouraging one another not to lose faith and to keep doing anything possible to get to Jesus. What other way is there to get in? People will not move out of the way, it’s too crowded. We must get him inside to Jesus. He will be able to heal him. You’ve heard of all the wonders and signs he’s done. Let’s get our friend in through the roof. Yes, let’s cut open the roof to get him inside. Yes, let’s do it for our friend, to get him to Jesus!

The paralytic man was healed because of the faith his friends had; he was healed because his friends prayed, believed, and carried him to Jesus Christ. Those are the types of friends we all need. Those are the types of friends we should all be. If your friend is spiritually paralyzed due to the sins in their life, sin that is stopping them from walking on their own towards Jesus—help them. You can be that light that guides them. You can set a good example of how to live a virtuous Christian life. You can pray for them. A prayer is a conversation that your soul has with God.

Prayer, in itself, and the importance of praying for others have taken a very important part in my life. We cannot be like the people in the first reading who thought God wasn’t with them to fight in battle at their side. God is always with us helping us to fight our battles. Wether those battles be spiritual brokenness or physical illness, God is always by our side. When his children cry out, He listens. And I believe He takes delight in listening to the prayers of His children, especially those prayers (that act of love!) where we put our own needs aside and pray for the needs of others; when we pray for someone else to be healed and for them to encounter God’s love. Praying in the name of Jesus is powerful! He commanded the twelve apostles (and in turn commanded us) to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons” (Matt 10:8). God has freely given us these gifts to heal through prayer in His name and, we should freely give these gifts to others—so they may come to know Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel, after the paralytic’s friends bring him to Jesus, Jesus heals his soul and his body. The forgiveness of sins heals both the spiritual and the physical. After this miraculous healing the paralytic gets up and walks home—not just to any home, but he takes his first steps of healing amongst those who followed and believed in Jesus, he takes his first steps to walk home into the Church.

Let us give thanks to our devoted grandmothers (or anyone else!) whose prayers brought us to the Church and kept our faith alive. In turn, let us pray for our friends and relatives so they may be healed, in the name of Jesus, and so they may get up and walk home into the Church.

Image Credit: James Tissot (French, 1836–1902) The Palsied Man Let Down Through The Roof, 1886–1896 [Brooklynmuseum.org]