This week we have a very special guest blogger, the man I always think of when I think of Mercy. He not only has written books on this topic, God's Mercy in his life has been tangible. He is Dr. Matthew Halbach. He is my husband and teaches me so much about God's love for each of us... read on!
"Divine Mercy Sunday is upon us. If there is anything divine about God, it is the mercy he shows toward us. In fact many saints and theologians over the years have agreed that mercy is the greatest of God’s qualities: not because God has other, lesser qualities but because we are so much in need of his mercy. Knowing this, we can say without hesitation that mercy is something, indeed, divine.
God’s mercy is radical, far more radical than we can (or are willing to) imagine. Many of the parables, not to mention Jesus’ death and resurrection, challenge us to embrace (not necessarily comprehend) that God’s mercy as the very power that heals, transforms, and saves us . . . and it’s free! This does not mean that mercy is cheap. Our forgiveness comes at the most expensive price: the death of God’s own Son. But it does mean that God is so willing to forgive us that he is willing to risk everything, to give all of himself, and to do this “while we were still sinners” (Rom 5:8).
We cannot merit or deserve God’s mercy. Yet, Saint Faustina—the recipient of the Divine Mercy Devotion and image—says that Jesus told her that “the greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to my mercy” (Diary, 723). In reality, we don’t have any rights to (or claims on) God. Yet, Jesus is ever-willing to be our servant if it means we will but follow him.
Let this Divine Mercy Sunday remind us of how costly forgiveness can be, and how liberating it is when we accept it. May God open our hearts to be instruments of his mercy for others, though it may cost us dearly to be so. Finally, let us never be afraid to run to God for forgiveness, no matter how serious the sin or how many times we have committed it. Christ died and lives again to forgive. God is mercy (Lk 6:36)."
Thank you Dr. Halbach!
“HE IS RISEN!”
“HE IS RISEN INDEED!”
I will always remember the Easter Vigil in 2015. This is when I was confirmed into the Catholic Church. That night the normally mild-mannered priest presiding over the mass stepped up to the pulpit to give his homily, and he loudly proclaimed, “HE IS RISEN!” The people in the pews responded, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”. The priest then proclaimed even louder, “HE IS RISEN!” and the people again responded, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”. And once more the priest proclaimed, “HE IS RISEN!” and the people once more responded excitedly, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!” Now that’s a way to start a homily! If people were starting to doze off, they certainly weren’t any longer after the priest was yelling from the pulpit that “He is risen”! What a change from a few short days prior when the Passion narrative was read on Palm Sunday and the people in the pews are reminded that it is our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross when we say our part of the reading, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him”. It is certainly a much better feeling to proclaim that “He is Risen” than “Crucify Him”!
What that priest understood so well was that Easter is the pinnacle of the church year. While there are many great feast days and other celebrations throughout the church year, none of them top Easter. Easter is so important that we take the 40 days of Lent just to prepare for it! 1 Corinthians 15:54b-57 sums up what we are celebrating: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The utter sorrow of Good Friday when Jesus was crucified has changed into the most joyous occasion in the history of the world. Jesus conquered death, rose from the dead, and we have the promise of eternal life because of His victory!
I remember thinking at the Easter Vigil how awesome it would be to be able to visit the tomb that Jesus was buried in. There is a church called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem over the place where Jesus was buried that can be visited. This has to be the most holy place in the whole world, right? Well at Easter Vigil shortly before I would be confirmed and receive my first communion, it hit me. What we have available at Mass is greater than any holy site we could ever visit. At Mass, Jesus is really present for us to receive in the Eucharist. The Mass isn’t just a reminder of Jesus’ life, but it is actually a participation in His life. We literally receive His life into our lives by receiving the Eucharist. I know it would be an incredible experience to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or any of the other pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land, but I realized we are closer than we could ever be anywhere else in the world to Jesus when we receive the Eucharist at Mass. Whether it’s right here at St. Joseph’s parish, or wherever you attend, Mass is the holiest place in the world because Jesus is truly present to us in the Eucharist. What a great privilege it is to be Catholic and to have access to the incredible gift of the Holy Eucharist!
I hope you all have a great Holy Week and a great Easter!
This Palm Sunday, those powerful readings, range from super happy to super tragic! The First Reading starts with praising Jesus with palms as he enters Jerusalam, even calling out “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” It’s hard to believe how quickly something can go from amazing to terrible so quickly...
The hardest times in my life were similar to our readings today in that they started out so well! Matt and I discovered a couple of years ago that we were going to have another baby! Our fifth! Gosh, how we hoped it would be a girl, a sister for our only girl, Grace. All of you with sisters our there, you are blessed beyond measure. My four sisters are a huge gift to me.
