“Not my will, but Yours be done…”

For a while, I’ve been really interested in doing mission work. I had a friend at the beginning of the summer encourage me to apply for Totus Tuus in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois (my Diocese). After some contemplation, I decided that I would. I applied for the job on a Friday I believe, sent in my references that day, got a call from the program director of the program for my diocese on the following Monday, set up an over the phone interview on Wednesday, and found out I had gotten the job on that Friday.

During this process of applying, filling out all the necessary paperwork and all the way up to finding out I got the job, I kept praying “Not my will, but Yours be done, Lord the same prayer Christ prayed to the Father while he was in agony in the garden. I knew that I wanted this job, but more than anything, I wanted this job only if it was God’s will.

Well, it turns out that it was. I went to training in Springfield, Illinois for a week and a half, the longest I’ve ever been away from home without my parents, so that was different. I felt so out of my element that I couldn’t sleep or eat and, because of that, I found myself drinking way too much coffee just to keep myself awake.

The experience that I had at training was so beautiful. I met such amazing and beautiful people, that were and still are constantly encouraging me to be a better Catholic, and for that I am truly grateful. During training, the days were filled with prayer, classes, Mass, and a Holy Hour each night. It was amazing how much I grew as a person during that short time, and how much I grew even more so during the actual program.

Training for this program that is Totus Tuus, really brought me out of myself. I was talking to a friend not too long ago, and he was saying how the first day of training I was so quiet and shy, and then the next day, I was super outgoing and just how much I changed, and he asked me why that happened. I told him that it was because I realized that I wasn’t being judged by them, and I felt and knew that I was loved and respected by all of them — some thing that I’m definitely not used to in ordinary every day life — and that in order for the Holy Spirit to work through me the way that He needed to, that I needed to break down those walls and just be myself . The men that were there, I could tell that they saw me as a person with dignity and value, and not as an object like women are usually seen as in today’s world. They respected me and that helped me to come to love myself more and not be so critical towards myself. The girls that I met at training were amazing too. They were all so sweet and all of them –girls and guys both– they just radiated the love they had for Christ and it was and they still are an inspiration to me.

The program that I and my 2 other teammates (along with other teams) ran was for 6 weeks, each program being a week at a time at different parishes. I’m not going to say that things were always rainbows and butterflies, because when you’re with the same people for 2 months, things aren’t always going to be that way. When we had struggles, we tried to fix them, and look at the big picture: teaching the faith, being disciples, and being role models for the kids that we taught and doing what the Lord had put us there to do.

As I said before, during training, prayer was a huge aspect. We prayed the Liturgy of the Hours (Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer), the Rosary, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily. The same thing was true for the actual program. I grew in my prayer life so much and could see my prayers being answered. I can sincerely say that I miss that routine of daily prayer and am trying so hard to keep up with that routine but I do fall short sometimes.

This summer was life changing, and it fed my soul so much and made me realize how much I thirsted for that prayer life, closeness with Christ, and that sense of community that my every day life was lacking.

Every day I thank God for letting me be a part of Totus Tuus this summer and all the friends that have come out of the program. What a tremendous blessing. With this experience, I’ve found out that doing God’s will in life, even with something as small as this, and giving Him your time, that He will make it fruitful and that you will be satisfied.

Totus Tuus Maria!

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Be Still

Stress.

Heart break.

Excitement.

Right now, these words sum up my life. A weird combination, I know. Several weeks ago, I lost my Uncle, this week I have my first college finals, I have an interview for a job this school year a week and three days from now, and training for a summer job three weeks and a day from now.

Losing my Uncle has become hard to accept and frankly, leaves my heart feeling somewhat broken. The first round of college finals and an upcoming job interview create stress. And the training for my job this summer fills me with excitement.

It’s a bit overwhelming at times.

But through the past weeks of overwhelming emotion, I have felt God reminding me to just be still (Ps. 46:10) and trust Him.

Be still and know that I am God.

