"Walking in the way and the love of the Lord"
Christmas reflection: Make room for Jesus in your inn
By Fr. Erik Esparza
Each Christmas we are offered so many opportunities to reflect on the meaning of Christmas. What helps you to reflect on Christmas? Is it when you put up your Christmas lights or tree? Is it through your gift giving for family, friends, or for those most in need?
Is it in your kitchen where you take the time to bake surprises for others to feast? Is it while you volunteer at a local soup kitchen to ensure all have a warm meal to eat? Is it at the celebration of Christmas Mass where God’s family comes together?
Wherever you are and in whatever you do, take the time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
One way to more deeply reflect on Christmas is to gather around a nativity. In fact, I encourage you to spend some time during the Christmas Season with your own nativity scene at home. Take a moment to read chapter two from both the Gospel of St. Matthew and the Gospel of St. Luke to hear once more the story of Christmas. This can be done in private devotion or gathered in prayer with your family. The time to read scripture and for prayerful reflection gives you a quiet moment in the midst of the hustle and bustle of these days to reflect on the great gift of love, the Incarnation.
One part of the Christmas story that comes to mind for me can be found in the Gospel of St. Luke (2:7) when Joseph and Mary upon arrival into Bethlehem were unable to find any room for them in the inn. In response to this lack of room for the Holy Family, Jesus is born and laid in a manger. There is a deeper meaning to this part of the story besides there simply being no room in the inn. You see, there is an invitation to consider this question: is there a part of your life where there is no room for Christ? We can easily look at this scene from the Christmas story and comment on how horrible it was that no one offered a room for the arrival of the newborn King. The true meaning of Christmas includes making room in our own hearts and lives to receive the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There is a temptation to love Jesus, yet deny his presence in certain aspects of our lives. We celebrate Jesus’ love yet we deny that love to others. We are grateful for the blessings from God yet do not share those blessings with others. We bask in the mercy of God yet do not offer the same mercy to others.
This Christmas use the time to reflect on where you might not have room in your inn for Jesus. What door needs to be opened or what space needs to welcome the newborn King? Jesus comes into the messiness of our lives just like that first Christmas to bring his presence of light and love. Do not miss out on this presence, for we are all in need of more light and love in our lives.
Now go forth and be a joyful witness!
Fr. Erik Esparza is Associate Director in the Office of Priest Personnel for the Diocese of San Bernardino.
Advent Reflection: Resting in the Womb of Mary
By: LILLA MARIE LOTTINGER AND SR. MARY CLARE WAX
Recently I found myself longing to hold baby Jesus as I was contemplating this Advent/Christmas Season; but in discipline I chose to wait till Christmas Eve to “unwrap” this great gift. And in doing so I immediately found myself turning to Mary and placing my hand on her womb, opening myself to connect with baby Jesus there.
Since then I have found myself uniting with Jesus in the womb of Mary… first from outside; but then, while spending time with Jesus in adoration I found myself imagining that the chapel I was in was Mary’s womb; and I began spending time in the womb with Jesus, opening myself to being still in His presence, resting in the love of a perfect Mother and Father (Mary and our Heavenly Father), as Jesus did… soaking in the truths of my own dignity and identity as a “child of God”.
For this is why Jesus came… to open the gates of Heaven to us, and invite us back into communion with our Heavenly Father. By His Blood we have been redeemed and drawn back into the dignity and identity that we had before the fall, if we but choose to receive.
My prayer this Advent/Christmas Season, is that we will all have the grace to rest with baby Jesus, to become one with Him in opening ourselves to the “marvel [we] were made” the truth of who we were created to be. May we enter deeply into the graces of this Advent/Christmas Season, that we may come to know the love of God, the love of Mary, in a deeply intimate and profound way.
Our God longs to bond with us as His Children. He wants us to rest in the womb of His love for us, as Jesus did throughout His life here on earth; that we may know the infinite, unconditional love and acceptance of our perfect Heavenly Father.
He wants us also to rest in the womb of Mary’s love for us as Jesus did throughout His earthly life; that we may know the love of a perfect Mother as He did; that we may experience our Heavenly Father’s unconditional love and acceptance for us also through the Maternal Heart of Mary.
Mother and father wounds are the deepest wounds we can have, because our mothers and fathers are the first to reflect and draw us into God’s love. Their ultimate purpose in loving us is meant to incline us toward receptivity to the Love of our Heavenly Father and Mother, that we may know God’s perfect, unconditional love and acceptance of us.
But our parents fall short in life to varying degrees, due to their own wounds, passed down from their own parents, tracing all the way back to Adam and Eve. And so, we can remain depleted, not realizing how deeply, unconditionally and infinitely we are loved.
