Catholic

what a gift it is

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So I was getting into a blogging slump after neglecting this page for the past few months. I’m sure I will publish another blog soon about the many adventures, joys and challenges of moving continents, learning a new language, getting married and adapting to a whole new culture. But that is for another day.

Yesterday in mass, the priest said something that struck me deeply. It was one of those words-to-heart moments, where I desperately wanted a pen and paper to capture the truth of his words, but also the eloquence with which he spoke.

But since I didn’t want to look like a news reporter in the second pew, scratching down the whole homily (although I probably would have done it… I just didnt have paper),  I asked the Holy Spirit instead to help me remeber later.

This prayer came true, although I will never fully capture the beauty of his homily that Sunday. But I will do my best to relay the message and how it spoke to my heart. He was speaking about judgment, death and the final things as they are called in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Father spoke about final judgment before God. He wanted to clear up a few misconceptions about the word judgment. He said, ” God isn’t like Donald Trump, who gives you a thumbs up or thumbs down into heaven or not” (!!). Judgment is not about being liked or disliked by God. God is love (1 John 4:8). God is only capable of love, so there is no way he can just unlike you or hold a grudge against you for all time. That would completly contradict his nature, and who He is. Father went on to say that when we die, and we stand before God, we are standing before truth itself. God isn’t something we can fully grasp. He is not bound by time or space, but He is a presence, and he is thee Divine. We, are not divine. We are poor and weak humans. I mean, if we weren’t sinners, we wouldn’t need God. So our weakness is not totally terrible, but rather it helps us find a complete dependence upon our Heavenly Father (our Dad, Pops, Papa). So standing before God after we die, and seeing own unworthiness before our Father, is judgment. It makes sense. If we look at the sun for too long, we have to turn away, squint, or groan a little because it pierces our eyes. It is too strong, and too bright for us to fully observe. How much more is the brightness of our Eternal Father ( Beatific Vision) going to shine? If He is love, truth, justice, kindness, honesty and mercy itself, and we poor sinners stand in front of  Him, we cannot hide our sins any longer. I know that I, and most of us, try to hide the dark areas of our heart. It is uncomfortable to acknowledge them. After death, in front of our Heavenly Father, we can’t ‘play that game anymore’ as the priest so nicely put it.

forest photo .JPG

So justice with the eyes of faith isn’t limited to Judge Judy, Donald Trump or harsh penalties. Rather, its simply seeing ourselves for the first time, as God sees us. Realizing the areas that we chose to serve ourselves, rather than God and our neighbor. God already sees and knows our sins. He knows us far better then we know ourselves. So its not a surprise to God, but perhaps it will be a surprise to us.

The really wonderful news, is that we have the rest of our lifetime to work on seeing our hearts, minds, and souls, as God does. Through the eyes of truth and mercy. God doesn’t want us to feel trapped in the darkness of our sin. He did not intend a life of bondage for us. Although life has its many challenges and we have our crosses to carry (habitual sins, addictions, broken families, physical and mental illness etc), we are capable of conforming our hearts to His. This is possible because God sent his Son Jesus to show us the way. That is why in John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. So yes, judgment is the full realization of our sins and our failings, but it’s also being looked at with the merciful eyes of the Trinity; Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. We must always keep justice and mercy together.

 

This homily on death and judment has inspired me to continue pursuing a life of virtue and prayer. I fail in this area so many times, but I am comforted to know I serve a merciful Father. When I stand before God, when my earthly life has ended, I want to present him a heart that was honestly trying. A heart that let Christ in. A heart that allowed Jesus to reign and conquer those spaces of darkness. A heart that kept repenting, desiring and striving for holiness. I really think thats why God gave us the saints, his Holy Mother and the Church. He has given us the tools, the role models and the means to walk this path in faith. What a gift it is.

 

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stepping stones

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Being engaged is a dynamic, adventerous, challenging and joyful expereince. As the days of my engagement draw to a close, I am reflecting again on this theme of marraige and particularly, the sacrament of marriage.

Nowadays, there seems to be a profound misunderstanding of this coventant, and sacramental promise. Very often, a marraige is just an excuse for a super expensive and galmorous party (and after planning a wedding I see how one could go crazy with their bank account!), a pinterest-perfect event, or a commitment founded entirely upon emotional-love.

