The Significance of Easter

Jesus Started From the Bottom Now We Here

“If  Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.” -1 Corinthians 15:14

There would be no point in becoming a Christian without the Resurrection. Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have just been one of countless moral and religious teachers in human history.  This is how non-Christians and even some Christians tend to think of Him nowadays. But with Jesus’ Resurrection, we see that Jesus’ words are not only wise, but they come from God.  Jesus had prophesied many times beforehand that He would suffer and die, but rise again on the third day. We see this in Matthew 17:22, Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22, Matthew 27:63, John 2:19, Mark 14:58, Matthew 26:61.

Without the Resurrection, there is no hope for eternal life. But with it, we all can have hope that one day we can rise again in glorified bodies just like Jesus. The Resurrection shows us God’s justice in exalting one who “humbled himself unto death” (Phil 2:8-9). Just as in dying for us Jesus forgave us of our sin, in rising He restored privileges that were lost because of sin (Romans 4:25).

So Easter is a big deal. Jesus died but rose again! As Pope Francis said,

“What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.”

Even though Jesus was crucified, it shows us that real power is service and love, not selfishness and control. As I have come to know Jesus more in my own life, I have slowly been learning this beautiful truth. It encourages me even when things are not going well, so that I know that even if I am not alright at the moment, as long as I try to do what is right to the best of my ability, it will all be ok, well actually more than ok- perfect!- in the end.

Today I attended a wake for a friend, but it was very comforting that of all days it was on Easter! It was super appropriate for what an amazing person he is, and it was touching to remember that though he is not with me on earth anymore, he has moved on to heaven, all thanks to Jesus! Jesus has even defeated death, we must remember that. So don’t get down! Maybe I can end this post with another Pope Francis quote?

“And this is the first word that I want to tell you: ‘Joy!’ Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but it comes from having encountered a Person, Jesus, who is among us. It comes from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them! This is the moment when the enemy comes, when the devil, often times dressed as an angel, comes and insidiously tells us his word. Don’t listen to him! Follow Jesus! We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world of ours. Please don’t let him steal our hope. Don’t let him steal our hope, that hope that Jesus gives us.”

The Church and the World

Faith and the world intro:

The Beatitudes: Matthew 5:1-12

Salt and light: Matthew 5:13-14

The Fulfillment of the Law and prophets: Matthew 5:17-20

What do you think that Jesus is trying to tell us in these passages about the relationship between faith and the world?

How does He encourage us when He shares the beatitudes? He gives us hope that even though we may suffer on earth, we can hope in God’s promise.

What does He challenge us to do when talking about how we are salt and light? We must share our faith with the world and glorify God.

What does He warn us against when talking about the Law? We must remain true to what He taught us.

What is the Church’s role in the world?
General question that we will be exploring tonight. What do you think about it?

Understanding the Church:

What is the Church and why do we have it?

As went through salvation history, we saw how God’s covenant grew from between just Adam and Eve to the entire nation of Israel. When Jesus instituted the final covenant, His covenant was with the Church, a group even bigger than a nation, a group meant to include the entire world. Jesus founded a church on Peter, and we see this in Matthew 16:18-19. Because of this, after Jesus gave them the great commission, (Matthew 28:16-20), the Apostles (“apostle” means “sent”) went all over the world proclaiming the Gospel, baptizing, and building up the Church. For example, St. James went all the way to Spain, St. Thomas went to India, St. Paul traveled the Mediterranean.

How are the Church and Jesus related? The Church is the Body of Christ, that is, the Church is Jesus in the world today. Thoughts on this?

Jesus taught, Jesus served, Jesus sacrificed. The Church teaches, the Church serves, the Church sacrifices.

What authority does the Church have?

Jesus gave the Apostles the great commission, which we already covered, and founded the Church, in Matthew 28:16-20 and Matthew 16:18-19, respectively. Another couple key points are John 20:23, giving the Apostles the ability to forgive sins, and Luke 22:19, telling the Apostles to celebrate the Eucharist in His memory.