May this Advent/Christmas Season be a time for all of us to go to the source from which all love and truth flows, by becoming one with Baby Jesus, in opening ourselves to receive and reclaim our true dignity and identity as “children of God.
As I shared with Sr. Mary Clare my reflection of entering into the womb of Mary with Jesus, she felt drawn to enter in as well and later shared a little taste of her own experience:
“I meditated on the utter silence of all Creation as It waited upon Mary’s ‘Yes’, when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that She would conceive and bear a Son and His name shall be Jesus. When Mary gave her ‘Yes’, light entered into her womb and into this world! As I meditated on entering the womb of Mary, I saw a bright light and realized that I was with Jesus, the Light of the World! I then invited Mary to form me as she was forming Jesus, in her womb. In Her womb was Love personified, joy and peace. I found myself resting in this Love, Peace and Joy! I was also aware that Jesus and Mary were asking me and all of us, to make reparation for the darkness in some mother’s wombs, caused by the sin of abortion. Too many mother’s say ‘No’ to life in their wombs, and their wombs become a place of darkness, void of love, peace and joy.”
Challenge: Rest in the womb of Mary
Lilla Marie Lottinger and Sr. Mary Clare Wax are Missionaries of Our Mother of the Eucharist, stationed in Houma, LA. There website is: www.ourmotheroftheeucharist.org. Email: email@example.com.
Pic: (l to r) Sr. Mary Clare and Lilla Marie
"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lords’ feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!
“Martha, Martha “ the Lord answered, “ you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." ~ Luke 10:38-41
Challenge: Simplify, are you Martha or Mary?
When we think about how Jesus came into the world that first Christmas, we must remember he was born in a stable, in poverty and simplicity. He came to us in a simple way and He lived simply. He has asked us to choose the better way. Let us remember the words he spoke to Martha, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Lord make us smaller and more humble, help us choose the better way so that You may be glorified!
“Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind. Steady my hurried pace. Give me, amidst the day's confusion, the calmness of the everlasting hills. Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of singing streams that live in my memory. Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep. Teach me the art of taking "minute vacations"...slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to read a few lines from a good book. Remind me of the fable of the hare and the tortoise; that the race is not always to the swift; that there is more to life than measuring its speed. Let me look up at the branches of the towering oak and know that it grew slowly and well. Inspire me to send my own roots down deep into the soil of life's endearing values...that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny. Slow me down, Lord.” (~ Wilfred Arlan Peterson)
“He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none.” (Luke 3:11)
Challenge: Clothe the naked
Jesus calls us to act, not to simply talk about it. Act on this, truly clothe the naked.
I have been blessed to be a part of a mission team in Haiti. Our mission team has helped many, we have built homes, fed the hungry, visited the sick, visited prisoners, gave drink to the thirsty and yes we clothed the naked.
I will never forget this one little boy. He would visit the Rectory daily. One day he jumped up in my lap and hugged me. He continued to sit in my lap and wouldn't let my arms stop hugging him. If I reached for another child, he would grab my hand and wrap it around his belly. It was amazing as we sat together surrounded by love. God's love. We didn't speak the same language but this language was universal.
A few minutes later, he pulled his shoes off. I looked down at his feet. He was wearing shoes that were too small for his little feet. I saw blisters all over his feet. My heart was broken. I have a closet full of shoes. Some shoes I haven't worn in years and here was this little boy who needed shoes.
After he left for the evening, I gave the priest of the community some extra money. I asked him to buy that little boy shoes, and to buy shoes for anyone else who needs them. Just a little act of kindness and so easy to do. We are so blessed to be living in such an amazing country and to have what we need. So, generous followers of Jesus, do just that. Clothe the naked!
Jesus says, " when we clothe the naked, we are clothing him." As we clothe the naked, we just may see the eyes of Jesus himself. As we help others, we are not only helping that person find comfort and dignity, but we ourselves will also be transformed by the grace of God in the process.
Open your eyes and pay attention. There is probably someone near you that needs your help. Do you have extra coats in the closet, donate those to a shelter. There is always a way to help. Pray and find your way to clothe the naked. The way that works for you.
Let us Pray,
Lord Jesus guide me, inspire me to share my possessions with others. Help me to understand and be compassionate to the children of God who need my help. Help me to see the beauty in everyone. Help me to see you Lord Jesus.
If you would like to donate to clothe the naked, my mission team will be returning to Haiti Dec 27th. Please click here to donate:
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Challenge: Say "YES" to God!