It seems to me that these popular ideas regarding marriage fail to understand the depth, magntiude, beauty, and mystery of the sacrament. A marriage is designed to be a beautiful union between a man and a woman, a fruitful and free relationship and a space of authentic joy. It is also however, a pathway to holiness. In mass the other day, our priest said,  ‘when we choose the path of love, we must pick up our cross’.  These crosses must call us out of ourselves; to grow in patience, self-giving love, compassion, forgiveness and humility. There are two people fighting for sanctity together. This battle can be messy, unclear at times, require healing from wounds, but this story can always end with victory!

I chose to share the following quote from the Cathecism of the Catholic Church. I think it nicely outlines how Christ can always be the anchor of a marraige. That no matter how weak, tired, sinful we are, if we let him, Jesus will carry our crosses and give the necessary strength for a joyful, lively, exciting, holy marraige. This is good, good news!

‘ This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy – heavier than the Law of Moses. By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life’ 

(CCC# 1615)

 

Our marraige is a stepping stone,

to sanctity and grace.

Our crosses are the only way,

we come to see His face.

Sin and weakness are close at hand,

though they define us not.

May truth and trust forever reign,

Let Christ transform our thought.

 

 

Glowing at Midnight

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This morning while looking at the daily mass readings, I was reflecting on the Gospel; the beheading of John the Baptist. I began thinking about the sins that lead up to the murder of this holy man. In the end it had me thinking about sinfulness in general. Even if we arent committing murder, all sins share a common ground of darkness; lies, deceit, selfish gain, pride. This can  happen in the darkness of our hearts and minds, but very often sinful behaviour is a nighttime “activity”. My mom always said ” nothing good happens after midnight”. She really has a point there. People often commit crimes or engange in sinful behaviour in the darkness. Trying to hide away behind the curtain of the night. Pornographic images lighting up a dark bedroom, break ins happening as other sleep, prostitution taking place under the street lights, one night stands in a dark and dingy dorm room.

But the whole point of this post is to speak about the fact that we are:

“Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness” – Romans 6:18

When I read this verse it just hit me so clearly. We are called to be a slave to righteousness! A flame in the darkness. A word of truth in lies. A model of the beautitudes. A radical follower of Jesus. The Lord doesn’t want us to remain in the dark. That’s why he use countless parables about darkness and light. It’s not just a nice literary detail. It’s literal. We need to stop sinning in the darkness. Now, this definitely doesn’t mean the struggle of sin is instantly over. No! The fight goes on. Every. Single. Person. is in this battle. Our sinful habits are different. No use in comparing or judging each other in them. If we only see the sins of others, it probably time to re-read Matthew 7:3 (log in our eye & speck in our brothers). We need to bring ourselves, our baggage, our trials and sins to the foot of the cross. Beside Mary who remained at the cross, we can lay our burdens down. We entrust all our weakness to Him who takes our sin and gives abundant freedom. The more we come to the cross, the more we enter into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. He knew what struggles we would face, and he gave us somewhere to bring them. Only then can we walk away in the light of His truth, lighter, free from chains and hopeful in our steadfast refuge.

I’ll end with the song that also motivated this post. I don’t know if I should admit how many times I listened to it on repeat this morning!

 

 

where i want to be

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apart from you

I have nothing left.

apart from you

I am wandering.

apart from you

all is grey outside.

apart from you

words are empty now.

Let me write for you.

to be closer.

Let me speak about you.

to be closer

Let me search for you.

to be closer

enflame this desire.

kindle this love.

be all I need.

let me need all of You.

