I remember my grandfather teaching me that words have power. Our words, unspoken, are only our own when in the realm of our thoughts, but once we say them out loud, they acquire a life of their own. Once said, our words are out in the world and come and go like the wind, unbound, yet we are still responsible for them... That has always stayed with me, and it has become something that both my wife and I have embraced and taken to heart. We guard our words and make sure that they are words of charity and love once we let them out into the world.
If we only take this wisdom at face value, then the lesson is that "we must think before we speak," which is an excellent lesson to learn, but that is only a superficial lesson. To truly understand the value of this wisdom, we must dig deeper.
Our Lord Jesus teaches his disciples:
Our words indeed have power. They can change reality for someone, affect minds and hearts, even our own. They can help someone find the right way home or misguide them into perdition. Our words can bless or curse. They can lift up or put down. That is power, and we always have a choice on how to use this power.
Today, so many are angry at God, the world, people, and even their brethren. There are not many words of blessing said, but there are many curses. A curse is a thought against another, a word spoken to harm, and it is prevalent in this age. Yet, our Lord was clear on what to do, not to curse, even the ones that do not wish us well:
Some situations are going to be difficult. There are so many of us living in angst. But to lash out indiscriminately is not the solution. Unjust words are not the solution.
"Raqa" can be translated as "idiot"; the word is meant to demean and insult. Even back then, our Lord Christ was clear that calling out names, belittling, and putting down our opponents is not the correct way. If we let anger rule our lives, then we are moving away from our Heavenly calling, which is to " …love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another." (John 13:34)
Feelings are feelings. We will feel what we will feel, yet that is not a reason for acting unjustly, uncharitably, un-lovingly... It is not enough to just control our tongue, though that is a good beginning. We must also transform our hearts. We must not allow feelings to provoke us into acting incorrectly. We must work towards having our hearts be still, free from encumbrances.
We must guide our hearts and minds to develop in a different direction, not to curse but to bless. Through the grace that we receive from our communion with Christ, we must develop hearts of blessing.
Our Lord suffers every possible indignation from our unbelief in the Eucharist. In the total humility of the Bread of Life, He suffers every indignant word, every doubt, every repudiation from those who do not believe, yet His heart is full of love, His WORD truly a gift of blessing to us. His is the example that we must follow. A disciple of Christ must have a heart of blessing. Our lips must speak blessing.
I pray that the people who interact with us can see true hearts of humility, mercy, and charity and that from our witness, they may grow to have words of blessing in both their hearts and lips. May we mature in our faith and understanding, that God's love for us may transform our hearts and minds, that our words and actions then be a living blessing to others.
May our hearts become hearts of blessing. May words of blessing be always on our lips.
Let us pray:
Lord, you know our hearts and minds. Help us that through Your perfect love, we may be able to develop hearts of blessing. Help us that we may live a life of blessing and that our lips may always sing your praises and bring about Your good to the world. Amen.
When I think of the Holy Spirit in my life, I always think of Him as my “encourager.” He is here with me, always willing to help in everything. But I tend to forget… so He leaves me little gifts to help me remember.
There are times when I have a dream so vivid and wonderful that I feel that I am experiencing Heaven. I do not want my dream to stop, but I still wake up. I can’t wait until it is time to go to sleep again for a chance to experience that intimacy again... But the dreams are different every time, definitively not the same. When they come, I am reminded that those dreams are a unique gift for me, a means to encourage me.
I give Him thanks for the experience and then go on with daily life.
Often I focus on a task and become so immersed in what is happening that I “know” how it all works together and feel as one with everything. I do not want that feeling to end, but eventually, the task is done, and I fall out of that state. How much I wish I could get back into that state on-demand? But it doesn’t work like that. If I stop and think, I see His hand helping me out to accomplish my tasks.
I am reminded to give thanks for the gift received and then continue with my day.
I sometimes become so enthralled with the present moment, so in touch with how our Lord wants me to live in this world that I can sense everything around me in the most exquisite detail. I feel I can see, for that moment, Heaven on Earth; the veil separating them feels so thin that I could almost pierce through it... But then life happens, and I am asked to move on from that precious moment. How much do I wish to get there again...? But it is not within my power to will it. Yet, the experience convicts me that all of this is just transitory, that we usually can not see it, but we are waiting to go where God is.
I am reminded to give thanks for the encouragement I received from that moment of Grace.