Can you imagine yourself in Mary's place? Can you imagine being visited by an angel and being asked to follow a divine plan. On that wondrous night, Mary was asked to take on something that would change her life forever....asked to accept something that she knew would cause conflict within her world. Imagine yourself there in Mary's place. Imagine the confusion within her young heart. But still, despite her fear and her questions, she accepted God's call and guidance for her life. Picture yourself in her place.....why? Because we are in that place of accepting God's call every day. There may not be an angel we can see, but someone or something is appearing in front of us daily, encouraging us forward on our spiritual journey.
Mary's acceptance of her call teaches us what it means to live by faith. Despite her fears and uncertainty, she answered "Yes". Even though she knew it would disrupt her daily course of life, she answered "Yes". Are we able to respond to God this way? As we reflect on the Annunciation and Mary's acceptance of her call, we need to reflect on our own calling from God. Every time we say the Our Father, we pray, "thy will be done". Do we really mean those words?
"Be it done unto me according to your word."
Marys beautiful answer to her call.......Can we do the same? Think about it this way. God's gifts to us, our very own talents will be brought forward in our lives when we can receive and welcome a deeper relationship with Him. He has gifted us and we need to find the courage to say “yes.” That deep friendship with God will encourage us to come alive to the world, to be true to ourselves., to be the one he formed in our mother's womb.
We may not always understand where God is leading us. We might not understand why something is happening that tests our strengths. But God has given us Mary as an example of trust and the kind of faith that isn't afraid to be inquisitive. She wanted to understand more, and so she asked the angel, “how can this be?” She needed something to hold onto. And the angel gave her what she needed to hear. ...”The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” and then the words most important of all, for Mary and for us, ...........”.for nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary embraced and welcomed God's Word in the fullest sense. No, we most likely will not have angels appearing to us on our doorsteps, but remember, we encounter God daily. We encounter God in our prayers. We encounter God in the people we meet.......God speaks to each and everyone of us in ways we, personally, can understand. Do you hear His whispers? Are you ready to say, "Yes" and accept His invitation. Are you ready to trust in His providence, even if you can't see the path ahead? Look to Mary with your questions and your fears. She knows exactly how we feel.
Pope Benedict XVI made a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Annunciation, this is the prayer he offered to the humble Blessed Mother.
"Mary, Mother of the "Yes," you listened to Jesus, and know the tone of his voice and the beating of his heart. Morning Star, speak to us of him, and tell us about your journey of following him on the path of faith."
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
By: Mary Maddox and Kathleen Aparo. A mother daughter team working for Our Lord. Your fellow pilgrims on this path.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” ~ Matthew 24:42
Challenge: Develop Patience
I was a pest as a little kid. As a two-year-old, I wanted someone to play with, and something to do, all the time. My father was trying to write his doctoral dissertation, and my mother was on a trip to the Holy Land. My father discovered a great babysitting device. He knew that the Good Humor Man and his traveling ice cream truck would come down our street every afternoon at about 4:00. Each day at noon, my dad gave me a quarter and told me to go sit on the front steps and watch for the Good Humor Man. I would sit there for four hours and never move, clutching my quarter.
I wanted to be sure I was ready when the Good Humor Man arrived.
Maybe I was slow on the uptake, but I really, really wanted to see the Good Humor Man. And so I was focused on being ready.
Being ready for someone, even though you don’t know when that person will arrive, is the heart of Jesus’s message in this passage. We cannot know when God will bring the Kingdom in its fullness—neither the angels in heaven, nor even the Son, know. Only the Father knows. All of the foolhardy predictions of the Second Coming and the world ending neglect these very clear words of Jesus.
We can, however, be prepared—and we can watch. This requires patience, because matters are not in our control. And it requires a readiness to focus on Christ throughout our lives.
How can we be prepared through patient watchfulness? As we prepare for Christmas, we can focus our attention on welcoming Christ into our lives each day, rather than getting caught up in the hoopla of our culture. We can discover opportunities to see Christ through ministry with those around us, especially the poor and vulnerable like Jesus was on that first Christmas morn. And we can, like that little two-year-old boy, be sure that we are looking for signs of the One for whom we are looking, wherever, and whenever, He arrives.
PRAYER: Come, Lord Jesus, into our world and into my life and all of our lives, with the love and grace and joy for which we yearn. Forgive us of our distractions, and help us to prepare the room to welcome you. Amen.
By: L. Gregory Jones
Source: The High Calling, www.theologyofwork.org
Message from Our Lady of Medjugorje, December 19, 1985:
"Dear children! Today I wish to call you to love of neighbor. The more you will to love your neighbor, the more you shall experience Jesus especially on Christmas Day. God will bestow great gifts on you if you surrender yourselves to Him. I wish in a special way on Christmas Day to give mothers my own special motherly blessing, and Jesus will bless the rest with His own blessing. Thank you for having responded to my call."
