Sunday, August 17, 2014

Revelation -- ever ancient, ever new

"For thus says the Lord, who made heaven--this is the God who formed the earth and made it. He established it, and did not make it in vain, but formed it to be inhabited--'I AM, and there is no other. . . . I AM God, and there is no other besides Me; there is no righteous God and Savior in addition to Me. Return to Me, and you shall be saved, you who are from the ends of the earth. For I am God, and there is no other. . . . Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning, nor did I speak in a dark place of the earth. When it took place, I was there, and now the Lord and His Spirit have sent Me. . . . I AM your God, who showed you how to find the way wherein you should walk. If only you had heeded My commandments, then your peace would be like a river, and your righteousness as a wave of the sea.'" (Isaiah 45:18, 21b-22, 48:16, 17b-18)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Meaning of Life?

The entire book of Ecclesiastes poses the question: what is the meaning of life? Then in the last 2 verses, the author gives us:
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, Whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Quite similar to the words of the Glorified Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, in Revelation:
"Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me, to repay everyone as their deeds deserve. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who will have washed their robes clean (see. Rev. 7:14 -- washed clean in the Precious blood of the Lamb of God, Our Lord and Savior), so that they will have the right to feed on the tree of life and can come through the gates into the city. Others must stay outside . . . . fortune-tellers, and the sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters, and everyone of false speech and false life." (Revelation 22:12-15)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Freedom and Dependence

The 4th of July is the time that fortunate Americans reflect, celebrate, and if they are honest, thank God for the peace and prosperity that they enjoy.  It is pollyanna to think that that everyone is living free from grief, disease, tragedy, but relatively easy to think that we are the beneficiaries of God's Providence and the fruit of the sacrifice of men and women from revolutionary times forward, and left with one of the best foundations for beginning and governing a country.  I haven't seen America the movie yet, so I imagine there is more I might say.

As I was riding in on the train to work on Friday I thought about how little I've been thanking and intimately talking to God lately.  I prayed, visualizing the Presence of God, and realized my ingratitude and negligence.  I made the trek over to St. Peter's in the Loop (a.k.a. Chicago's downtown) for Confession and Mass.  St. Peter's has two Confessionals staffed most of the time.  I picked the one staffed by a Franciscan with an Italian last name.  I don't know why, I just did.

While I was waiting, the door shut on my side, I prayed for the priest, that he would truly be in persona Christi, "in the person of Christ" and that he would truly speak the words Christ, through the Holy Spirit, would give him for me.

How wonderful the Sacrament of Confession is.  Here we are receiving an individual audience with our Savior to receive His Forgiveness, to receive the healing and teaching from the Holy Spirit audible to our ears, as some of us, including me, lack the gift of hearing God speak audibly.

This isn't the first time I wrote the advice I heard in a confessional in a blog post, but when you are touched by love, healing, and light that helps with re-establishing an intimate relationship with our Lord and God, who is the great lover of our souls, it seems that advice should be shared.

"Spend some time dwelling on God's presence.  Think about the fact that any goodness or holiness in you comes from God's presence.  Any goodness, or holiness that you sense in others comes from God's presence."

Earlier on the train ride in I had read, "Since our Lord dwells in our soul, His prayer is ours." by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

John--chapter 8, have you read that recently?  Several verses have been coming up for me lately, usually from KLOVE's Encouraging Word email that I receive everyday. As I peacefully alternated between reading John chapter 8 and napping at the pool yesterday (yes a lovely way to spend the 4th, and the first summer in many years that I could do this, as even the youngest child is a good swimmer now) these verses stood out.

"I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

"I have told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he (the Son of God)." (John 8:24)

"If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:31b-32)

"Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever.  So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.'" (John 8:34-36)

"Why do you not understand what I say?  It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.  You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and father of lies."  (John 8:44)

That last one seemed to help me make sense of the incredible, orchestrated deceptions of those who did not view the Hobby Lobby decision as a victory for religious freedom . . .  and defeating the rising tyranny of a government imposing its beliefs on others.  If someone in good conscience believes that destroying a fertilized egg before or after implantation in the womb is immoral, they should not be forced to contribute to it.  Those vociferous and deceitful talking heads claiming otherwise are really angry that they have been given a hurdle to imposing their views.  Ironically this is their main argument  . . . that Hobby Lobby and other corporations can now impose their views on their workers.

Photo: As our country celebrates Independence Day, we invite all believers to join us in saying the following prayer from the Priests for Life:


God our Father, your Son Jesus spoke to us a message of peace and taught us to live as brothers and sisters. His message took form in the vision of our Founding Fathers, as they fashioned a nation where all people might live as one. This message lives on in our midst as a task for us today and a promise for tomorrow.

We thank you, Father, for your blessings in the past, and for all that, with your help, we must yet achieve. Bless our nation and bless each of us. As we thank you for our independence, may we extend its blessings to our youngest brothers and sisters, the children in the womb. Hasten the day when our nation will be a nation with liberty and justice, not just for some, but for all, through Christ our Lord. 

