Thursday, September 3, 2020

Child of God

You may know the story of Zacchaeus.  He was a tax collector, considered a sinner because of his job.  Tax collectors were known to cheat people, to collect excessive taxes to line their own pockets.  They were looked upon as the lowest of humans in the time of Jesus.  Well, as the story goes, Zacchaeus had heard of Jesus and learned that he would be passing by him soon.  Wanting to see who this Nazorean was for himself, Zacchaeus ran out to the road; but the crowd was large and the Gospel tells us that Zacchaeus was short which meant he could not see Jesus over the crowd. But Zacchaeus was also smart, he ran ahead of where he knew Jesus would walk, and climb a tree.  Jesus knew Zacchaeus was there, he looked up and called him by name to come down from the tree and that he (Jesus) was to dine with him in Zacchaeus' home.  Now, as you can imagine, there were those who thought that this could not be (this is where you hear loud gasps from the crowd, women fainting, etc), how could this prophet, this man who cures the blind could ever sit at a table with a tax collector, a known sinner.  And here Jesus has the perfect response - knowing their thoughts, Jesus pointed out to them that Zacchaeus was just like them,  a descendant of Abraham.

I am currently working on studying the Gospels, and right now I am into the Gospel of Luke.  When I read this passage (Luke 19:1-10) this morning  I could not help but to think about the situation of our world today.  It made me wonder who would Jesus have dinner with today.

I have a confession, I am one who struggles with judging others, it seems to come so easily (isn't that true for sin in general).  I watch the news and look at social media - some I agree with, others I do not which determines what I think of people.  But, we live in a world of differences - different skin color, different religions, different economics, different up brings, different, different, different.... The list goes on.  But we seem to miss one key issue - we (I mean WE - everyone) was created from God's love.

God does not see us black or white, rich or poor; he sees our hearts and our souls, he sees as we truly are, HIS children.

Now, I know you are all nodding your head and saying - "duh Theresa, we know that."  But I ask you, do we truly, really, know that, not just in our brains, but deep down in our hearts, in our souls?  When we look at the news, when we see homelessness on our streets, when we see pictures of injustice, and hunger on social media - what do we see - what do we think?  Do we hear Jesus saying to us "they are just like you - a Child of God?"

Yes, we are all individuals, but we are also all the same - we hunger for love - love from each other and love from our Father.  We need to pray, and pray often to keep our eyes on that one truth.  We need to begin to see each other as we truly are, and we need to love each other as we truly are.

Now, I know there are those in this world who do not accept God's love, who do not believe it - but does that change the fact of that God's love it there?  No, and we are not responsible for their beliefs - what we ARE responsible for is how to we love them no matter what.  Someday when I am standing before the Throne of God - I don't want to hear him say that I failed in seeing his love in the people around me.  I know, it's not easy, we need to retrain our brains, we need to open our hearts, we need to remove the scales from our eyes.

We need to see the beautify of God's love which is all around us.  Today, I choose love; today I invite Jesus to dine at my table; today, I see you as you truly are - a Child of God.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

20 Years from Now Will it Matter Where You Stood in Line in 2nd Grade?

Being a substitute teacher has many advantages - one, which is my favorite, you have the opportunity to work with a variety of ages of children.  I substitute from grades K-12 in the Catholic schools in my area.  Some subs will not do that - they have their favorite and will only sub for those grades, but I'm open and willing to sub any grade.

I have found it interesting in what the students get upset about - when they cry about some injustice - which for students from Kindergarten to about 4th grade seems to be everything.  For instance - when the younger classes are lining up - they will argue, push and shove each other about the order which they are to stand in line - who get's closer to the front, or another is when it's to be quiet reading time, who gets to set in the comfy chair or on the special carpet.  My response to them has been "in 20 years from now will it matter where you stood in line today?"  The younger kids will say "no" but don't really get my question - it's hard for them to think of time - they are more about the here in now.  The older kids do get my question - I even heard one student say it to another one.  This made me smile.

