Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Raising of Lazarus (and Paul!)

My favorite Gospel passage and part of my personal conversion- John 11- The Raising of Lazarus
Famous image of Paul's conversion- there may or may not have actually been a horse involved, but it reminds us that we have to get knocked down sometimes to realize Truth!

I Know Him Whom I Believed

I know this blog has turned into a love-fest for St. Paul, but can you blame me?? It's the Pauline year! And this past Sunday was the Feast of St. Paul's Conversion. A big feast for me the past couple years, as you know.

The title of this blog post is taken from 2 Timothy 1:12 (we celebrated St. Timothy and Titus' yesterday-Paul's penpals ;)

The title also happens to be lyrics from a song that the Daughters sang (and I took to singing to myself constantly that year :) The song goes like this (Sisters, correct me if I'm wrong! :) :

I know Him Whom I Believed. I know Him Whom I Believed
And confident- I am confident
That He has been able to guard what has been entrusted to me
Until that day- entrusted to me 'til that day!

This song just popped into my head on Sunday when I was remembering and honoring Paul's conversion.

This confidence is what I - what we all- need!

After Paul's conversion, he just gave himself totally to Jesus. He just trusted in the mission Jesus had gave him and went for it! And when things got tough, he always trusted in Jesus' love.

Two books have helped me so much on my spiritual journey- He and I and I Believe in Love. I've taken to reading both again lately.

Yesterday I was reading an excerpt from "He and I" that talked about Jesus' tenderness for us and how he takes comfort from US in OUR tenderness towards Him! I just am in awe that this is even true or possible. Our God benefits from us and our tenderness?? Really?

St. Paul knew this though. I know that St. Paul had such a tender heart towards Jesus and that is why he was able to do all he did and be CONFIDENT in our Lord despite his failings and hardship.

St. Paul, while he was Saul, murdered and persecuted Christians. He was a sinner too! Sometimes we think we could never be like the saints. But if God can use and call St. Paul, certainly he can use us all! There is nothing we could be or have done that is not looked upon with mercy by Jesus.

I don't think I've ever written anything about my personal testimony or conversion on this blog. The one I used to tell on NET I am now realizing addresses this issue of knowledge of confidence in Christ.

There are many testimonies I could tell about God touching my life, but I used to tell one on the road about a retreat Junior year in college. The Gospel reading for the day was the raising of Lazarus. I remember the priest really emphasizing the verse (the shortest verse in the Gospels, I think!) "And Jesus wept" (John 11:36- I guess this does show that Jesus is moved by us!).

The priest emphasized that as Jesus wept for Lazarus, he would weep for each one of us.

It suddenly hit me in that moment, that Jesus loves me as much as Lazarus. A man he hung out with daily, and knew his sisters Mary and Martha, and ate and walked with. He loves me just as much!

The knowledge of this love is what brings about confidence in Christ.

St. Paul knew and believed this, like I said, and that is why he was able to do great things.

So do we believe that we are loved by Jesus? And do we KNOW it? Have confidence in it? Because it is true! And this knowledge can convert and change us like it did St. Paul. We may not be called to do great things, but we can have this same confidence and know we are loved!

So I offer that testimony that we too may know of God's love for each of us and have confidence in His Love.

"But I am still full of confidence because I know whom I have trusted, and I am sure that he is able to keep safe until that Day what He has entrusted to me" (2 Timothy 1:12)

That confidence! That assuredness! It's like music to my ears :)

St. Paul, pray for us!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Trust in Hope

I got up this morning and quickly texted some friends who I knew were going down to the Mall today to witness the Inauguration of Barack Obama. Friends and family also texted me to see if I was braving it out there with the masses. I wasn't, but was excited for my friends who were there and excited to be even within a few miles from the events (but kind of glad I had chosen to watch it from the warmth of my own home!)

After watching the events this morning on CNN, I felt a sense of unity among Americans for the first time in a while. But then as soon as I looked at my facebook account, I saw people saying this or that about Bush, Obama; hope, change; the past, the future....and got discouraged that we were less united than I thought. Many people still have doubt and fear, rather than hope. But we can't expect one event to unite us in hope, I suppose, so I'll get to that in a minute.