Amen.Their second argument is that the "Science" as confirmed by the FDA says these are not abortion causing drugs.  They up the anecdotal claim that fertilized eggs fall through without implanting not 60%, not 75% but 80% of the time.  That is really hard to believe without a cross-reference to a medical study (and I have looked for them), but they keep increasing it so anyone that disagrees is cast as an uneducated, uninformed, religious bigot.  It's also hard to believe from my own experience.  Armed with the science behind Natural Family Planning's sympto-thermal method, my husband and I were pregnant with our first the second month of trying, and I had one period between my 1st and 2nd pregnancy, and no period between my 2nd and 3rd pregnancy.  My sincere apologies to those who suffer from infertility and do not know this ease of conception.

Their third argument is the classic, if you don't believe in an abortion causing drug, don't take one.  In similar reasoning, in WWII Germany the SS commanders of the concentration camps and even Hitler himself had no responsibility for the millions that were gased, because only those that turned the knobs or the switch (whatever the mechanism) were the ones that were guilty of those terminated by the toxic gas.  What a feeble argument.  Our country permitted slavery, legalizing all of African origin as less than a human being.  All that approved of that line in the constitution and fought on the side to maintain that practice have some moral responsibility for the injustice done to those who were enslaved.

If you read the book of Jeremiah, you find that God didn't just punish the parents that sacrificed their children to Moloch, the entire nation was punished by famine, disease, sword, and exile.

Further, If we don't stand up against injustice and evil we do bear some responsibility when it is perpetrated.

"Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more." Luke 12:48b

If we have the gift of faith, and conscience we are required to speak and stand against the lies and murder that comes from the devil, "a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him." (John 8:44)

"He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." (John 8:47)

Therefore we should not be surprised when we hear lies, and we have an explanation for how some are able to justify killing of infants within the womb, and declare those opposed to this as "religious bigots who love the 'non-sentient' fetus more than the mother." That too is a lie.  Those of us that do go out to the clinics are not just there because we grieve the killing of the babies, but because we are viscerally aware of the long-lasting heartbreak, guilt, and regret that follow the woman as she exits the facility.  We also know that 75% - maybe 80%, who knows really (similar to the claims of fertilized eggs falling through without implantation) are coerced or otherwise arrive at the facility thinking that it is the only option for them.  The prayer and presence of the prolife people outside of the clinics is that the woman would talk to them and learn there are other options, not only to save the life of the unborn child, but to spare the woman of the deep and lasting pain that is germinated from the termination.

"Jesus said to them,  'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." (John 8:58)

Finally these words of Fr. John Bartunek from The Better Part on John 8:12-20:
Jesus himself, his person and his teachings, is the pillar of saving fire that shines throughout the entire world, leading whoever believes in him to the fullness of life itself. . . . Thoreau (wrote) . . . most men lead lives of quiet desperation, knowing that there is more to life, but unable to find it.  We walk in darkness, groping tentatively and anxiously - unless we have Jesus.  His example, his teaching, and his presence are a "lamp to our feet and a light to our path" (Psalm 119:105).  With Jesus, we know where we are going and how to get there.  Who are the people in history who have lived the most fulfilling, fulfilled, and fruitful lives if not the saints . . . ?  Only the saints (by walking the path of Christ's light) learn the secret of rejoicing in the midst of suffering; only they conquer the conundrum of how to be happy in a fallen world.
I am reading The Quiet Light, a novel about St. Thomas Aquinas.  I would like to add what St. Thomas wrote about that last highlighted part--the conundrum of how to be happy, believe and love God, seeking after him, in a fallen world, but this post is already longer than planned and longer than any but 1 or 2 will read!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Can't Steal Our Joy

In his teaching at the 21 April 2014 Regina Coeli, Pope Francis mentioned:
The dominant sentiment that shines forth from the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection is joy full of wonder, but a great wonder! Joy that comes from within! And in the Liturgy we relive the state of mind of the disciples over the news which the women had brought: Jesus is Risen! We have seen him!
Let us allow this experience which is inscribed in the Gospel also to be imprinted in our hearts and shine forth from our lives. Let us allow the joyous wonder of Easter Sunday to shine forth in our thoughts, glances, behaviour, gestures and words.... If only we were so luminous! But this is not just cosmetic! It comes from within, from a heart immersed in the source of this joy.
Jesus too talks, with joy, about what comes from within:
37On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’39Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