Today, in my continue study of the Gospels (I'm currently studying Matthew)  I came to the part where they ask Jesus about paying temple tax - Matthew 17:24-27.  The writers of the reflection gives great insight to what is really going on.  The temple tax was a requirement of every person to pay each year, it's profits goes to the upkeep of the temple.  Jesus asks Peter his thoughts on who the Kings of the Earth requires to pay a tax - subjects or foreigners.  Here is where there was given some clarity.  Due to translations - in Greek the "subjects" is really speaking of the King's own sons and the "foreigner" is everyone else.  Jesus is asking - do the Kings tax their own sons.  The answer is "no".  So in essence - does Jesus (Son of God) need to pay the tax.  Here is where we find Jesus "choosing his battles so to speak" he agrees to pay the tax by sending Peter out to catch a fish - in that fish's mouth will be a coin that would pay the tax for both Jesus and Peter.  Jesus uses the terms "so not to offend".  The reflection author notes that paying this particular tax does not offend or violate any of Jesus' moral principals.

This Gospel gave me pause and lead me to think and question - what are my moral principals - what is important to fight over and what is not?  For each person this will be a different answer.  But I do believe that what ever the answer is - it will not change over time - so that in 20 years it will matter where you stood on this particular subject.  It goes to our character - who we really are deep down - who we want to be.  And it made me think of a good way to determine what to do - "would I want this on my tombstone?" "She had a great faith in God" or "she was great at belittling someone who dist her on FaceBook?"  I think you know my answer.

We are living in stressful times to say the least, but it should not change our core values - in fact it is a time for those values to shine forth. 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Words and Actions

Several years ago, after my mother died, I was going through her sewing table – it’s like a desk with the sewing machine folded up inside.  In one of the drawers I found a note written by me as a child.  It said “we the undersigned agree to take care of the dog” and it’s signed by my brother and myself.  This absolutely cracked me up.  I don’t remember neither writing the note nor which dog I was referring to, but I’m guessing it would be Sam.  But obviously my brother and I wanted this dog very much.  Now as grown and being a parent, I know when getting a family pet, the children can promise to take care of it, but 9 times out of 10 it’s the parent’s responsibility – including vet bills, pet food and pet toys. Words and Actions.

In the same token as my note, it’s also just as easy to promise God all kinds of things when in a moment of distress.  “If you will help me with (insert issue) I promise Lord I will do (insert promise.)  I know I’ve done it many times over my lifetime.  Sometimes I followed through, most times – just like our New Year Resolutions they fall flat.

Living a Christ centered life is not always easy.  Christ challenges us to dig deeper, love stronger, and serve more.  This can be especially a challenge when we know others are watching us. We want to display a perfect relationship with the Father, but in our humanist, we struggle.  And trust me, I have struggled.  In doing so, I have found it interesting when the non-believer sees me failing and points it out “I thought you were so good, and yet you do this.”  My usual response is, “I am human, I make mistakes, and if I didn’t that would mean I’m in heaven.  Jesus did not come for the saved but for the sinner – which is all of us.”  I only had to say this a couple of times to my family before they stopped pointing out each of my sins.  Their words did make me very aware that they were watching.  Words and Actions

But all is not lost – we just need to remember Jesus’ two commandments – to love the Father above all others and love our neighbor as ourselves.  In that he never said we needed to be perfect, he knows of our human nature – he is very aware of our failings.  And that is why these two commandments are so important.  Loving the Father comes with hope, for when we fall, we must get back up, brush off our knees and reaffirm our love for the Lord and accept his love and mercy for us – even when we don’t feel we deserve it.  And in doing this we are putting our words into action, by loving ourselves and our neighbors, for love cannot be kept to ourselves – it must be shared with others.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Changing my DNA

I am a child of the 60's and 70's - and attending Catholic school after Vatican II was interesting, though I didn't know it at the time.  The Sisters did their best, but it was a whole new world, new thoughts, new ideas.  Not only were we putting a man on the moon, but society as a whole was changing - so was the Church (St. Pope John XXIII - "we need to throw open the church windows - and let the light shine in.")  I can remember a Sister when I was in High School - had us write one of our sins on a small piece of paper which we put together in a coffee can - she then set it a fire.  I don't remember her saying we were forgiven - but I think the exercise was to remind us as the smoke risen, it took our sorrow and our desire for Mercy to the Father; and to give it to God to help us overcome that particular sin.  I also remember watching a birthing film in my Senior year as part of our Senior Religion Class (which I fainted during - but that's a whole different story.)  So, I can safely say some of the basic catechism was missed.

Today I am working on improving my understanding of the Catholic Church and my faith.  One of the ways I am doing this is studying the Gospels.  I've started with Mark - it's the first written and the shortest - and according to my Pastor - it's the best (could be because his name is  Now, with all this back ground information on me in mind - you can understand better my revelation.

