What is the first thing most of us do before buying an item or service? We look for reviews, usually first online, but if possible, we ask our family, friends, and neighbors for their experiences and recommendations.
It’s all about trust, isn’t it? In the end, we are always searching for the truth.
So what happens when we hear something that seems “too good to be true”? When the stakes are high and there is no room for error, a trustworthy witness becomes really important.
This is not a problem unique to our times; we hear this question in a very familiar Gospel story, The Story of Doubting Thomas.
Jesus has risen from the dead! Talk about something that seems too good to be true! Can the stakes get any higher?
In all of the Resurrection stories, we see that there is doubt until Jesus speaks. Mary Magdalene hears Him speak her name; the disciples on the road to Emmaus feel their hearts burning when He explains the Scriptures; the eleven doubted when they saw Him but believed when He spoke to them.
When the disciples told Thomas they had seen the Lord, they only had the power of their own words behind their testimony. It was not until Jesus spoke to him that Thomas believed.
The disciples, before Pentecost, had only the power of their word. But, after Pentecost, the new Apostles speak God’s Word, and lives are changed. We, who have been made a new creation through Baptism, are also called to be witnesses of the Resurrection, and the stakes are really high!
Isn’t this what everyone is searching for… Goodness, righteousness, and truth? Our friends and family need our word-of-mouth recommendation, our story, our witness. We must strive to live lives of holiness so that it is the Holy Spirit dwelling within us who will speak the Word to those around us, who will pierce their hearts with the power of Truth.
Growing up, my mom would often say to me:
“Lo mejor que Dios hizo fue un día detrás del otro.” …which roughly translates to: “The best thing God did was to make one day after the next.”
I usually heard this nugget of wisdom really late at night, when some unfinished task stared me in my weary eyes -- when I had done everything in my power to finish something, yet it was not enough.
“Go to sleep, my darling; tomorrow will be another day.” Sometimes I was so tired that I listened. But often, I would go on a bit longer…try just a little bit more.
For most of my life, I have described myself as a “night owl”. Even as a young girl, I found that the hours between midnight and 2am were the most productive. I would usually rearrange my bedroom furniture then -- when the silence of the night allowed bouts of creativity to flow uninterrupted. Later in college, I would do my best studying during those hours, often pulling “all-nighters” with my friends. I would then sleep in the whole weekend and catch up on rest.
After I became a mom, my “night-owl” status, while handy for a little while (i.e., late-night feedings), started to become a hindrance in my life. I found myself caught up in a catch-22. I was too tired to be creative, yet… for some reason, I felt the need to stay up. So, without me knowing exactly when, my status changed from “night-owl” to “insomniac”. I went from actively choosing to be up because inspiration was flowing to finding myself flipping through cable channels (or later social media), waiting to be overcome by sleep.
I’ve gotten better at going to bed at a reasonable time, but the other night, my husband, who was trying to fall asleep as I kept “reading” (phone browsing), asked me…
“Why do you fight falling asleep?”
I was taken aback… The truth was staring me right in the eyes.
Did you ever have to wrestle a baby long enough until he/she stops fighting against sleep? I remember feeling them slowly melting into my arms, giving in…finally falling asleep. That was me!
After praying about it, I realized what was holding me back… fear of death -- but not of actually dying during the night. Going to sleep requires a kind of surrender, a loss of control. I was afraid of letting go.
The Night Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours has the following prayer:
We also pray the last words Jesus spoke from the Cross before He died:
There is something of death each time we go to sleep….but we know that is not the end of the story…
So yes, there is a kind of death each night, but it is not a death we should fear or avoid; it is the kind of death that brings life.
“Give us this day our daily bread….” What we receive from God each day must be offered back to Him each night. Jesus, the Bread of Life, wants to come and be buried in the ground of our hearts.
I think I can safely say, “My mom was right!” What a gift it is that God made one day after the next and that we have an opportunity to do this every day. Each day, a little at a time, as we grow in holiness, our hearts are cleansed and purified.
I do not know if learning to peacefully surrender my spirit into the arms of God each night is preparing me for the final surrender of my earthly life, but I do know that there is great wisdom in taking things one day at a time.
So what will I do when night falls, and well-dug patterns of sinful behavior beckon me to not let go? I will come running to the arms of my Mother. I will grab my rosary beads and ask Mary to rock me to sleep while singing her song. I will tell her of my day, of every unfinished task I am afraid to let go of. Little by little, Hail Mary after Hail Mary, I will let go of my fears and hold on to hope. It is in the safety of her Immaculate Heart where I will learn to trust and let go.
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I have always loved swimming. It is the one exercise I can do well despite the physical limitations I experience with CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease). I love everything about it. I love how the water feels against my skin and how the sun feels against my face. I love to go underwater, and for a few moments, experience the stillness and the silence. In the water, I am weightless and graceful.
In the water, I feel free… free from wearing the ankle-foot orthoses that allow me to walk, free from the cane that helps with my balance, free from the walker and wheelchair that support me when I get tired. And even though I am grateful for all these devices that help me move and give me freedom, it feels great to be in the water… just me.