I was curious where the scripture said this and I found it in Isaiah:
You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. 2Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. 5Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. 6Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 12:1-6) 
Truly Our Lord Jesus Christ left the glory of heaven and entered our world as a naked baby like the rest of us.  He suffered, died, and was buried.  He released the prisoners from their holding area in the underworld and rose from the dead.   He rose from the dead!  Then he sent us the Holy Spirit.  We who have been baptized and confirmed in the Holy Spirit have in our midst the Holy One of Israel.  Jesus is alive in our hearts.  There too are the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Do you feel like me, that you might be on rocky ground, that there is trouble, persecution trying to steal our Easter joy? 
20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. (Matthew 12:20-21)
Like a little seedling, I am struggling to get my roots down.  Struggling against forces seen and unseen.  The challenge to my endurance, my potential to let the impact of Jesus's love, his great sacrifice that gives me the hope of heaven shine in my life is clear to me.  At the same time there in the Word of God, in Scripture, I find the path back to the Word that is Jesus, that is the Holy One of Israel.  Here in my heart, the Holy Spirit can bring forth rivers of living water.

No one, no situation, no evil spirit can steal our joy!  We can keep returning to Scripture, so we increase the confidence and intensity of our prayer time.  We will find goodness (and all good comes from God--James 1:17) in people and in events, and look to see the hand of God, his will in everything.  We can do this because He loves us and has given us the Holy Spirit, teaches us in his Word and in the Sacraments, and helps us help each other along right paths.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Treasure Found as result of Giving up FB for Lent!

Last year I gave it a little more thought - the need to give up FaceBook (FB) for Lent.  This year I just saw a friend saying she was giving it up and decided it was an excellent idea and I should too.

With FB removed from my commuting routine (I spend a couple hours on the Metra train each day), one of the books I've read is The Heroic Face of Innocence: Three Stories, by Georges Bernanos.  The first story is about St. Joan of Arc.  It pulls from the transcripts of her trial.  The middle story wasn't as good.  The third is a masterpiece, The Dialogues of the Carmelites, based on the true story of the 16 Carmelite nuns of Compiegne that were executed on one day during the Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution.  The sisters first sang the Salve Regina and then the Veni Creator Spirtus, with the sound of their chorus having less voices as each sister in turn was beheaded.   That led me to find the opera of the same name by Poulenc.  While the play written by Georges Bernanos is fiction, it is a masterpiece of the reality of heartfelt faith testifying to not only the faith of the Carmelite sisters, but also the faith of Bernanos.  The opera also testifies to the faith of Poulenc.  
martyrs of Compiegne 2
martyrs of Compiegne 1
Poulenc's opera is also acclaimed as a masterpiece.  It was a little unfortunate the streaming video of the opera on Amazon did not have the sisters in their habits, and also that it had no subtitles, and it was sung completely in French, but the story was fresh in my mind.

Well, besides the French there are were several hymns in Latin that we don't often hear, but I am going to download to listen to more often:

That isn't correct.  We hear Ave Maria on the Marian Feasts of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.  The Salve Regina we are familiar with as it is the Latin version of the "Hail Heavenly Queen" that we pray after the 5th decade of the rosary.  The Ave verum corpus though, how many of you know that one?

Ave verum corpus, natum
de Maria Virgine,
vere passum, immolatum
in cruce pro homine,
cuius latus perforatum
fluxit aqua et sanguine:
esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.
O Iesu dulcis, O Iesu pie, O Iesu, fili Mariae.
Miserere mei. Amen.
A translation into English is:
Hail, true Body, born
of the Virgin Mary,
who having truly suffered, was sacrificed
on the cross for mankind,
whose pierced side
flowed with water and blood:
May it be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet]
in the trial of death.
O sweet Jesus, O pious Jesus, O Jesus, son of Mary,
have mercy on me. Amen.
This was sung at the elevation of the host during the consecration. It was also used frequently during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

From Wikipedia, "The hymn's title means "Hail, true body", and is based on a poem deriving from a 14th-century manuscript from the Abbey of Reichenau, Lake Constance. The poem is a meditation on the Catholic belief in Jesus's Real Presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist. . . ."

Well, I want to start praying it again, and maybe singing it too.  

It is sad how few "Catholics" believe and reverence Jesus's Real Presence in the Sacrament of the the Holy Eucharist.  I could go on my soap box about all the little things that happened over the years - losing the communion rails, receiving communion standing up, receiving communion from lay ministers, receiving communion in the hand, mass consecrations of the Eucharist, etc.  I don't like it.  It is not this way in the Byzantine church nor in churches that celebrate Latin Masses with communion rails.  But I won't go on my soap box.  I will pray for reform, and I will continue to be one of those nuisance people who insist on kneeling during the consecration, even when the priest says to stand, and to navigate to the priest's communion aisle away from the lay woman handing out communion in the fashionable top and the well practiced "Receive the Body of Christ".  Pretty sure it is simply, "The Body of Christ", but she felt led to embellish . . .  arghh!  Even she wasn't as bad as the 7th grader from my local parish that was practically giggling as she was handing out the Body of Christ.  More and more things are making me appreciate the Roman Catholic Church but this really needs reform.

