A few weeks back, I was abruptly awakened in the middle of the night. As some of you may know, I suffer from chronic pain. Hardly a day goes by without some persistent ache somewhere in my body, joints, muscles, or nerves. I am so used to this discomfort that it takes a lot to make me sit up and take notice. This night, the pain was so intense that it woke me up and kept me up the whole night; I was short of breath and struggling to remain coherent. This was not normal. Prayer and patience got me through the night, and eventually, the pain lessened. I followed up with my doctor in the morning, who ordered a battery of tests.
It is not fun when the nagging worry starts creeping into our minds. I get frustrated about how human I am, but this is silly. What else am I supposed to be? A few hours after my gallbladder ultrasound, the doctor called. The ultrasound revealed a large tumor on my liver. Here we go again, back on the carousel of tests. We had to rule out cancer… no one likes to hear those words.
Few things can sober us quicker than knowing there might be a silent killer going through your system. Usually, that would be the trigger for a world of worry, anxiety, and even despair. My dear wife and I were starting to feel those ill effects, yet something absolutely remarkable happened, something that witnesses to our Faith.
As we shared the news with our precious friends, they shared the news with their beloved friends. Before we all knew it, our brethren in Christ had gone out in force, a dispersed multitude, a legion, to pray a prayer of intercession for us.
Through the intercession of our brethren, the peace that Christ spoke of in the Gospel according to John came to us; the fruit of the Spirit made present from the prayerful sacrifice of all those faithful friends.
And from that moment forward through this journey, we surrendered to God’s will, and we have known peace. We could feel the prayers. Our brothers and sisters took on our cause, our worry, our wait, and in genuine compassion lived God’s charity towards us. With their prayers, they carried the heavy load for us and paid the price for our peace.
We are all the mystical body of Christ. When one suffers, we all suffer. When one rejoices, we all rejoice. This is part of our responsibility, to care, love, and pray for one another. If someone asks you to pray for them, please do. It is not the least we can do, but precisely what we must do. With our prayer, we carry each other through the difficulties.
We know that not every prayer is answered in the way we expect or desire. But we trust that God always knows better than we do, so we submit to His will for us. The Holy Spirit will guide us through any situation. In communion with Christ Eucharistic, we see His hand in action through the love of our community of faith.
After a long weekend of waiting, the tests on my liver came back, indicating that my tumor is benign. I can hear loudly in my soul the roar from the prayerful faithful glorifying God! Glory to You, oh Lord! Hear our prayer of thanksgiving!
Our Lord commands us to pray for one another. Let us take Him at His Word in all humility and with all our trust. To all of you, faithful ones, please continue praying for us. Please be assured of our prayers for you. May the peace of our Lord be with all of us.
Let us pray:
Few scenes from the Bible are as full of Eucharistic imagery as the “Feeding of the 5000.”
For us, people of the Eucharist, the heart of this scene echoes across time beautifully within the Mass, and there are a few elements we do recognize and celebrate in our Catholic tradition.
We are shown how the whole group is divided into smaller groups, as our Mother Church is divided into individual parishes, yet united together in the sharing of the bounty, the meal of Christ. We all eat from the same source.
Christ blessed the food brought before Him, fruit of the earth and work of human hands. He broke the bread, gave it to His disciples, multiplied so that the multitude all ate and were satisfied. In the same way today, the priest blesses the bread and wine, fruit of the earth and work of human hands. He breaks the bread, and gives it to Christ’s disciples, us, to be satisfied more than with food, for His overflowing Grace touches and replenishes each one of us.
When we partake of His banquet, we must remember to be grateful for His gift of self to us. The fullness of our Lord is broken and shared with each of us present. This is life-changing and life-giving.
Hidden in between the beautiful words of the bible passage above, specifically in Mark 6:37, our Lord says to us: “Give them some food yourselves.” Christ calls us to feed the hungry, but how can we when we do not have that much?
Growing up in Puerto Rico, in a humble family, we never had “that much,” yet we never really lacked for anything. We had what we needed, not much more, and not much less. Compared to many of our neighbors, we were well off, for many did not have much.
We had enough to feed just ourselves, but often friends would come to visit, and, somehow, food always found its way to their plates at the table. What if someone else also unexpectedly showed up? It would speak of our love and resourcefulness, that we would find a way to stretch our love.
“Asopao” is a typical Puerto Rican dish. It is a very wet dish, rice cooked in stock, like a savory porridge. It was simple fare that would feed many with very little. What if we needed to include one or two or a few more to our table? We added a bit more rice and stock, said our prayer of thanksgiving, and again offered the work of human hands. The asopao just seemed to multiply.
