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Wake Up

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This weekend begins one of my favorite weeks of the Church year—Holy Week. The week that is set apart from every other week, for that is what the word “Holy” means, set apart. We take a week to recall the suffering and death of Christ so that on Easter Sunday, we can celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and the hope of a new life in heaven for each of us. This weekend’s Gospel walks us through the whole account of Jesus’ suffering and death. As I wrote this reflection, I wasn’t sure what I could say that Jesus didn’t already say through His action of suffering and dying. He literally is showing us just how much He loves us. But as I pondered this account of God’s love for humanity, I was struck by a small detail in the Agony in the Garden that I had never noticed. Before Jesus begins His journey, He seeks the solitude of prayer in the garden. He takes Peter, James, and John with Him and then retreats to pray. He then returns three times only to find the apostles asleep. This threefold sleep that we see the apostles taking struck me for the first time because only a short while later, we see Peter deny Jesus three times.

While numbers do play a huge role in biblical history, the reason that the threefold sleep of the apostles struck me is because every time that I reflect upon the passion of Christ, I am caught by Peter’s threefold denial. Peter, who claims that his faith will never be shaken, denies Jesus three times. The seemingly insignificant mention of the threefold sleep of the Apostles is important because the early Church Fathers enlighten us to the fact that this sleep, that Jesus is calling Peter to awaken from, is not bodily sleep by spiritual sleep. His faithfulness to Christ will be tested and Jesus is calling Peter to wake up and be strong against the temptations. We know that Peter does end up falling into temptation and denying Jesus, however, this denial does not lead to death, but to life, as later, after the Resurrection, we see that Peter has the chance to affirm His love for Jesus three times.

As we begin the most sacred week of the year, Jesus is calling us to wake up spiritually, to not succumb to temptations, to not be unfaithful. Jesus walked this path of suffering so that we might know His love, His mercy, and His faithfulness to us. Let us take this week, especially Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, to walk this journey with Jesus. Come sit with Him in the silent garden after Mass on Holy Thursday, let Him strengthen your hearts against temptation. Then come kneel with Mary and John at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday as Jesus died for you, and lastly, come rejoice on Easter as we proclaim with joyous hope that JESUS CHRIST has risen! 

Comfort Zones

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Do you ever get a bit of inspiration from God and then suddenly it seems like He’s beating you over the head with it, bringing it up everywhere you look? That happened to me recently while pondering the idea of comfort zones. First, in a Chris Stefanik talk, then in a secular book I got for Christmas, then in Season 4 of the Chosen, “comfort zone” has been everywhere. Clearly God wants me thinking about comfort zones.

We all have them. Safe places we live in, can usually control, or return to when things are out of control. Boundaries of what we will and will not do to maintain our sense of safety. There is a need for comfort zones. They keep us alive, safe.

But our comfort zones can also hinder us. If we hold onto their boundaries too tightly, they become prisons. The thing that is meant to free us to live becomes the very thing that prevents us living freely. And as a result, they can prevent us from growth, from progress. Because growth is always uncomfortable. Progress always requires that we step forward from what we already know into what we don’t yet know or have mastery of.

Next to time, discomfort is the second most cited reason people say no to God. Instead of following His will and trusting Him to keep us safe, we decide to keep ourselves “safe.” Our comfort zones, in this way, have become false idols that prevent us from authentically worshipping God. The walk of discipleship is uncomfortable. We only have to look at Christ on the cross to know this. We have to love God more than we love our comfort zones, or we have let our comfort zone become our god.

It's the same with our neighbor. We struggle so much with the discomfort of talking to others about Jesus. It’s too awkward. We don’t want to offend. Isn’t God worth some awkwardness? Isn’t their salvation worth the risk? We must love other people more than we love our comfort zone, or we risk them never getting to know Jesus. We might even risk their salvation.

Our love of God and our love of our neighbor MUST be greater than our love of our comfort zone. Or we aren’t really following the God of the Bible. The God of the Catholic Church. The God who came to die on a cross that we might have life…not that we might be comfortable.

So this Lent, I challenge you to make your Lenten resolution stepping outside your comfort zone. Do one thing each day (for God) that is uncomfortable. Say that prayer. Mention Jesus by name. Start that Bible study. Or simply open the Bible and pray. Because if we learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable, there is no end to what God can do through us.


I Want Jesus

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Recently, I was reading a book on Mother Teresa. It told a story from the end of her life that struck me.  

One time when she was in the hospital and too weak to speak, she motioned to one of the sisters to bring her a piece of paper and a pen. Then with great difficulty, she wrote out the words, “I want Jesus.” In the days she was in the hospital, she had not been able to go to Mass and deeply desired to receive the Eucharist so that Jesus could be even closer to her in this time of suffering. 

As I considered this story and today’s Gospel, I found myself thinking about the times I do not put my love of Jesus first, the times I place keeping peace in relationships, my “free time,” sleep, and so many other things before my relationship with Jesus, the one who loves me so much more than I could ever imagine. I found myself remembering the times I have resisted picking up my cross, the times I have avoided leaning into difficult relationships, or have tried to avoid suffering. Oh how I need to repent and turn back to the Lord over and over again!  

As I continued to pray, Jesus then reminded me of the times when I have continued to show up to prayer, when I’ve tried to grow in love for my neighbor, where I’ve tried to embrace suffering and turn to him in it. It has been in these times that Jesus has invited me deeper and ultimately made me more and more into the woman he has created me to be. 

This week I am asking the Lord to help make my prayer more open to his invitations so that I can begin to say “I want Jesus” every day of my life. 

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