We recently did a college visit to Franciscan University of Steubenville.  There are Eucharistic Ministers there, but only for the cups.  The Body of Christ is only given by the priests.  Sadly I heard an upsetting story from a girl there that attended a Catholic High School in our area.  First she said she thinks only 50% of the students believed in God, let alone were Catholic.  Secondly, she told about a football player receiving Communion in the hand and then going to the back of the church and throwing the Consecrated Host in the garbage can.  Very upsetting, but also, that doesn't happen when you receive communion in the mouth at the Communion Rail, or in the mouth by the spoon in the Byzantine rite.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Holy, Holy, Holy

Two prophets--one from the Old Testament, and one from the New;
both chosen while alive to see that which most of us will only see after death

Both the great prophet, Isaiah, and the Apostle John, capture the reality in the same words.

Isaiah 6:3

3And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Revelation 4:8

8And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”

Jesus had this to say about Isaiah's testimony:

John 12:41

41Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him.

Good to keep in mind as we contemplate for the 99.999999% of us still living who do not get whisked into the the holiness of the reality of God's holiness and glory, charged to give an account to foster the faith, love, trust, and hope of the rest of us!

Let us pray the prayer taught by the angel to the children at Fatima:
MY GOD, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee! 
I ask pardon for for those who do not believe, 
do not adore, do not trust and do not love Thee.

Let us take encouragement from these words of our beloved Lord, Jesus the Son of God:

John 20:29

29Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Thank You, Mom

"Thank you, Mom, for giving birth to me.

Thank you, Mom, for feeding me every night.

Thank you, Mom, for telling me about Jesus."

This is what my son told me after eating his fill of Ukrainian pierogies, and two slices of honey bun cake.  I've noticed the males in this family are happiest and most loving after eating well.

Still, had to post this because these three thank you's need the platform of the world wide web.

A good Sunday to you all!

God Bless You!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Can't Always Get What You Want

But if you believe in God, trust in him, and wait upon him and his will to be accomplished, you will!

Revelation 21

21Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home* of God is among mortals.
He will dwell* with them;
they will be his peoples,*
and God himself will be with them;*
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 

This has to be one of the most wonderful, hopeful passages in the whole Bible.  I guess this is a "Sunday" reading for a "Friday" when we should remember the price Jesus paid, the gift the Father made to give us this blessed hope.  A few times in recent days I've hoped for something that would have at best given us a little temporal, fleeting happiness.  I still prayed that God's will be done, and the fact that the Holy Spirit stuck that little prayer in my head helped me to accept the disappointment even when it was at its sharpest.  

Just as I tell the girls I coach in basketball, and as Larry Bird once said, "You learn more from a defeat than a victory."  

I do trust the God who left this little jewel for us:

Romans 8:28

We know that all things work together for good* for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Not the good now, in the timing that my little brain desires, but the good that is the building of Christ-like virtue in us and those around us.

Thank you for the reminder and the gift of faith that comes from reading the opening of Revelation 21. You are the Alpha and the Omega. You are making all things new. You are bringing us into your kingdom where you will wipe away all tears.
I believe the disappointment was for the good of those involved. Thank you God for the peace and hope you give me in presenting that little phrase in the Lord's Prayer - "Your will be done," and the next, "Your Kingdom Come."

Revelation 22

22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb23And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Revelation 23

3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants* will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.
6 And he said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants* what must soon take place.’
7 ‘See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.’ 

Blessed are we to have this hope.  Blessed are we to put trust in the Lord.  We will get what we want - to worship him, bathed in the light of his glory, seeing his face, forever!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

De Profundis

The De Profundis takes its name from the first two words of the psalm in Latin. It is a penitential psalm that is sung as part of vespers (evening prayer) and in commemorations of the dead. It is also a good psalm to express our sorrow as we prepare for the Sacrament of Confession.
Every time you recite the De Profundis, you can receive a partial indulgence (the remission of a portion of punishment for sin). 
Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.  Let Your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.  If You, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?  But with You is forgiveness, that You may be revered.I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in His word.  My soul waits for the Lord more than sentinels wait for the dawn.  More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord.  For with the Lord is kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption; And He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.

From the source:

Psalm 130

A Song of Ascents.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord
2   Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
   to the voice of my supplications! 

3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
   Lord, who could stand? 
4 But there is forgiveness with you,
   so that you may be revered. 

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
   and in his word I hope; 
6 my soul waits for the Lord
   more than those who watch for the morning,
   more than those who watch for the morning. 

7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
   For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
   and with him is great power to redeem. 
8 It is he who will redeem Israel
   from all its iniquities.