I remember being taught since youth that where two could eat, three could eat also. All it takes from us is a bit of sacrificial love. We are called to let go of our impressions of lack and embrace an attitude of plenty. When love compels us to share, we can get by with a little less. That small sacrifice embraces the ones in need. It is at times like these that we emulate Christ Jesus. He asks us, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” What are we to do then but to go and see?
I have always found it interesting that, in our human nature, we tend to look at our lives and feel that we lack something, that we do not have enough. This feeling of lack gives an opening to sin. We become weary of others. We do not trust; we hide what we have instead of sharing it. We become more selfish and more isolated. That is not the right approach. In fact, giving of ourselves selflessly for the love of God, even when we do not have much to offer, allows Him to multiply our gifts by pouring out His Grace. Our Lord helps us give what is necessary and grants His portion generously. Our Lord is no scrooge; let us be generous as He is generous, that we may all be satisfied in Him who loves us.
Let us pray: Lord, may your love be multiplied in us, that we may always give freely and generously to feed those hungry for food, love, companionship, compassion, and mercy. That through this work You have given to our human hands, the many may come to know You and love You. Amen.
I remember a time many years ago when I was struggling with life. I had too many needs, too many wants, too many expectations, and too many disappointments. There were several voices within and without constantly vying for my attention, and it was all too much. I felt unable to manage all the noise and confusion, for I was under siege and under so much pressure in that desolation that I could not muster much effort against it. It felt as if my overwhelmed mind had just quit on me. All I wanted to do was scream.
At that moment, I looked out; my sight landed on my camping chair and the vast open field right in front of me. I did not know at the time what prompted me, but I felt compelled to pick up my chair and walk onto that field. I felt very much like I was purposely going out into the desert. I must have walked about a mile or more but eventually, I stopped. There, apart from everything, I opened my chair and sat down right in the middle of my desert. There I was able to put down my head and let go. I proceeded to cry my ugliest and most heartfelt cry, and for a long-long time, desolation and desperation just flowed out of me. I cried until I was so dry that tears could not come out anymore. Finally, after my heart was empty, I was able to lift my head and look up to the sky.
My eyes were blinded for a moment; I felt the sun rays as if they were His hands coming down to touch my face, drying up my tears with their warmth. At that moment, I knew, for it was being written onto my heart:
Consoling scripture passages kept popping right onto my thoughts one after the other, and my heart just melted. My mind cleared, and the oppression was lifted. Why is it that I had to go towards the silence and solitude of that field so that I could feel His comforting embrace and hear His words to me in that “still, small voice”?
Many of us suffer from heavy expectations. We sometimes crumble under the weight of the world, a world that is neither kind nor compassionate. We live in this noisy place that constantly seeks to distract and confuse us. As disciples of Christ, we are called to discern God’s will, but there is so much noise in the world that it can become difficult to listen to God’s voice clearly. Sometimes, we thrust ourselves into escapism, which only adds to the noise, feeding our loneliness and restlessness. That is because we are not called to escape or worry too much about the future, but to do what we must here, present, now. We are called to reside in the present moment, for only in the present moment can we effect change. The past is gone; we cannot let that chain keep us imprisoned. The future is not assured; we cannot let it be our custodian. It is only in the present that God speaks to us. Only in the present can we choose to live our lives according to His will for us.
We are not called to be alone, nor are we ever truly alone, but there are many times that we are called to silence. Maybe we are called to find our own desert, either interior or exterior, where we can be set apart and drown the noise. When we silence ourselves and pay attention to experiencing the present moment, we allow ourselves the opportunity to hear God’s words for us. We only need to take the time to recognize Him by our side. To listen to Him, we need to learn to be open and vulnerable, and we need to know how to listen properly. Maybe that means that we must run to the center of a vast empty field so that we can cry our hearts out in supplication, empty ourselves and drown our own noise so that our ears can listen to His love whisper to us. But maybe it just means to go visit Him in His temple, to share in union with Him in the quiet from Communion. Perhaps in that silence, He can capture our attention and speak to our hearts directly and without distraction. May we learn to find and embrace the silence.
Let us pray: Christ, you came to redeem the world and fulfill all Scripture. You are the will of the Father. Help us grow ever closer to You, that we may learn to hear Your voice and discern Your will for us, that we may live fully in You. Amen.
