Sunday, January 13, 2019

Words Whispered in Our Ears at Baptism

Sometimes somebody important to us says something to us that we never forget: a parent or family member, a friend, a teacher. At various times and places, the words play back for us and give us insight, confidence, or pause when we are in a particular situation. Perhaps, especially, words that we have from our parents carry this special weight.

I was thinking of this in terms of Jesus and the experience of His baptism. This is the very beginning of Jesus' public ministry. He is just about to embark on the apostolate that will characterize His life. He has take His place on line with all the others who seek John's baptism. John does not want to baptize Him because he feels unworthy.

After the baptism, Jesus hears these words:
"You are my beloved Son;
with you, I am well pleased."

What wonderful words--words with any child would be thrilled to hear from a parent.

Now, this occurs before Jesus has done anything. He is about to start His life's work and He is affirmed in this powerful way. "You are my beloved Son; I am well pleased with you." Perhaps, this is the point: the Father's love for Jesus is not something that is earned, something that is won or lost, but something that is given freely and permanently and without qualification. Jesus knew that He is loved by the Father, but having it said so clearly and so boldly depends its truth on a human level. Jesus knew that He was loved. Nevertheless, it needed to be said aloud and heard distinctly.

When Jesus spoke of the Father, He spoke about Him in that deep way which reflected the Father's love for all His children. He is the welcoming parent who wants all His children to come home and be with Him forever.

What a wonderful and powerful gift it is that the Father gives Jesus on the day of His baptism: the assurance that the Father loved Him and stood by Him. At our baptism, God speaks those same words to each of us: "You are my beloved child. I am pleased with you." We need to hear those words and allow them to guide our lives, just as Jesus did. It makes an enormous amount of difference to know that the Father loves us unconditionally and forever. No matter what we do, God loves us. No matter how far we stray, God stays with us. We do not earn God's love and we can never lose it. It seems so simple to say, but it is the truth. We need to say it and hear it and believe it. It makes all the difference in the world for how we live.

When we get up in the morning and know that we are loved, the day starts out on the right foot; when we go to bed at night and realize that is was not a great day, we can tell ourselves that we are still loved by God, so how bad could it be?

The story of the Baptism of Jesus reminds us that truth in His life and what a difference it made. Let us grasp that truth for ourselves. Remember how God whispered to us on the day of our baptism: you are my beloved child, I am pleased with you. We may have forgotten that. Let us pray that our memory be jogged so that we live as and treat one another as God's beloved children. People on whom God's favor rests.

Written by Father Patrick Griffin. Originally published on FamVin.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

The month of January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, declared so by President Barack Obama in 2016. In addition to this, January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. It is extremely important that attention be drawn to this terrible injustice. In order to "take down" this billion-dollar industry, we all must become educated to the ways in which human beings, in every corner of the world, are being exploited.

The broad term "human trafficking" is used to include forced labor, domestic servitude, organ harvesting, child soldiers, forced marriage, and sexual exploitation. Many times, the victims are "hidden in plain sight" and it takes another person who knows the signs of trafficking to report it.

Where can you start to make a difference?

  1. Educate yourself by visiting websites of organizations fighting this crime and pass that knowledge along to others! You can start at our Office of Migration and Modern Slavery blog.
  2. Add the confidential, toll free human trafficking hotline number (1-888-373-7888) to your phone in the event that you suspect someone is being trafficked.
  3. Make your voice heard! Contact your government representatives. There are laws in place to protect victims, but we need stronger laws that are continually enforced. We need more programs to help those who have been victimized as healing from the trauma they have experienced takes years.
On January 11, you are urged to wear a blue ribbon to draw attention to this crime. Post a picture of yourself on social media wearing this ribbon and encourage others to do that same.

The only way to eradicate this terrible injustice is to make our voices heard! Won't you help today???

Written by Sister Mary Catherine Warehime, D.C.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Feast of the Holy Family

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

The story of the Holy Family is full of encouragement for those who struggle in life, especially in their own family life. The events in the life of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus help us to see what is really important in life. Their life demonstrated a listening to God, following God's will even though that path would bring challenges. They remind us that wealth is found within our relationships and in how we relate to each other in our own family life and not determined by what we have materially.

The United States Bishops' document, A Family Perspective in Church and Society, describes family life as, "the basic community of believers, bound in love to one another." The family is a place where we are committed in love to one another, even in the midst of the struggles and challenges of life. By making Jesus the center of daily life, the family creates an intimate community of love.

A family's path to holiness is built on love. Families are called to live each day centered on God by showing love, respect, and compassion for each member. In this way, the family becomes stronger in their love for God and for one another. Together, the family learns to give thanks, to share love, and to always be there for each other. As the family grows and becomes a community of love and sharing, it becomes a witness of God's love to all people of the world.