I had decided I had vegged out on our sofa long enough for one morning and needed some kind of activity to get me out of the house. There are so many good movies out right now in time for the Oscars, so I took advantage of the time I had off (did I mention I had the day off today? Our office was closed since we knew the traffic would be crazy!) and decided to see the movie (ironically) "Doubt".

First, my overall thoughts on the movie- I really enjoyed it. I thought the script (it's based on a play) was incredible and the characters were really well developed. It's exceptionally acted and I all around liked it. It does not put the Church in any kind of 'light'-good or bad- but really is just about, well, the concept of our doubt as humans. And having had my experience of living in a convent, I can say firsthand that religious are not exempt from such feelings!

The movie begins with Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character's reflecting on the concept of doubt in front of a congregation at Mass. He reflects that when we are uncertain of something, we react in some way. And sometimes that leads us to do things that are sinful. The movie continues to pose questions on certainity versus fear and on our humanity.

After the film I went to take my time in prayer (since I'd spent the morning on the couch!). I reflected on all my events of the day: the witness of an Inauguration that sparked many emotions for many people, and this movie.

Hope and Doubt seemed to be my buzz words for the day. Some people doubt, for instance, the hope that our new president has seemed to represent. Regardless of your political beliefs, we need to hope! But not to put our hope in a person, but rather, the Lord. Hope is so much easier (in the long run!) than doubt! To doubt takes so much energy, as the movie seems to state.

But of course, we are human, and we do doubt. But God does not ask us to trust in our humanity. We are asked in our divinity which comes to us through Him and His Son.

I went to St. Paul (of course!) to find what my main man has to say about hope. Here is what I found:

"...we even boast in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." (Romans 5:3)

I love this definition of hope- that hope is the love of God has been poured out into our hearts. This is what we should trust in.

And not only that, but that we should boast in our afflictions! Boast?! In our sufferings?! Our faults?! This statement can give us a personal hope as well - that the Lord does not want us to dwell on failings, but to use sufferings to persevere which produces strength, and ultimately hope.

I hope this all made sense :) I was just really struck today by what fear and doubt can do to people versus hope and trusting in the Lord's love. I'll end by quoting a different St. Paul passage that drives home this last point:

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" Romans 8:39

And that, my friends, is real hope!

We are united today in HOPE in the Lord!


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Biggest Loser

St Paul was certainly the 'Biggest Loser' in his day! He says over and over again in his writings that he considers his loss gain, however. He had a tough life, but 'ran the race' and wrote often about the physical imagery associated with purusing Christ (images of body- 1 Corinthians 12, running the race Hebrews 12, the athlete receiving a prize 2 Timothy, etc!)

Spiritual Work-Out

I'm grateful that many of you seem to find this blog helpful in some way! It certainly is helpful for me to process all that the Lord is doing in my life through journaling and blogging. I'm so glad it can be a tool of ministry and sharing!

So lots of things are going on in these next couple weeks- lots to pray about. Lots of spiritual "work" to do. I can't go into too much detail, there's some family stuff, personal stuff, but if you could just say a pray for some of my many intentions, that would certainly be helpful! We've also got the Inauguration and Pro-Life March here in DC next week, so those are big prayer intentions as well!

To begin a new tagent and address the topic of this blog post I want to start by sharing a little bit of my new daily routine. I know I shared my routine with you when I was in the convent, and then I struggled with finding a routine for a while. But now I usually start my days with a trip to the gym, daily Mass, and a half hour of prayer before work. I definitely find it is easier to keep my spiritual commitments when I am keeping my physical ones and vice versa. That mind, body, spirit thing is no coincidence!

And as it is the new year, the gym is often more crowded these first weeks. I've been lucky enough to still get my bike in spin class, but we have to sign up and stuff now- we'll see how long that lasts!

But are our Churches as packed with new-year's-resolutions-people as the gym? I will say, my friends and I went to Christ in the City- a monthly holy hour for young adults in DC- last week and it was pretty full of people which was great! I pray that people continue to attend! Just as much as I hope we keep our resolutions for our health and bodies.

Just like going to the gym and losing weight, committing to our spiritual life is a work out! One of my roommates really likes to watch the Biggest Loser and I know that it is a pretty popular show among many. The big question viewers wonder- will they stick with it when they get 'sent home'? Will the contestants make the life changes they need to stay in shape?