Challenge: Surrender yourself to Him!
It’s very human of us to want control over our lives. So when we hear the words “surrender ourselves to God” it can make us feel a bit twitchy. We think God is going to uproot us and change everything. But the only change God wants for us is to help us to find our inner happiness. He wants to plant us into our gifts, not uproot us from them. Surrendering ourselves to God happens every time we say the words, “thy will be done.” It happens every time we turn the pages of scripture looking for comfort and direction. And when we struggle to overlook a hurt, then pray for the letting go we so desperately need, a dying to self happens; we have surrendered ourselves into the Love of God. During Advent, may we surrender ourselves into the blessings Our Mother assures us are ours. ~By: Kathleen Aparo
Let us pray an
Our Father * Hail Mary* Glory Be
Excerpt from our book: Our Lady guides us to Bethlehem
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel. ~ Isaiah 7:14
Challenge: Rejoice, Emmanuel!
During this season of wonder we are given an amazing gift. The biggest gift of all, the biggest treasure of all treasures. We are called to contemplate something truly astonishing. In this stillness, in the quiet of the night we receive a message. A message of hope, peace, joy and love. Emmanuel
If we are not careful, it will pass us by. So let us, ignore the headlines, ignore all the shouting from the world. Do not listen. Ignore the taunting and in this moment, in this season be enthralled by Emmanuel.
God is with us. Emmanuel.
Close your eyes, sit in silence and take this in. Reflect on this gift. This amazing love story that is taking place right in front of you. The incarnation is the tenderest, most daring love letter ever written. So turn off that Hallmark Movie, sit and reflect on this love story which we are all a part of.
"I love you so much. I long for you. You cannot become as I am, so I will become as you are. You cannot reach Me, so I will inhabit you. There shall never be anything between us ever again. Your darkness is now My light. There is no part of you I refuse. I withhold nothing from you." ~Jennifer Hartline
Jesus came. He is born. He became one of us. Rejoice in this! There is none beside Him. Only Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. Nothing is more deserving of our attention. Whatever else is going on, fix your gaze on Emmanuel. Look with a grateful heart. Life will happen. Work, obligations and issues will need to be dealt with. Don't let Advent blow past you, don't let your worry and stress stop you from seeing and feeling the miracle of Emmanuel each and every day.
"In our pain and puzzlement, God is with us. In our sadness and yearning, God is with us. In our doubt and fear, God is with us. Through Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit, God is with us. And not just with us, but for us, beside us, before us, behind us, within us, and among us. So we are comforted, even as we pray, "O Come, O come, Emmanuel." ~ source: thetheologyofwork.org
Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm
all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!
As I sang this song in the grotto where Our Lord Savior Jesus Christ was born, the words came to life. I had just waited in line to visit the birth place of Jesus. As I waited in line, I started down the stairs and into the grotto; you could feel the presence of Our Lord. A chill started to fill the air. Was it the coolness of the grotto or was it the Holy Spirit which was all around us. I imagine it was a little of both. I waited in anticipation, just as we wait during advent. I took the stairs, one by one. As I waited, I could see everyone in deep prayer. Wondering, what will I do as I touch the birthplace of Our Lord? What will I say to him? I couldn’t wait to get there. As I arrived to the birthplace, we were each given time to kneel down and touch the star which was the spot of Jesus’ birth. I knelt, I reached out and I cried. I cried and kept saying thank you, thank you, thank you. All the thoughts and ideas that I thought of as we came down the stairs were gone and all I could do is say Thank you. As I stepped back into the grotto, our group gathered and we sang Silent Night. I couldn’t even get the first line out, I broke down and cried tears of Joy.
These are the tears of joy we should feel each and every day. The tears of Joy Our Lady of Medjugorje promises us, “if you knew how much I loved you, you’d cry for joy.” These tears of joy our gifts from Our Lord, if we knew how much He loved us we would cry tears of joy. We were given such a big gift on Christmas day, we were given Jesus. Jesus who loves us, who guides us and who forgives us; Jesus who comes to us every time we go to Mass in the Eucharist; let us give back to Jesus. Let us say Thank you.
This Christmas and throughout the year, let us say Thank you. Let us say thank you by giving to the Lord.
What better way to say thank you, than to give gifts to others. Let us share His love with others. So give your love! Give of yourself! Share the love and sweetness of Jesus through the light of your eyes. Give that loving look, give those kind words and give that good deed. Be like Jesus to others, give that Love.