These words keep flooding my thoughts in the moments of loss, heartbreak, stress, and excitement.

Eight words that can be summed up into just two: Trust Me.

God has been asking me to do something that I actually have a hard time doing. He’s asking me to trust Him, and to know that He’s going to handle everything.

I know God works in mysterious ways, so the fact that I don’t really know what to expect what is going to happen makes it difficult to trust, or more importantly to understand how or why things happen.

The best way I’ve learned to be still or trust God is through prayer.

Before I was offered the job that I’ll have this summer, I was constantly praying about it and reflecting on what Jesus said during His agony in the garden: “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). This was probably one of the first times that I’d ever pretty much completely surrendered my will, simply because I wanted His will for me instead. I wanted the better choice, and it just so happened that my will — what I wanted — was also what He wanted for me.

So it has definitely become easier for me to completely trust God when things are good, or what I want to do. But what if they’re not what I want to do? What then? I have one simple answer and I hope that I’ll remember this during those times:

God the Father simply wants what’s best for us — His children. So if something we want doesn’t work out the way we planned, it was because God has something better in store for us down the road.

I pray that whoever reads this knows that God loves them and He only has their best interest at heart.

Be still and know that God will take care of you.

+JMJ

 

Running to Mercy

Recently I’ve been reading the book I Choose the Sky by Emily Wilson of Lifeteen. There is one story and reflection by Emily that I would like to share with you that really spoke to my heart:

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table.  And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,  and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner. ”  And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?”  “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”  And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

-Luke 7:36-50

{Emily’s Reaction}

“I want to be like her.

When I read the account of the sinful woman, I know there is much that she and I have in common.

The main commonality we have? Sin. Sin comes in a multitude of forms, with each sin I commit a conscious turning away from God, turning my back on His love, turning my back on the way I know is good. Sin is sin – and this woman and I, we both know it well.

The second commonality she and I share? The choice of what we do in our sin. It is a choice each of us receives… to run toward God or run away from God.

in the midst of all her grief and shame, in all her embarrassment and sin – she hears that Jesus is in her town. Upon hearing this news, she is faced with two choices… the first is to stay at home. Imagine the dialogue in her head, “Why would Jesus want to see me? I have messed up too greatly for Him to look on me with love.” Her second choice is to go out and meet Christ where He is, knowing deeply that in her sin, Christ is all she needs. This woman knows well where her need lies and she chooses the latter. She does not hide in her sin, nor does she recoil from Jesus in her shame… instead, she stops at nothing to get to Him. She finds the house where Jesus is visiting, goes inside, and showers Him with and enormous outpouring of love born out of deep emotion and genuine sorrow. She fervently seeks Jesus to lavish Him with all the love in her heart.

Oh, how this woman shows us how to seek Christ’s mercy with reckless abandon.

She shows us how passionately we are to seek God in the throes of sin and brokenness, and I want to live like her – in this moment – when I experience sorrow and shame. I want my response to be to run to encounter God right where I know He is.

Jesus does not walk this Earth in a physical body today. He does not stop by to have dinner with our neighbors or teach in the streets. But I know where Jesus is in my town. Jesus is present in the Eucharist in a church less than two miles from my house. I can get there in a quick bike ride or drive. I know what time Mass is, I know that the adoration chapel is open 24 hours a day, and I know that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available on Thursday evenings and twice on Saturdays.

I know where Jesus is, I know where I can rest in His presence and His mercy, but there are too many times when I run the other way. In my human frailty and pride, I rationalize my sin as not being bad enough to enter the confessional. Sometimes I decide that I am too busy, and other times I just cannot look at His body on the crucifix at the front of the Church because I feel I do not deserve mercy for the mess I am making.

But God beckons me back; He gently tugs on my heart in those moments when I have run and asks me to stop and reflect… how many times have I regretted running to God in my need? None. How many times have I wished I had not gone to confession? Zero. When have I ever felt that visiting Christ in the adoration chapel was a waste? Never. But in those times when I feel I have let God down and turned away – I am ashamed, I am embarrassed, and I feel like a failure.

