Think about those times in your life when you have felt inspired to something really great. Where does that inspiration come from?
The Holy Spirit. God inspires us to do great things with our lives.
----Matthew Kelly

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

The word "new" is found in the Readings today. "New commandment", "new heaven", "new earth", as well as "Behold, I make all things new." (Rev 21:5A). During today's Homily, Father told us that the Gospel demands detachment of the modern world. Not that we should become hermits or hole up somewhere. Rather, I take it to mean that we should detach ourselves from revenge or material things
Father posed this question to us: What are you willing to give up, offer, sacrifice? Not as in, giving up chocolate, but rather, giving up our private, secret sins. Those things that we don't want anyone to know. We all have them. Those masks that we wear to coworkers, friends, children, even our spouses. As Father said, if left unchecked, these become our master by first becoming a friend; something we can't do without. We need to give up grudges and animosities towards others and let the new creation begin with us
This is so very difficult for me. I will give everyone the benefit of the doubt; I'm a very trusting person. As soon as someone wrongs me, I give them another chance; but, if it happens once more, then forget it. Do I believe people can change? Absolutely. Will I ever be able to trust them again? Well, that's questionable. They definitely have to prove themselves to me. I have an enormous amount of difficulty seeing Jesus in them. Yet, I know that I need to have them see Jesus in me. In order to be created new, I need to set aside these grudges and animosities and trust

Grudges can eat you alive. They can make you feel horrible about yourself and the people around you. Not only that, but they can also affect the people around you. Your home environment, work environment, or wherever it is occurring will be affected. It's a poison that can suck the life out of the very heart of you. But, how do you trust them? How can you truly love them as Jesus wants you to? If I only knew how to do that, then perhaps I would be worthy of being made new.

The Bishop, a Chef Priest, and a Bunch of Women

I had the opportunity to hang out with about 100 Catholic women over the weekend. Can I just say how refreshing it is to hang out with women who share your belief and your values? Being from the South, it doesn’t happen very often.  This was my first time in attendance at the Council of Catholic Women (CCW) Convention for the Diocese.
Things you may not be aware of:
If you are a woman, you are a member of CCW.
Dues are voluntary, but are encouraged.  ;-)

The Convention kicked off Thursday night with a Memorial Mass for the deceased members. The main celebrant was our Bishop with priests from the different deaneries as con-celebrants. The Mass was beautiful (as always); the deceased women from the different parishes within the diocese were remembered. After Mass, we had an banquet with the Bishop in attendance. This was the first time I have had the opportunity to meet our Bishop. He came around and put his zucchetto (I had to look up the appropriate name for the “beanie”!) on various women. I was one of the women who had the honor to have it on my head for a few brief seconds. A picture was taken, but I don’t know how to get it from the photographer who was taking pictures.
Beth & Bishop Stika. I need to mention that this was at a time when no one was speaking.
During the banquet, Beth Mahoney, who is the Spirituality Commission Chair for NCCW, gave the keynote address. She spoke of events in Mary’s life and how they relate to each of us today.
Friday, I had the honor of listening to Father Leo Patalinghug. I knew of Father Leo through the Catholic Channel on Sirius Radio. He is the founder of the Grace Before Meals Movement. Even during periods when I wasn’t a regular mass attendee, we always said grace before our suppers as a family.  In this fast-paced world, many families don’t even have supper together, much less say grace.
While Father Leo was cooking, he was doing what he does: preaching. Some “words of wisdom” from Father Leo:
About confession: It’s easy to abuse confession. You should go because you’re sorry, not because it’s the first Friday of the month. Everything we do should be manifested from the heart. 
The Church isn’t a hotel for saints, but a hospital for sinners.
Not enough people are saying “yes” to God’s will.
The belly button shows that from the time of our conception, God has 1 plan: to feed you.
Mary is not important to Catholics…she’s NECESSARY.
Priests are called to feed people in a supernatural way. Women have the ability to feed naturally.
At the end, he talked about being beautiful. He spoke of what it meant to be beautiful; not on the outside, but the kind of beautiful that comes from the inside and radiates. To summarize, he made these points:
Remember that the U.S.A. is One Nation Under God, and will always be, no matter what. So, don’t get all stressed about the upcoming election; we’re going to be okay.
Let God work for you.
Teach the gift of modesty & allow your body to be beautiful.
God is trying to fix our brokenness if we let him.
If you’re having a bad day, do something for someone else. You’ll be surprised at how your day will turn around.

The last day, Cathy Bonner gave a powerful presentation on domestic violence.  Women Healing the Wounds is a domestic violence prevention resource guide. The guide is free, and includes a page with tear-off tabs for each parish to put information for their local shelter. It is also available in Spanish.  They also have partnered with Verizon to donate used cell phones. If you donate a phone, don’t forget the charger! 
Check to see if your parish has an active CCW. If not, find out why & get things going.