Mary of Egypt left a life of sin and lived a life of repentance.  Here is synopsis of her life from a book I am enjoying, The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris 

Mary of Egypt lived in the fifth century, but her story is all too familiar in the twentieth. Running away from home at the age of twelve, she became a prostitute in Alexandria. At the age of twenty-nine, she grew curious about Jerusalem and joined a boatload of pilgrims by offering the crew her sexual services for the duration of the journey. She continued to work as a prostitute in Jerusalem. On hearing that a relic of the true cross was to be displayed at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, her curiosity was aroused again, and she joined the feast-day crowds. But at the threshold of the church some invisible force held her back. Suddenly ashamed of the life she’d led, she began to weep. Kneeling before an icon of the Virgin Mary, she begged forgiveness and asked for help. A voice said to her, “If you cross over the Jordan, you will find rest.” Mary spent the rest of her life, forty-seven years, as a hermit in the desert. Late in her life, Mary encounters a monk who had come to the desert for a period of fasting, and she tells him her story. . . . The monk is amazed to discover that Mary knows many Bible verses by heart, for in the desert she has had no one but God to teach her. She asks him to bring communion to her, when next he comes to the desert, and this he does. On his third visit, however, he finds that Mary has died. . . . 

Monks have always told the story of Mary of Egypt to remind themselves not to grow complacent in their monastic observances, mistaking them for the salvation that comes from God alone. And in the Eastern Orthodox churches, Mary’s life is read on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, presented, as the scholar Benedicta Ward tells us, “as an icon in words of the theological truths about repentance.” . . . . Repentance is not a popular word these days, but I believe that any of us recognize it when it strikes us in the gut. Repentance is coming to our senses, seeing, suddenly, what we’ve done that we might not have done, or recognizing, as Oscar Wilde says in his great religious meditation De Profundis, that the problem is not in what we do but in what we become. Repentance is valuable because it opens in us the idea of change. I’ve known several young women who’ve worked in the sex trade, and one of the worst problems they encounter is the sense that change isn’t possible. They’re in a business that will discard them as useless once they’re past thirty, but they come to feel that this work is all they can do. Many, in fact, do not like what they become. 
The story of Mary of Egypt opens the floodgates of change. It comes from a tradition of desert stories suggesting that if monks and whores can’t talk to each other, who can? The monk who encounters Mary still has a lot to learn; his understanding of the spiritual life is facile in comparison to hers, and he knows it. Mary, for all her trials, is like one of those fortunate souls in the gospels to whom Jesus says , “Your faith has made you whole.” Benedicta Ward has said that these stories are about deliverance from “despair of the soul, from the risk of the tragedy of refusing life, of calling death life,” which may be one function of the slang term for prostitution: it is called “the life.” But the story of Mary of Egypt is one any of us might turn to when we’re frozen up inside, when we’re in need of remorse, in need of the tears that will melt what Ward terms “the ultimate block within [us]; that deep and cold conviction that [we] cannot love or be loved.” In this tradition, Ward says, virginity, defined as being whole, at one in oneself, and with God, can be restored by tears.
Norris, Kathleen (1997-04-01). The Cloister Walk (pp. 164-166). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

Prepared this for my 1st and 2nd graders' religion school class at my Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic parish (full communion with the Roman Pontiff).  Not sure it was at their grade level, so thought I should share it here too!  Have a great week!

2 Timothy 3:10-15
10 Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,11my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.12Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.13But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived.14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,15and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The above scripture teaches how valuable it is to learn the sacred writings (Scripture=the Bible=Sacred Writings) from your childhood that instruct you for your salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Luke 18:10-14 - Today's Gospel in the Eastern Rite

10‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector.11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector.12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.”13But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Found this on the back of our church bulletin (not what I included in the teaching to the 1st and 2nd graders) St. Basil the Great wrote:
The stern Pharisee, who in his self pride not only boasted of himself but also discredited the tax collector in the presence of God, made his justice void by being guilty of pride.  Instead of the Pharisee, the tax collector went down justified, because he had given glory to God, the Holy One.  He did not dare lift his eyes but sought only to plead for mercy.  He accused himself by his posture, by striking his breast, and by entertaining no other motive except propitiation.  Be on your guard, therefore, and bear in mind this example of severe loss sustained through arrogance.  The one guilty of insolent behavior suffered the loss of his justice and forfeited his reward by his bold self-reliance.  He was judged inferior to a humble man and a sinner because in his self-exaltation he did not wait the judgment of God but pronounced it himself.  Never place yourself above anyone, not even great sinners.  Humility often saves a sinner who has committed many terrible transgressions.

This reminds me of a quote from St. John Climacus:
Pride is a denial of God, an invention of the devil, contempt for men. It is the mother of condemnation, the offspring of praise, a sign of barrenness. It is a flight from God’s help, the harbinger of madness, the author of downfall. It is the cause of diabolical possession, the source of anger, the gateway of hypocrisy. It is the fortress of demons, the custodian of sins, the source of hardheartedness. It is the denial of compassion, a bitter pharisee, a cruel judge. It is the foe of God. It is the root of blasphemy.