Some time ago, as I walked down a lonely street in an old town, I saw this older woman sitting on a bench with a big frown on her face. I was compelled to stop walking and consider the scene before me for a moment. Why was she frowning? What did this have to do with me? Many faces were pulled from my memory; I had seen this scene before.
Memories surfaced from interactions I’ve had with many different people over my lifetime. I have been told I am pretty good at first impressions and reading people, but that does not mean I am good at this every single time. I remembered my first impressions of some of my closest friends; some were good and some not so good. With some of my friends, it took many years of continued approaches before I could open myself to them. I wondered why this was.
We do not know what most of our brothers and sisters have gone through in life, where they came from, and how those experiences and places shaped them. We meet them quickly, yet assume that this is who they have always been. We end up passing judgment on them from that quick interaction. Growing up, I never doubted this process: happy people that looked me in the eye were good, cranky people that side-eyed me were not so good. I did not have time to dig deeper nor knew how to go about it, so that simple judgment helped me get by.
How many good people did I designate not worthy of my time because of that one interaction? How many blessed friends did I not make because of my simple bias? I know that over time this has cost me. I can say that it was not done maliciously, maybe it was something ingrained through societal forces, or perhaps it was inherited through the example of those close to me, but regardless of how it came to be, in the long run, it has diminished me. It hurts to think that my quick judgment and dismissal might have also hurt them. Oh Lord, how sorry I am for that. How much of Your charity, true love in action, was not dispensed because of this?
I have come to understand what it is to approach someone differently by seeing them through the eyes of Christ. Everyone has a story, sometimes joyful, other times sad. In some of our stories, there is frustration and anger. In some of those, you can also find redemption and justice. There are so many stories, just as varied as the various people we are, and how we all carry the stories of our lives is written somewhat on our faces. It would be of great value to listen to these stories and acknowledge the lives of those in front of us. How much humility, joy, compassion, mercy, charity, and justice could we reap and share? How much would those interactions enrich us all? There is so much to learn from each other, but we need to be open to doing this.
We are all called to give someone the benefit of the doubt, even if the first impression was not ideal. Christ looks at us sinners and sees not our sin and faults but the persons we were created to be. Can you imagine being able to see our brethren in the world as Christ Himself sees us? Like the good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke (10:29-37), I am so glad to know that Jesus does not just walk on by. He stops to listen to our story and accompanies us, even when we have a frown on our faces.
Coming back from the depths of my thoughts, I decided to let myself follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit; I stopped to engage the lady on the bench. “Hi. I can’t help but see that you seem upset. Are you ok?” The lady looked up at me and, with a surprised look, gifted me with a little smile. “I will be ok but thank you so much for caring. It gives me hope.”…and that, right there, taught me why we are called to be good Samaritans; it both increases our charity and gifts hope.
Let us let go of our hang-ups, let go of our unfair biases, and go beyond our first impressions to truly look at the people we meet. Our care, tone, and intent towards someone can help reassure those who need acknowledgment. Maybe we end up with a new friend, and perhaps we end up growing in charity; both ways, we are no longer diminished but enriched, and at that moment, we are much closer to how Christ is.
Let us pray: Lord of Heaven and Earth. You are the perfect good Samaritan; from your love and compassion, we poor ones are acknowledged and enriched. Help us learn from your teaching, follow your example, let go of our own biases, and reach out to those we meet who need a compassionate hand and a willing ear. Help us see your people through Your eyes and love them as with Your heart. Amen.
As a human person, Jesus had His earthly family, that most precious of relationships, but we also know that He had friends. If you can imagine, a person who is love incarnate must have had many dear friends, people whom He accompanied, people who accompanied Him.
Scripture tells us, in the story of The Raising of Lazarus, He even wept for his friends.
Jesus wept because He loved. It is a love that came from interaction. A love that came from relationship. It came from spending time together. Even now, we are called to this, to spend time with Him, to become His friends.
We are not strangers to our Lord. He knows us, each and every one by name. He has always known us.
Such is His love for us. But His love goes beyond a relationship with friends. He calls all of us to His very Self.
We know that our Lord could have handled all of His work by himself. That was well within His power to do, yet that is not what He did. Instead, Christ called the many disciples to follow Him. He called them from all different walks of life. Fishermen, tax collectors, Jews and Samaritans, poor and rich, sinners… called all of them to a life in Him. He called the disciples to relationship both to Him and to each other. He called them then, as He is calling us now. He calls us to become Church.
The word Church means “congregation,” which comes from “to congregate” or to “put together.” We are meant to be together.
