As we lit our little Advent wreath at home each night this week during our family prayer time, we all wondered if that first candle is big enough to last until Christmas. A little debate ensued, with everyone pitching in suggestions…one person said we should only light it on Sundays, then it would definitely last. Another suggested we turn on a different purple candle each night, so we give that one little candle a break. I didn’t like either of those solutions. For those not familiar with Advent wreaths, they have four candles, each representing one of the four weeks of Advent. The four candles traditionally represent hope, faith, joy, and peace. Each Sunday of Advent, one more candle is lit. The light gets brighter and brighter as we approach the birth of Jesus, who is the Light of the world. So, the way I see it, the first candle of Advent, the one that symbolizes hope, needs to be lit every night, and it needs to last all the way until Christmas. I “suggested” (mom’s suggestions carry a lot of weight around here) we should try lighting it only for the last part of the prayer, when we are sharing our intentions and prayer requests. Maybe we can make it last by lighting it up for a shorter time each night. I am not sure how that will work out; we’ll have to wait to find out.
I find it interesting that the candle that is in danger of extinction is the Light of Hope. As I was pondering about this, the lyrics from one of my favorite Advent hymns, Night of Silence, by Daniel Kantor came to mind:
“Cold are the people, Winter of life, We tremble in shadows this cold endless night, Frozen in the snow lie roses sleeping, Flowers that will echo the sunrise, Fire of hope is our only warmth, Weary, its flame will be dying soon.”
This song has always tugged at the strings of my heart. There is a great truth here. When I look at the world, with all the chaos, confusion, all the sin and darkness, I see hearts weary, running out of hope. Hope… Isn’t that what everyone needs? Isn’t that what we have to ensure we don’t run out of?
The first night we lit the Advent candle, it burned faster than the second night. The difference was that the second night we turned the ceiling fan off. We noticed that when the flame was still and calm, it burned slower and lasted longer. Hearts weary with the storms of life needs to be tended to gently. We must provide shelter from the wind, and then share a little hope. A simple word of encouragement, a smile, a kind gesture… these are concrete things we can do for each other always, but especially during Advent, a time of year when many do struggle with loneliness, when many begin to lose hope. “Whom shall I send?” (Isaiah 6:8). “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased. …a dimly burning wick he will not quench” (42:1,3).
But what can we do this if our own flame is weary? We must first kindle the fire of love in our own hearts. “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us Your faithful and kindle in us the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.” We need grace. We need the Sacraments. We need the Eucharist. We need prayer. We need to avail ourselves of every single opportunity to flame that fire. Much is at stake… the world needs our hope.
With each new candle of Advent, we pray for an increase in hope, faith, joy, and peace. These gifts we are given, as grace, are not just for us. They are meant to build us up, to strengthen us, so we can encourage one another, so we can build each other up. “For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober… But since we are of the day, let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation… Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6,8,11).
The Candle of Hope in the Advent wreath needs to last only until Christmas. After that day we don’t need it anymore, for we will have the fulfillment of what we are hoping for, the birth of Our Savior, Emmanuel…God with us. The light of Hope in each of our hearts needs to last until He returns. “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49).
So I am still wondering, will the candle on our wreath last until Christmas? … one can only hope.
By: Rick Hernandez
I often meditate on the hidden life of Christ Jesus. I close my eyes and wonder how were those first 30 years of His life in this world. If we try, we can visualize Jesus, the son of Mary, living in the household of Joseph, first as a young child doing young child things, and then later, as a young man doing young man things... How was the daily life of Jesus? I imagine it would not have been too different from ours today. The child Jesus probably learned to read and write Aramaic at home, then probably went to school at the synagogue, where he heard the teachers read and teach from the Torah. I wonder if he liked school and if he was a good and diligent student. After school he would go home and I can imagine Mother Mary asking Him to help around the house. Did he carry water by Mary's side? I can “see” Him doing that… and when Jesus was done helping with the household tasks, He probably asked to go play with His neighborhood friends. I can imagine simple fun and games, played all-out with much laughter. Simple little things.
Later on, Jesus grew to become a young man. “And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52). With more age and experience, I can imagine that He had more responsibilities. We know He was a carpenter. How did He learn the trade? I can imagine Jesus helping Joseph with his carpentry tasks. That would be what we call an apprenticeship, on-the-job training. Yes, small tasks preparing Him for bigger tasks. Once done with work, I assume that, as most apprentices, He would sweep the floors of their humble workplace. Can you see Jesus going back home to help bake bread or carry more water? Of course. He must have done all of these common things. Imagine. This was the Son of God incarnate! He was tasked with the work of redemption, the biggest and most important work of all time. Yet, our Lord Jesus had to do all of these simple little human things... But is not God about the big important things?
