Painting Beauty with the Ashes

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Often, people will approach me regarding the history of their lives, sharing the mistakes they have made and wondering how God can love them in spite of their brokenness. It’s a question I am sure many of us hear from friends or relatives.

When I visited the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago, one of the most inspiring images for me was a tree located near the lake. Years ago it was struck by lightning and the power of the blast hollowed out the tree. The tree is virtually hollow. Just the bark holds the upper part of the tree. The Jesuits were going to remove the tree, until they noticed that it still had life, and every spring it blooms again with new life and foliage.

It’s the same with our lives. God allows difficult or challenging events and experiences in our lives and yet, God is ultimately the One who gives us the strength to grow in the midst of the mess of our lives—using our brokenness to transform the world.

Jesus transformed water into the choicest wine during the wedding at Cana. This is an act of love and communion with humanity. Scripture also tells us of God’s faithful covenant with us; that He breaks into our brokenness and claims us for Himself. It is in that weakness and brokenness that we find our God-given mission in this world. 

What is broken in your past? What are your hurts and wounds that need healing? Believe that God has a very special mission for you at this moment in your life… and know that you belong to Him as His beloved. God beckons us not to focus on our brokenness but on His love, His divine life within us, and being open to use our life to help others. Casting Crowns has a song that I listen to daily, called "Just be Held" ~ “I'm painting beauty with the ashes, your life is in My hands.”

Balance Brings Peace

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The Church is the Body of Christ. It is the collection of all of us working together.

The early Christians, the beginning of the Church, lived this quite completely as it truly was a matter of survival for them. They provided for one another's needs, supported one another in every way and learned from one another. That doesn't mean that they always agreed, but they remained kind anyway because their success in maintaining Jesus’s mission depended upon it.

They understood the greater mission - to be there for one another for God's sake. This is the fundamental understanding of stewardship - to give of your gifts to support your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Catholic schools, hospitals, orphanages, and all manner of missionary work is rooted in the concept that we are the Body of Christ.

The secular culture grabbed on to this with the phrase, "It takes a village." Indeed, everyone working together results in something greater than the individual parts. This can apply to any situation where people must work together as a team.

I am keenly aware of this as the instructional leader of the school. Teachers and parents, parents and students, students and teachers, etc. - all important interconnected parts that serve to bring about success in school. Interconnected parts that serve to assist each one in being the best version of itself. Interconnected parts that require balance. Balance brings peace.

Each of us has been gifted with our own set of strengths and limitations. Together, we balance each other out. We need each other to bring peace by respecting how the other parts of the body contribute to the whole.

Let us never forget that we are all working to inspire minds, develop character, and seek Christ so that we may know Christ, and become Christ, each one for the sake of all.

The Power of Water

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It is odorless, tasteless, colorless, and transparent. It provides no calories or organic nutrient. Yet it’s vital for all known forms of life.

Water. There is nothing more important in this world.

The human body is made up of nearly 60% water—there is 75% water in the brain. Water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface. It’s used for cleaning, agriculture, heating, cooling, transportation, recreation, and healing.

We don’t often ponder the importance of water. We don’t consider how significant it is in our lives and our world. In fact, we often times don’t even think about water.

The same can be said about the role of water in our faith.

Think about water in the Bible: Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Red Sea, Jesus and the wedding at Cana, Jesus walking on water…the list goes on.

And now think about water in the Mass. It’s the first thing we encounter when we enter the church. Yet, our gestures often become robotic: we dip our fingers into holy water and we make the sign of the cross. Then we take our place in our seats without second thought.

If we stop and pay attention to our actions, and we listen to words each Sunday, we realize that this water has incredible power.

Each time we dip our fingers into Holy Water, we should be reminded of our baptism and our place in the church.

“Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”-John 3:5

The next time you enter the church, take some time to reflect when you dip your fingers in the holy water. Think about what it means. Think about your baptism and your role in the church.

Think about the power of water.

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