She may have felt this word – failure – as sin consumed her life over and over again, a cycle she could not seem to free herself from. She may have felt the same words ringing loud in her heart as we do:

Sinner.

Failure.

Shameful.

Unworthy.

Maybe she called herself those names out loud. I have.

In times of deep desperation I have spoken ugly words to myself aloud as I have cried into the mirror, into my pillow, into my hands – words I would never dare speak to another. Words that steal and destroy. Words that are lies from the mouth of the enemy.

She falls at the feet of Christ and showers Him with love, and does He utter any such word… unworthy, unlovable, unforgivable?

No. He calls her woman. He sees her.

“Do you see this woman?” Not failure. Not sinner. Not stupid. Not a mess.

When you wake up in the morning, Jesus sees you. When you go about your day, He sees you. When you walk into the Church – He sees you. When you sit before the priest in the confessional nervous, embarrassed, or filled with shame – He sees you.

When you open the door of that small confessional and enter into the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when you sit in that chair across from a priest in persona Christi, Jesus Christ looks at you and only sees “woman.” He only sees “daughter.” He only sees “forgivable.” He only wishes to shower you with love and bestow upon you the power of His mercy.

Jesus looks upon the sinful woman just as He looks at us and says, “Your sins have been forgiven.” Every last one of them.

With the knowledge of this truth, may we live our lives running one way…

Toward love. Toward mercy. Toward Jesus Christ.

His merciful heart is open to each and every one of us.”

___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___

Before I got this book and read this story, I was constantly overwhelmed with the thought that I was too far gone for Christ to love me, I was too much of a sinner, and to big of a mess for Him to have mercy on me. But this story opened my eyes to the beauty of Christ’s love.

Last night, I went to confession and before hand, I read this story and reflection. After I came out of the confessional I genuflected to get into the pew and once I was down on one knee, I cried and realized this: I am not too far gone for Christ’s love or His mercy. I never will be, because He will always be next to me tugging on my heart telling me that He wants to shower me with His mercy, His love, His compassion, and His understanding. And that he looks at me, just like He did with the sinful woman and sees me for who I truly am: His beloved daughter.

 

Good Enough.

Lately, I’ve really been struggling with the idea that I’m not good enough, no matter how hard I try. A couple of days ago I wrote a letter to my brother who identifies as transgender and as far as I know, he doesn’t believe in God. I guess it’s not necessarily that he doesn’t believe in God, but he doesn’t have faith in Him and sort of rejects Him.

I wrote him a letter because I think that he thinks that I don’t love him or want to be around him because he’s transgender, and that I condemn him because of it, which isn’t true at all. I love my brother deeply and I just want him to know that he is still good and capable of being loved, and in fact, he still is loved.

In this letter I quoted the book of Genesis when it said, “God looked at every thing that he had made and found it very good.” I then continued to tell my brother that I said that because when God created him as male, God saw that it was good, and that he was made that way for a reason.

I feel so ridiculous for saying these things to my brother when I struggle with self-esteem and the thought that I’m not good enough. But that part of scripture in Genesis really speaks to me : I am good. God made me, and he made me good. I am enough. Even when I feel that I’m not enough: not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, I am still enough for our Lord and Creator, and that brings me comfort.

It reminds me of the movie The Chronicles of Narnia The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Lucy wants to be looked at as beautiful like her sister Susan. And she practically wants to be Susan, but Aslan comes to her and says that by wanting to look like her sister and practically be her sister that she is wishing herself away and he says , “You doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are.”

That’s my problem and I’m going to also say that it’s my brother’s problem. We doubt our value and we’re running from who we are supposed to be. I run towards Christ, but even though I know he sees me as being good enough, I don’t accept that, because I want to be accepted by every one else, when in reality that doesn’t even matter. Jesus Himself says, “If they hate you, know that they hated me first.”

