Every Season

“For you bestow gifts suited to every season.”

When I heard this line spoken at a Confirmation Mass the other night, I was jerked back to the present moment. My mind had drifted – I was tired, hurting from an injury earlier in the week, and brooding over a frustrating encounter with someone from earlier in the day. But when I heard the bishop speak this line of prayer, something within me clicked.

I don’t know about you, but I can get so caught up in self-pity sometimes. Lately, it’s so hard for me to see past my problems, which honestly are nothing compared to the struggles that so many in this world face. Nevertheless, I find myself avoiding prayer, scared that God won’t give me what I want. Whether it has to do with my relationships, my job, or my dreams – there’s a despairing part of me that figures there’s no use in asking because God won’t give it.

And maybe, in a sense, that’s right.

YES, God will fulfill my desires. YES, God wants good things for me. YES, God sees and knows what I want and He intends to satisfy me.
Psalm 145:15-16 speaks to this promise:

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

There is so much truth and comfort in this promise, but so often, we miss an important part of it – in due season. I can get caught up in this world’s promise of instant gratification and forget that seeing God’s promise ultimately come to light sometimes requires a waiting period. The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, Noah braved it out on the ark for 40 days, and Jesus was in the grave for 3 days – why, oh why, do I think that my desires should be instantly granted? Maybe God’s not giving me what I want, how I want, when I want it and maybe that in itself is a gift. It doesn’t mean it’s never coming and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t gifts being given right now.

He bestows gifts suited to every season. This has two parts for me.

1) Receive the gift.

I’ll be honest – at any given point in my life, I have no idea what season I’m in. But naming the season we’re in isn’t the most important part of life. What’s important is that we’re living. I can get so caught up in trying to figure out where I am, what I’m supposed to be doing, and how I’m supposed to get there that I miss out on every opportunity to tangibly discover these things by lived experiences. Don’t get me wrong, these questions of identity and purpose are important, but unfortunately they often intimidate us with fear and uncertainty.

Instead of focusing on these questions and letting fear cripple us, let’s just receive the gifts that the Lord’s giving in whatever season it is that we’re in. Let’s just be in the season where we are. Let’s find the gifts that the Lord has for us here. Not looking down the road to where summer and all its gifts are, but seeing the spring that we’re in and realizing that every gift we need is right here, being given by the hand of the Father. When I stop looking at what I’m lacking, and start looking at what I’ve been given, I realize that it’s exactly what I need.

2) Be the gift. 

I don’t really want to be selfish and I don’t think anyone does. We all have a desire to make gift of ourselves to the world in some way. In a world that tells us to look out for number one, this desire is often snuffed out, but the pursuit of selflessness does exist.

We all have the choice to either wallow in self-pity like some kid who didn’t get what she wanted for her birthday or we can forget about ourselves for a moment and realize that maybe today isn’t about what I need in my season. Maybe today is about being the suited gift bestowed to someone else in their season.

It can be hard to see what God is doing at the present moment, but when I look back and see the faithfulness of the Lord in every step I’ve taken up to this point, why do I fear that the next step will be the exception for Him? Why do I think that this time He’s slipped up and the gifts He’s giving are the wrong ones? So I propose (as much to myself as to anyone reading), that instead of grumbling that this season of my life doesn’t call for this or that desire to be fulfilled, to be thankful for season I’m in and that His grace gives every gift I need.

He’s not leaving me orphaned. He’s not leaving me abandoned. He’s not leaving me to endure the chill of winter alone. He has bestowed the gifts suited for this season – and the best gift in any season of my life is the gift of His very presence.

And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. – Matthew 28:20

~ Rita

Mercy, Even in My Doubt

Happy Divine Mercy Sunday! For those who don’t know about this great day of devotion, let me try to give you a reason to celebrate today.

The Catholic Church has this great devotion called the Divine Mercy. It all started with a young Polish nun named Sr. Faustina, who loved Jesus deeply. She began having visions of Jesus and, obedient to her superiors, wrote down her encounters with Him. The image of the Divine Mercy, which comes straight from Sr. Faustina’s visions of Jesus, depicts two rays shooting out from the heart of Jesus.skemp_1024

When Sr. Faustina asked Jesus what these rays meant, He responded, “The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him. (paragraph 299 of “Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska”)

As I’ve journeyed through the Easter season this past week, this scene of the Crucifixion that Jesus mentioned to Sr. Faustina keeps finding its way to the forefront of my heart. After Jesus has died, before His body has been taken down from the Cross, the soldiers are breaking the legs of the others being crucified to ensure a timely death. When they come to Jesus, they see that He’s already dead.

“One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” – John 19:34

Jesus’ body is dead. His apostles (those left at the scene that is) must be heartbroken. This man that they’ve given up everything to follow – He is dead. And they don’t fully understand the words He spoke that would give them hope in this moment – the words that prophesied His rising, that He would “rebuild this temple in three days.”

In the midst of this darkness, when all hope seemed lost, this is when Jesus deemed to show this image of His mercy. Gruesome as it may be to really think about it, the blood and water that came out of the wound in His side poured down to the ground where the apostles were mourning. What was it to be beneath the mercy pouring from His heart?

Let’s move forward a couple verses in John’s Gospel. The apostles (except poor, poor Thomas) are locked in the upper room, full of paralyzing fear. Jesus appears before them, with a message of peace and mission and He breathes the Holy Spirit over them.

When the apostles later tell Thomas about their post-Resurrection encounter with the Lord, he is ever the cynic. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) (*Side note: how many times in my life do I speak these words? If I don’t have all the signs and stars aligned, if all the evidence isn’t in plain sight, I can be so slow to believe.)