What better way to live Christmas each and every day. Live in His love, share in His love and feel the peace and joy in His love.
Challenge: Be like Jesus to others
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” ~ John 14:27
Challenge: Create your inner Peace.
“Set peace of mind as your highest goal, and organize your life around it.” ~Brian Tracy
Peace is not a destination, it's not something we chase or find. Peace is always available. No need to go running after it but it does take effort. This effort entails consciously choosing "to be still".
What happens in our life will always affect our mental state, but we don't have to let those circumstances control our mental state. We need to make tiny choices for our own well-being. We need to choose peace. Its easy to get caught up in worries and stresses. Sometimes we can feel like that is the only available response to the things happening.
It's not, there are many ways to create peace of mind.
It might mean slowing down. Being present in this moment, and showing up in our own lives. Becoming reflective and daring to be more self-aware. Maybe we need to let go of too many activities. Allow time to read, pray, breathe and walk. Welcome this focus on peace. Let go of harmful ways and patterns. Less doing and more being.
A Prayer for Peace of Mind
Almighty God, We bless you for our lives, we give you praise for your abundant mercy and grace we receive. We thank you for your faithfulness even though we are not that faithful to you. Lord Jesus, we ask you to give us all around peace in our mind, body, soul and spirit. We want you to heal and remove everything that is causing stress, grief, and sorrow in our lives.
Please guide our path through life and make our enemies be at peace with us. Let your peace reign in our family, at our place of work, businesses and everything we lay our hands on.
Let your angels of peace go ahead of us when we go out and stay by our side when we return. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Other ways for inner peace:
"Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be." ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer
Let Me Not Keep Christmas
"Let me not wrap, stack, box, bag, tie, tag, bundle, seal, keep Christmas.
Christmas kept is liable to mold.
Let me give Christmas away, unwrapped, by exuberant armfuls. Let me share, dance, live Christmas unpretentiously, merrily, responsibly with overflowing hands, tireless steps and sparkling eyes.
Christmas given away will stay fresh—even until it comes again."
~Linda Felver, A Book of Christmas, Nashville: Upper Rooms, 1988, p. 48
Challenge: Give drink to the thirsty.
When we think of this work of mercy, we can take it literally or figuratively. Let us pray on this and let God guide us to the one in need.
The "thirsty" may be that person thats needs are met by words and deeds. The "thirsty" may be that working poor of our own community who labor in the farm fields. The "thirsty" may be the person at the coffee shop who needs a little hope. The "thirsty" may be a friend with a special needs child who thirsts for compassion, understanding and needs an ear. The "thirsty" may be in your family, give your attention to the ones nearby. The "thirsty" may be your coworker who needs a friend.
We have the responsibility to become the hands and feet of Christ. To give the living water to those in need.
Let us pray daily that our eyes will be open to see the need and quench the thirst of the needy.
Take Time to be Aware
"Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present.
"An old abbot was fond of saying, ‘The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.’
"The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all."
~Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac, p. 196
Challenge: Visit those in Need. Visit a nursing home/someone alone or a sick neighbor.
“I was sick, and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:36)
By Father Donald Calloway, MIC
Another translation of this work of mercy is to “comfort” the sick. In all cases, the first step is reaching out to those in need. Whether they are physically ailing or “sick at heart” from social isolation, being forgotten, or missing the basic human need of friendship, just a visit can be healing. One beautiful aspect of this corporal act of mercy is that it does not require wealth, research, skills, experience, or even travel: There are lonely people near most of us in nursing homes, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.
You might still be wondering what you should do when you visit the sick. I know I did. I remember during my first year of seminary, I was on vacation and a neighbor came over and said that his elderly mother was on her deathbed. My neighbor asked me if I could “do something.” I told him I wasn’t a priest yet, but that I would be more than willing to visit with his mother. I really didn’t know what to do other than spend time visiting and praying with the family. What I discovered when I got there was that she was not at peace because she had not lived a holy life. My response was to turn to the Divine Mercy Chaplet and pray it by her bedside. Since the family did not know how to pray it, I prayed it out loud. What happened next was amazing. Right in front of all of us in the room, the dying woman went from torturous agony and fear of death to a peaceful and happy countenance. Immediately after the Divine Mercy Chaplet was finished, she passed away. I can’t help but think that the Lord took her soul to himself with a loving embrace at that very moment. To this day, the encounter remains one of the most powerful events I have ever experienced. It proved to me that visiting the sick and praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for them is extremely powerful.
Just being present and praying is all that is needed. Visit, sit with the person, and pray. That’s all there is to it!
What is Divine Mercy?