If we can interpret this image of Jesus in his early life, then we can find the answer to that question. Many of the little things that we did as children in our own homes, Jesus also did. Christ Jesus, all human and all divine, did all of these simple little things with perfect humility, with perfect faith, and with perfect love. Why is that? It is because He understood that all of what we do, and how we do it, matters. The little things we have to do prepare us for the bigger things and confirm who we are. Our thoughts and actions are our contribution to our family, to the world, and to the Kingdom of Heaven. Those simple things we often dismiss, Jesus sanctified and offered to the Father. Honor your parents! Love God and neighbor! Bring your offering! Like Jesus, we must become aware that both the mundane and the ordinary can become our faithful offering to the One who loves us.
For God, all actions have great value, big and small, if we align them to His will for us. But we are human and we tend to have our eye on the "big things". “Go big or go home”, is often said. We want our action’s value to be readily apparent for all to see. I like to think of every big and important task as a collection of many little important tasks. When we focus on the big things and how there is so much to do, we may be tempted to take shortcuts and skip on the little things, but really, is that wise? Aren't we then veering from the script and missing on an opportunity for a sanctifying offering? "The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones." (Luke 16:10).
For us, the faithful, our sanctifying offering is in what is in front of us. Our offering is in every little action in this moment that we have, now. We call it the gift of the "Present Moment". Those actions that we take, and our intent, do direct our lives. Let us become aware of what is our intention and what is our desire. Are they aligned to God's will? When we do align our will to the Father's, the little actions that we take in faith and in love, do prepare us, in hope, for the big ones that may be required from us. At the end of the day, is our offering that we have acted justly? Have we loved as much as we could? Have we cared enough? Is our offering that we have been faithful in all things, big and small? What will we say when we are asked to give account for our time? It is in the little things... that we show faith.
Let us pray: Lord, you knew me perfectly even before I was in my mother’s womb. You know what my right hand does as well as my left. From You I cannot hide. I humbly offer you all that I am, and all that I do, with both my successes and my struggles, in faith and love, in the hope for the grace needed to find You in all things and guide more people towards You, who loves us so much. Help me to be as your hands in this world. Amen.
By: Laura Worhacz
“Mary’s Presentation in the Temple: Mary had no childhood in the ordinary sense of the word…We know nothing of her life in the Temple except that she lived a secluded life and that she practiced every virtue…She was the servant of all never loosing courage…Mary gave herself to God promptly, unreservedly and forever. She gave him her mind, her heart, her liberty, -she kept nothing back.” - Saint Peter Julian Eymard (Eymard Library, Vol. 7, page 35)
Dearest Eucharistic family,
November has always been a special month for me. It is a time to remember all souls, thanksgiving, my wedding anniversary, my grandmothers passing and her day of birth, which falls on the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 11/21. For all this my heart is filled with thanks. Since October 31st, I have been in quarantine with my husband Ray. He tested positive for COVID and has been in bed for 16 days with a temperature, fatigue, and a little cough. His temperature has finally returned to normal and he seems to have begun a new road to recovery.
The above excerpt reminds me of what life has been like. It has been secluded and filled with opportunity to find the virtues of God. Caring for someone sick is a gift. It teaches us the sacredness of life; every breath taken is a moment of grace. Our lives are to be lived in growing closer to Jesus, the One whom we will be with for all eternity. We grow in love by our consent to God’s life in us and by serving others. In this way we live out of this world and in the Eucharist here and now.
Thanksgiving Day is almost here. It is a time to give thanks around our tables, talk about memories, share dreams and hopes, a time to gather. As difficult as it may be to bear the cross of sickness, suffering, and even death, there is a place of hope to give thanks; it is found in the Eucharist. Our Lady was presented in the Temple; she gave her life to God and lived in thanksgiving. Mary gave her life unreservedly for the love of JESUS. This year, 2020, has brought many challenges to our world: a pandemic, election, protests… As we follow our Mother to the Temple, we may find the chance to grow, learn, and be open to the new beginnings God has prepared for those who love Him and give thanks. The Greek word “eucharistia” means thanksgiving. The Sacrament of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of JESUS CHRIST, really, truly, and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine is our means of life on earth. In serving others our Eucharistic lives become whom we receive, and our souls are found in thanksgiving. Advent is coming!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling pretty tired lately, more than tired… depleted. Dealing with physical tiredness is something I am used to; in learning to manage my CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth), I have come to learn my physical limits and how to work around them. I know I need more rest than most people, and I am ok with that. But the mental and spiritual strain I’ve experienced this year is constantly testing my limits, and I’m having to learn, and accept, what those are. I am having to learn to spend more time in silence, more time in prayer. And while it can be tempting for us to try to separate our physical and mental needs from our spiritual needs, we are wholly human; one area will always affect the other. Our worries make us weary; the solution to this is rest.
“Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary” (Luke 18:1). What happens when we allow ourselves to become weary? We can start to lose hope, and this is a danger we must avoid. A feeling of weariness lets us know that something is off, and that balance needs to be restored. This restoration is a passive kind of work. When our bodies need healing, what is required of us is to give the body what it needs and let it do its work. This is not easy. Ask anyone who has been on an extended bedrest; sometimes the hardest thing we are asked to do is rest. But our bodies are not meant to work without ceasing. Our need for rest is clearly displayed in the work of Creation when God rested on the seventh day. “Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). It is interesting to note, however, that what God commands us to do on this day of rest is pray. This is also not easy. While rest from our physical or mental labors means taking a break from the work, this is different in our life of prayer, where resting is the actual work.
The dictionary defines weary as “feeling or showing tiredness, especially as a result of excessive exertion or lack of sleep”. In our prayer, we experience this “excessive exertion” when we try to do the work of God ourselves. Think about it, God would not ask us to do something beyond our ability. He would not ask us to “pray always” if this depended on our limited human capacities. It is when we are faced with our limits that we can surrender to his infiniteness. It is in our poverty, that we realize we need a Savior. “In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings” (Romans 8:26). The only way we can pray always, without becoming weary, is when we allow ourselves to enter into His rest.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11-28-30). On a different translation we hear, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Just like the restoration of the body requires us to give the body food and rest, the restoration of our souls requires us to give the soul its food and rest. This food our soul needs is the Eucharist, Jesus Christ Himself; He is also our place of rest. It is in this rest that His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity mix with our body, mind and spirit… healing the sick, restoring the broken. It is in this rest that we become truly whole…we become holy. So when you are feeling weary, do not despair. Lift your eyes to Heaven and enter into His rest.
-Ivonne J. Hernandez
By: Rick Hernandez
“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13)
The previous excerpt from Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is known as “The Way of Love”. It is one of the most beautifully written and insightful passages in the New Testament and a reminder to us all that “Love” must rule in our lives. Now, let us be sincere. Do we allow God’s love to rule in our lives? Are we actively trying to grow in charity, patience, kindness and understanding as ways to show God’s love for us to the world? Are we showing the fruits of that labor to the ones that need charity, patience, kindness and understanding? Yes, do we give the fruits of our labor to the ones that need our love, even if they do not love us?
In society today, we try to teach our young ones the “Golden Rule”. That is, teach them to “treat others as you wish to be treated”. What often goes unexplained in this teaching, is that your behavior towards others is meant to be independent of their behavior towards you. Often, the children are not encouraged to learn that. In time, we grow to become adults, and often we become disappointed and angry when our love and good will towards others is thrown back on our faces. When our good will is neither accepted nor acknowledged by others we think: “They do not love me, nor accept me”. We then often proceed to withdraw our love from them and replace it with anger, or even sadder, with indifference for their well-being. We go into the Internet, or social media, or the park, or the church and scream in anger at all the ones that we feel have done us wrong; we call them names or shun them out of our circles. How is that loving? That is the “childish” behavior that Saint Paul’s refers to in the excerpt from 1 Corinthians. We throw a tantrum, as a child. We are asked to grow up, to love in a mature manner, the way God loves us. Can you imagine God behaving the way we do when we are hurt or angry?
Our Good Lord meant it when he said: “When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well” (Matthew 5:39-40)
Our Lord Jesus is not asking us things that are outside of our control. We cannot force people to “treat us well” nor “love us well”, but we can train ourselves us to not to act angrily or indifferently towards them. We are asked not to withhold our love, even from those that do not love us. If we read through the beatitudes, we see what we are to follow, and what is there to obtain:
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-12)
Let us pray: Our all-loving Lord, may we all grow to maturity in our love, that we may be able to love as You love us, that we may be blessed and be able to, at the end, see the light of your face. Amen.
