By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle, “the day that Christ appeared to him in a vision as he was on his way to Damascus, reproached him for his persecutions and converted him to the true faith.”* I find it interesting that the feast day is not called the “Conversion of Saul”, but rather, the “Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle”. Saul didn’t get converted that day; he died, and Paul rose in his place.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, chapter 1, he recounts, “Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans.” He was chosen by God, called by God, and sent by God.
First of all, we know that Paul did not receive instruction from the other apostles. He begins his letter saying, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” So, this knowledge Paul has about having been chosen in his mother’s womb, did not come as a result of intellectual pursuit, nor of faith in some teacher or other, but it was revealed directly from God. Before Paul can receive his mission, before he is even called, God lets him know he is infinitely loved. What comes next is truly amazing, Paul says, God “called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me.” The new man that rose that day, Paul, was no other than Jesus Christ in him.
“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13). Just like God formed Jesus in his mother’s womb, he forms Him in us while we are still in our mother’s womb. He chooses each one of us and loves us into being. Then, at the right time, He calls us though His grace, so that we can then say, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Unlike St. Paul’s dramatic conversion, most of us will spend our lifetime shedding the old self and growing into the image of the Son in us. Even if we feel we are not ready, through the grace of the sacraments, Jesus can already begin His work. We just need to remember through Whom are we chosen, called and sent. “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” (Eph 2:10).
* From Universalis: About Today (25-Jan-2020)
By: Rick Hernandez
A few months ago, during a team building exercise at the office, we were asked whether we had a main goal to accomplish at work. The answers from our very large and very heterogeneous group were varied and ranged from wanting to do "good for our patients" to wanting to "climb the corporate ladder". I noticed that the people answering had one thing in common, that is, they knew their answers right away. They knew what they wanted to accomplish at work. After this question, the group leader asked us whether we had a main goal in life. To my surprise, most of the co-workers struggled with their answers, some starting with "If I have to have a goal it would be..." or "I don't really know, I guess it would be...".
The point of the exercise was to invite us to think about how work is part of life, and life is what we live. Reality is that we tend to separate our work from everything else, almost like a different world. We invest fully a third of our time at work, but it tends to be disconnected from the rest of our lives...
Later I started to think about my own life, how I'm a husband, father, son, brother, friend, mentor, mentee, teacher, student, and I asked myself the same questions... What is my goal in life, at work, on the street, and at home? Do I have a main, all-encompassing goal to the way I live my life, one that applies to all that I am and am called to be here on this Earth? I prayed for a while and eventually the answer came: “To accept the love God has for me and share it with everyone, through who I am and what I do.” At the end of the day, isn't this what our God commands us to do? To accept His love, we plug into the source, our Lord Jesus Christ. Participating in His feast, the Eucharistic banquet, the Holy Mass, we recharge our hearts with the faith, hope and charity we require to perform our daily chores and jump-start the relationship with our brothers and sisters.
We are children of God, not just some of the time, but all of the time. We are Church, not just on Sundays, but every day. We are sent-disciples, not just at church, but everywhere. We are called to constantly and consistently be in relationship with our Lord, and to show His love to others, that they may get closer to God through seeing His love for us. Let us then, unite the separate aspects of our lives to Him who loves us, that we may achieve the consistency required to be His true disciples, apostles of His love, everywhere we go.
By: Laura Worhacz
“But the mission dearest to Mary ‘s heart was that of constant prayer…” - Saint Peter Julian Eymard
Dearest Eucharistic Family,
Mary guides us through our journey of faith. The mission of our Catholic Church continues through the Cross of Jesus Christ for our eternal salvation. Living in the mystery of our suffering and allowing the pain to be offered in humble service is the revelation of the saints. Grace pours out of the unknown. Our hidden and submissive offerings are those we may be tempted to think unseen. God’s vision of love for our lives is seen in the silence.
Mary’s mission was that of constant prayer. If we think of our Lady’s prayer… How did she pray? She was not praying the rosary as we know it now, or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. It seems Mary lived in a constant state of prayer. This union of prayer granted her to be the first missionary of our Catholic Church. I have been praying for years the rosary, chaplet, and many personal devotions. The prayers take my heart home to the Catholic Church and bring me into greater union with God. However, when Raymond (my husband) was in ICU for two weeks after his recent liver transplant surgery my prayer lived in the deep silence of my soul. I was blessed in those weeks to get to an early morning Mass. Receiving Communion was everything to remind my soul of its mission. The rest of the days were a blur, busy with nurses, doctors and taking care of Raymond. Our mission begins with fulfilling the duties of our state in life. The mission is granted by our interior consent to God’s Holy Will. Obedience to silent time with our Father, and receiving His son, sets us on our course. There are times we are in control of our prayer and other times we are tossed about, yet by the gift of the Eucharist we are still within, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46).
The Holy Spirit will guide our paths and all the work thereafter. God is so gracious; He offers us freedom; we give permission to His life in us. His grace is ever ready to be poured out to us. The mission of our Catholic Church begins in the heart of each believer. Where God extends our mission will be granted one breath at a time. We pray, like Mary, for our constant prayer of consent to be where our mission on earth begins.
Happy and blessed New Year to you and your families.
By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
One of the traditions I miss from Puerto Rico is the celebration of Three Kings Day. Every year, on the eve of January 6th, children fill shoe boxes with grass for the camels and then go to bed with great expectation, for the Three Wise Men will visit that night and leave presents behind. We continued that tradition with our children, but, since we lived in the United States, we had to come up with great stories to explain why the neighbors did not get presents on January 6th; my kids accepted the completely logical idea that camels were slower than Santa’s sleigh and only had time to stop by the houses of the Puerto Rican children who believed in them. They accepted it because it came from us, their parents, who they trust and love. And it was true… as long as they believed the Three Kings would come and visit them that night, they did.
In today’s Gospel (Mk 16:15-18) Jesus says that “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” But later He adds,
“These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
When I read that impressive list, my first thought is, “well, I guess I don’t really believe.” But then, as I ponder a little more, I challenge that thought. I remember the times that I did drive out demons in Jesus’ name. Like the time I was speaking with someone who was having a really bad day, and I witnessed despair leaving and hope settling in instead. I remember the times when my eyes have met the gaze of another, and a new language was spoken, one that went straight to the heart, without a sound being uttered. I remember the time when the “snake” was lurking inside my home; I learned all I could about internet safety and had some uncomfortable but necessary conversations with my children. I remember the time I was given a false teaching, like a deadly thing to drink, yet the truth was so clear in my mind that it did me no harm. And I can also remember the times when a touch, a hug, or just a pat on the shoulder healed a heart sick with loneliness and doubt. Seems like at least sometimes, I do believe. But what about the rest of the time? What about those times when I let fear and worry creep in?
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3). We need to return to the place where we trust, where we believe. Every time the world tells us we need to be afraid because things are scary and out of our control, we need to turn and hear the Word saying, “Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43:5), and believe that “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Phi 4:13). “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”” (Rom 8:14-15).
My children received gifts from the Three Kings because they were born into our family. It didn’t matter that they were living in a different land, they only had two requirements to fulfill: to be part of our family and to believe. God also has a gift for His children who believe. “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:16). Through Baptism we have become children of God. Let us help each other remember the truth when doubt creeps in. Let us believe so that God can work amazing signs through us – through our words, our eyes, our hands, our feet. Let us help each other believe.
We are Ivonne Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.