To be Holy

I want to be holy. Holy as my Heavenly Father is holy. Holy as the saints and martyrs, priests, nuns, and other ‘holier than me’ people in my everyday life are holy.

After what I experienced earlier in the day on Monday, I was not sure that being holy was even a possibility. I had the (honor? privilege? horror?) opportunity to attend a funeral. A former childhood classmate had lost her son. Her son, who she gave birth to just 4 months ago, had passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, March 22nd.

There were so many moments during the funeral that I noticed my whole body pulsating to hold back tears. At one point, I thought I would have to leave because I felt I was about to be sick. I happened to be sitting on the end of the pew, so I spent the entire Mass staring at this tiny casket. The reality of the loss of a child was quite literally in my face for an hour. I tried to hear the words of hope. I tried to grasp the “glory of the Resurrection” and I started thinking some scary thoughts.

The main one being, “I just came home to the Church, how can I stay? How can I joyously celebrate Easter one day, and the next not feel any comfort or trust in the words about that Easter promise for this child?” The next recurring thought I kept having was, “if these words aren’t helping me find comfort, how is any of this doing any good for my friend and her husband, their families?”.

The day before, I had reached out to our former classmates. We decided on setting up a prayer calendar for Michelle and her family for the month of April. As I left the funeral, I kept seeing messages file in with everyone picking their day, volunteering themselves and their families to also pick a day. The way everyone came together to fill up this calendar, offering to pray for this woman who many of us haven’t been in touch with in a while, was amazing.

It was as if God had played out the action of hope before me in a single day. “This is how,” He showed me. We live out the resurrection by being open to be the body of Christ that holds up those who are weary. Jesus gives us rest in the strength of one another’s arms. This is how they will go on, how we can go on. The ways in which we remain faithful, even in the darkest moments, is how the Church continues to be a hope for the hopeless. Even in the tomb of sadness, there is joy, there is hope.

I was worried that I would lose my faith and those I’ve known since childhood quickly restored it. Always have an open heart to be surprised by the ways God may choose to work. Always. Only He can make us holy.

 

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Trust, even to death!

Tonight, I went to our parish’s weekly mission of mercy they are doing for Lent. The theme was marriage and friendship so I didn’t know how the homily would affect my very single self, but apparently, I was there for something else.

The first reading. Well, who can pay attention when the reading is about Shadrach and Nebuchadnezzar? Usually, not me! But something jumped out as I tried to focus. Shadrach and his buddies, Jewish men, refused to worship a false god and responded to the King this way:

Daniel 3:16-18

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego a answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O King, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O King,  that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.””

Imagine that? This was before Jesus. This was before a savior came for the Jews! Yet, they trusted God so strongly, that even if He did not will to save them from the furnace, they would still not deny Him. How often do we say to God, ‘answer my prayer and I’ll believe, I’ll be devoted, I’ll do what’s right forever’? These men said to God, ‘save us or not Lord, we will not deny you’!

Then I thought about Romans:

Romans 14:8

“For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Live or die, we are the Lord’s chosen ones. How much less do we have to fear now than Sadrach and his buddies? We know that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the grave and went on to prepare a place for us, opening the doors of heaven to us. We know the promise of salvation has been revealed.

Jesus, when I’m in danger or simply feel like I can’t keep going, help me to remember that whether I live or die, whether this cup remains or passes from me, I belong to you. Your promise is to be with me always, in life or death. Increase our trust in that promise! Amen!

A long way off…

Returning to daily Mass during the year of Mercy has led to me hearing the Gospel of the Prodigal Son more than once this Lenten season. I heard it at a Mass of Reconciliation, another daily Mass, and this past Sunday’s Mass. One line has struck my heart profoundly. It’s amazing that this can happen with Scripture. I’m not sure if it happens with other stories or novels because I am not an avid reader, but  with Scripture, no matter how often you read or hear a passage, there is so much to meditate on.

“While he was still a long way off…”

The prodigal son had been away, we are not sure how long it took him to squander his inheritance, but he’d been on his journey likely a while. He was starving while working with the swine, so he must have still been hungry during his travels back to his father’s house.

I am sure you can recall a time when returning from a trip of some kind and being completely tired and knowing you still have a long way to go. You were hungry, and nothing was open because it was late. Usually, this is when I start to wish teleportation devices existed and that I could just be zapped home to my bed. You were alone, desperate to be home just to feel relaxed from the journey.

What must have been going through his mind when he saw his father running towards him, not yelling, “Get out of here, you are nothing to me,” which could be expected. He was running towards him with open arms, ready to embrace him and welcome him home. He ran a long way off to greet his son.

He ran a long way off…to a son who basically told his father he wished him dead by asking for his inheritance prematurely. A son who was so wrapped up in himself and his own desires. A son who planned to take his father’s hard earned wealth and spend it on things that only temporarily satisfy.

While we are still a long way off, we can be heading in the right direction. If we are willing to head in the direction of our Father, He will run a long way off to meet us there. He will not treat us as a servant, as a hired hand because of our sin or lifestyle, he will welcome us home as sons and daughters. Not because we could ever deserve it, but because his mercy requires it.

 

 

 

2 Things about Prayer

The other day, I was driving somewhere, contemplating my new routine of daily Mass and Rosary for those who signed up for my Lent Prayer Pact and I realized some things about prayer. I’ve written here before about only needing faith the size of a mustard seed in order to move mountains and this is what is becoming more apparent to me each day.

One. How often do we pray with doubt? “Well, I’m going to offer this up, but I don’t think it’s really going to change.” Or, “I’ll pray for this person to be healed, but miracles only happen in rare circumstances.” It’s tough to admit, but I think all to often, many of us pray from a place of doubt. We wonder why nothing happens, but if we’re honest, we never truly expected it to.

Two. How different would things be if we prayed with hope? If we prayed with that tiny mustard seed sized faith, how would God move differently in our lives?

This last year, for our family was not all that good from an outside perspective. We had a major loss last March in our family, and it did not get any better from there. Another family loss followed, then another. Then in the fall, my step brother was sick and almost died. His life will never be the same and neither will ours. As bad as all of that was, I rejoice because today, my grandparents are healthy, my step brother drank a full glass of water without choking last week, my parents and I are spending more time together, my sister successfully took charge of her future through a successful surgery, and I have returned home to the Church where I belong. None of this happened because of prayer from doubt.

All of these things happened because we prayed. We prayed knowing that God would hold us together. That God not only could, but would triumph in the midst of seemingly overwhelming darkness. I say this not to brag, not to boast in myself, my prayer, my faith, or that of my family’s. I say this because in Christ, He has done this work in our lives that I must call witness to. I must say, run to Him. Not in doubt, but in trust in His providence to give you your hearts desire. Not holding back, even in the least. Run at full force into his unshakable hands where there is mercy, love, forgiveness, and healing.