The Divine Mercy Message and Devotion
The message of The Divine Mercy is simple. It is that God loves us – all of us. And, he wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy.
The Divine Mercy message is one we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC:
A - Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.
B - Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.
C - Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.
This message and devotion to Jesus as The Divine Mercy is based on the writings of Saint Faustina Kowalska, an uneducated Polish nun who, in obedience to her spiritual director, wrote a diary of about 600 pages recording the revelations she received about God's mercy. Even before her death in 1938, the devotion to The Divine Mercy had begun to spread.
The message and devotional practices proposed in the Diary of Saint Faustina and set forth in this web site and other publications of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception are completely in accordance with the teachings of Church and are firmly rooted in the Gospel message of our Merciful Savior. Properly understood and implemented, they will help us grow as genuine followers of Christ.
Spend time to learn more about the mercy of God, learn to trust in Jesus, and live your life as merciful to others, as Christ is merciful to you.
How to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet
Christmas Eve Prayer
"Give us, O God, the vision which can see Your love in the world in spite of human failure.
Give us the faith to trust Your goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness.
Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts.
And show us what each one of us can do to set forward the coming of the day of universal peace." ~ Frank Borman, Apollo 8 space mission, 1968
Challenge: Don't judge others, spread peace and love. Smile at everyone you meet.
“Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.” ~Sri Chinmoy
Our journey. Our growth. On this path of faith, we are all looking to "work on our stuff", "to grow and learn and find oneself". Whatever you may call it, it is all the same. We are on this journey together.
A pattern we can easily fall into without realizing it, is to judge others because they are not in the same place. They aren't going to church, they aren't praying the rosary, they aren't saying nice things and the list can go on! When we are seeking to change ourselves and grow, we tend to comment and seek change in others. We think we know what is right for the other person. When the truth is we are trying to figure out what is right for us.
This criticizing behavior for the most part is keeping us from discerning our own behavior. It is a distraction from what we need to hear and learn for our own growth.
We need to be aware of these thoughts, become more knowledgeable about our internal criticizers and pray. Hopefully our judgments will diminish. We must keep control of our tongue and our thoughts. Once you stop worrying about and judging everyone else, your mind and your body will have this extra space and energy it needs to allow further growth.
We also will realize that those criticizing thoughts were not only about others but are a constant stream of internal dialogue that is critical of ourselves. Pay attention, be kind to others and be kind to yourself! "Your outer world is a reflection of the inner world".
When we judge others it is an extension of self-judgment. Sometimes we don't even recognize what we are doing. So pull back the curtain and look within. Look deep, sit and listen. Start the path of being nonjudgmental today. Smile at everyone you meet and hold your tongue and ask God to change those thoughts.
A priest once told me in confession, "when you think of that person, think of their best quality, this will take the place of the negative thought or feeling you are feeling"
Change is difficult but with the help of God we can do this. Say your prayers and ask for the strength to change the patterns of your thoughts and give praise to others and to yourselves.
Memory Awakens Hope
"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.…
It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope." ~ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Seek That Which Is Above, 1988
Challenge: Pray for healing among your family, friends and the world!
As the doors of hope open this advent, let us pray for our own healing and healing for our family, friends and for the world. May people who walk in darkness hope for a healing light.
"We find that healing hope also expressed at the heart of Psalm 121: "I lift up my eyes unto the hills; from where will my help come?" We sit with the people of the Psalm in the valleys of our hurt and despair, and we look for the help that will come over the hill. We affirm -- again and again -- until we know it to be true: "Our help comes from God, who made heaven and earth... God will keep you from all evil; God will keep your life. God will keep your going out and your coming in, from this time on and forevermore." ~ Rev. Scott Clark
During this advent season, what is your healing hope?
St. Augustine wrote, “Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to His love, and the future to His providence.” Its not easy to live by these words, but it is what is needed if we want to move on with our lives.
Let us pray for the healing of memories and the healing of our family trees. Psalm 22 is a great prayer for healing of memories. You may pray this for yourself, your family tree or others.
This Psalm unites us to Jesus on the cross. As we pray this we need to be honest with the hurt we feel within us. Then at the end our prayer is praising God for his goodness to us.
Pray it slowly, inviting God into your memories and asking him to place his healing hand upon your head and heart.
"Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset." ~ St, Francis de Sales
Challenge: Keep today Holy. Slow down, unplug and be present
To help make Sunday holy, you need to delegate time to focus on what you have instead of searching for something new. Make Sunday, your day to disconnect from work and technology so you can reconnect with family and friends and even time to reconnect with oneself. Listen to your internal voice instead of the external noise.