Because this pregnancy was a surprise, we had a hard time wrapping our heads and hearts around another baby so soon after Grace was born, but God stretched our hearts like he does and we became very hopeful and excited about the baby! We started telling our friends and I even told the youth group here. We already knew what we would name the baby if it were indeed a girl. We would name her Hope.
It seemed that as quickly as this beautiful gift of life came into our lives and stretched our hearts, she was gone. Losing a child, no matter what age, is something I’d never wish on my worse enemy. We went to my first doctors appointment at 11 weeks gestation and could not find Hope’s heartbeat. Upon an ultrasound, it was confirmed that we lost a child for the second time. We lost a baby whom we named Matty just two years prior).
We lost Hope during the first week of Advent that year, the week of Hope. We know that God planned this-that Hope will always live on! I think telling people was the hardest part. And after telling my teens in the youth group, they all crowded around me and Deacon bill led us in a praying for our healing. It was so beautiful.
Everyone has probably experienced suffering and loss. And maybe even you have suffered this loss shortly after experiencing such a blessing or gift! If you have, I am sorry from the bottom of my heart.
But in the name of my child in heaven, Hope is not lost. Hope lives on! This is what we are preparing for! You see this Sunday we will remember Christ’s Passion, suffering and death. But next Sunday, we see that that’s not the ending God has in mind for us!
Death does not win! Suffering does not win! Good wins, joy wins! LIFE WINS! Look around you. WE are a resurrection people! Christ’s death and resurrections means that we are assured of hope for something better! We are assured eternal joy in heaven! The battle has been fought and WON for us!
My challenge for you this week is to prepare. Lift your sufferings (past present and future) to our Lord this week and prepare Him to resurrect them on Easter Sunday. And if you need a little help doing this, I have an in with two saints in heaven who I assume are in our Lady’s arms right now, Baby Matty and Baby Hope.
Have a blessed Holy Week my friends!
Do you like fire? Not like burning buildings down or anything, but enjoy looking at a flame on a candle perhaps? I believe there is something universal about humans and our attraction to fire. The warmth, the light, the comfort it provides.
Matt (my husband) and I love watching those survivor shows like Survivor Man or Man vs. Wild. It’s amazing how they say that fire is so necessary not only for warmth or to cook any animal they hunted/trapped/found, but also because psychologically, it helps men to feel comfort and hope and empowers them to carry on.
The readings this Sunday have a central theme… God loves us… but in order to truly love Him back, we must remain free… free to choose and free to act. Because of this freedom, and the temptations we face, humanity often chooses wrong… This was the case for the Israelites for a lonnnnngggg time. But that’s not how the story ends.
You see, the first reading and Psalm tells us about the Hebrew people and how God used to send them angels and prophets and messengers of God warning people to turn away from Sin and to love the Lord! But alas, they not only did not listen to these prophets, but they also tormented the prophets! That’s almost like spitting directly into God’s face. Not. Good.
So, the Babylonian Exile happens-the Jewish people are cast out of their Promised Land, their temple destroyed, and those who survived this hostile takeover were made as slaves. I can almost hear God say to them, “You see?! I warned you!!!” But instead of an, “I told you so” God has a different message.
God gave us Jesus as a response to our bad choices: THE ultimate act of Mercy. One of the most well known verses in scripture is a part of our Gospel reading, John 3:16
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.”
God never gives up on us. In fact, he loves us SO MUCH, that he gave his only Son SO THAT we could be with Him forever in heaven. We could not and do not earn that privilege. It is a gift to us. The most beautiful and humbling gift we could ever receive.
Jesus is more than some holy guy who taught us something. He did more than a few miracles back in the day. Jesus is real. He is alive today. He is the answer we are all looking for. His passion, death and resurrection make our entrance into heaven a possibility. This is what lent prepares us for-to celebrate this enormous gift.
Jesus is our light. He is the fire that warms us, sustains us, comforts us, gives us hope, instills in us the desire to do good and to spread those same attributes to the world around us.
When we know Jesus and choose to love like him, we shed light into the darkness that is the world around us. I am tired of the dark, you guys.
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” ~St. Catherine of Siena
The Old Testament reading for this Sunday is the familiar passage from Exodus containing the 10 Commandments. I think often times we look at these commandments negatively as God telling his people, “Do this, don’t do that.” While God simply telling us either to do or not to do something is certainly a good enough reason that we should obey Him, His commandments go much deeper than just a list of rules.