I am into the Last Supper - Take and Eat, Take and Drink.  The commentator on this section has made an interesting point (though I'm sure I have heard this before - it has really hit me now.)  She said in Hebrew "body" does not only mean the flesh - but the whole person - flesh and soul.  As I read this I had a revelation - when we receive Holy Communion - Jesus comes into us (not new news here) - his whole person - but not just for an hour or a day - but for the rest of our lives - he has become a part of our DNA, he has become a part of who we are; he has changed us.  It is why we celebrate the first time someone celebrates the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  He is there, He is a part of us - always - whether we acknowledge it or not.  I see it as my super power.  And, receiving Holy Communion on a regular basis helps us to grow closer to him; helps us to open our hearts to acknowledge his presence within us; helps us to allow him to change us even more.

One of the other revelations I had when reflecting on how Jesus joins with us when we eat and drink - is that he is there for the long haul - not like someone who get's mad when we do something wrong and unfriends us on FaceBook - but he is there come hell or high water.  We might be going through troubling times, but Jesus is there - and he is not going away - no matter how hard we might try.

I have always had a devotion to the Holy Eucharist - when I was a child - I so believed it was Jesus' body, I thought the small cross that is in the center of host was a vein - Father said it was Jesus - and so I completely believed - without question.  But now I have an even deeper devotion - I have a better understanding of how important it is to receive Holy Communion.  As Father raises the Bread and the Wine at consecration - I find myself saying - "Thank you Lord - I believe, I truly believe.)

Monday, October 7, 2019

A Rosary in my Pocket

This past weekend, we hosted Sister Angela de Fatima Coelho from Fatima at our Parish (St. Anthony of Padua, Grand Rapids, MI).  She is the Sister who was chosen to be the Postulator for the canonization of the two of the smaller children of Fatima, Jacinta and Francisco.  And I have to say, she was simply marvelous, I could have listened to her all day.

Sister Angela told us the story of Fatima - the children were out tending the flock when they saw lightening and thought a storm was coming.  So, they began to head for home.  While doing so they came upon a bush where Jacinta and Lucia saw a beautiful lady and  knelt down.  Francisco - who thought his sister and cousin were out of their minds wanted to get home before the storm came.  At some point Jacinta and Lucia realized that Francisco could not see the beautiful lady and they asked her why could he not see her.  Her answer was for Francisco to pray his Rosary.  So they told Francisco to pray his rosary - Francisco, took his Rosary from his pocket and began to pray, while doing so, his vision was cleared and he began to see the beautiful lady.

This is where the story struck me -- Francisco took his Rosary from his pocket.  A seven year old child had his Rosary in his pocket (in fact all three of the children had their Rosary's with them.)  I began to think - do I have a Rosary in my pocket ready for prayers?  It's in my purse - does that count?  There is one by my bedside - can I count that?  But to be honest I needed to answer "no - I do not have a Rosary in my pocket ready for prayers."

Mary asked the children to pray their Rosary everyday.  I had this devotion a while ago, but have fallen away from it.  Why?  I would say it was laziness.  Honestly, I can pray a simple Rosary in about 15 minutes, if I'm adding Scripture to it - it could take a little longer.  How many 15 minute segments in my day do I waste away?

After hearing Sister Angela tell this wonderful story, I found myself with a renewed spirit to restart my devotion of praying my Rosary every day.  I also am working on keeping my Rosary with me - ready.  It's our greatest weapon to sin - and one we should all use.

When we pray our Rosary, just like Francisco, our vision will be cleared and we will begin to see God's hand at work in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  It brings many Graces with it.  For me, I always feel lighter and more hopeful.

There are many lessons we can learn from Fatima - and each of us needs to listen to the story once again (even if we think we know it by heart.)  I feel the biggest for me - at this time in my life - is the lesson of renewed spirit of prayer which will help me grow closer to the Lord.

So, I ask you - do you have your Rosary in your pocket - ready for prayers?  Join me in a renewal of this devotion and follow the instruction of our Holy Mother - to pray a Rosary every day.

You can hear Sister Angela here

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Son of David, Have Pity On Me

I was just on this wonderful retreat.  Each year for the past 6 years I go to the Sisters of St Francis in Sylvania Ohio for several days (this year it was 5 days.)  They have these two one room cabins (called Hermitages) which you can rent.  There is no TV, internet, or phone. They have all your basic needs covered, including a little kitchenette for you to cook your meals.  On the campus, there are areas of artwork which you can spend time with and reflect, a lovely chapel which is a model of the chapel St. Francis built in Italy, and a Church.  Basically my retreat is my own.  I go with a bag full of books, never knowing where God will lead me.  I love to read about the Saints and this year I found a book by Pope Francis "Walking with Jesus" which is a collection of some of his Homilies and general audience sermons.  All this reading helps guide me, but I have found that the greatest time is when I just sit quietly, not talking, not thinking, but simply be with the Lord.