a Refuge in the rain

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On this rainy afternoon I find myself slightly melancholic and over contemplative (also procrastinating homework). It seems as though these gray skies have a way of inspiring more reflection than usual. I find myself pondering the theme of loneliness which is a common side effect of rainy days I suppose. We all experience loneliness in one way or another. For some, its the absence of friends, for others its the consuming demands of a job that keep us away from loved ones. Some find themselves living away from their homes for work, school, love… but we all experience loneliness. Even if we are surrounded by people, we can still feel alone at times. Why? I suppose because our friends, parents, siblings, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives are not meant to fulfill us completely. There is someone else who has this task. He is the ultimate Lover in our lives. He really plants  truth, freedom, joy, acceptance and purpose deep into our hearts. Of course, others are meant to bless us and reflect the love of Christ in our lives. But no matter how wonderful these men and women are, they can’t fill the void of loneliness that we all have in our hearts. I have always heard that God has to take the first place in my life, but in practice this is really difficult. How quickly we expect others to make us happy. Making internal demands for the perfect words and actions of others around us. When they don’t meet our expectations, we are left feeling hurt, disappointed and even defeated. Its incredible how easily this kind of attitude can seep into our lives, and how it can really wound our relationships.

I guess the purpose of this blog today is a reminder that God is really the only one who fulfills those lonely parts of our hearts. He is the path to joy. When we find ourselves in our room, our office, a party, a family dinner and we feel empty; God is there. He is calling out to us, and he wants to enter into those places that feel cold. He wants to be central. He wants to bring warmth and life. He wants to overwhelm us with everything we need and desire! At the same time, He gives us an understanding of what it means to live in relation with others. Life isn’t about being served. Its about service. The Gospel for today was exactly that; ‘ …It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matthew 20: 26-28). When God takes ownership of our hearts, we no longer dwell in loneliness, because we know we are not alone. We then start to change our expectations of others. We accept our weakness and our poverty. Just as we cannot love others perfectly, they too cannot love us perfectly. And once this is understood, we turn to He who can and does love perfectly. He who came to serve and not be served. He who loved until the end. This is where I want to find fulfillment.  O Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us abide in you where there is perfect love. In you we find peace. In you we are never alone. Amen.

 

Shifting into the Deep

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I recently had to sell my vehicle for a move thats taking place very soon. I had to part with Maxwell; my trusty, reliable and automatic beauty. Since I was 16, I have been driving automatic cars (avoiding at all costs the possibility of driving a standard vehicle, which quite frankly, scared me completely).  When I practiced with my mom years ago, I gave up after mistaking the break for the clutch and stalling every. single. time.

Fast forward about 8 years and I found myself confronted with the same standard car predicament. However this time, the only vehicle I had access to was a little zippy manual car from my sister. Honestly, I was tempted to start taking up biking. I never bike. But I felt like desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

Wrong. Thankfully I realized that my irrational fear of driving a standard vehicle and stalling in the middle of the road had gone on long enough (thought I admit, if I wasn’t forced to learn I probably would have avoided this scenario for a few more years). Either way, I took that vehicle out on the road and my oh my, I’ve learned a lot. I thought I would just share a few lessons I’ve learned :

  1. 1. Becoming more compassionate with bad drivers: Prior to this whole standard driving thing, I was pretty critical for slow and bad drivers. I’m not excusing bad driving, but now I’m much more inclined to ask the question “Maybe, they just suck because it’s their first day of learning how to drive a standard”. It’s actually helped me to be less critical behind the wheel.
  2. 2. Patience is a virtue learned in 1st-4th gear- In the past few weeks I’ve been forced to slow down a lot. From my acceleration time at a green light, to learning how to drive on the free way, I’m a rookie. In the past, I’ve loved pretending I’m a race-car driver, but I see the benefits to just enjoying the ride for what it is. Not always being in such a rush.
  3. Laughing at yourself is necessary-  The amount of laughing aloud that is taking place in my car is incredible! I’m not stalling much anymore, but at the beginning I just had to give a solid wave in my review mirror to the guy waiting for me to restart my vehicle and then smile as they drive past with their snazzy car, leaving me in the dust. #humility
  4. Give yourself more credit- I realized I can acquire new skills even if they scare me a lot! Although we know this, we often don’t believe this. I’m so happy I was forced to take this car out, face a little humiliation and come out on the other side laughing and enjoying the memories along the road.

 

moving upstairs

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Form me,

mould me,

shape and craft me.

Breath of life,

in my lungs.

Guide me,

show me,

bring and lead me.

Breath of life,

in my lungs.

Take us,

hold us,

lead and bring us.

Breath of life,

in our lungs.

Be the flame

That burns within.

Be the flame

That leads to Him.