How was this lived out in the days of the Apostles? The apostles can make laws (Acts 15:28-29, 1 Corinthians 7:12), teaches (Acts 2:37-39), teaches as the word of God (1 Thes 2:13), punishes (Acts 5:1-11, 1 Cor 5:1-5), administers sacraments (Acts 6:1, 16:33, 20:11), provides successors (2 Tim 1:6, Acts 14:23).

In sum:

We only have the Church because of Jesus, Jesus founded the Church as a gift for the whole world, for ALL nations. The Church’s job is to share the faith with the world. Sometimes the Church seems out of date and out of touch, but that is because the doctrines do not change, the truth does not change. Praise God that the Church still preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ 2000 years after!

A Lenten Reflection: How Can I Get Up? How Can I Go On?

The following is a guest post by Vincent Kania, Seminarian for the Diocese of Joliet.

Jesus with the cross

I have suffered, and the way only gets harder. I have accepted this pain, but I still have so far to go. This weight is crushing, and each step is an agony. I begin to lose heart, where can I find strength? I have already endured the mockery, the buffets, the scourging, the spitting, I don’t think I can make it. The cross digs into My shoulder so deep and with each slow step, My head and My body bleed. How can I go on?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1)

And then I see you, My friend, among the faces of the crowd. My heart leaps, My hope returns. Surely, here is one who will show me kindness, encouragement, compassion, love. I look to your face with eager expectation, but you turn away, preferring your sin to My suffering. I am crushed, I stumble, I fall. I lay on the path in despair. I have the power to make this stop at any time, I can escape this pain in an instant. I think of last night and the cup I drank, the cup I promised My Father that I would drink, but oh how inviting, this despair. How can I get up?

“You have taken away my friends and made me hateful in their sight.” (Psalm 88:9)

And then I look up and see you, My friend, once again. You are not even paying attention, shutting me out in your own self-absorbed world of sin. But I also see your pain, which you try to ignore. Even in your betrayal, I love you so much that I cannot bear the thought, of not being with you for a single moment, of losing you for all eternity. And now you are right in front of Me, as I lay underneath the heavy cross, and finally, you turn to me. As I catch your glance, your eyes widen, and I see your agony, your suffering, and your fear. And then you turn and run. My breath catches in My throat. I want to call out, but My voice falls silent. I strain to lift the cross, to run after you; the pain is great, but My love is greater.

“He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God … He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;” (Isaiah 53:2-4, 7)

And as you disappear into the crowd, I realize that I am on My feet again, moving forward, step by step. My friend, you flee before My face, yet I know that this suffering is the only way to save you, to take away your pain and give your another chance. You have rejected Me, but I still hope. How can I go on, you ask? I see you, My child. And this next step, this horrible, hideous pain, this is for You.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

 

Other posts by Vincent:
Friendship and Flirting
Why Priesthood? Interview a Seminarian: Vince

Saints Mary and Joseph, Examples of Femininity and Masculinity

Holy Family Nativity

Last week in bible study we joined up with a girls study for some bowling and a quick study on femininity and masculinity. My friend Rachel led the girls study and provided the reflection on our Blessed Mother, and I provided the reflection on St. Joseph.

Mary, Mother of God

  1. Who is Mary?

Mary is a guiding light for us. She is the only example that we have of a perfect and sinless woman. Mary demonstrates a beautiful character through her roles as both wife to Joseph and mother to Jesus. And through these roles, she portrays perfectly the vocation women are called to. But she is not simply an example to women – she is mother of all. Both men and women can look to her as an example of prayer, humility and selfless love.

The Character of Mary:

  1. Receptivity
  2. Capacity for the Other
  3. Resonance of Mind and Heart

Luke 1: 26-38 “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’ And the angel said to her in reply, ‘The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.’ Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

  1. How does Mary demonstrate receptivity in this passage?
  2. What does this reveal about Mary’s role as a wife or mother?

“The existence of Mary is an invitation to the Church to root her very being in listening and receiving the Word of God, because faith is not so much the search for God on the part of human being, as the recognition by men and women that God comes to us” – JPII

John 2 1-6: “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana, in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ [And] Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servers, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

  1. How does Mary demonstrate her “Capacity for the other”?
  2. What does this reveal about Mary’s role as mother?

Luke 2: 41-51 “Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.’ And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.”