All of these experiences are tiny marks on our path, breadcrumbs lining our way home. When we recognize them, we feel encouraged that we are on the right track.
You see, the One who loves us so much is always leaving behind these breadcrumbs in the path of our lives to guide us towards Him. I believe those breadcrumbs come from the Eucharistic Jesus, the True Bread of Life.
Whenever we see the breadcrumbs, it is an opportunity. Those graces that are given to us at any given moment are for us an invitation to stop and consider, figure out His will for us, and correct our course towards Him.
These opportunities are there sometimes, and only sometimes, for us to find so that our hope is strengthened on our journey home to Heaven. That taste of home that He gifts us strengthens our yearning for the hearth of Heaven that warms our soul. He reminds us He is present, tagging along, a faithful companion on our journey, the reason for our hope.
Let us pray. Come Holy Spirit and dwell within the hearts of your faithful. Guide us in all things. Be always our consoler, the deliverer of our hope. Help us to recognize You walking beside us on our way home. Amen.
By: Rick Hernandez
When I was born, my family lived in New Haven, Connecticut, and at the time, my father held a job as a custodian for Yale University. It was a humble blue-collar kind of job, but one that came with a great deal of responsibility. Like Saint Peter in our Church, my father literally held the keys to that academic kingdom. While many did not even think twice about the importance of his tasks, his was most definitively a necessary job, one that certainly needed doing. He would clean, fix, protect, and maintain. He would serve the needs of the many who used the university's various facilities; most of this was done in the background, without thanks or public recognition.
You can easily imagine the invisibility that comes with this humble job. It can be effortless to just blend into the surroundings and just pass the time, but I am certain that is not how my father did it. My father is a proud man and also a God-fearing one. I have never known him to do anything halfway, be it a high-visibility endeavor or a nearly thankless task. I know that receiving praise and recognition is not what drives him, but the understanding that his duties are an offering, and he would do them to the utmost best of his abilities. He would own the effort put forth and be thankful that doing his job well would help take care of his family and loved ones. I know that through our life together, my father infused that way of thinking in me, and for that, I am ever grateful. Being in the background doing your best, offering your effort, taking care of what needs doing, and doing it with a joyful heart for the love of God and fellow man. I like to call this life approach "having a custodian's heart."
What is a custodian? The word "custodian" comes from the Latin word custodia, which means a person who has custody or care of anything; a keeper or guardian; a person entrusted with guarding or maintaining something.
A person entrusted with guarding or maintaining, a caregiver, a protector. Is not that part of what we are all called to be?
As a member of a family, we care for and protect our fellow family members. If a parent, then we care for and protect our children. If a husband or wife, then we care for and protect our spouse. If a friend, then we care for and protect our friends. If we are strong, then we are to care for and protect the weak. As a child of God, we are called to care for and protect the ones in need. We are to do this humbly but to the best of our God-given abilities. There are no half-measures here.
We are to do this "...with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30) because our Lord is asking us to love as He loves, to care as He cares. Our Lord is asking us to develop our custodial heart.
It is in this humility of surrender to His will for us, in the accepting of His call in the form that is present to us at this very moment, that we truly embrace our role as God's faithful. Our Lord's heart is a custodian's heart. He cares for us and protects us. In the Eucharist, He nurtures us. In the Eucharist, He sustains us.
What are we to do to acknowledge God's custodial heart? We care for, guard, and protect God's loved ones, to the fullest of our ability, with all that we are. Our best efforts become then a beautiful tribute we can offer to our Heavenly King. It is a sweet offering and most pleasing to Him who is love.
We take all of this and bring it to the moment of encounter. We bring this to the Eucharist, that as we receive, we also offer. We unite the humble work of our human hands to His mighty and Holy offering. The Eucharist, as always, is no idle thing. It is dynamically alive in us, His people. Our hearts, in tune with His, then also become custodian's hearts. We take care of what is needed, big and small.
Not too many years ago, my dear wife and I were involved in youth ministry. Every week we would meet at the youth house and help lead many activities. We would play and pray; we would give talks and listen to what the young ones were going through. We would offer words of advice and comfort, and we would also be comforted by the bright future these young ones had and the love we received. While this was happening, we would always keep watch. These wonderful young ones were directly under our care, and we were both friends and mentors to them. They were our responsibility, and we took that seriously. We would help build their faith up and help them maintain their self-esteem, show them that people truly cared for them. We were their custodians, and we were very diligent in all the "big tasks."