Turn off and tune in. Be present in the moment. Engage with others. Do things you love. On this day:
"One of the most challenging parts of observing the Sabbath in today’s day and age is overcoming a dependence on instant gratification and distraction. The Internet makes it possible for us to feed most of our wants and needs now—whether looking for a recipe, buying a new swimsuit, or checking the weather. Technology has also made it easier than ever to numb our emotions and distract us from anxieties. Social media—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest—television, 24 hours “news” coverage, and blogs all give us an easy outlet for distraction so we don’t have to endure discomfort, whether within ourselves or amongst others." ~Christine Organ
So on this day, let us unplug. Let us remove all distractions one day a week. Let us find comfort within ourselves, gain self awareness and figure out how to work through, not around our problems. By disconnecting, we are able to slow down, disconnect from the frenetic pace of technology to reconnect with the sacredly simple. This will allow us to see and savor the goodness in the present moment. When we are present, in that moment, this is where we will find the calm and a mild exhilaration in the stillness and the quiet and the waiting.
The season of Advent reminds us to be bearers of God, to be people that allow God’s work and word to be present in the world.
We stop, as the days get shorter and shorter, to pause and remember that God chooses us, just like he chose that homeless unmarried teenage mom, to be bearers of God’s peace and love in a frantic and painful world. To choose to be Christian is to choose to make room to rejoice, reflect, and relate to people as incarnations of God.
To choose to be Christian is to try to become a Godbearer too, to make space for God to do God’s work through us.
Especially in the middle of the holidays, we make room for Advent worship–to remember why we do this, to remember that we are a faith of incarnation, to prepare the space in ourselves that helps us remember God in all the stuff we have to do.
Challenge: Go to Church, be reverent and ready
"Lord, open our eyes, that we may see you in our brothers and sisters. Lord, open our ears, that we may hear the cries of the hungry, the cold, the frightened, the oppressed. Lord, open our hearts, that we may love each other as you love us. Renew in us your spirit. Lord, free us and make us one."
Called to be Witnesses
"We are called to be witnesses of God’s by the love we extend to others; precursors of his justice by our unfailing commitment to what is right and good; lamps reflecting the light of God’s Christ in our forgiveness, mercy and compassion; harvesters of souls through our humble and dedicated servant hood." ~ CONNECTIONS, 12-11-94
Challenge: Show Mercy, Be extra kind no matter what happens today!
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matt. 5:7)
An old man was walking the beach early one morning, bending down to pick up starfish and throwing them out into the ocean. A teenager came by and asked, "Old man, what are you doing?"
How can we implement Mercy into our everyday life?
First, you must see the one who needs mercy. Pray that God will give you eyes to see the person who needs your help. Slow down and pay attention to everyone you meet.
Second, if you desire to show mercy, you must let your feelings play a significant role. Let the emotion of compassion influence your behavior and not what you think you know.
Third, a person of compassion doesn't just think about doing something—he or she takes action. The merciful person moves outside of his or her own hurt to alleviate the hurt in another. The merciful person spends his resources to make someone else's life better.
Sometimes we may justify our failure to show mercy by saying, "Well, I just can't help everybody." That's true. But God has put people in your life whom you can help. Do you see them? Do you feel for them? Are you doing anything on their behalf? Those who give mercy will also receive it ... from God.
The Christmas Woman
"Luke’s Gospel account of the Christmas event is full of activity…And yet, in the middle of the frenetic action, here is this woman wrapped in mystical silence…She demonstrates the necessity of a quiet place within ourselves at Christmastime—that place where we are most ourselves in relation to God.
"It is a place of silence, not because it is untouched by all the activity of our lives, but because it is capable of wonder. Every prayer begins with silent wonder before it turns to words. Our first response to God is dumbstruck awe at who he is and what he has done for us." ~ William Frebuger, "Making Christmas a Saving Event," Catholic Update, 12-85
"For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken" (Psalm 62:1–2).
Challenge: Find Silence! Find your prayer time to sit with God!
Centering Prayer is a receptive method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God's presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer - verbal, mental or affective prayer - into a receptive prayer of resting in God. Centering Prayer emphasizes prayer as a personal relationship with God and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Christ.
Lectio Divina, literally meaning "divine reading," is an ancient practice of praying the Scriptures. During Lectio Divina, the practitioner listens to the text of the Bible with the "ear of the heart," as if he or she is in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion. The method of Lectio Divina includes moments of reading (lectio), reflecting on (meditatio), responding to (oratio) and resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God with the aim of nourishing and deepening one's relationship with the Divine.