4th Sunday of Easter

This Sunday is also called Good Shepherd Sunday, as well as Vocation Sunday. After reading the latter name, it struck me as a little odd that vocations weren't mentioned. Even in the reflections that I read, Vocation Sunday wasn't mentioned. 
In the First Reading, we see the first Gentiles who were converted. How disappointed the apostles must have been to have the Jews turn against them & not follow them. They were “their people”. It seemed like their job to spread the Word of God was being sabotaged by the very people who should have accepted it.  But the Gentiles heard and listened. Not only that, but they believed.  I’m not a theologian, but it seems to me that these Gentiles are the first Christians as we know them today.  (If you are a theologian and I’ve gotten this wrong, please let me know!) In Acts 13:51, the apostles shook the dust from their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium.  After being so horribly treated, they were able to just walk away from the situation and move on. They were able to forgive and forget. I don’t know about you, but that’s something with which I have an extremely hard time. At what point do you walk away from a situation and say just forget it, and be able to really forget it?  I’ve said many times that I can forgive, but I don’t forget.  Maybe visualizing the shaking the dust from my feet will help.  The apostles knew the right time to walk away and talk to people who were open to hearing the Word. They seemed to have been pretty persistent up until this point. They were jailed, but continued to teach the Word up until now.  Maybe they had just enough; maybe God said, Enough is enough. Maybe they realized that you can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.  It all goes back to having free will. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for them: to feel like they were failing.
During Mass, the Deacon gave the Homily. He said that Jesus is the Master Storyteller, relating his stories not only to those in His day, but also to us today. We only have to hear His voice. This is necessary if we want to exist for Him.  We can achieve eternal life if we listen and follow Him. How can we do this? It can be as simple as being there when someone needs you or being nice to someone you don’t like. It costs no money, just a little bit of time.

What are your views on the Readings and Homily? I’d love to hear them!

3rd Sunday of Easter

As I listened to the Gospel last night, I panicked just a little bit. I kept thinking, "Oh no! He's reading the wrong day!" After speaking with the Deacon after Mass, I still couldn't shake the feeling that I had recently heard the same Gospel. I guess that means that it's good that I'm retaining what I'm reading during the week! After some brief searching, I finally found it on 1 April: Jn 21:1-14. Today's reading: Jn 21:1-19. WHEW! I knew I had already heard it!
Peter decided to go back and do what he was doing when he started following Jesus: fish. He did what was comfortable for him. When fishing, most fishermen (being right-handed) cast their nets to the left of the boat. When the disciples did this, they caught nothing. Jesus appears to them and tells them to do something different: cast the nets to the right of the boat. SUCCESS! After that, they realized the person who told them to cast their nets was Jesus. Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves Him, to which Peter tells him "yes". This mimics the 3 times Peter denied Jesus. Did Jesus know what he was doing, or what?
I have to admit, it wasn't until I read the Blessed is She devotion and re-read the Gospel that it hit me:
I thought Peter jumped in the water to get away from Jesus because of his shame or embarrassment for denying Jesus. After I re-read, I realized he jumped in because he couldn't wait to get to Jesus. I've had different times in my life when  I couldn't wait to get to Jesus; I couldn't wait to go to Communion on Sunday. In fact, there have been at least 3 times when this happened: First Communion, Confirmation, and after I went on a Search retreat my junior year in high school. Wow. Has it really been that long that I felt that desire to receive the Eucharist? Don't get me wrong; the times I didn't go to Communion during Mass for various reasons killed me. But, am I just going through the motions at Mass? Do I really see Jesus in the host? Do I long for Jesus as I should?

Second chance. Jesus gave Peter a second chance by asking him if he loved Him. And Peter said "yes". How many times does Jesus give us chances? Even when we turn away from Him, He is always there with outstretched arms, giving us yet another chance. He is always there in the Eucharist, waiting for us to come to Him.

Divine Mercy Sunday

In the first reading, I was struck by "None joined but many followed" as the apostles began their work. I wonder why none joined...was it because they weren't called to join, but to follow? Was that not God's plan for them? I thought of the priests when I read this; they have many followers, but there are few who answer the call to become a priest.
In the second reading, I looked up Patmos and found it is a Greek Isle. You can go on a pilgrimage to the cave where John received his revelation (to write down everything he sees). There are several monasteries on the island. 
Doubting Thomas. I tried to put myself in Thomas' place. Would I have believed the other apostles, or would I have said, "Yeah, right. I won't believe it 'til I see it." In these times of photoshop, I don't think I would have even believed it if I saw a picture of it. I would have to be like Thomas & want to actually put my fingers & hands in his wounds. The apostles definitely had one advantage over us: they could see Jesus to have faith. We may not be able to actually see Him, but we can see him through other people. Just as we would want others to be able to see Him through us.
As I read through other homilies/devotions, these things caught my attention and gave me something to think about:
(From USCCB) Poor Thomas. He's best known for doubting; his doubt overshadows other times he's mentioned. (I have to admit, I had completely forgotten about those times!) He showed courage when he offered to go with Jesus to Lazarus' house. Jesus said to Thomas at the last supper: I am the way, the truth, and the life
(From Loyola Press) The apostles found the courage to leave the upper room in order to spread the gospel.
(From One Bread One Body) Fear feeds doubt. It's a vicious cycle, because doubt also "makes us susceptible to fear, which makes our doubts worse, trapping us in greater fears and uncertainties."
In the Homily at Mass (I'll get to more on that in a minute), Father said that church is the upper room. We see people at Mass, but do they/we have the courage to leave the upper room to spread the gospel, or are they/we afraid that it's not "cool", or that they/we will be ridiculed, or even that they/we won't have the right words to say when confronted about their/our faith? Could you imagine if every person who attends Mass would leave there and join the apostles with their work? 
During the Homily, Father said that we are called to be people of Faith. The apostles knew they were in trouble, knew there were people out to kill them when Jesus appears to them and says, "Peace be with you." He sends the apostles out to carry mercy to the whole world. Jesus calls us to that upper room. The church is that upper room. He calls us to the same faith as He called the apostles. 
Faith is what we have when we have no proof. I think it was easier for the apostles to have faith, because they actually had Jesus there with them; they saw Him after the resurrection and saw His wounds with their own eyes. 
We say the words of Thomas when the Eucharist is elevated during mass: My Lord and my God. We say this as a sign of faith. Father asked that we pray to God for courage to stop our unbelief and to put all of our trust in Him.
Father mentioned that Thomas went to India. Later in the homily, he mentioned the Indian priest who was crucified on Good Friday. His name: Thomas. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.