So, what is there to learn from all His calls to us? What do we learn from His desire to be among us? What do we learn from His time as a child and man, son and friend, teacher and redeemer?
We learn that our Lord is not a solitary God. He shows us that He is Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. His very substance, His nature, is relationship. He is Community, and He knows that we need that too. That is why, when He instituted the Eucharist in that upper room millennia ago, He left himself behind as a gift to us in the consecrated host. Sustenance for us to help encourage, maintain, and nourish us while still here on Earth.
In the Eucharist, Christ is tangible, fully present. Those who believe and are fully initiated into the Faith can commune with Him directly during the Sacrament of Communion. What a great gift for us! We pray that we become what we eat and that, from that union, we may be as Christ is in this world.
Our Lord humbles Himself so greatly from His love for us. He splendidly, yet humbly, comes forth whenever the Priest consecrates the Host at Mass. The Mass is truly the greatest of prayers. It is both sacrifice and banquet.
Our Lord is majestic. We owe Him thanks, praise, adoration, and the gift of our presence, even outside of Mass.
We are always called to be Church, not just on Sundays. We are called not just some of the time but all the time, and not just here but everywhere.
Yes, we are His friends and His disciples. He came so that each of us can have a personal relationship with Him, that we may behold Him who loves us! This call to relationship is so that our eyes can see what our hearts already know, that He is King, that He is God, and that He cherishes us. Are we ready to answer His call?
Let us pray: All-loving Lord, our beloved. You came to offer us the gift of Your love. You call us friends, Your beloved. Help us to accept You into our lives, that we may walk together with You and our brethren on the path home to Heaven. We are thankful for Your love. Amen.
Over 2,000 years ago, our Lord was born in a humble manger. Born of the Virgin Mary, Most Holy by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord, God himself now dwelling amongst us… He could have chosen to come as a grown man in the fullness of His power, but that was not the Divine plan.
In all love and humility, Christ Jesus chose to be born, just like most of us, into a family. Our Lady Mary was specially selected so that our Lord would have a most exemplary mother. Our beloved Saint Joseph was chosen specifically so that our Lord would have a pious foster father from the House of David, a special protector. By arranging this situation for His birth, it is clear that God values the wholeness of the human family and understands perfectly the strength of the personal relationship. With His most blessed Incarnation, our Lord shows us that He came to establish an authentic, personal, and human relationship with us.
Think about this. Our beloved Jesus, the second person of the Trinity and the Lord of Heaven and Earth, chose to dwell amongst us. Fully present.
Our Lord of Lords and King of Kings is worthy of all recognition, adoration, and praise, yet the announcement of His birth was presented to only a few poor shepherds through the words of an Angel. Why?
Christ came for personal relationships, and His relationship to the poor and the humble is very special indeed. Christ teaches that the poor are first in the Kingdom of Heaven, and so it was that the humble shepherds were the people invited to the first-ever exposition of our Lord.
While Christ was in the manger, the shepherds from all the fields around Bethlehem came to witness the Lord Jesus and beheld Him for the first time, prostrating themselves before Him in adoration.
And we read that after their first Eucharistic Adoration, after they experienced that personal relationship, after that communion with the child Jesus, the shepherds went out everywhere glorifying and praising God. They were gifted with the clarity of recognition. They were gifted with the conviction of understanding. They were gifted with the fullness of awe, and for that, they rejoiced!
Now we, His people, have our Lord Jesus available to us all the time, at every Mass, whenever there is Eucharistic Exposition, whenever we have access to a Chapel, and even in personal prayer. Are we aware of Him? Are we in awe of our Lord? Do we go out and glorify Him with our lives? Do we rejoice in the discovery that our Lord is here to be with us?
Today, like every day, is an opportunity to work on our relationship with God. We must learn from the shepherds how to be poor, humble, joyful, and in awe of our Lord. We must learn to approach and acknowledge God personally.
Do we give thanks to the Father for His love and mercy as Jesus taught us? Do we give thanks to Christ for His Word and His perfect sacrifice for us? Do we acknowledge and invite the guidance of the Holy Spirit into our daily lives? With all the love, trust, and humility that we can muster, let us take advantage of the opportunity this life presents us and invite God into our days. He is actively waiting for our call.
Let us pray: All-loving Lord, our beloved. You came into the world to redeem us and show us your perfect love. You came to establish a personal relationship with us. Help us then to see You in everything. Help us talk to You often, keep You in our thoughts, and ask for Your guidance and help. Help us see You walking with us in this life. 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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