The Jesus Prayer is modeled after the prayer of the Publican.

Lord Jesus Christ, (3 words)
Son of God, (3 words)
Have mercy on (3 words)
me, a sinner. (3 words)
(12 words total)

"I am convinced that our kids and teens need to hear this prayer more than any other. It's called the Jesus Prayer and whenever we use it, we call upon Christ as the Holy Scripture says, keeping Him on our minds, in our hearts, and on our lips with every minute of the day. This short but powerful prayer sanctifies whatever task we are doing!

Fold the laundry ... and say this prayer

Drive to school ... and say this prayer
Say it in any language, say it in short or long form...
When else can you say this prayer?
Pray for others using the Jesus prayer:Take turns offering the first name of someone you'd like to sing the Jesus Prayer for, then complete the song on their behalf.

We say, 'Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on ______, your servant (or a sinner).'
Sometimes we include all the poor, the hungry, the orphaned, the priests, all monks and nuns, those with a handicap, etc.

Indeed, our true task is always the same and is always accomplished in the same way: to call upon our Lord Jesus Christ with a burning heart so that His holy name intercedes for us."
-Hesychios the Priest: On Personal Holiness

The Scripture of the Publican and the Pharisee also reminds us that the Lord our God looks at our hearts and not the outward appearance in physical traits, or the appearance of good works done to impress others or to help us feel good about ourselves.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, but read within context of 1 Samuel 16:1-13)
 The Lord wants to be merciful to us and to bless us, but we need to get our hearts right.  We need to realize our place before God, we are fully needing his loving mercy and forgiveness, and we fully need the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to remain in Jesus to accomplish anything good for him.  Hear the words of Jesus: 
43 ‘No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43-45)
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5)

The gift of the Holy Spirit comes to us in Baptism and Chrismation (Confirmation).  The gifts of the Holy Spirit come from asking! 
9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ (Luke 11:9-13)

Here’s an example of someone asking:
9Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.’(1 Kings 3:9-14)

God is happy to give the gifts of the Holy Spirit to those who ask.  He said this to Jeremiah, a great prophet in the Old Testament times to the people of Israel who had forsaken God to worship false gods, breaking the 1st Commandment.

23 Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; 24but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

This is why it is so important for your parents to teach you the faith, and to bring you to Divine Liturgy (Mass) and Religion School and for them to study their Bibles as well.  God delights that you learn about him, that you know him, and understand that he acts with steadfast love.
If you want to remain in Jesus, you need to learn to pray – unceasingly. 

St. Paul told us this:  “Pray constantly.” THESSALONIANS 517
The Jesus prayer is the most common way of doing this in our Eastern tradition.

Another way of praying unceasingly is to memorize scriptures and to pray them when you need to have your heart and mind refocused on the God who is always with you, always loving you, and who is all powerful to defend you in times of temptation and hardship.
Here is an example of such a scripture: 
"Come to my help, O God. Lord, hurry to my rescue" (see Ps 70:1).
Last week Sunday of Zaccheaus:                            Next week Sunday of the Prodigal Son: 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

An Everlasting Love

"I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3b)

Saw this quote Sunday night, and it stopped me in my mental tracts.  It was in fine print, in italics on the back of a little business card stuck in a book given and written by a priest friend of mine.  

I've been dwelling on it ever since, and at the same time noticed that I've been especially happy the past few days.  Living in Chicago we have had snow and cold and I find myself delighting in the snow, and even finding the cold, clear days beautiful.  When I go to work in the morning it is now right around sunrise and I find that I do love sunrises.  When I leave after work I am grateful that it is still light at 5 PM when not just a few weeks ago it was dark.  Even when I am walking through the slush in the non-snowremoved streets and sidewalks I am thankful for my new waterproof boots with Vibram soles and new wool socks.  

I know it is not a permanent state, this happiness, easily thrilled state of being where moments and the beauty of nature and the gifts of my family, children and friends are cherished.  I had been reading Discernment of Spirits and learned more about the states of consolation and desolation and the working of the good and evil spirits on one's thoughts and feelings during each.  But for now all I can do is enjoy being happy, and offer my love, thanks and praise to God for where he has me right now.

That brings me to a great mini-meditation that can be done at any time of the day.  I got it from a "Daily Disconnect" from  It goes like this:

  • Visualize yourself in God's presence . . . in other words recollect yourself . . . become tuned in to God's presence in and around you, and his love for you.
  • Using these words of praise, pray slowly
My God, I love you with all my heart, I praise and thank you . . .
  • Repeat several times
  • Just be with God
There is also a song that I found while listening to iTunes Radio "Best Christian Music of 2013".  It is great to have my headphones on while walking in sub-zero windchill, walking in my new boots and magic coat (light, but very warm, and makes me look "young").  Hope you enjoy it too!  Chris Tomlin covered it and his version is also very good.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why "Inadequate Disciple"?