May today's feast remind us, too, that we belong to the universal family of God's love. Remember that men, women, and children living in shelters or on the street are part of our family. Women and children who are emotionally and physically imprisoned as a result of human trafficking are part of our family. Individuals struggling with addiction and living in fear and isolation are part of our family. The thousands of refugees who have left their homelands to escape poverty and violence are part of our family.

As a new year approaches, let us allow the Holy Family to embrace us. May the Holy Family of Nazareth inspire and encourage us to live and show Jesus' love and mercy wherever we find ourselves in the coming year. Be a witness of the Holy Family, not only in your own family, but in your community, in your city, and in the world.

Written by Sister Luanne Carmon, D.C.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Feast of St. John: Apostle and Evangelist

John and his older brother, James were the sons of Zebedee and Salome. Salome was the sister of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. This made John and James Jesus' cousins. Jesus invited them to follow Him during His first year of public ministry. Jesus referred to the brothers as "sons of thunder." It is believed that John was the youngest of the Apostles.

John was the only one of the 12 Apostles who did not forsake Jesus during His crucifixion. He stood faithfully beside the cross with Mary. There, Jesus made him the guardian of His Mother. Sometime after Jesus' death and resurrection, Mary took to Ephesus to live until her Assumption.

John was very involved in the beginnings of Christianity. This fact did not go unnoticed by the Roman authorities. In the latter part of the first century, when Christians were still being persecuted, John was exiled to the prison island of Patmos where it is believed that he wrote the Book of Revelation. John is often credited with writing the Gospel of John, the three Epistles of John, and the Book of Revelation. However, his authorship has often been debated. It is almost certain that he is the author of the Gospel of John and the first Epistole of John.

The writer of the Gospel of John is referred to as the "disciple whom Jesus loved." John 21:24 claims the Gospel of John is based on the "Beloved Disciple's" testimony. These two references are cited several times in this Gospel but are not used in any other New Testament accounts.

St. John is called the Apostle of Charity, a virtue he had learned from his Savior and which he repeatedly encouraged by word and example. The "Beloved Disciple" died an old man in Ephesus around 98 AD, the only disciple to die peacefully.

It is fitting that John is the patron saint of love, loyalty, friendship, and authors.

John was a consummate model of love and loyalty. He was loyal to Jesus, even risking his life to be with Him at the cross. His writings and letters were about love, so much so that a disciple once asked him why he didn't write about other topics. John replied, "There is nothing greater than love."

The power of love is no myth! We have heard and seen many examples in our lifetime: someone who is miraculously saved from a tragedy because someone else reached out for help; the kindness of a stranger that gives hope to another; and so on. Each of us can do our part in this world! After all, we are all disciples of Jesus, too!

Written by Sister Cynthia Fox, D.C.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Feast of Christmas

The following is a reflection on Luke 2:1-20.

It surprised me when I recently opened the place in Scripture concerning the birth of Jesus. So much of the Christmas Story in Luke's gospel deals with the shepherds. Only two verses briefly describe Mary:

"She gave birth to a son...wrapped him in swaddling clothes...laid him in a manger."

I wondered why the author paid so much attention to the shepherd. But, more than that, what could I learn and better understand about my life? What does this passage mean for me in my everyday life?

As I began to reflect on Luke's story, my eyes caught on the phrase that the shepherds were:

"in the fields keeping guard over their sheep."

It seemed to me that the shepherds were doing what they were supposed to be doing. Of course they were! The shepherds were living in the present moment, watching their flock. I asked myself, am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing? I felt the desire to look more closely at whether I was attentively engaged in what was before me. Am I attentive to the persons, the circumstances, the events, the conversations taking place in my here and now? Or do I find my attention zooming forward to something in the future or mulling over things in the past? And when questions come into my life, how will I know whether what I want to do or where I want to go is truly pleasing God?

As I read further into the passage from Luke, the shepherds were afraid at first, but the angel of the Lord spoke with them. He brought them:

"news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people."

While they were tending their sheep, they were given news of great joy. Their experience of joy was a gift. Joy is not something that can be planned or prepared for. It seems to me that I cannot say that, "Today, I will prepare to have JOY!" The gift of joy and the surprise of joy, happens as a result of doing what I am supposed to be doing: living in the present moment.

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us take time to focus our thoughts and energies on being especially attentive to the present moment, attentive to the presence of each person before us. May we be surprised with the joy that was experienced by the shepherds in Bethlehem!

Written by Sister Helen Brewer, D.C.