  1. How does Mary demonstrate her “Resonance of Mind and Heart”?
  2. What does this reveal about Mary’s role as wife and mother?

John 19: 26-27 “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”

–          We have looked at how Mary has played a motherly role in the life of Jesus from the moment of his conception up to the point of his painful, yet, redeeming death. At this moment, Mary became mother of not just the beloved disciple, John, but to all of Jesus’ beloved disciples…us. At the foot of the cross, at a time when she is feeling so much pain and sorrow in her heart, she still gave a “yes” to the Lord and accepted us as her children.

–          Mary is a true model to all Christians because she is a model of being open to the will of God. She bore Jesus Christ in her womb and bore him into the world. Her mission has always been to bring Jesus Christ to the world and to bring the world to Jesus Christ. Let us go to her with all of our needs, our sorrows, and our joys. She will rejoice with us in our triumphs and will console us in our suffering. Mary is truly a gift from God to us, so let us entrust ourselves to her, knowing that she will bring us to her Son.

St. Joseph

St. Joseph is a fantastic model for what true manhood is especially in his virtue, faith, and charity. His family was the most unique family ever: his wife was the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, and their son Jesus was God. Imagine that craziness. And though spiritually St. Joseph is the “least important,” he was still absolutely vital. Even though not a single word by St. Joseph is recorded in scripture, he still teaches men so much by his actions.

When he found out that Mary was pregnant while they were “engaged,” instead of shaming her, St. Joseph did not plan to make a scene of it but to quietly divorce her. Think of how tough that situation was! The penalty for cheating on a man in those days potentially could have been death, by stoning! And yet St. Joseph was going to spare her as much contempt as possible.

Next, St. Joseph had a strong enough faith to trust the angel that announced to him that Mary’s child was God’s child. Again, what a ridiculous situation that we completely take for granted. God’s child! And again, St. Joseph did not abandon Jesus and Mary but trusted God.

Also, St. Joseph honored our Blessed Mother and her special role in history by protecting her virginity even though they were married. We think that priests and sisters have a sacrifice to make in celibacy: how about a properly married couple being celibate? And Mary wasn’t bad looking.

He took his entire family and fled when the emperor was having all of the children killed for fear of Jesus, thanks to a warning from an angel. He has faith in the angel again, and doesn’t abandon Jesus and Mary but takes them to Egypt, a completely foreign country, in order to escape.

St. Joseph worked to provide for Jesus and Mary. Again, we can’t take this stuff for granted: his wife was sinless and his son was God, and he had to work a day job to support them?

At all times, St. Joseph honored God and put God’s plans before his own convenience, even when it was ridiculously hard. St. Joseph is a model of virtue and sacrifice for all men.

15 Tips to Pray Better

Pope Francis praying

I still consider myself a beginner at prayer, but I’ve actually had some great revelations in learning to pray over the past few months. It’s been awesome! So I’d like to share them with you, hopefully they can inspire and help you in your own prayer life!

1. Make prayer a habit. You won’t learn to do anything well unless you do it consistently, and this is especially true in prayer. Designate a special time for prayer every day, and stick to it. It must be a quiet place where you will not get easily distracted.

2. Be absolutely still. It is so easy for me to begin praying, and then find myself thinking about how I am uncomfortable, or staring at my hands, or doing something else other than praying. When I am still, I can focus without distractions. If I start playing with my thumbs, there is no way that I am also praying, I’m just not good at multitasking like that.

3. Focus on God and God alone. You should also speak with God about things going on in your life, but those things are things that you are bringing to God. If you begin thinking about these other things without God, it is very easy to transition from prayer to daydreaming.

4. Ask God to teach you to pray. Ask God to come and be with you. Pray something like, “Father  please teach me to pray. Come Holy Spirit, please teach me to pray. Jesus, please be close to me and help me to know you more.”