Source: ~ http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org
Pray the Rosary:
The word Rosary means "Crown of Roses". Each time we say a Hail Mary we are giving Our Lady a beautiful rose. So when we complete the Rosary we have made her a crown of roses. The Holy Rosary is considered a perfect prayer because within it lies the awesome story of our salvation. The Rosary is a meditative prayer. We meditate the mysteries of joy, of sorrow, of luminous and the glory of Jesus and Mary. It's a simple prayer, humble so much like Mary. It's a prayer we can all say together with Her, the Mother of God. She joins Her prayer to ours. Its a powerful prayer. In every apparition, the heavenly Mother has invited us to say the Rosary as a powerful weapon against evil, to bring us to true peace. With your prayer made together with Your heavenly Mother, you can obtain the great gift of bringing about a change of hearts and conversion.
This Advent find your prayer time. Find your prayerful path, whatever that may be. We have the opportunity to experience an “unworldly interior peace,” which is found in Christ. It all begins by creating space and time for God to enter our lives. This is what Advent is all about, it is a season of anticipation and waiting on God. A time for focused spiritual discipline. This is our challenge! Resist the temptation to fill our lives and our hearts with worldly things. Fill your hearts with Christ, experience the most beautiful gift of all - Christ Himself, God, the Savior of the world!
Meanings of Christmas
"It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from the commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the enfleshing of God—the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people—kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people—no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush…" ~ Fr. Andrew Greeley, Womans Day, Dec 1981
"Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today…" Hebrews 3:13
Challenge: Love People not things! Think of 5 people who are a blessing to you. Send these 5 people a note or a phone call and show your appreciation and love!
Friends hold a special place in our hearts, not just because of the good times we share but also for the bonds that are formed when we go through pain and adversity holding each other up. Whoever they are and wherever they are, thank them for their love and uplift them with appreciation and love. Step outside your comfort zone of friends, send a message to a person who touched you in a special way. Everyone needs encouragement, appreciation and love, be that friend, be that brother or sister in Christ. Appreciation is having admiration for others and communicating your approval to them! It's taking the time to make people feel special. You can do this by using the fruit of God's work in you to encourage and uplift others.
Let go of oneself, let go of pride and truly look deep inside and see the people God has placed in your life to help you. Let us be thankful for all these people. Without them we would not be where we are today. Remember yesterdays challenge, forgiveness? Forgive a friend and send a word of love. Let us remember to encourage each other and share this love with others.
"Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts." Alan Cohen
"Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide and where the birth of the Prince of Peace might take place.
"Daily we can make an Advent examination. Are there any feelings of discrimination toward race, sex, or religion? Is there a lingering resentment, an unforgiven injury living in our hearts? Do we look down upon others of lesser social standing or educational achievement? Are we generous with the gifts that have been given to us, seeing ourselves as their stewards and not their owners? Are we reverent of others, their ideas and needs, and of creation? These and other questions become Advent lights by which we may search the deep, dark corners of our hearts.
~ An Advent Examination, Edward Hays, A Pilgrim's Almanac, p. 196
"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven
the inexcusable in you." ~ C.S. Lewis
Challenge: Forgive others and forgive yourself ...
Forgiveness is an ongoing process, day by day. By praying often, you will find strength to forgive the person who hurt you. We are all human, we all make mistakes. When angry feelings about the person who's harmed you enter your mind, remember: We are all children of God, we are all good and loving children who are finding their way. Pray for this person to find peace and love in their hearts so that they can make their way back to the loving child of God they are meant to be.
Forgive them Father for they know not what they do!
Never does the Bible talk about the idea of “forgiving yourself.” Yet we must forgive ourselves to move forward. We are told to forgive others when they trespass against us and seek forgiveness. We don't like to think of our sins, yet we are all sinners. When we ask for God’s forgiveness, He forgives us. It is as simple as that. However, we seem to hold onto that sin and sometimes choose to wallow in it and act as though we are not freed from it. We have a chose to make, we can accept the fact that we are forgiven in Christ, or we can believe the devil’s lie that we are still guilty and should therefore feel guilty. The Bible says that when God forgives us, He “remembers our sins no more". So again here is the chose, we can choose to dwell upon our past sins with the resulting guilty feelings, or we can choose to fill our minds with thoughts of the awesome God who forgave us and thank and praise Him for it. Remembering our sins is only beneficial when it reminds us of the extent of God’s forgiveness and makes it easier for us to forgive others.
"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (Mark 11:25). "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37).
May we make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide and where the birth of the Prince of Peace might take place!
Prayerful Path/Mary Maddox
Saint James, pray for us that we may be willing to leave everything to follow Jesus as you did. Help us to become special friends of Jesus as you were. Amen