One thing that has been on my mind this Lent is freedom. I want to be free from seeking fulfillment in worldly things, so that I can have a deeper relationship with God. Part of Lent is disciplining our bodies by not eating meat on Fridays and any number of other personal disciplines anyone has taken on. By denying our bodies good things like meat that it desires, it helps prepare ourselves to deny sinful desires when we are tempted.
The 10 Commandments point us to the freedom we are meant to have. While God does tell us things not to do, it is so we can be free. When God gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments, he had already freed them from actual slavery in Egypt. The Israelites knew exactly what it was like to be a slave. God freed them from the Egyptians but also wanted them to be free from sin so they could properly love and worship him. The 10 Commandments gave them the basic starting point to be free. If the Israelites disobeyed the commandments and worshipped other gods or coveted their neighbor’s goods they would no longer be free. They would be slaves to sin and to the things of this world.
By giving up unnecessary things of the world during Lent, it helps us to focus on the necessary things like our relationship with God. In my own life, I gave up several things starting January 1st and will continue these disciplines through Lent. While the things I’ve given up are good things like certain foods or other things that can be used for good, it is important to keep worldly things in the proper place and perspective in our lives. I have already realized in the last couple months how much fulfillment I sought in things of this world. By seeking freedom and not fulfillment from sin and other worldly things, our hope and prayer is to grow closer to God throughout Lent and the rest of our lives.
Oh… lent. Are you feeling like you’re in the desert yet? Last Week’s blog was about finding your desert, your lonely place. Your stuck place. Your, perhaps shameful place. and inviting Jesus into it. Sometimes Jesus does not take our deserts away… he just sits with us in it, helps defeat your temptations in it…
But this Sunday’s readings are not necessarily about sharing our dry and weariness with Him, it’s about GIVING him all that we love.
You see in the First Reading, it’s the story from Genesis about Abraham sacrificing his only (and very long awaited) son Isaac. Abraham is called the Father of Faith for a couple of reasons, but this one is pretty memorable. I mean imagine… Abraham was promised a son from God for YEARS. I mean like 50 years or something. Isaac was born when Abraham and Sarah were OLD! BUT God fulfilled his promise to Abraham… that he would indeed have a son who would be the father of many decedents.
Then God asks Abraham to give Isaac back via human sacrifice. I’d be all, “Ummmm, that was not a part of the plan, God?! I thought I got to keep my son?!?”
But Abraham was all, “Here I am” and obeyed, faithful that God’s promises are indeed rich, and abundant, and better than we could imagine. After following along with God’s plan and moments from sacrificing his beloved son, an angel stops Abraham and calls for him to release his son.
After witnessing the faith of Abraham, God says,
“in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly.”
So this week in lent, I ask you… What are you holding onto tightly? What do you love most in this world? Is it your family? Your friends? Your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse? Your kids? Your career? Your money? Your dog? What?
Most of us are afraid to even to there, thinking something like, “I don’t want to tell you what I love because you’re going to tell me I have to give that up!”
Take 5 minutes and watch Father Larry Richards tell this beautiful story about The Man from Crete. It gave me chills.
I'm not sure about you, but I feel that way with a lot of things in my life. I feel this way about God's Plan for my life... like it's somehow a sacrifice of all that I hold dear or something. It’s scary to sacrifice all that we love, because we are fooled into thinking that we are saying goodbye! But God writes our deepest desires on our hearts, he is the author of all that is good and perfect and pleasing in our eyes. He wouldn't have us love something so dear, just to take it away. He just wants to join us in that, and make it perfect.
What (or who) are we holding too close to our hearts? What is our Crete? Our Teddy Bear? Our Only Son?
Is God truly the most important thing in our life right now? Are we willing to give him everything we have, so he can give us everything we’ve ever wanted?
Lent is coming. Are you ready? The Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent is short and sweet, but packed with so many levels of understanding.
Here’s the Gospel:
"The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
"This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel."
That first sentence, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert” causes me to stop and think and pray quite a bit. Now, I’m not sure about you, but giving up something for Lent usually does not involve a lot of the Spirit. Usually, it’s me thinking, “I have not been eating well and spend a lot of my time thinking about Food instead of God… so I'll give up sweets for lent.”… or soda… or going out to eat… and then that’s it. Usually within two weeks of Lent, I fail! Hahah sound familiar?
My challenge for you before Lent officially kicks off this Wednesday is to STOP. THINK. and PRAY by inviting the Holy Spirit into your life and let the SPIRIT DRIVE you into your desert, a place that will tempt you, a place that is difficult, a place that is lonely at times, a place where you can let the angels minister to you.