But a week later, Jesus comes again and Thomas is there to see it with his own eyes. I imagine being Thomas here. Elated that the news I was skeptical of is actually true, but also ashamed that I didn’t pass some kind of test of faith. In that moment, I would’ve preferred to stay in the background. Just give us your message, Lord, and don’t single me out. But Jesus, after just one statement addressed to the group, comes to Thomas. In the past, I’ve imagined these words that Jesus speaks were filled with sarcasm, a real “they-told-you-so” manner. But that is not the nature of God. It’s the result of my own woundedness.

Instead, these words of Jesus – they come from a place of love for Thomas. The Lord gives Thomas an opportunity to do exactly as he desired. The Lord’s voice doesn’t place shame on Thomas’ doubt; it carries a calm, a peace. “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving but believe.” (John 20:27).

That wound in the Lord’s side. Where blood and water poured out. Where his Mercy poured out. That’s where He wants Thomas to be. He wants Thomas to place his unbelieving there in the place where Mercy can pour over it. Where Mercy can heal it.

My brothers and sisters, that’s where the Lord wants me and you. Even in our doubt, He invites us into that wound in His side. He invites us – and all the baggage and wounds we carry – into His Mercy. Jesus isn’t deterred by our weakness or our doubt; His Mercy is attracted to it.

So on this Divine Mercy Sunday, wherever you’re at this Easter season – be it a season of joy in every instance or a time of wandering or difficulty – bring it all to His pierced side, where His Mercy is waiting to pour out over it and bring it to new life.

~Rita

I Have Seen the Lord…

Tonight as the sisters of the Magdalene House gathered to worship, Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the Resurrected Jesus in the Gospel of John became our own. After Jesus spoke her name, she recognized Him and then went out proclaiming to the other apostles, “I have seen the Lord!” I wanted to share a song that we prayed with tonight, titled after this great proclamation, written by my good friend John Finch. If you haven’t heard of The Vigil Project, you’re missing out on amazing songs of prayer and worship for the Lent and Easter seasons. Check out the video for this song below and visit http://www.thevigilproject.com to hear more!

~Rita

To Be Chosen

We want to be chosen.

Whether we’re 7 years old and want to be chosen for the better kickball team at recess, 16 years old and want to be chosen as that special someone’s date to the prom, 30 years old and want to be chosen for that promotion at work that would secure our future.

We want to be chosen.

We want someone to see us, our effort, our talent, and make an intentional decision about who we are as an individual, that will tell us that we’re desirable.

And we let this drive our lives. How many times do I hit the gym this week? How much overtime do I put in at work? How long do I spend picking out my outfit? The list of areas that this desire to be chosen affects is endless. Sometimes we can let this desire run us into the ground. We want to be chosen and we’ll do whatever it takes, even at the risk of burning ourselves out. And if this desire is not met, if I’m not chosen, disappointment and despair can take over so easily.

Before we go any further, let me say that this desire to be chosen is SO GOOD. It’s not a curse that we have to put up with. It’s not a longing that we have to shove way down deep. It’s not a sign of being needy or desperate.

A great priest friend of mine once told me that our ache carries a message. In every corner of my ache lies the voice of the One who can ease it. I won’t hear that voice unless I venture into the ache, but when I do – when I find the courage to inquire about this desire to be chosen, He speaks directly into that deep ache and says, I have chosen you and I am proud to call you my own.

Brothers and sisters, you and I have already been chosen. And we’ve been chosen for something that is greater than any date, any promotion, any world-class kickball team.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you. – John 15:16

We make our choice to follow or not follow God. To love Him or not love Him. And sometimes in the midst of our decision, we forget that God has chosen us first. He chose us long before we had ever heard His name. He chose us, knowing full well that we may choose to never choose Him. He chose us, knowing that we would choose Him, but still hurt Him everyday by our action and inaction.

But even in this – He doesn’t regret His choice for us. I regret choices that I make all the time, like St. Paul who does the thing he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do the thing he wants to do (Romans 7:15).

The Father’s choice for you and me led Him to much pain and heartbreak, but He doesn’t regret it. It isn’t in His nature to abandon his faithfulness.

Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands. – Isaiah 49:16

I once heard about this ancient wedding tradition, where the groom would tattoo the name of his beloved bride on his hands as a sign of his devotion and faithfulness to her.

This is OUR story. When Christ the Bridegroom came to lay down His life for His bride, they pierced His hands with nails. The scars on His hands bear our names. They’re a sign of the lengths that Love will go to show His beloved that He’s chosen her. He’s not leaving. He’s not giving up on us. He’s chosen us and He doesn’t regret it.

Brothers and sisters, our desire to be chosen is satisfied in this. The Father has chosen us. But not just “us” – You and Me. By name. He’s not calling us by the name the world calls us, by what we believe we are sometimes. He doesn’t call us by our sin. He doesn’t call us by our broken circumstance. He doesn’t call us by our disappointments. He doesn’t even call us by our accomplishments.

You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will give you. No more shall you be called forsaken or your land desolate; you shall be called My delight is in her, and your land married; for the Lord delights in you. You shall be called Sought out, a city not forsaken. – Isaiah 62:2, 4, 12.

He calls us His. This is what He’s chosen us for –relationship with Him. An intimate relationship, where we find rest in the security of knowing that we have indeed been chosen. And when we’re not chosen for things in this life, we have the blessed assurance of knowing that we’ve been chosen by a good Father, a good Savior. It was a choice that cost Him everything, but there’s no regret in His voice as He calls us by the name He’s given us: Chosen.

~Rita