Where would you be without Christ? I start this FRAYAM Reflection with this simple question. My Faith has helped me grow closer to God, and my parents started this process. My family showed me what it means to honor my Catholic Faith. My close bonds with family is one of many G.I.F.T.S. that Christ has given me.
G.I.F.T.S. stands for: God Invites Friends To Sanctification. He does this through relationship with us and the relationships we have with others. That relationship can only work if we show our desire to be his friend. We do this by spending time with him in prayer. God has always answered my prayers when I am down or when family or friends need prayers.
God constantly gives me G.I.F.T.S. and has helped me know that he loves me, and he shows me how to be positive and not worry about the Past. He is going to someday provide me with everything that he believes that I need to be Holy. He helps ease my anxiety when I am praying, and he talks to me to reduce my fear and worries. He tells me to be patient, don’t be too hard on myself, and just rest in Him.
God is the most trustworthy friend we have. He will talk to you and answer your prayer requests whenever you need help from him. God does have a different time frame than we do. Our prayers may not be answered as quickly as we wish, and they may be answered in different ways than we exactly requested them. But, they are answered in the way God feels is best for each of us. Why? This is the case because he desires our Sanctification. He wants us to be made more virtuous, and interestingly enough, this is only possible through trial and tribulation.
I know God loves me. Why? I know this because of the G.I.F.T.S. he has given me. He doesn’t tell me to go away or to stop telling him my concerns. He stays with me and helps me accept the Past that does not need to be troubling me in my Present life. I trust that whatever difficulty enters my life has a purpose, and that purpose is to make me more like Christ. Do you see that God means business? He is our Leader! What G.I.F.T.S. has God given you, both wanted and unexpected, that are leading you closer to him?
Four simple words, ‘Thy will be done’ - for some, these words bring peace and comfort, but for others, like me, they are a struggle. Born and raised Catholic, God has always been in my life, but I will admit that I have not always made our relationship an easy one. When I graduated high school, a first-generation college student, teachers said I had a mind for science and should pursue it, so I did. I was later told I should get out of our town and meet new people, so I did. I moved 6 hours from my entire family to Terre Haute and majored in Geology. I did well academically throughout my undergrad and was told that I should pursue a graduate degree, so I did. You would be great in the lab researching, so I did. You should pursue your doctorate, so I did. Are you noticing a theme here?
It was during my doctorate at Tulane University in New Orleans that I reached my breaking point. For what felt like forever, I had been doing what others wanted of me, it was all-consuming, and the pressure I placed on myself to please each and every person in my life had left me completely broken.
And God, where was He in all of this? He was there. He always is. My mind was so cluttered, and my heart was so hardened that I couldn’t hear His words or feel Him reaching for me. My two years at Tulane was a period in my life of which I am not proud. I was broken, and my actions reflected that. A phone call from home on February 22, 2009, was the turning point. Through tears and screams, I realized that I had no idea who this person was that I had become, but I was ashamed of her.
The days that followed were a blur as I flew home to bury one of the most important women in my life. The plane ride saw my mind, as always, overthinking every piece of my life. I knew I was proud of my accomplishments, but I wasn’t happy. I knew I wanted to change - looking back, this was God pushing through - but the devil was work in my mind via temptation.
In New Orleans, I finished another semester, and days of internal dialog over my future followed. I can’t explain it as anything other than a ‘God Moment,’ but I found myself in a church for the first time in years. I sat there in silence and reflected on the last seven years of my life - I had unique experiences, published research, a successful teaching career, and a family who couldn’t be prouder. I was good at my life, and I wasn’t miserable all of the time, but in my heart, I knew that it wasn’t the life I wanted. That day in that church pew, my brain shut down. It was quite long enough for me to hear the words of a friend who had never left me, a friend who had been waiting patiently for me.
Telling my parents that I was quitting my doctorate program was, to this day, the hardest thing I have ever done. Followed only by telling others who were so proud of me. My heart knew that they wouldn’t love me any less, but the devil filled me with lies - ‘you are such a disappointment, you are letting everyone down, they will be ashamed of you.’
“I’m so confused, I know I heard you loud and clear - So, I followed through, somehow I ended up here. I don’t wanna think, I may never understand that my broken heart is a part of your plan. When I try to pray all I’ve got is hurt and these four words: Thy will be done...”
I want to tell you that my story ends with “from that day forward I committed to living a life surrendering to God’s plan,” but my friends, that just isn’t how my story goes. What did those hard conversations accomplish? They set me on a path where I acknowledged that I had severe anxiety and that it was playing a crippling role in my life. While I still struggle with my anxiety, I have worked hard to learn tools to cope, and God’s voice is one that I can once again hear.
I find peace in praying those four little words, “Thy will be done,” even when I still struggle with fully accepting them. I pray daily for the strength to surrender to God’s will and everlasting love. When we allow ourselves to surrender, amazing things will happen - when we allow ourselves to surrender, we have the courage to persevere when bad things happen. I’ll end by sharing that I pray daily for all of those who, like me, experience this struggle of anxiety and that the peace of surrendering to God’s will is with you always.
“I know you’re good, but this don’t feel good right now. I know you think of things I could never think about. Sometimes I gotta stop, remember that you’re God and I am not...So, thy will be done.”
Peace be with you! He is Risen. Alleluia.
I write this from our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. It is at this location and that of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, that I am learning to serve. My formator’s homily from this Sunday’s liturgy noted that our ordination to the Holy Order of Deacons is approaching. In a little over one year from now, god-willing, the eighteen of us will be mercifully ordained for service at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. But, formation has not always been easy and the effort that I apply to this transformational process has occasionally been subpar.