After our meetings were over, I would often sweep the floor. It had to be done, and I tried diligently to do it the best I could, for this humble task was part of my contribution to our whole effort. Every time I was told that "I" did not have to sweep the floor. Yet, my custodial heart told me firmly that I had to, for in the joy of that simple task at that precise moment, I could offer the present me that diligently worked for the Kingdom, the me that cared for our work and the ones under our charge.
I like to imagine my good 'ole father sweeping that old institution's floors, and a big smile would come to my face. What once was, is yet again. This is a reminder that nothing that needs doing is beneath us. All parts of the whole are important, all tasks have to be done, our call is not partial but complete...
We do what needs doing to the best of our abilities and with as much love and hope as we can muster. After we do that, all that is necessary is to pray that we are gifted with a little more faith. May we all find our custodial hearts.
Let us pray: Lord, you care for us so much that You left yourself behind in the Eucharist to nurture and nourish us while on this earth. We ask Lord that You help transform our hearts. Help us to love as You love and to care as You care. Help us be diligent in all our responsibilities, that we may show Your love in all that we do, and that every one of our actions may become an acceptable offering to You. Grant us Your custodial heart. Amen.
By: Rick Hernandez
I was spending time with my youngest son, and I asked him what he thought would make a good king. If we assume competence as a given, my son’s answer was three things: kindness, wisdom, and charisma. These are three excellent Catholic words. I specifically like that all three are obtainable via our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Charism is defined as a spiritual gift, a special grace given by the Holy Spirit that benefits the Church. Amongst the “kingly charisms” are administration, governance, and leadership. For a king, these charisms benefit his kingdom. For us, domestic kings, heads of our households, these charisms benefit our families.
Wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit and is sometimes defined as “the perfection of Faith.” It makes the soul responsive to God in the contemplation of divine things. Wisdom is the jurisdiction of the wise; it provides direction, helps with all discernment. For a king, wisdom aligns all actions with the will of God, allowing him to govern the kingdom rightly and justly. As heads of our household, wisdom enables us to guide our charges towards the will of God.
The word kindness is different from the other two. Charism and wisdom are not actions but capabilities. You may have wisdom, and you may have many charisms; however, you cannot have kindness. Kindness is defined by choice and action.
The word kindness comes from the old English word kyndnes, which means “to nurture or increase a nation.” It was related to the words kin (family) and kin-der (children). In this context, kindness means “all the noble actions required to help raise a young inner-circle or blood-related person.”
Therefore, for a king, to be kind is to help nurture the members of his kin, help raise them correctly and point them towards truth, for they are to help strengthen and continue the kingdom. For the head of the household, the domestic king, kindness is the fruit of the Holy Spirit that helps nurture our charges, strengthen the family.
To be a nurturing king requires effort. The king has to work diligently and humbly towards obtaining the capabilities to rule well because the kingdom depends upon the king. We must acknowledge that this can be hard upon us, domestic kings.
We may believe that our kingship is difficult and even lonely, a responsibility that separates us from the ones under our charge. We may even think for a bit that we are meant to do all this just by ourselves, but the Lord is there to remind us that we are all subjects of His Kingdom. He is our High King, the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16); he nourishes and provides for us; we just have to keep depending on him. That humility in our part, that poverty of spirit, is part of our acknowledgment that He is our rock, our support, our Lord, the one whom we love, and the One who loves us.
So, how do we become nurturing kings, the kind of kings that are kind, wise, and charismatic?
We follow the examples set before us by the life of Christ Jesus and his many saints. We immerse ourselves in His Word and participate in His Eucharist. We read of the lives of the saints. We accept His love for us and live His love for others. We start looking at our responsibilities as a gift and take them seriously. We offer our suffering and our iniquities to our Lord. We ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all that we do. But most of all, we offer Him who we are that He may help us become the kings we are called to be in His stead.
If we are to follow in our Heavenly King’s example, we must work towards wisdom, hone our charisms, and practice kindness. All of these are parts of our kingly call. It is work that requires constant effort, but with God’s help, are we willing?
Let us pray: Dear Lord, you are the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. You have given us your most precious people to love and nurture. Help us then to show our charges the way to You, that they may grow to love You and cherish You the same way that You love and cherish us. Help us to grow in virtue and grow in capability, that we may do this kingly job well, that it may glorify You and Your Kingdom forever. Amen.
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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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