Dearest Eucharistic Family,
Finding God’s love brings purpose to our lives. Jesus’ love teaches us the value of sacrificing for the sake of others. Responsibly stewarding begins in our families, is offered to our loved ones, and then extended to our communities; love grows.
“Referring to the love of the heavenly Father for us, St. John says that this love was so great that he gave his only Son for our salvation. (cf. 1 Jn 4:10) How did our Lord prove his love? He loved us through the sufferings and humility of his life.” (Saint Peter Julian Eymard)
We know we are loving when we choose the heavier Cross and offer our days in service, whether it be tending to children’s needs, cooking, cleaning, working in an office, or as a craftsman, layperson, or religious, our days may be offered in sacrifice to all who call upon us.
“Given by the Father, he went even to Calvary; God the Father gave him to us because he loved us. Our Lord says: Love me as I have loved you. [Jn 13:34] The mere sight of him reveals his love for us: I took on human flesh; see the humility of my incarnation, the poverty of my life, all the different sacrifices I accepted out of love for you.” (Saint Peter Julian)
This past week, I had the blessing of talking with someone incarcerated for three years at the expense of selling drugs. This person is working now, not married, and trying to care for children. The description of going to bed hungry while in prison, fighting for one’s food, and looking over your shoulder every second to be ready to defend yourself sounded like hell to me. I listened and listened, then offered some guidance. I recommended to continue working and aided further to bring this soul to the Sacraments of our Catholic Church with the assurance God is with us in the mystery of our lives. It was an anointed conversation that I will be praying for. Providential! We need one another to love as Jesus has loved us, catching the tears of our brethren.
The one thing that keeps rising in my prayer is our time here on earth and the opportunity we have to choose the greater, the divine life. We will be accountable for our actions on that special day when we meet the mercy of God. This earthly pilgrimage is our “doing time”.
It’s real to the fact we will be meeting our Savior, and when we have that moment to look into Jesus’ face, what will we see? Will we see our Fear of the Lord in God’s gift of the Holy Spirit? A fear of not loving enough?
Jesus often went to a deserted place to pray. He glorified Our Father in Heaven by offering his life, his will. Our prayer, taking us to the quiet of our hearts, will keep us in the unfolding of our own death and rising through the days of our lie.
“When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.” (Matthew 14:13)
Mary suffered beyond our human comprehension could ever imagine, yet her prayer allows her to continue to serve us as the Mother of God and our mother. Mary’s love for us consoles her pain for the sins that Crucify her Son. Our Lady, Mother of Sorrows and of the Blessed Sacrament, is our guide to loving as we have been loved. Mary takes us into her home where we are beloved, beheld, and taught how to endure the Cross.
“Nobody can have greater love. I want to give my life for you. Calvary, Nazareth, Bethlehem are all sacrifices.” (Saint Peter Julian)
We will see the glory of God’s love through our lives. This world is passing away; what will remain is the love we share, the time we offer to one another, listening, and loving. The compassion of Christ has been given to us in his life-giving sacrifice of the Cross. May we do the same for all whom we meet; may they see CHRIST IN US, loving and forgiving.
“When St. Paul wants to give a proof of our Lord’s love, he says: he died for me, therefore he loved me. (cf. Ga 2:20) That was the proof. My good Daughters, we cannot consider the incarnation without saying: God was so good, how he loved me!” (Saint Peter Julian Eymard September 17, 1862)
“The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover…” (CCC, 677)
I have always been a rule follower. Knowing where clearly marked borders are gives me the freedom to move within the safety of its lines. Yet, every coin has another side. Every good thing made to help us can indeed become an obstacle for us as soon as we place it between God and us. We can become so comfortable focusing on the rule of law that it becomes what we trust. We can become legalistic and miss entirely the spirit of the law. Everything in creation is subordinate to the law of Love.
Imagine a spouse standing right next to the “no cheating” boundary, seeing how far they can go while not crossing the line. I’d say that marriage is in trouble. Their focus is on the line rather than on loving their spouse. Rules and boundaries are essential in all relationships. As a married person, knowing that cheating on your spouse is a definitive NO is important. Yet, if that is where our focus remains, on what not to do, we might miss living and experiencing the very relationship the boundaries were meant to protect. The same thing happens in our relationship with God. If our focus remains only on paying attention to the boundaries, we miss entering into the heart of God.
God wants us to be faithful, to love Him above all things, to believe in His love for us, and to trust in Him. It is not around the edges, around shallow waters, where we will find the fulfillment of this. It is by going towards His Heart, away from the things that used to bring us comfort and safety. As long as we move towards the center, we don’t have to fear losing our footing in the deep. He is there to hold us, for we were made for Him.
At work, much is required of me. Earlier this year, I traveled out of the country weekly for a few months. This is hard on the body and, to the same extent, on the mind as time is spent on travel, airports, cars, hotels, and dealing charitably with people. During that time, I had two close family members pass on, and I had been so busy that it felt like I had not had a chance to mourn properly. Then it was Palm Sunday; that day's readings always bring to mind the contradiction of worldly life, that we can go from great elation and well-being to great suffering and sadness... And how are we meant to embrace both, as Jesus did.
Would I be able to accept my death without resentment? Would I die asking for my tormentors to be forgiven as Jesus did? Or would I be like Peter and run, denying that which is the source of my love, faith, and hope? Also, like Peter, even if I run, would I be able to come back and be steeled by the grace of forgiveness? There are so many of us that are more like the Iscariot. We grow disillusioned and give up on God, leave His sight, and try to get what we think is ours, feeling that we have a right to that which is really a gift.
I have always identified with Peter, a simple man, a blue-collar person, a simple fisherman who would just as easily be confused as enlightened. One who would look at his own capabilities and say I can follow, I can lead. Yet, one who could also see weakness as well as strength. I am weak, just the same as Peter. I can be strong, just like Peter. But Peter denied Christ three times... Would I do that as well? Peter repented from this and was restored, yet again, by our Lord when he asked Peter three times whether he loved Him. Later, during Pentecost, Peter was fortified by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This strength we have in us through the graces of baptism. We have not our strength but God's strength in us. Let us pray for the activation of the strength of conviction, for the perseverance in hope and faith, especially at the last moment before death, that we may endure and abide in Him, who died for us. May we be who He calls us to be.
The main thing about the story of Peter is that by his denying, he broke faith with Jesus. That is why Jesus asked him three times to affirm his love so that He could heal his heart and his mind. And though the love Peter professed was not at the level that Jesus desired of him, he was able to open his heart again to Christ and become the Apostle he was called to be. In Pentecost, and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, he was able to accept the gift of courage, the courage of Christ. This is the same with us today. There is a reason God left us His Holy Spirit.
At Pentecost, Peter and the disciples were indwelled by the Holy Spirit. By baptism, we are indwelled with the same Spirit. In Confirmation, our courage is activated. With courage, we are able to accept the mission of love and mercy, just as Peter did. As we continue living in this world, we will be tasked with many things. We will encounter many challenges, many times where we are called directly to witness to our faith in Christ, to our love of Christ, and to our love of neighbor. And we will know that it is difficult, and we will know that this is hard to do. Yet we must remember the story of Peter. We must remember that Christ will look upon us and ask us whether we love Him. Whether we love Him a second time, whether we love Him a third time... What will we do? Jesus lived and died for us. In the Eucharist, He is still awaiting us, calling us to acknowledge Him, asking us if we love Him. Will we choose to witness to His love for us? May we accept His courage and live this life as the apostles we are called to be.
Let us pray: Lord, help us to be strong and courageous. May we grow to love You even in our fears, even in our lowest moments. That You may be glorified by everything You call us to do, in Your name. Amen.