I know there are times I get too caught up in my prayers  - trying to justify my prayer, trying to say the right thing - adding words.  Have pity on me, heal them, forgive me, open me, protect my grandchildren --- all are simple request just like Bartimaeus - a blind man sitting along the road to Jericho who cried out as Jesus was passing by "Son of David, have pity on me." (Mark 10:46)  But more than requests, they are a sign of faith.

Faith comes when we have built a relationship with the Lord and fully trust in his compassion.  It is the "something" which we can lean on when nothing we do will help - when we finally release everything to God, and trust him.  This relationship takes our effort - to spend time with the Lord, talk with him, cry on his shoulder and thank him for the simple things in our lives.  We don't need eloquent words to ask God for help - we simply must ask, and know that God is in charge.  It is when we let go of our fears and allow our hearts and souls to take charge.  Our Lord wants us to trust him - to love him - to recognize his working in us. 

And this takes me back to my retreat - In Pope Francis' book - there was a line that hit right to the heart of things.  "God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy." (Walking with Jesus, page 16)  And as I reflected on that one little line - the tears began to flow and I found myself saying those two simple little words "forgive me."  God's mercy is so great - our human minds cannot grasp the magnitude of it.  But, unfortunately we stop asking for it, we stop asking for forgiveness.  I've come home from retreat with a desire, each and everyday to ask the Lord to "forgive me" and "grant me your mercy."  Simple prayers, yes - but ones with great impact on my relationship with the Lord.

So, I ask you to join me each day - stop what you are doing - and simply pray "forgive me."

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Bargaining with God

I've done it many times - I'm sure you have too -- praying that if the Lord would do XYZ in our life then we would do ABC.

When I was experiencing my infertility issues in my early 20's - I can remember each month begging the Lord to "let this be the month" and promising the Lord all kinds of things if it could only be true.  I look back at it now and can see my lack of faith - of trusting the Lord for he can see the "big picture" and that I was only caught up in my immediate pain.

While going to all the doctors trying to overcome my infertility - it came to light that while my mother was pregnant with me (in the late 1950's) she took a drug (diethylstilbestrol - known as DES) to help with stopping miscarrying me.  She had had 4 miscarriages before me.  And she trusted her doctors and believed that this drug was good and would help her carry me to full term.  What she did not know is the lasting effects that that drug would have on my health and fertility.  I recently started doing more reading on the drug - I had known it was the cause of my infertility - but did not have a clue on what other effects it had on me.

With the revelations I had learned, I found myself asking the Lord once again - why did you not just let me still get pregnant - all things are possible - and I had read of other DES daughters still being able to conceive - though having troubled pregnancies.   And the Lord showed me, that this drug would have effected the lives of my daughters and possibly granddaughters - and that I would not have been able to survive the gut wrenching guilt and pain of it.  That took my breath away.  Yes, I had gone through much pain when I was young and trying to conceive - but Jesus could see the future and was guarding my heart from something an even greater pain - the knowledge that I had passed on this infirmity to others.

I think when we are going through troubles - yes, we need to reach out to the Lord and ask for help - but we should stop all the bargaining.  The Father has a plan for our lives, and he is perfectly capable to work around the evils of this world to see his will come to pass.  And we need to learn to trust in His plan - His will.  Our prayers should be one of praying for graces to help us work through our problems - not for them to magically go away.  I am thankful he put a wonderful Catholic doctor in my life at that time who said that it may be time to look at other options and being an adoptive father himself - he shared with me the beauties of adopting a child.  This conversation lead my husband and myself on a whole new path and within in a year we adopted a 7 year old son who need our love so desperately.

The pain of never birthing a child lingered with me for years - but the Lord have me the graces to put them aside and to rejoice the love of our son and grandchildren.

Trusting in God is a must for us and one of faith.  My prayers for myself and you is that our faith may continue to grow - our love of God consumes our heart and the peace of knowing we are walking this world with him at our side.

Child of God

You may know the story of Zacchaeus.  He was a tax collector, considered a sinner because of his job.  Tax collectors were known to cheat pe...