“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2) Reflection: The Old and New Testaments are both a record and a revelation of God and His relationship with the humans that He created. Both are important to us. Amongst […]
Publisher’s Description Why God Allows Us to Suffer provides a bold and wholly unique answer to the most vexing theological question facing Christianity. In contrast to most contemporary books on the problem of pain–which typically focus on the free will argument and other stale, hopelessly inadequate doctrines–Why God Allows Us to Suffer begins with the […]
Wedding traditions all over the world put special emphasis on the bride and groom’s presence. In Malaysia, the couple get royal treatment as they sit on a raised platform called a pelamin. At Russian Orthodox weddings, the happy couple are given crowns to wear. Special food, decorations, and clothing all match the nature of the party.
Celebratory occasions ought to be “filled” with celebratory things! They ought to honor the person being celebrated as well as the guests. So it would be out of place to serve spoiled food at a wedding or to seat the bride and groom in the back of the room. That was Jesus’ point when the disciples of John the Baptist asked him about fasting. Being in his presence should be a cause for feasting, not fasting.
What an awesome insight into our life of faith! Think of how we talk about the sacraments: we celebrate them. They are celebratory occasions, so they should be given the royal treatment. We are familiar with how the Mass is a celebration and, naturally, a wedding or an ordination. But what about Confession? What about the Sacrament of the Anointing? Are they really joyful events?
Absolutely! Just imagine: every time you step into a confessional, Jesus is waiting there with open arms while all the angels in heaven rejoice. Every time someone is anointed, Jesus’ healing power is poured out–his power to comfort and to soothe, to restore and strengthen. How could you not honor this special moment?
Life doesn’t always feel like a celebration though. The transformation from our old ways to new life in Christ can be challenging. Even going to Mass or confessing our sins—maybe for the hundredth time—can feel dull. But that’s precisely when we should remember the celebration going on in heaven.
So try to capture a spirit of joy at every sacrament, especially at Confession. Even if it seems over the top, try it anyway. Dress up a bit for the occasion. Treat yourself to a special dessert afterward. Maybe even write a thank you note to Jesus for his mercy. Jesus, the guest of honor, has come to you!
“Lord, I want to welcome you into my heart today. Give me a joyful spirit in your presence.”
Jesus was back in Capernaum on a spiritual version of family business. He was furthering his heavenly Father’s plan to restore the rift between himself and his people. First, God had given the Law to help us draw closer to him. Then, he sent the prophets to teach us that God doesn’t judge by appearances but looks into the heart. And now, he has sent his Son to heal our hearts through the gift of forgiveness.
On this day, Jesus is greeted by men carrying their paralyzed friend to him on a stretcher. He is impressed by their faith in his power to heal, and while he is eager to restore this man’s body, he is more eager to heal his soul. And so, before he even mentions physical healing, he tells the man, “Your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2).
By focusing on forgiveness, Jesus wasn’t dismissing the man’s affliction as irrelevant. Rather, he wanted to demonstrate how important mercy is—and how ready God is to extend that mercy. The man hadn’t even repented, but Jesus still forgave him!
Jesus also wanted them to see that this fellow’s paralysis was not the result of some sin that the man or his family may have committed—a common idea of that day. No, God has mercy on everyone; no one is outside of his care. Even this fellow, living on the margins of society, deserved the same amount of attention as his strong, capable friends and neighbors—maybe even more.
Just as the man’s forgiveness seemed outlandish to the crowd, so was his physical healing. Before their very eyes, his legs were transformed: new muscle mass appeared, and ligaments and tendons connected. Who knows? Maybe even bones materialized out of nowhere!
Imagine yourself on that man’s stretcher. What kind of healing are you seeking? Jesus knows what you need, both physically and spiritually. He sees all of your pain as well as your sin, and he wants to set you free. Give him the freedom to remove whatever obstacles he finds—whatever may be blocking your relationship to him and his father.
“Jesus, I believe in your power to heal and restore everyone who comes to you. Help me open myself to your merciful gaze.”
Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Memorial)
Offer no resistance to one who is evil. (Matthew 5:39)
We’ve all heard expressions like “What goes around comes around” and “The punishment should fit the crime.” But compare these statements to today’s Gospel reading, and they end up sounding like the ancient law of retribution: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. They imply that justice is served when wrongdoers get back what they dished out.
When thought of in the abstract, this sounds completely reasonable, doesn’t it? It’s nothing personal; you’re just trying to be fair and maintain order.