Each and every Christian, by the nature of our baptisms are called to be conformed to Christ. And, each sacramental grace we receive aids us in the process of unifying ourselves to Christ and his merciful love.
Practically speaking: How often do you find yourself not satisfied with the work of your hands? Do you occasionally miss deadlines at work? Are your projects often not of the calibre you’d prefer? Maybe, you did not get that promotion that you were seeking due to a lack of dedication at work. Possibly, because of procrastination you narrowly missed that passing grade on the most difficult examination of the year? At some point in the past, have you not been the best son or daughter, wife or husband, brother or sister, or friend?
Spiritually speaking: Sin is “missing the mark”. A perfectly fitting analogy is that of archery. In that moment, Sin is when you shoot that arrow and find yourself not hitting the spiritual bullseye. How often do you miss opportunities to express the love of Christ to others?
I do not think I am alone in this sad reality. Time and time again, no matter the task asked of me, I am daily reminded of how much I rely on God’s mercy.
For a moment, let’s take Thomas in today’s Gospel reading who was desperately in need of the Divine Mercy of Jesus. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” I’d like to suggest that Thomas is displaying symptoms of being a “lukewarm disciple” and someone who is in desperate need of God’s mercy. He spent the last several years living with Christ. And, yet, as soon as the Lord is physically and spiritually distant from him, he disconnects from Christ completely by choosing to not believe he had resurrected.
Is there anyone more in need of the mercy of God than someone who is lukewarm to Christ?
Jesus visited Saint Faustina Kowalska repeatedly for several years and asked her to pray for the souls who have become lukewarm, and immerse them in the abyss of the mercy of God. In her visions of Christ, Christ spoke the following, “These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: 'Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.' For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy”.
Saint Peter reminds us that through our Lord's passion, death, and resurrection we have become “God’s people”.
Once you were “no people” but now you are God’s people; You “had not received mercy”, but now you have received mercy.
My friends, the remaining question that I ask you to contemplate in your private prayer is the following: Am I seeking to rely on Christ’s mercy moment by moment? Or, am I distancing myself from Christ and his Church becoming a “lukewarm” Christian?
Again, we quote our Lord to St. Faustina:
Jesus said, “When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls.” (Jesus, Diary 1074).
How can we approach the Lord with trust? Firstly, by living in Christian community with our fellow baptized brothers and sisters and taking up responsibilities of service. Secondly, by spending time daily in prayer with our Lord asking for help with the tasks he gives us. Thirdly, by receiving the graces of Mercy only found in the sacrament of confession when we “miss the mark”.
On this, Divine Mercy Sunday, each of us can rejoice! We celebrate the source of our joy which is the Mercy of God. Let us learn from the example of Saint Thomas and seek the mercy of Christ. Let us be the people that Christ is calling us to become. I desire to no longer be “lukewarm”, to resist temptation to miss the mark, and to radiate to others the “abundance of graces” that Christ gives me out of his Divine Mercy.
Let us go now to Worship our Lord, Witness to his Mercy toward us, and Serve others out of that same Mercy.
For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
As I am writing this on the eve of Easter, I find myself marveling at the extent of my stubbornness. I, like many others, desire control, and certainty. I like to sinfully plan every detail, know precisely what is to come and how to get there. And to top it all off, I want to do it myself. I am independent to a fault and will trudge my way through the storm rather than rely on another or ask for help. How ridiculous is that, though?
I am reminded on this night how absurd that notion is. That I, a sinful, powerless, and flawed 25-year-old, would instead try and take control, rather than offer up my anxieties and trust The Father and Christ, who on this Easter weekend we celebrate the fact that He ROSE FROM THE GRAVE. Yet, I still try my best at every obstacle and turn to take the reins. It is truly laughable.
This season has been challenging. This year has been tough. Time and time again, I have been reminded of the absolute lack of control and power I have. Lack of control is everywhere: from considerable shifts in my work to navigating new relationships, changes in the social and political climate, and overall chaos, it seems that the lack of control has been abundant in every area of life. Through this chaos, I’ve desired change. I wanted, I craved, power, so I took it upon myself to seek change to regain that control.
I started job searching, and a few potential opportunities popped up, none of which were ever guaranteed or inevitable, but I clung to them as if my life depended on it. I wanted a change in where I lived, thinking that would help give me some sort of sense of comfort, so I started looking for new places to move to, and another potential popped up, which I, again, clung to. I felt as though I had regained control of my life, but as I write this, both the options to live and work somewhere new are no longer present. As quickly as they came to me, they were gone, and I was left with the reminder that I do not have control. That my only job is to trust, pray, and wait.
I’ve never been good at waiting. I’ve never been good at trusting. It’s a time of challenge but also a time for seeking comfort in Him. Each of us needs to find comfort in Christ, who is powerful, loving, all-knowing, and a personal God. The goal is to find peace in trusting the path that was specially crafted for each of us, one which will ultimately allow us to glorify God. Once I realized this truth, all I had to do was trust and let go of the constant desire and seeking of control; I experienced peace.
For the first time in a long time, I am confident in whatever is to come. Not that I have ANY clue what that is, but I am changed and able to trust that it will be God’s will. Not my own. So- I continue to wait. And pray. And, now, as Easter people, we celebrate that the God who is powerful enough to bring His Son back to life, has control over mine as well.
“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (NRSVCE, John 16:33).