Why did I choose "Inadequate Disciple" as a blog title when I started this few years ago?  Because I am.  When Jesus says things like, you will know them by their fruits, and remain in me that you might bear fruit, and I don't know of any fruits following from this here branch, that speaks to my inadequacy.

What is this fruit?  Some write that the fruit could be virtue - in oneself - things like self-control, gentleness, temperance, prudence, integrity, fortitude.  Some write that it is good works, like the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  Some others, especially when you read and reflect on The Parable of the Sower, would think that fruit is conversions.

It is true we don't always know about these fruits.  St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face (a.k.a. The Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux) lived a quiet life in a cloistered monastery yet she has born the fruit of many conversions - both initial conversions to the Lord, and then deeper commitments to the Lord when people read and are inspired by her life, her words, her prayers.

One of my favorite meditations by my priest and friend was that one of the joys we will have when we get to heaven is meeting people who will be waiting to thank us that they are there because of the suffering we offered in union with Christ’s and because of the prayers and sacrifices we offered on their behalf, whether we prayed for them by name, or whether we offered them for the intentions of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus or simply for the conversion of sinners, and the poor souls in purgatory.

What incredible joy I had in this life when one person I worked with did take the steps to be reconciled – went to Mass, went to Confession, went to Communion, even began speaking about her faith in a community that likes to refer to God as “the universe”, and atheism, agnosticism, or only theism are the norm.

That only happened once, and at the time I started this blog, and still now, it bothers me.  Remember the question you get asked by the priest at least once a year in a homily, “if it were a crime to be a Christian, to be a Catholic, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” 

Well if part of the evidence is that I love being Catholic and that the joy, the love I feel and express through my Catholic faith are a treasure, and if I care at all about the people around me, the people God has orchestrated into my life that I might help with them finding salvation, finding the joy of the friendship with Jesus, communion with the Holy Spirit, then why weren’t there others who also converted?
It is not ourselves that we are proclaiming, but Christ Jesus as the Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus's sake.  It is God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' that has shone into our hearts to enlighten them with the knowledge of God's glory, the glory on the face of Christ.  But we hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, so that the immensity of the power is God's and not our own.  (2 Corinthians 4:5-7)
I looked up Inadequate Disciple in an internet search. One of the better posts I found on it was how the apostles were wholly inadequate to feed the 5000 men that gathered and did not have food to eat.  Yet the power of Jesus Christ manifested itself through their obedience to his mysterious orders.  Take these pieces (of couple fish and loaves of bread) and distribute it to the multitude, after you divide them up into 12 groups.  They were astounded.  They got to see the fruits of their trust and obedience that day.  They learned without a doubt that they could do nothing apart from the Power of Jesus the Messiah, but with him, 5000 men, plus women and children were fed, and there were enough leftovers collected in the 12 baskets (12 apostles) for each of them to more than eat their fill.

They had to put their human doubts and confusion aside and get out of the way in order for Christ's miracle to be accomplished through their efforts.  I don't think I do that well.  See all the I's?  That is part of the problem.
Recently I had another moment to cooperate with the work of grace to draw someone into a more meaningful, loving, fulfilling relationship with Jesus, and felt myself to have been a miserable coward and totally living up to the title of this blog-- inadequate disciple.

A woman I work with, who was raised Catholic, attended Catholic school through high school, was confirmed, but was not going to church anymore.  Wasn’t even planning on going for Christmas.  When she first began sharing an office with me she rather frequently used the Lord Jesus’s name as a swear.  I said the Divine Praises a few times after Mass in reparation.  Because I love Jesus, and because the Holy Spirit has taught me how holy is the name of God, it hurts when someone does that.

I let it slip that I was going to daily Mass at a nearby church couple times a week, and then the use of Jesus’s name as a stress release seemed to stop, completely.

I took this lady out for a beer her last day at this client of ours.  I kind of sensed it was the last time I had to try to help her with her faith, possibly the last time we would talk in person, although she kept saying we would get together again.  She raised her objections.  I heard them before, but I don’t personally share them.  I wanted to keep the conversation going, and used examples of others that shared her objections to do so.

A day later I realized what a wimp I had been.  This was a pivotal opportunity.  I have already noticed a pattern with people I work with.  Usually when either they are leaving the place or I am there is the lifting of the “don’t talk religion and faith at work” rule and some free-flowing faith talk ensues.  It might come up before then, and I have been less veiled in recent years.  But it is at the end of our time working together that the faith conversation flows and we find out we share a common faith, a common love.  This time I knew it was not what we had in common that was important.  Still, I did not appeal to the Holy Spirit for inspiration, for the words to speak, the heart to hear.  

