The Courage to Act

This New Year, I have been contemplating the role of the Magi in salvation history. The Magi were pagan wise men and royals searching for a Jewish king. They were the first Gentiles to seek and worship Christ, who came to establish a new and everlasting covenant with all men. They set out on what must have been a long and arduous journey to seek and find a king that represented something more than themselves. They felt a longing to seek and worship even though they did not know the final destination. The Magi had the courage to act.

Do we have the courage to act? We are made to seek God even when we do not. To seek God requires us to act, and often this action takes courage.

Arriving in Jerusalem, the Magi asked, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him” (Mt. 2:2). Thinking that they would find a king in a palace, they met with Herod, who was not a nice guy by any stretch of the imagination. He wanted nothing more than to stay in power at any cost. Not finding what they were searching for in Jerusalem, the Magi continued their search until the star “came to rest over the place where the child was” (Mt. 2:9). These Gentile kings followed a star in the heavens, not knowing that it would bring them to the Star of Heaven, Jesus Christ.

Are we following the Star of Heaven, or do our eyes rest on the false stars of this world?

Finally arriving at their long-awaited destination, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Mt. 2:10). They brought their best gifts, treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and willingly laid them at the feet of a baby lying in a manger, who must not have seen like the king they thought they would find. Nevertheless, the Magi did not hesitate to worship with all that they had.

Do we give our best gifts to God? Do we rejoice in knowing Jesus?

The Magi were changed by their encounter with Christ. Rather than report back to Herod with the location of the child Jesus and after being warned in a dream of his evil intentions, the Magi “departed to their own country by another way” (Mt. 2:12).

When we encounter Christ, are we changed? Do we move forward from these encounters with a new and different outlook?

Our world is full of Herods that tempt us to focus on what is not good for our souls. How can we live as Christians in the face of a million false stars? How can we cultivate courage to act on behalf of the Kingdom of God?

May God work in your hearts so that you act with courage for His Kingdom.

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Preparing the Way of the Lord (Advent)

Advent comes from the Latin meaning to come or to arrive. During Advent, we celebrate, anticipate, and prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus. We celebrate his first coming in the Incarnation, but we also anticipate his Second Coming to judge:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31-32)

In addition, we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus into our lives and hearts. Jesus tells us to “take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:33) While not as strict as Lent (and not a penitential season), Advent is a time of preparation that should include self-reflection, fasting, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (although none of this is limited to Advent!).

Part of how we prepare ourselves is to love our neighbor by announcing the Good News to others and practicing the works of mercy. Do we really “prepare the way of the Lord” in our words and deeds like John the Baptist? Are we filled with such awe of God’s presence in our lives that we unselfishly run out to share His love with others in need like Mary visiting Elizabeth? Do we exclaim with joyful anticipation “Come, Lord Jesus”?

As we celebrate this Advent season,

May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

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Sainthood: work-in-process

We are called to be holy, in other words, we are called to be saints. What is a saint, and how, you may ask, do I become a saint? How does one become holy? The readings for the Solemnity of All Saints (November 1st) point us in the right direction.

Saints are those “who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14) They come “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongue.” (Revelation 7:9) Saints are “called the children of God” and “shall be like him.” (1 John 3:1-2)

Jesus teaches us how to become saints when he preached the Beatitudes to his followers:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. (Matthew 5:3-12A)

To be happy is to be blessed. This happiness is the joy found in eternal life rather than the temporary and often unsatisfactory happiness of this world.

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5 Easy Ways to Pray in the Car

If you are like me, you spend a lot of time in the car. Sometimes I pray the rosary, although I can’t say that I do much meditating on the mysteries while navigating through traffic. Time spent in the car, either by yourself or with your family, can be a great time to increase your prayer time, teach your kids about our faith, and grow closer to God.

  1. Before leaving the house (or starting the car), say the Guardian Angel prayer together. God has provided each of us a guardian angel to watch over us. “For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways” (Ps. 91:11). We need to remember these heavenly helpers and rely on their protection.
  2. Make the sign of the cross when passing a Catholic church. We believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. What a blessing to be able to visit Jesus in the tabernacle! By making the sign of the cross, we acknowledge his presence, thank him for his sacrifice, and proclaim our faith.
  3. Say a Hail Mary (or other prayer) every time you hear or see emergency vehicles. We make the sign of the cross and pray for whomever is in danger when we hear the sirens of a police car, fire engine, or ambulance. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others” (Phil. 2:4). As a part of the Body of Christ and to participate in the love of our neighbor, we pray for those around us no matter what the circumstance.
  4. Sing along with Christian music. You can find songs in all genres from traditional to rock and everything in between. “I will praise the name of God with song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving” (Ps. 69:30). Singing engages multiple senses, and when you are in the car, no one can hear you if you are off key! Unless, of course, you are carpooling.
  5. Thank God when you reach your destination. By showing gratitude in small or everyday situations, we grow in love of and trust in God. We turn our hearts toward God more frequently. Gratitude helps us be peaceful. “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful” (Col. 3:15).

What are your favorite ways to pray when you are in the car?

5 Easy Ways to Pray in the Car

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Lenten Journey: Walking the Via Dolorosa

 

Several years ago, I was blessed to be in the Holy Land, walking the Via Dolorosa with my husband and fellow pilgrims. When we returned, the Stations of the Cross and indeed the whole Bible took on a new, very vivid meaning that remains alive and well.

Via Dolorosa - carrying crossToday, as I prayed the Stations of the Cross with a small group of ladies, I saw again the places along the Way. I remember it all: Mass in the Chapel of Christ’s Condemnation, stopping at each station, truly trying to understand the pain and suffering that Jesus experienced. Each pilgrim took a turn carrying a large wooden cross. Mind you, this cross was no where near the weight of the cross that Jesus carried.

You realize a little (a very little) what it must have been like: loud, pushing crowds in narrow streets, perhaps a wet and cold day making the cobblestones slippery. At one point, we had to push our way through a blockade that soldiers had set up, much to the anger of others who were not let though. Only minutes later, the crowd was dispersed with tear gas.

Holy Sepulcher - Mass in tomb The Way of the Cross ends in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, my favorite church in the world (granted, with limited travel experience). I felt the closest to Jesus there. I could live there! In fact, there is a man, American I think, that spends his days in the church, dressed in “Jesus” clothes and no shoes. Takes your breath away for a second when you come around a winding Jerusalem street corner and see him.

Visiting the Holy Land and walking where Jesus walked is truly an amazing experience. It’s a journey that I never thought I’d take but am so thankful for the opportunity.

 

Photos: (1) Stations of the Cross detail, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Israel, (2) Carrying a cross along the Via Dolorosa, Israel, (3) Mass inside the tomb, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Israel

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