5. You must have faith. Just as there would be no Church without Jesus, there is no prayer  without faith. As awkward as it is, I often find myself “pretending” to pray. I think that it is a lack of faith on my part, a lack of trust that God actually hears me. And as soon as I realized that (praise God!), I’ve been much better about asking God to help me have greater faith lately, and I have recognized how He has been much nearer to me. I notice this because I become so joyful at recognizing His presence and it’s as if I’m speaking with with Jesus right there next to me, “heart speaking unto heart,” as Bl. Cardinal Newman would say.

6. Be real with God. God knows what you really think anyways, so there is no need to hide what you think. Just as you’d talk with your best friend about everything that is going on in your life, it is even more important to speak with God about these things too. And it’s totally cool to complain to God, it’s biblical ;-)! And be real about your relationship with God. Ask His forgiveness for your sins. Ask for His grace to overcome them. Ask for His clarity when you are not sure what to do. Just as you can’t grow in a friendship with a friend when you aren’t yourself, you can’t grow closer to God when you aren’t yourself. And I’m sure that as you come to know Him better, you’ll have much less to complain about :-).

7. Adore God. Prayer is more than just speaking to Him. Just being with Him is enough, whether that is physically in mass or adoration, or spiritually in prayer. Prayer is also the desire of union with God, and that desire doesn’t have to be spoken to be real. 

8. Use A.C.T.S. Prayer consists of Adoration- as I just spoke of, Contrition- asking for forgiveness for our sins, Thanksgiving- thanking God for His blessings, and Supplication- asking God for what we need.

9. If you are struggling, don’t give up. Praying isn’t something that always comes automatically. Sometimes it is easy, and sometimes it is hard. It’s a battle! I’m reading a book on St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Rule for the Discernment of Spirits, and it’s helping me recognize certain these things in prayer. Basically, prayer is more complicated than we make it out to be. There are good spirits that want to inspire and help us. There are evil spirits that seek to confront and disappoint us. We receive consolation and we should continue to grow in those times. We also undergo trial and dryness, and we should continue in those times just as in times of consolation, even though it is much harder. Spiritual advisers are great at helping you navigate through these difficulties.

10. Give yourself a significant amount of time to pray. You can only begin to to go deeper in prayer when you pray for a significant amount of time. Plus, if you set aside plenty of time, you will not have to be checking the time every other minute to make sure that you don’t miss your next event.

11. Pray throughout your day. It is essential to set aside a special time for deep prayer every day, but I also need to pray during the day so that I can remember to live for (and with!) Jesus in all that I do, especially when it is difficult. God often speaks to us through the situations that we encounter in our days.

12. Do not skip contemplative prayer in favor of meditative prayer. If all of your prayer happens when you are at mass or while praying a rosary, you haven’t given yourself as much freedom to pray as you need. Both of those prayers are beautiful, but we need time alone with God to speak and to listen.

13. We must also listen in prayer. This is something that I still struggle with a lot. I know that Lectio Divina is a great way to combat this, because through the Scriptures, Jesus’ words are living and active, and they speak to our heart. So open up your bible and let Jesus’ words not only be to the other people in the bible, but to YOU. Another way to hear God is to see where He guides your thoughts and emotions during prayer. Sometimes our thoughts wander because we are being distracted, but if we pray well, the Spirit will move us to notice something that we never thought of before in our lives, and show us how we can better serve God. I think that I do my best listening in prayer by “listening” to how much that God loves me. This is very moving for me, because God reveals this to me in a relatively overwhelming way. It usually begins by me recognizing all that God has done for me, giving me life, faith, family and friends, opportunities to serve Him, and ultimately He died for me.

14. Pray when making decisions. When we have decisions to make, big or small, leaving God out of them is not going to help you in the long run. Ultimately, our life is about God, so why don’t we let Him into all corners of our life? When I pray and ask God what to do when making decisions, I ask Him to reveal to me what I should do clearly. Often this takes time, but I feel pretty confident that He speaks straight to my heart about what I should do. With some choices, there is one option that glorifies God more than another and I recognize that. I pray that I choose that option more. God speaks to me through my desires. I didn’t always think that I could be a FOCUS missionary, but I definitely always wanted to be one. Before it was too late, I recognized this fact, and recognized that it glorified God the most of all of my options for after college. God also gives us peace in our decisions when they is good. Sometimes a lack of peace is simply our conscience, and other times some decision just don’t seem to “fit” well with us. If you feel peace in a decision that you’ve been praying about, it is a good sign that God wants you to proceed in that direction.