My brother on the other hand, seems to run as fast as he can away from Christ and wants to be like everyone else, he too wants to be accepted by the world and wants to be someone other than the one God created him to be.

To sum it all up, Christ accepts you, Christ wills your existence and loves you unconditionally, and in the end, that is all that matters.

He is not safe, but he is good.

I have become fascinated with the movie, “The Chronicles of Narnia; the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” a movie based off of a book by C.S. Lewis. I became fascinated with C.S. Lewis’ writings, because he is a very well known Catholic writer and I’m kind of obsessed with Catholic literature. But this movie goes so much deeper than just a story about a Lion, a Witch and a Wardrobe.

There is so much theology in this movie, and that’s what interests me the most. I’ve done some research about the symbolism of this movie and here’s what I’ve discovered.

I figured that the 4 children, Lucy, Susan, Edmund, and Peter all had some sort of biblical meaning, or represent a saint or some type of Christian. I found out that the oldest boy, Peter is supposed to represent the Apostle Peter, the one who started the Church. Edmund represents Adam from the story of Adam and Eve and it was his sin from which we fell. Susan is supposed to represent someone who had a strong faith in the beginning, but lost it. And my favorite, Lucy, I feel represents that child-like faith that we are all supposed to have.

With this being said, since Edmund disobeys Aslan who represents God, that is why Aslan dies in his place, in order to save him from being slaves to the White Witch. The White Witch obviously representing Satan.

I think that when Aslan died on the stone table (which  represents the cross Jesus died on) I think that not only represents Christ’s death, but also represents the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when we break the body of Christ, just as it was broken on the cross.

My favorite part in the whole movie is when Lucy asks Mr. Beaver, “Is he safe?” and Mr. Beaver said, “‘Course he’s not safe, but he is good. He’s the King I tell you.” This line makes me look at Christ so much differently. I always looked at Him as being someone safe, which He is. But to follow Christ is not safe, but following Christ is good, because He’s the King. I say it’s not safe to follow Christ because in the Bible, Jesus says, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.” (Matthew 15:18) and also says, “Blessed are you when you they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-12) Christ tells us to rejoice when we are persecuted. Another piece of Sacred Scripture stands out to me as well, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

These scripture passages just back up what I’m trying to tell you. It’s not safe to follow Christ, because we will be persecuted, but for that persecution, He will repay us with grace and everlasting life.

No, He is not safe. But He IS good.

 

Taste and see the Goodness of the Lord

This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to go with some friends to Benedictine College in Kansas. I stayed with the Regnum Christi house while at Benedictine, this is a journal entry I wrote while there:

“Benedictine College is so extremely beautiful. I feel that God is pulling me here. It feels like home, even though I’m out of my comfort zone. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt something so strongly deep inside of me as I do right now. I know my parents might not fully support this decision, but I feel that God wills it, and if He wants it, I want it too. There are so many Catholics here. They are passionate about their faith and have such a great love for Christ. Staying with the Regnum Christi girls, praying with them, talking about Jesus, and just loving each other brings me such extreme joy and hope. I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person and a young Catholic woman just by being here, and knowing that it was God’s will that I got to experience this. It’s given me so much more depth not only to my love of Christ, but to my life in general. This whole weekend, I’ve been surrounded with the love of these girls and I felt Jesus pouring out His love over me. I’ve come to know and realize the Father’s love because of this wonderful experience. I also got to sit in on a New Evangelization class, and it was amazing. We talked about Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation: The Joy of the Gospel – Evangelii Gaudium. I’ve never read it before, but now, I want to. It was so beautiful how passionate the teacher was about the faith, and not only teaching it, but helping the students spread it. I enjoyed the class so much that I could’ve listened to the teacher talk for hours. I feel like my friendship with the girls I came with has deepened so much too. I’ve come to realize that our friendship is so genuine. I’ve realized that they don’t just hang out with me because they have no one else, but because they choose me. That makes me think of the priest’s homily at Mass on Saturday at Benedictine. He talked about how God doesn’t need us – He wants us. He chooses us. That is true love. This weekend, I’ve encountered Christ so much. I feel so extremely loved by being surrounded by my brothers and sisters in Christ. Especially at Benedictine. I think that’s why I feel so drawn to go there. I feel so wanted and loved. Praise God.”