Another day or two passed and I wrote her an email with the subject “Colleen is a wimp”.  Here it is:
I was thinking back on our conversation at Durkin’s (whatever the name).  I think I was a wimp when we were talking about faith.  I get slightly uncomfortable struggling to keep relational connection and then failing to witness to the Christ, instead of overcompensating to your point of view.  Thank you for noticing my faith.  I am grateful for the gifts of grace that are my faith and the joy, strength, and more compassionate heart that comes from it.  There are plenty of reasons to reject Catholicism or Catholics, but none of them had much sway for me personally.  When we were talking I mentioned “my husband this”, and “a friend from work that”, to try to maintain the relational connection.  But for me personally, Jesus has grasped me from an early age, and through his grace, abundantly given to me through the Catholic Church, no reasons would keep me from receiving his grace in his Word, in his Sacraments (especially Confession and the Holy Eucharist), and through his priests and saints, and his Holy Mother, whose intercession is entirely the reason my husband and I are still married!  So, I very much hope you find your way back.  If not to the Church or a church in the near future, then why not just take the direct route highlighted by the pope in the following.   
1. The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.
I. A joy ever new, a joy which is shared
2. The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.
3. I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”.[1] The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!
4. The books of the Old Testament predicted that the joy of salvation would abound in messianic times. The prophet Isaiah exultantly salutes the awaited Messiah: “You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy” (9:3). He exhorts those who dwell on Zion to go forth to meet him with song: “Shout aloud and sing for joy!” (12:6). The prophet tells those who have already seen him from afar to bring the message to others: “Get you up to a high mountain, O herald of good tidings to Zion; lift up your voice with strength, O herald of good tidings to Jerusalem” (40:9). All creation shares in the joy of salvation: “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth! Break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones” (49:13).
Zechariah, looking to the day of the Lord, invites the people to acclaim the king who comes “humble and riding on a donkey”: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he” (9:9).
Perhaps the most exciting invitation is that of the prophet Zephaniah, who presents God with his people in the midst of a celebration overflowing with the joy of salvation. I find it thrilling to reread this text: “The Lord, your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives you the victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing, as on a day of festival” (3:17).
This is the joy which we experience daily, amid the little things of life, as a response to the loving invitation of God our Father: “My child, treat yourself well, according to your means… Do not deprive yourself of the day’s enjoyment” (Sir 14:11, 14). What tender paternal love echoes in these words!  (You:  “Why can’t we enjoy life?”)
5. The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice. A few examples will suffice. “Rejoice!” is the angel’s greeting to Mary (Lk 1:28). Mary’s visit to Elizabeth makes John leap for joy in his mother’s womb (cf. Lk 1:41). In her song of praise, Mary proclaims: “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:47). When Jesus begins his ministry, John cries out: “For this reason, my joy has been fulfilled” (Jn 3:29). Jesus himself “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” (Lk 10:21). His message brings us joy: “I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11). Our Christian joy drinks of the wellspring of his brimming heart. He promises his disciples: “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (Jn 16:20). He then goes on to say: “But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22). The disciples “rejoiced” (Jn 20:20) at the sight of the risen Christ. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that the first Christians “ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (2:46). Wherever the disciples went, “there was great joy” (8:8); even amid persecution they continued to be “filled with joy” (13:52). The newly baptized eunuch “went on his way rejoicing” (8:39), while Paul’s jailer “and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God” (16:34). Why should we not also enter into this great stream of joy?
6. There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26).
7. Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met. To some extent this is because our “technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy”.[2]I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to. I also think of the real joy shown by others who, even amid pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”.[3]
8. Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?  (ßand here is where I failed, and hopefully Papa Francisco can fill in the gap I left unfilled!)
Happy New Year!  If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t bother to send this note.  And if I care at all it is because Jesus loves me, and he wants you to know that and that this upcoming day, this upcoming year will be the year that your friendship with him grows.  It is a bit overwhelming isn’t it, that he wants to be your friend.   I think the unrequited love that you no doubt experienced in some of your friendships taught me the most about how much he loves each of us at a personal level, and how great a debt I owe him. 
As Jesus told St. Margaret Mary when she was seeing a vision of him with his Sacred Heart showing:
"Look at this Heart which has loved men so much, and yet men do not want to love Me in return."
You are obviously striving to be a good and helpful person, and it seemed to me like you would like to have a stronger connection to God, but you don’t right now.  Sorry I was too wimpy to tell you this in person, but now you have a nice long email to read and consider. 

Heck if the Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons can go door-to-door, at least I can send an email. 
If you would like to try a morning or evening meditation time each day, I highly recommend The Better Part by Fr. John Bartunek.  It contains the full text of the Gospels and meditation on 4 different levels for each day’s short passage.  The four levels are:  1) Christ the Lord, 2) Christ the Teacher, 3) Christ the Friend, and 4) Christ in My Life. Here is an example from last Sunday’s Gospel:
Another great book is Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley.  This is a do-it-yourself retreat that I found very helpful over the past couple of years.  My priest friend that was battling stage 3 colon cancer recommended it to me.
God Bless You, including providing your next job –