I love to swim as fast as I can, for as long as I can, and feel my heart beating inside my chest, my lungs expanding, my muscles working. In those moments, my soul says:
This is what I told my husband when, after years of weighing pros and cons and making budgets and projections, I suggested it was time to take the plunge (pun intended) and build a pool in our tiny backyard. What could he say to that? …of course, he said yes!
You might be wondering why it took me years to decide to build it when swimming brings so much joy to my life. Two main things were holding me back.
First, the thought of the mess, noise, and disruption for months, especially since our bedroom window leads to the backyard. And second, our space is minimal, so to fit a pool, we would have to give up our beautiful, extended patio… a place we had enjoyed very much up till now. It took me a long time to be ready to give it up.
I settled for something good for a long time, even when my desire was for so much more. This is similar to what we experience in our spiritual lives.
God places holy desires in our hearts, desires to guide us to something greater, but we often let things hold us back. We know deep inside that we are created for more, that there is something that will bring us greater joy, but we hesitate.
We look in our hearts, and we think, “This works well enough… I’m not sure if I’m ready to give this up. I hear a promise of Living Water, but… Do I really want the Holy Spirit to come in and dig a huge hole? What about the mess? What about the noise? What about the neighbors?” After all those questions, we might say to God, “Let’s not change anything yet… I think what I have now is good enough.”
Before the pool digging crew arrived, we removed the fence, the plants, and the patio pavers. We had to let go of what we had been holding on to, so we could make room for something more.
The process has been messy and has required our patience and the patience of those who live around us. At times we looked out and wondered if we made the right choice, but we looked at the pool rendering (which we kept by the back door) and held on to hope. And now, with just a few weeks to go, the hard part is over…we are close to our goal. The yard is still messy, but the pool is mostly finished.
I squint my eyes and imagine it all done. I can see myself swimming, and I’m ok waiting a little bit more.
It is almost time for Pentecost. God wants to dig a big hole in our hearts, but it won’t be empty for long. He wants to prepare us to receive Him. We just have to deal with the mess for a time while He heals what is below.
He wants to fulfill our holy desires. He comes bearing gifts, Living Water, but we must be willing to let go of whatever is not from God. And then, when the hard work begins, and there is just a big ugly hole, we remember His Promise…we look at the Cross, and we hold on to hope.
The tears will be wiped, the dirt will be hauled away, and we will thirst no more. The Holy Spirit is coming… are we ready for more?
We all have obstacles preventing us from fully receiving the love God wants to give us, sins that block the flow of grace to us. The life of a Christian is one long process of restoration. Our Father constantly invites us to give every part of our lives over to Jesus so He can redeem our brokenness, every wound, every sin, and transform us into Himself. The process is long and often painful. We need to learn to trust Him with the parts of our hearts that have been trampled on, hoping that His promises are true… That He is the way and the life, that He is the Truth, and that the TRUTH will set us free.
When we tell God, “please come into my life, please take away this sin that is hurting me, that is hurting those I love,” He comes right up to that wall we spent so much time building up, that wall that is keeping us from feeling the pain we are not ready to deal with…and he knocks. We hear Him calling; we want to let Him in, but we cannot find a door. There was a door there once, but we sealed it shut. In trying to keep the pain away, what we did is block ourselves from receiving the only thing that can heal us…the love of God.
This encounter with Truth is a moment of tension. On one side of the wall, we are trapped, oppressed, burdened by our sin. On the other side is God, calling us to come to Him, asking us to let Him break down the wall. But we are attached to the wall. It has become our comfort, our support. And even though it hurts us, it is scary to think it won’t be there anymore. What will happen to the parts of us that are attached to the wall? How will we get through the pain of that separation, of that stripping away of all the things we placed as substitutes for God? So God patiently waits and lets us wrestle with Him until we reach the point of surrender and finally say,
Mary, who had no walls between her and God, silently offers these words with every breath of her life. Never is that silence more eloquent than when her heart speaks them at the foot of the Cross. It is there that her Immaculate Heart is pierced open with pain for each one of us, her children. It is there where she brings us when we hold her hand in prayer, to a place of encounter with Her Son.
Today, as we begin the month of May, the Church invites us to walk with Mary, “our life, our sweetness, and our hope.” It also lifts our eyes to St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse. Pondering on this Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, we see that the rest found in God is not one of inactivity but one of life and creativity. We find rest when we take up His yoke. We find rest when we surrender to God.
With Mary, at the foot of the Cross, we find the strength and courage to surrender. It is there where we find our rest. This rest is not something we can provide for ourselves; it is the gift He wants to give us. And, although we live in the hope that one day we will be in a place of eternal rest in Heaven, where there will be no more sorrow or pain, we can experience His peace while we are still in this valley of tears. At the Last Supper, Jesus says:
What did Jesus leave us during the Last Supper? The Eucharist, the gift of Himself …His Body broken for us… His Blood poured out for us…
We know how the story ends, so we give thanks. We know the promises are fulfilled; we know the tears are wiped. When we look at the Cross and see the price paid for us, we hear Him say to each one of us:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
There is no reason to despair; no part of you is broken beyond repair.
You are worthy of restoration. “Come to me… and I will give you rest.”
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We are Ivonne J. Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.
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