In case you couldn’t tell, this weekend was such a life changing experience for me. This weekend, I also realized that I need to stop seeking a relationship (boyfriend) and just be satisfied with Christ. At Mass on Saturday night, one of the music ministry girls sang a song that I later found out that she wrote herself, that was about the prayer by St. Anthony of Padua: Be Satisfied with Me. It goes like this:

Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone. To have a deep soul relationship with another, to be loved thoroughly and exclusively. But to a Christian, God says, “No, not until you are satisfied, fulfilled and content with being loved by Me alone, with giving yourself totally and unreservedly to Me. With having an intensely personal and unique relationship with Me alone. Discovering that only in Me is your satisfaction to be found, will you be capable of the perfect human relationship that I have planned for you. You will never be united to another until you are united with Me. Exclusive of anyone or anything else. Exclusive of any other desires or longings. I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow Me to give you the most thrilling plan existing…one you cannot imagine. I want you to have the best. Please allow Me to bring it to you. You just keep watching Me, expecting the greatest things. Keep experiencing the satisfaction that I am. Keep listening and learning the things that I tell you. Just wait, that’s all. Don’t be anxious, don’t worry, don’t look around at things others have gotten, or that I have given them. Don’t look around at the things you think you want. Just keep looking off and away up to Me, or you’ll miss what I want to show you. And then, when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with a love far more wonderful that you could dream of. You see, until you are ready, and until the one I have for you is ready, I am working even at this moment to have you both ready at the same time. Until you are both satisfied exclusively with Me, and the life I prepared for you. You won’t be able to experience the love that exemplified your relationship with me. And this is perfect love. And dear one, I want you to have this most wonderful love. I want you to see in the flesh a picture of your relationship with Me, and to enjoy materially and concretely the everlasting union of beauty, perfection and love that I offer you with Myself. Know that I love you utterly, I AM God. Believe it and be satisfied.”

To tell you the truth, that prayer is the most beautiful and comforting thing I’ve ever read in my life. I feel like everything that I experienced this weekend has been tied together. I feel that my relationship with God the Father has deepened and that I know His love for me as His daughter. I feel that I came back from Benedictine knowing God the Father better than I’ve ever known Him. And that in order to love another, I have to be satisfied with Him alone, and I feel like He keeps satisfying me more and more. Because of this, I don’t even have the desire to seek a romantic relationship anymore.

When I got home, I told my parents, and my aunt who happens to be staying with us about the class that I went to and how much I loved it and told them how I felt like God was telling me that Benedictine was where I was supposed to be. And my aunt (who is not Catholic) pretty much says that it was great that I loved the class, but how is that even gonna happen? How are you going to be able to afford that school? It’s great that you’re passionate, but you can’t have that. I held off the tears and went to my room and prayed to Jesus, “Jesus, why don’t they understand that I feel like this is your will for me to go here, and that it’s where I’m supposed to be. And that if it is your will, it will be. Why can’t they realize that I feel that YOU want this for me?” I sat kneeling on the floor sobbing to Jesus just asking Him why no one was being supportive since I thought that was what He was calling me to.

My mom came in and we sat down and I talked to her about the weekend and how good the Jesus has been to me by allowing me to experience this college and these beautiful people who were so much like me. I told her so sincerely, “Mom, Jesus has been so good to me.” Immediately after I began to sob even harder than I had been before and just kept saying “Jesus is so good, I know His goodness. I know His goodness.”

The Lord is SO good to me. Praise God. Praise God.