Anybody will say it is ridiculous and impossible to lose weight and keep it off if we don't break our bad habits or change our lifestyles. If we say we want to lose weight, but keep eating junk food and don't put in hours of exercise- we know it isn't realistic to think we can just drop the pounds miraculously!

So why do people seem to think, then, that we can offer up one prayer or go to one Mass and we are "good"? Why can't we see to stay spiritually healthy we need to put in hours of prayer, cut out the bad things and habits in our lives, and do more than just go through the motions?

If someone just walked into a gym, stared at all the equipment and just sat there doing nothing but still expected to lose weight, people would think they were crazy. But yet people come into Mass sit there and do nothing but go through the motions every day and expect God to work miracles, and they get frustrated when they don't "feel anything" in Church. Isn't this equally as crazy to think?

We need to put in the work! Feel the burn! :) Put in the time and actually try hard!

I think the problem is many don't know where to start. We will hire personal trainers to show us how to use machines, but we won't go to Confession to ask a priest for help!

So in the midst of these new year's resolutions, I pray that we all make one to make the most of our spiritual work-outs or even start a new spiritual routine of our own if we don't have one yet. Just like the Biggest Loser- it's never too late to start! And there are plenty of people to help you! You just have to put in the work.

Thanks, guys, for your prayers and for reading!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year Epiphany

In reflecting on this weekend's Gospel of the Epiphany, I am struck by Herod's response of fear to the news about Christ and how I can (unfortunately) relate to that response as I'm sure we all can.

Here there is some curious, possibly Good News, it seems, coming to Herod and his people. Men from the East have heard that a King has been born and they want to seek Him out. Herod responds in fear to this news and seeks to control this situation. I think about all the many, many times I let fear enter into my responses and I seek to control the situation myself rather than let God let His plan unfold. This is what Herod is doing here and it is easy to see his sin in this story, but maybe not as much our own when we respond similarly.

Maybe that is because, like I mentioned in the last blog, it is not out of the cultural norm to take matters into our own hands if we don't like the necessary outcome to something. It is a common, accepted response to act out of fear of a situation by controlling it.

The Magi either see through Herod's response or they are converted at the scene. Maybe a little bit of both. Either way, they allow God to enter in and though God's plan may put them at risk, they do not allow the fear to overtake them. They allow the beauty of God's plan to enter in.

I pray for each of us in this New Year that we can respond to the beauty of God's plans freely and openly. And that we do not let fear get the best of us. And for myself, that I do not resort to attempting to control situations out of fear like Herod.

This week for New Year's, I went up to Atlantic City with some friends from college that I hadn't gotten to spend time with in a while. Then I made a little vacation of the trip to New Jersey and visited a teammate from my NET team (1 of 2 getting married this August!) and a few more friends from college. I am grateful that I rang in the new year with old friends- some of whom I have now known for 10 years! 2009 marks the 10th year since my high school graduation and beginnings at Catholic U! And I am grateful that we continue to grow with each other and are open to sharing where we are at in our lives with one another.

Tonight I am recovering from the hectic but blessed week of celebrations and just prayed Saturday night Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for the first Saturday in a long time!

The Saturday Night Prayer psalm will forever make me think of my first summer in Guatemala and praying it with my dear friend Lauren from CUA (also getting married in 09!) Mainly because at the time we found a line the psalm humorous and applicable to our lives when taken literally:

"O men, how long will your hearts be closed?"

We took that to mean men's hearts towards the two of us since it had been a 'dry year' you could say romantically :)

But tonight I read it as a prayer to follow up my reflections of the past two weeks on our society and its attitudes versus God and His promises. I pray it will also be an inspiration for you. Happy New Year! May it be one of great joy and growth for each of us.


Psalm 4

"When I call, answer me, O God of justice; from anguish you released me; have mercy and hear me!

O men, how long will your hearts be closed, will you love what is futile and seek what is false?

It is the Lord who grants favors to those whom He loves; the Lord hears me whenever I call Him.

Fear Him, do not sin; ponder on your bed and be still. Make justice your sacrifice and trust in the Lord.

'What can bring us happiness?' many say. Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord.

You have put into my heart a greater joy than they have from abundance of corn and new wine.

I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety."