My Father Loves Me
Five years ago, I was in Bethesda, Maryland taking a course on Spiritual Direction. The topic for the week was The Human Person. We had just finished the session on Fatherhood and the importance of the role of the father in the family. Being my daddy’s little girl, I only knew of being loved and protected by my father and I was so incredibly grateful for being raised in a loving, caring family where I knew and felt love always. I now know that what I experienced was not the reality for everyone.
Immediately after this session, we had a free afternoon so a few of us went into Washington, D.C. to tour the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. The building and gardens were incredible, and it was like we were on a mini tour of the Holy Land. I had the opportunity to go to Reconciliation and when I came out of the confessional, I sat gazing at the scene of the crucifixion. Reflecting on how Christ died for my sins, I experienced the tender love and mercy from our heavenly Father. A love that goes beyond our comprehension. God who created me, forgives me and always welcomes me home.
We had a very grace-filled afternoon and little did we know what God had planned for us on our 30 minute drive back to the retreat house. Our Uber driver began to pour out his heart to us about how his wife became jealous of the time he spent with his two daughters and how he hadn’t seen them in months. Everything we had learned in our session earlier that day, combined with the graces and inspirations from God, truly guided our conversation. When we arrived at the retreat house, we hugged our driver and promised to pray for him. We went inside and then wished we had given him a book that we had told him about as well as some little prayer cards to give him hope. We turned around and there he was, asking to use the washroom before he left. We quickly ran into the bookstore and gathered up a few items including the book and gave him another hug before he left. He thanked us again and left with tears in his eyes. We knew we would never see this man again and we also knew that God had put us in his car that day to share His love with this man.
On this day, when our gospel speaks about the intensity and depth of God’s love for each one of us, may we have the courage to proclaim and share His love with those He places in our lives. A priest shared with me that after 11 years in the seminary, during a 30-day Spiritual Exercises prior to his priestly ordination, he expressed the main grace he received was “I am loved by God.” You cannot give love if you have not first been transformed by love. Let us ask for that deeper realization that God loves you and know that God’s grace and love working through you, heals others.
Just Give Me A Crumb
Many years ago, it was uncommon for two people of different faith backgrounds to marry or even date, especially a Catholic and a non-Catholic. Those were the years when my grandma would point this out. She would be happy when a family member would join a Baptist or Lutheran church and would say, “at least they didn’t join the Catholic church.” You may recall, last week I mentioned that I was a convert to the Catholic faith. I had been a Catholic for 12 years when I had my last conversation with my grandma before she died. She asked me to tell her about the Mass.
I explained that we had scripture readings, a homily and prayers that were all very similar to her church and then she asked me about communion. I told her that Catholics believe that the bread and wine are truly Jesus himself entering our hearts and bodies, filling us up with His love and everything that is good. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we become like him, he lives in us and we are to take him to others. I told her that the one tiny drop of the Blood of Christ, permeates my whole body with Christ’s life and His spirit flows through all of my veins. She looked at me and said, “You are happy being a Catholic. If only half of my grandchildren had half the faith that you and your children have, I could die so happy.” What a gift and blessing I received that day.
In life, we seem to remember our first or maybe our last time of special events or times. I do remember the first time I was finally able to receive the Eucharist and how special that was. I also remember the last time I received the Eucharist sacramentally.
I would like to share one more story. When our youngest son was a preschooler, he was very into mass, the liturgical seasons, the Pope and really anything and everything to do with the church. For his third birthday, he had a Priest party with 5 priests. He said that when the priests came over, they were going to eat the body and blood of Christ and pray the Rosary together. Every day at mass, he begged Msgr Ken to give him the Eucharist. He would say, “If you can’t give me the whole circle, just give me a crumb!”
“Receive, Believe, Become” - The next time you are receiving the Eucharist, either sacramentally at the mass or spiritually, think of Jesus’ excitement to come to you. He is more excited than you are and has been waiting for that moment all day. It is his high point and He is coming into your heart. Believe in his love, let him love you, and don’t push him away. Let him forgive you, let him heal you. Receive Jesus and now that Christ has just entered you, you have become a tabernacle for Him. God has put His grace inside of you so you can become more like Him. Share Jesus with others. Jesus goes with and walks with you always in all that you do as you have now become Jesus for others. The Eucharist fills your soul. The Eucharist is Christ and only Christ can fill your heart.
Open the Doors
Each day, reminders of scheduled parish activities come across the bottom of my computer screen. I used to see the mass times come across and would dismiss them as they were something that I certainly didn’t need to be reminded of. The past few months, they have continued to automatically appear as well as regular scheduled parish activities and even hall rentals and I still dismiss them but now for obvious different reasons. This weekend our parish remains closed as others are re-opening to the public with a limit of 10 parishioners. Some may be wondering why we have not opened this weekend. The Pastoral Council has asked for all parishioners to fill in a survey (see section above) indicating whether you would like to attend mass during this time. There is also a need for volunteers to assist in the process in order for us to safely open our parish.
A few days ago, I went to the church and began taking down the purple Lenten altar cloths and décor. Today is Pentecost Sunday - a day when fellow parishioner, Rose Romanowich, always reminded us to wear red. The church remains bare instead of being decorated with red in celebration of this great feast day and birthday of the church; however, I ask you to focus on a different temple - your soul. The image and likeness of God is stamped on our soul and it is also a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism opens the doors to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in Confirmation, we receive the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit in a deeper and more mature way. Many do not realize that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were infused in our souls at baptism and they are strengthened at Confirmation. When I am preparing children for receiving the sacraments, I ask them if they have ever received gifts and have left them unopened? I also ask them how often they receive a gift and enjoy that gift for a day or two and then forget about it completely? The gifts of the Holy Spirit are so often forgotten about and many are likely not able to even name what those gifts are. I remember receiving a phone call a few years ago from one of our sons and he reminded me that I need to ask God daily for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to increase in my heart. The gifts have been given to me and I must continually ask for the grace of the gifts so the fruits of the spirit can accompany me on whatever mission God has for me,
We associate different symbols of the Holy Spirit from a violent rush of wind and tongues of fire to the gentleness and peacefulness of a dove. Last week I spoke about FEAR having two different meanings – 1. Forget Everything And Run or 2. Face Everything And Rise. The disciples were waiting in fear but their hearts were being prepared to be renewed by the Holy Spirit. When Christ appeared, they rejoiced and were filled with peace. Sometimes, in order to Face Everything And Rise, we have to Forget Everything And Run, so we can be detached from things that are keeping us from finding the peace that Christ alone offers and that we can rejoice freely in his presence. On this beautiful Feast Day, when our church building remains empty except for Jesus in the tabernacle, remember to ask God to fill your soul, the temple of the Holy Spirit, completely with the gifts of the Holy Spirit (and wear red).
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created,
and You shall renew the face of the earth.
O God, by the light of the Holy Spirit
you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same spirit, help us to know what is truly right
and always rejoice in his consolation.
We ask this through Christ Our Lord.
Note: The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, right judgment (counsel), courage (fortitude), knowledge, reverence (piety) and wonder and awe (fear of the Lord).
The Fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.