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Surrendering to God

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I have to admit, Luke 23 makes me tear up every time I read it. The reality of Christ’s love that I don’t deserve through His bloodshed on the cross for me pierces straight into the depth of my soul as I hear my own words (paraphrased), “Jesus I deserve to be punished and you don’t. Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” and He replies, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

I remember hearing a powerful witness talk about Luke 23 my sophomore year of college given by a senior in our ministry. I was in tears realizing I was a lot more like the first criminal than the second. I believed I already knew everything because I grew up Catholic so I didn’t really need Him. Why was He worth fully trusting anyways? I was content with just “a little Church” in my life and would never be one of those “crazy Jesus people,” instead of humbly realizing that I was justly punishable for my sins and I was deserving of God’s wrath. I couldn’t see through the fogginess my own pride had caused. He was God and I was not. I asked Jesus if He would forgive me for thinking I knew better than Him. For demanding He prove Himself to me as a pre-requisite for believing Him and following Him. I was raised a cradle Catholic, but missed the whole point - Jesus came to rescue me from myself. He wanted me to place my faith in HIM instead of my own ability to rescue me. I realized I didn’t have much of a relationship with Him, but desired all that it could be. These were the first steps in giving up control and surrendering to Him. Jesus started to break down my walls I had built up so high that I myself was blind to it.

As I reflect on this passage today at a coffee shop in Brookfield, WI, my prayer is the same that it’s been since then: “Jesus, continue to remind me I can do nothing on my own - nothing apart from You. Help me trust that what You have to offer me is better than what I think I need, and forgive me for the ways I shut You out. Increase my trust in You and replace my pride with humility. Remind me that I need You. Help me fix my eyes on You alone, placing my faith in You, not myself."

He continues to respond to me, “Sami, take my hand and let me rescue you. I will be with you - right now and forever when you see me face to face in Paradise.”

Believe in Goodness

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If you believe it, you will see it.

I am sure that you have heard this saying before. A person’s mindset does much to direct their words and actions. I happen to have a rosy disposition. I prefer to think optimistically and positively. I prefer to see the good. I have a trust in the goodness of humanity. As a result, I often believe in good so I see good. Unfortunately, this burns me from time to time. Each time I have been burned, I have grown wiser. In pondering where this Pollyanna view of life comes from, I believe it comes from growing up in the Catholic Church. There is so much richness in our faith tradition that guides us and directs us in how to “be”, all of which is very positive and loving, dare I say charitable. There is Jesus, His teachings like “The Beatitudes”. There is Mary, her fiat and modelling of devotion. There are the lives of the Saints.

Of late, I am growing more and more connected to Catholic Social Teachings due to the many issues testing our Catholic presence in the world during this post-Christian era in history. I wish to share them with you as a means to appreciating our role as the hands of Jesus in the world. They are so beautifully written. They are the basis of my leadership practices and the practices of our school.

  • Life and Dignity of the Human Person – The Catholic Church proclaims that all human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.
  • Call to Family, Community, and Participation – Persons are sacred but also social. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened. 
  • Rights and Responsibilities – Every person has a fundamental right to life and to those things required for human dignity. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities to one another, to our families, and to society at large. 
  • Option for the Poor and Vulnerable – Catholic tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgement (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
  • The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers – Work is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, the basic rights of workers must be respected.
  • Solidarity – We are one human family, brothers and sisters created in the image of God, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences may be. The Gospel calls us to be people of love and peace.
  • Care of God’s Creation – We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation in all forms.

Fear and Trust

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In 2014, my son went backpacking in Alaska. He had a satellite device that periodically sent me text messages saying, “Everything is fine in Alaska, wish you were here,” and gave his location so I could follow his progress on a map.

The first evening of his hike I attended Cor Jesu at St. Robert where I turned off my phone. After Mass we went for a bite to eat. I got home about 11:00 PM and turned on my phone. To my horror, it said, “Something’s gone wrong in Alaska, call for help.” The message was an hour old and I felt  like I had let him down by turning my phone off. My heart started to race.

I called and found a rescue party was on the way but It would be hours before we would know anything. I was terrified. My heart was pounding as I sat in front of my computer looking at the map of their hike. They had tried to cross the Teklanika River several times, but each time they returned to shore. What had gone wrong? Had someone been swept downstream? I tried to pray but I couldn’t. My fears overcame my prayer and I returned to the computer screen.

Eventually, I realized there was nothing I could do, and I again tried to pray. My prayer was different this time. It wasn’t just for the welfare of my son, it was also for strength and courage to deal with whatever I would have to deal with. Peace came over me, and I was actually able to sleep for a few hours. 

When I awoke, I found out that a rescue party had found them and they were on their way out, but their condition was still unknown. A few more hours of waiting were in store for me, but now I had the strength and faith that God would be there for us no matter what the outcome.

That night, God taught me that faith can and will win out over fear. This is the lesson Job learns in the first reading today and the lesson the disciples learn, or are at least taught, in the Gospel. Jesus is always with us, just like he was in that boat, and so we need not fear. What he asks is for us to have faith and trust in him. That doesn’t mean the result will always be what we are hoping for, but it does ensure that God will go with us each step of the way, providing all the strength, courage, and hope we will need to carry on. For me, the story ended happily, but I know had it not, God would have carried me through whatever had happened.

Posted by Kurt Peot

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