But most wrongdoing is personal. It’s no longer just an “event” out there. You are on the receiving end of an injustice, and you are hurt and frustrated. Especially if you have suffered a serious offense, it can be difficult to remain impartial and unemotional. Something in you wants to get even. And so the cycle of vengeance continues—a cycle that we see not only on the world stage but in family life as well.
What would it take for us to break this cycle? Although Jesus’ words about not resisting evil are an exaggeration, they do prompt us to ask, “How far am I willing to go?” Jesus wants the mark of his people to be mercy. He wants us to try to put an end to hatred, vengeance, and enmity—simply by making changes in our own hearts.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should become doormats and let people take advantage of us. Neither does it mean that we don’t need judges and law enforcement officers to do their jobs. But at the end of the day, a social or political system can’t bring the kind of healing that a person can. As Pope Francis constantly reminds us, we need to encounter one another in order to experience the power of God’s mercy and love.
What simple step can you take to help break the cycle of hurt and retaliation? Maybe just a small act of generosity or a simple “I forgive you” is all you need—even if you don’t feel all that merciful at the time. It may not be easy, but it has the potential to open up someone else’s heart to God’s grace and forgiveness.
“Jesus, help me to be as merciful toward people as you have been with me.”
1 Kings 21:1-16
Shortly after midnight, I awoke from sleep to discover that my husband had not yet come to bed. This had happened before, but on that fateful night something prodded me to get up.
I found him in another room, viewing Internet pornography on his laptop. I was horrified. Never in our twenty-five years of marriage had I thought that my spouse would break his wedding vows to me. Yet here he was, in essence inviting other women to enter into the sacred space meant for only the two of us.
I kept hoping that the scene was a nightmare. But no, this was for real. My life was shattered.
In the awful hours that followed, I felt that God was the only one I had to rely on. I have wonderful family and friends, but they could not fix this. And since my husband and I had always agreed to keep problems between us—not to “air our dirty laundry,” so to speak—I could only keep silent and cling to God. Looking back, I can only describe what happened over the next few weeks as the providence of God.
The very next day, my husband and I had to travel out of state to attend a wedding. This brought me the first sign of God’s providence: the gift of an entire day in the company of the bride’s parents, who were close friends of ours. What good people! At one point while we were talking, I broke down and started to cry. They kindly inquired what was wrong. Though I could not tell them, I felt loved and supported when they assured me that they were there for me.
When we returned to our hotel, my husband and I began to talk. We talked for hours, with me doing a great deal of sobbing and going through a mountain of tissues. But something amazing happened that night: I was able to forgive my husband. I can attribute this only to God’s power at work in the Sacrament of Marriage, for I am not a person who usually forgives easily. I know I could not have extended forgiveness on my own. Clearly, God, the third Person in our marriage, was at work!
For his part, my husband made three important decisions that night. First, he vowed to always come to bed when I did. Second, to avoid temptation, he decided to keep his computer in the dining room rather than in more private rooms. Third, we resumed our practice of repeating our wedding vows to one another before bedtime, as we had done in the early years of our marriage. We also began praying together every night and, eventually, every morning. We took St. Joseph, the protector of families and model for husbands, as our special patron and have felt his strong intercession ever since.
Helps for Healing.
That night marked the beginning of great change and healing for our marriage, but we still had a lot to work on. For me, even though my forgiveness was genuine, I needed a great deal of personal healing. I also had to start from the ground up to rebuild trust in my husband. Whenever the memory of finding him engrossed in those images came into my head, I refused to think about it. I knew I would have to deal with it, but I was not ready yet.
Again, God’s providence was at work. The morning after we returned home from our trip, I opened my copy of The Word Among Us to read the day’s meditation. It was entirely devoted to Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest who had a powerful healing ministry. I had never heard of him. A few days later I saw an announcement in our local Catholic newspaper: it was for a healing service in the manner of Solanus Casey. Here he was again! This was more than coincidence, I was sure. First, St. Joseph and now Venerable Solanus Casey—it felt like the heavenly hosts were coming down to help heal and strengthen us.
I went to that healing service, and a month later my husband and I attended one together. A few weeks after that, we went on a weekend marriage retreat. Then one day, after listening to a Catholic radio program on pornography addiction, I knew it was time to deal with everything I had been repressing for three months. Difficult as this might be, I realized there was no other way for me or my marriage to be fully healed.
Meanwhile my husband, too, was on a journey of healing. Over those same months, I saw a major change in his attitude toward pornography.
At first, it was for my sake that he promised never to view porn again—he could see how terribly he had hurt me. But he seemed to downplay the seriousness of the behavior itself and kept resisting my encouragement to go to Confession. “It’s just a formality,” he’d say. It was only after finally going to Confession that he came to see his pornography habit as gravely sinful in and of itself.