By: Laura Worhacz
Dearest Eucharistic Family,
We are blessed to be living in the Liturgy of the Catholic Church and having this heartbeat of the seasons to take us to the heart of God year after year. We are weeks away from the Advent Season and here we are on the eve of all Saints Day. Here we find our mission of love to pray for others, to be drawn into the life of the Church by being enveloped into the Communion of Saints. The Body of Christ is being grown as it is fed by the Bread of Life in Holy Communion.
In the origin of All Hallows Eve we find concern for others. Children being taught to knock on the door of a neighbor to ask if they are in need of prayer, especially the loss of a loved one. In return a soul cake is given to show appreciation. There is a reciprocal love being fashioned through simple acts of kindness. The Kingdom of Heaven is made known when believers grow into the charity of Christ through mercy, forgiveness, and compassion for others. How blessed we are to live in the reality of the Divine. Heaven is with us. The lives of those who have found their way to virtue in this life leave us an example of charity in their words and witness. They are the saints of God. In our time with the Eucharist we come to see ourselves as God sees us. We come to know Jesus. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Jesus who sees us, guides us, and will form us into saints.
Our Divine Mother is the Queen of Angels and Saints. As we cling to Mary through the Eucharist she mothers us into an exercise of faith through the virtues of her love. A walk with Mary into the soul of God by our Eucharistic prayer time will keep us seeking for ways to receive grace from the one who is full of grace. We have a road to Zion to find, the path to our salvation, led by Our Lady who cares for us and touches our hearts. Our Divine Mother will guide us to Heaven. She will help us grow into the saints we were created to be. The pattern of love that is sewn and found in the Communion of Saints has been formed from the Eucharist and Our Lady for generations and will continue as we learn of “God’s holy gifts for God’s holy people” (CCC 948). Our relationship with the Communion of Saints is found most intimately in the Eucharist.
Today remember in prayer and outreach someone who is an example to you of a saintly life.
“Mary is the Queen of Angels, Queen of the Church. Kings will lay their empires at her feet; nations will confide to her their safety, and wherever we find a throne erected to Jesus, there we shall find one dedicated to Mary; Mary’s altar is always side by side with that of Jesus. She is His Divine Mother.” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard (Eymard Library, Volume 7, p.50)
By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
Early in our marriage, Rick and I would have a recurring argument whenever one of us would ask the other for a pot to cook with. We both grew up in Puerto Rico; I grew up in the North of the island and he grew up in the South. And even though the island is only 35 miles wide, there were small variations in the meaning of words. Most of them were small and you could figure out their meaning from the context, but some had real-life implications for us. Like the fact that what he called a pot, I called a pan…and what I called I pot, he called a pan. For those who speak Spanish, the words were “olla” and “caldero” (not exactly pot and pan, but close enough). You would not believe the time we spent arguing about these two words…mostly joking, but arguing, nevertheless. To this day, if I ask Rick for an “olla”, he will give me a “caldero”. He is not doing it to be difficult; it is just what that word means to him. How did we fix this problem? Did I re-learn what “olla” means for him and ask him for a “caldero” instead? No, the meaning of those words is deeply ingrained in me. What I do now is ask in English, where we both agree that a pot is a pot and a pan is a pan.
There are words and phrases I use every day with those who share my Catholic faith that would be difficult to communicate with someone who does not share my faith. Words like love, marriage, sacrifice, obedience, justice, happiness, mercy, joy. Each of these words, when used in the light of the Gospel, take on a meaning that eludes those who hear them from a different perspective. It is a language different than their own. How do we communicate with someone who speaks a different language than us? We must find a common language. That common language is love. Not the word, dare I say, for the word can have different meanings, but the action, the verb.
"If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13: 1-8)
The difference between the intellectual exercise of exploring a hypothetical moral dilemma and the sharing of a testimony is that the latter involves a real person, thus, love enters the equation. It is only then that we can experience an encounter with the other, seeing them for who they are. When we open our eyes to see, and open our ears to hear, and open our hearts to give, we are open to receive. This kind of encounter transcends barriers of language, of religion, of experience, and of circumstance. We are not called to change the world; that is God’s job. We are called to make of our lives a testimony, a living witness to the love of God. We are called to share the Gospel and witness to the Truth. We are called to love, and from that common language we can then perhaps have real dialogue. “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15).
FOLLOW ELISHEBA HOUSE:
We are Ivonne Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.