15. Just do it. Every moment is an opportunity for prayer. There’s no time like the present. What are you waiting for? God’s waiting.

Here’s a cool prayer that I just ran into (translated and some old English, sorry):

I love thee, God, I love thee—
Not out of hope for heaven for me
Nor fearing not to love and be
In the everlasting burning.
Thou, my Jesus, after me
Didst reach thine arms out dying,
For my sake sufferedst nails and lance,
Mocked and marred countenance,
Sorrows passing number,
Sweat and care and cumber,
Yea and death, and this for me,
And thou couldst see me sinning:
Then I, why should not I love thee,
Jesu so much in love with me?
Not for heaven’s sake, not to be
Out of hell by loving thee;
Not for any gains I see;
But just the way that thou didst me
I do love and will love thee.
What must I love thee, Lord, for then?
For being my king and God. Amen.

-St. Francis Xavier

More on prayer:
Your faith isn’t going to go anywhere..
A Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ and Evangelization
The Battle of Prayer

Pope Francis

Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony

I love this man. Maybe that’s just the Catholic in me showing. But there’s something so warm about him. I just feel so good.

Former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., of Buenos Aires, Argentina is now Pope Francis.

He wasn’t even close to a front runner for the papacy.. I call myself a Catholic nerd and I still had never heard of him.

He looked so awkward and shocked out there on the balcony (did he remind anyone else of the Iron Giant???), but it was so beautiful to see the joy in his face when he began talking about our Father and speaking with his hands more.

He seems to have a huge Marian devotion, which I love. Check out his coat of arms, it’s practically all blue for our Blessed Mother:

Pope Francis Coat of Arms

I know that Latinos will be so joyful for this selection, it is a great gift to all of the devout Latino Catholics.

From what I hear, Pope Francis is practically a living saint. On his elevation by Pope John Paul II to become a cardinal, he urged Argentinians not to come, but to donate the money that they would have spent to travel to the poor.

The gift of a new pope is a sign of how God continues to care for the Church, even 2000 years after Christ founded the Church (Matthew 16:18-19). Thank you God.

Please keep Pope Francis in your prayers. This is an exciting time for the Church. Praise God for this wonderful man who said “yes” to God’s call.

What a Young Catholic Wants in a Pope

Curious what a young Catholic might want in a Pope? Here’s my grocery list as the Conclave begins on Tuesday March 12th (check out the pope alarm!):

  • Another Pope desperately in love with Jesus, just like Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict
  • A man completely devoted to sharing the Gospel to all of the corners of the earth
  • A man who will follow Jesus, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church, the Church Fathers, and the inspired words of scripture instead of the trends of popular opinion and what the latest polls say
  • A man who will actively have an ear turned to the world and dialogue with the world
  • A man who is well spoken and attentive to all people, and can speak many languages well, especially English
  • A man who is eager to take advantage of the internet and the information age to share the Gospel- use that twitter account, make webcasts, make a facebook account, blog, meet the people where they are
  • A man who can make tough decisions, who is not afraid of reform, and trusts others who have the knowledge and experience to take charge of tasks that he can’t handle
  • A man who prayerfully discerns how the Church can best achieve its mission to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • A man who is willing to apologize for mistakes both by him and by members of the Church
  • A man who will travel the world, visiting as many nations as possible
  • A relational man, who is eager to share his own stories to inspire the public
  • A man who lives with visible humility, joy, peace, and love
  • A man who is actively committed to ecumenical dialogue
  • A man who can explain the faith in both simple and detailed ways, depending on his audience
  • A man with a strong prayer life that guides him when the going is rough
  • A man faithful to the deposit of faith that we have received from the Church
  • A man who especially has a heart for the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the defenceless, and all the “least of these”
  • A man who does not think himself worthy to be pope
  • A Saint

Also see: Have You Heard About the Pope?