The confessor told my husband it was “God’s providence” that I had caught him in the act that night. Otherwise, he said, my husband’s porn use would probably have spiraled downward into a full-blown addiction. Those words—God’s providence—were very meaningful for my husband. They helped him to see God’s saving hand in his life.
For both of us, another source of help was a book I ordered after hearing its author interviewed on Catholic radio: Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle against Pornography, by Dr. Peter Kleponis. First, I read portions of it by myself. Much of it spoke strongly to me, describing my thoughts and feelings so accurately that I felt I had written the words myself! Then my husband and I read parts of the book together and did some of the counseling exercises on disclosure and honesty.
It was eye-opening for my husband to learn that the trauma I experienced—the shock of betrayal and erosion of trust—was a normal response and not an overreaction. As he read the book and realized how damaging porn use turns out to be, he was filled with remorse for what he had done. This only strengthened his resolve to abandon his dark double life and to live in the light of Christ.
Walking in the Light.
My husband has put his past behind him, but we continue to pray, communicate, and exercise vigilance against this weakness. His efforts and honesty have been a great support and are helping me to rebuild my trust in him.
I still have flashbacks sometimes, and a few days have been very difficult, but I trust in the Lord, who is providing what we need for the transformation of our marriage. Relying on his grace and on our heavenly intercessors, my husband and I are journeying forward hand in hand, helping each other grow closer to God.
The author has asked to remain anonymous. For resources mentioned in this article, visit www.integrityrestored.com
Think for a minute about anything you’ve experienced intensely: a thrilling movie, perhaps, or an engrossing discussion. Maybe a hard-fought competition or an emotional situation that left you feeling either completely drained or newly alive. That’s how Peter urges us to love one another.
It sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? At least until we remember that God’s love for us is more intense than any love we could possibly have for other people—and that it’s his love in us that enables us to love intensely.
So what does “intense” love look like? Forgiving someone as often as God has forgiven us, even for a repeated offense. Showing someone kindness in spite of his indifference or hard-heartedness. Looking after an ailing family member with the same devotion that God has for you. Showing a special concern for the poor, the marginalized, and the underprivileged. Now that’s intense!
If your first inclination is to dismiss this command as unattainable, you’re on the right track. But remember, what is impossible for us is more than possible for God. So the best way to start is to ask your heavenly Father to show you his love in a more tangible way. Ask him to help you find glimpses of it during your day: words of encouragement that come to your mind, a sense of wonder at the beauty of nature, a nudge to help a neighbor, anything positive and inspiring. Then, when you find something, thank him right then and there. For that one moment, let his love wash over you and bring you peace.
Receiving God’s love like this can soften your heart. It can humble you and move you to treat other people as God has just treated you.
Remember, too, that change occurs over time, so don’t think you have to be perfect right away. As God’s love increases in you, you will be able to draw from that reservoir to show that love to the people around you. Then, as you stretch yourself to be more loving, God will refill and refresh you. Remember: you can never outdo God in generosity, in love, or in intensity!
“Father, thank you for loving me intensely. Teach me how to be more loving.”
Psalm 147:12-15, 19-20
Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
Reading 1 Acts 8:26-40
“Get up and head south on the road
that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.”
So he got up and set out.
Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch,
a court official of the Candace,
that is, the queen of the Ethiopians,
in charge of her entire treasury,
who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home.
Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
The Spirit said to Philip,
“Go and join up with that chariot.”
Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said,
“Do you understand what you are reading?”
“How can I, unless someone instructs me?”
So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.
This was the Scripture passage he was reading:
Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who will tell of his posterity?
For his life is taken from the earth.
Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply,
“I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this?
About himself, or about someone else?”
Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this Scripture passage,
he proclaimed Jesus to him.
As they traveled along the road
they came to some water,
and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water.
What is to prevent my being baptized?”
Then he ordered the chariot to stop,
and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water,
and he baptized him.
When they came out of the water,
the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away,
and the eunuch saw him no more,
but continued on his way rejoicing.
Philip came to Azotus, and went about proclaiming the good news
to all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
Responsorial Psalm PS 66:8-9, 16-17, 20
Bless our God, you peoples,
loudly sound his praise;
He has given life to our souls,
and has not let our feet slip.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
When I appealed to him in words,
praise was on the tip of my tongue.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
Blessed be God who refused me not
my prayer or his kindness!
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
Alleluia Jn 6:51
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord;
whoever eats this bread will live forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Jn 6:44-51
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my Flesh for the life of the world.”