Then this Sunday, when you hear this gospel, that first line, “The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert”, imagine that the Spirit drives Jesus into your desert. Let Jesus fight your battles, your temptations, give them to him. Stop trying to do everything yourself and invite Jesus into your darkest places.
This is Lent. This is difficult. This is why he came and died for us. When we let him fight for us, we get to rise with Him. He is our answer.
What is your desert? Will you let Jesus in it?
As we gear up for the season of Len (WED, FEB 14th!!), I’d like to share something that moved me so deeply about the power and chains of guilt and how we are NOT called to carry guilt around… we are called to confess and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness!
Now, as lent approaches, many of us are thinking about things to ‘give up’. May I suggest the guilt you may be carrying around. You see, the readings for this Sunday are about burdened people who are in need of God’s mercy. God is the Breaker of Chains.
This reminds me of one of my favorite movies of all time, The Mission. Seriously, watch it. You'll bawl like a baby but leave inspired. There is this scenewhere a man (played by de Niro) is carrying around this huge burden of armor as a penance for the sins he committed (He previously persecuted the villagers he is now about to serve by enslaving and selling them for profit, and killing his brother).
This huge pack is slowing him down, making his journey exhausting, but he carries it, believing this burden is somehow justice for the terrible sins he committed. Near the end of his journey, he encounters the people who had persecuted for so long, the people who had every right to hate him. One of these villagers leans over him to cut his burden free. He helps de Niro up and welcome him to their village.
Tears. Letting go. Forgivenss. Freedom.
How many of us are carrying around guilt that slows us down or makes us feel unworthy? How many of us feel that forgiveness for our sins is too generous? How many of us believe we are too far gone for God’s mercy?
God’s mercy and forgiveness are ALWAYS waiting for us. No matter what. No matter who.
Confess your sins and throw that burden away! You’ll feel lighter, better, freer.
Here’s to a weightless lent, you all!
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading from the 1st Chapter of Mark we hear about Jesus healing the sick and driving out demons. Verse 34 states, “He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.” Earlier in Mark 1 when Jesus drove out a demon, the demon said, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”
I find it quite interesting that the demons that Jesus drove out of possessed people knew who Jesus was and we see throughout the Gospels that they were terrified of Him. Demons were created as angels by God, but they disobeyed Him. They were given knowledge of God but they didn’t have true faith, they rejected God, and they fell from grace.
I imagine most everyone reading this blog post knows at least something about Jesus. Our entire Catholic faith is based on the fact that Jesus is God and that He became man, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again. The point that I want to get across is that it is not enough to just know who Jesus is.
James 2:17-19 explains this by saying, “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone may say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.”
This passage in James goes on to explain that true faith requires works. If we don’t have good works, our faith is as worthless as the faith that the demons have. We get a great example of how to live out true faith in Hebrews chapter 11. I would encourage anyone to take a few minutes and read this passage of Scripture. Hebrews 11 goes through the Old Testament telling us about heroes of the faith such as Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, and several others. It explains the great faith of these Old Testament men and women. The entire emphasis of the chapter is on faith but the reasons given for these people’s great faith are their works. It says that by faith Noah built an ark and Moses left Egypt. Would Noah have had faith if he said God I believe you but I’m not going to build the ark? I’m going to say no that’s not true faith!
In closing, remember that it is great to know about Jesus and what he did while he was on earth, but to be a true follow of His we all need to be obedient to Him and live out our faith through our actions.
What are you doing and where are you going? The New Year can overwhelm us with the newest ways to get organized, drop weight, and accomplish goals. But is it a distraction from where we need to go?
The readings this Sunday point us in a direction that does not disappoint. I honestly feel like the Psalm 25 is the PERFECT PRAYER For 2018!
R. (4a) Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice
and teaches the humble his way.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Teach me your ways, O Lord. The perfect, honest statement that starts us on the right track. The psalm shows us what God does when we ask him to show us His ways. He “shows sinners the way, guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble his way.” This is a prayer that is guaranteed to be answered.
BUT are we willing to listen to Him. After he answers your prayer and shows you His way, will you, like Peter and Andrew in the Gospel, abandon your nets and follow him? I know we aren’t fishermen, but we all have a net. We all have a passion, a profession, a way of life (organization projects, school work, careers, whatever!). So if God calls us to something different, would you abandon your nets to follow him?
Word up. I am Stacy, the youth minister of this amazing group of teens. I have 4 kids of my own, 2 heaven babies and like 60 teens I consider very large children of my own.