By: Rick Hernandez
I was talking to a friend who is a construction contractor. He is a finishing carpenter by trade but has become a construction superintendent over the years. He oversees the overall construction of homes. He spoke fondly of when he was just a carpenter; he loved working on the details that make a house into a "home."
When I asked him how this is, he mentioned that now, houses are boxes, made to the minimum specification, with barely anything to make them complete beyond that minimal standard. It used to be that a house was more than the four walls and the roof. Yes, that is enough to make it into a shelter for people, but making it safe, comfortable, memorable, and unique takes much more than the bare minimum. The finishing carpenter would work on the details that made the house into what someone would hope for in a home. From his perspective, we all live in unfinished homes.
This got me thinking, and I soon realized that he was right. If we do not work on the details, on the little things, we are not complete; we are not yet finished.
In our spiritual lives, we tend to be not very different from an unfinished house. We may read from the Bible, at least the well-known passages, and we possibly attend Mass, at least on essential days like Easter or Christmas. And that is equivalent to creating the foundation of a house and maybe building a few walls. It is enough to say that we are building the structure, but not yet enough to call it a house.
Maybe we work some more, and we then start attending Mass every Sunday and on the days of obligation as is our responsibility, perhaps we start reading a little more of the Bible, now some of the chapters that are not well known and from this, we grow. This is equivalent to having the foundation, the four walls, windows, and a roof over our heads. It is enough to keep us out of the weather. We can call this a house, but is it complete? Is it a home?
Maybe in time, we understand that we need more to complete our home. We get down to the details. We can add decorative flair, excellent window shutters, and good doors. We can get appliances that fit our needs. We can get a modern air conditioner and beautiful light fixtures. These details do make the house our own, uniquely ours, and finally our home.
The same way we do it for our home, we can do it for our spiritual life. What are the finishing details we need to work on? Can we make what we learn from reading the Bible and attending Mass a part of our daily lives? Do we incorporate daily prayer? Do we grow in relationship with Christ Eucharistic? Do we attempt to put the Charity, Faith, and Hope we receive into our actions of everyday life? Who can be a better finishing carpenter than Christ? Do we allow Jesus to help finish building us up?
Let us pray: Lord, you are the Lord of all; you know every single one of us, every single detail. Help build us up so we may grow into the people You call us to become. Lord, helps us that we may become complete in You. Amen.
As I sit on my bed convalescing for a few days, I find myself grateful. Yes, I do feel ill and hurting, but I also feel comforted by the love of our people. So many have gone out of their way to pray for and support me (and my wife) that I have understood well what it means to love one another and let others care for me.
Like most of us, I tend to be the active one, the one others ask for prayers and support, and I take that very seriously, but this is probably the first time in my life that I require prayers and support from my brethren. And you know what? It is good to provide those close to us with the opportunity to practice their charity, hope, and faith.
In our RCIA sessions, we try to teach our newly called to the faith what it means to care for one another, what it is to be the body of Christ. If one rejoices, we all rejoice; if one suffers, we all suffer. It is good that we can put that into practice, that as we grow to give of ourselves in the name of Christ, we also accept the gift of selves of our fellow brethren.
I was able to be anointed by a dear priest friend, who went out of his way to accommodate me, and I was able to commune with Christ Eucharistic the day before the procedure. What a gift!
I am not out of the woods yet. I still have another procedure scheduled that hopefully will take away most of my long-term pain. Through the grace of God and with the faith and charity of the ones who love us, we continue moving forward.
Pray for one another, care for each other, and reach out to the ones in need, but also let others do the same for you so that the grace of God continues flowing throughout the world.
Thank you for your prayers.
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.
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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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