Make a New Year’s Resolution with the Holy Family

Holy Family into Egypt

If you haven’t made a New Year’s resolution yet, or even if you have, the Holy Family has something to offer you. This year, New Year’s Eve happened to fall on the Feast of the Holy Family, which provided an excellent opportunity for me to reflect on this humble family, and to consider what they can teach us regarding the resolutions we usually make.

As I thought about the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and all they went through, one thing kept coming back to my mind over and over again. A virtue that I noticed they all possessed. A quality that seems to be lacking in our world, and something that God has challenged me personally to work on. It is something most people don’t like, and it is usually considered a vice rather than a virtue. What is it you may wonder? What trait did all members of the Holy Family have, but we need to work on? Obedience. It is the virtue of obedience.

Ouch! The word has a bite to it I know. Mainly because we value our individual freedom and independence. We want to do things our way. We ask selfish questions such as “Is this in my best interest?” Or “What’s in it for me?” Imagine if Mary told the Angel Gabriel that becoming pregnant before she was married to Joseph was not in her best interest? Or if Joseph told God after the angel visited him in a dream that there was nothing beneficial for him in this big mess and that he was bailing ship? Even though what was happening to them didn’t make sense, they trusted in the Lord and obeyed.

Mary’s words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to our word.” (Lk1:38) is a beautiful example of obedience. She obeyed “blindly,” having faith that God knew what was best. And Joseph gives us a good example of immediate obedience. After Jesus was born, an angel came to him in a dream at night and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you: for Herod is about to search for the child and destroy him.” (Mt 2:13) Joseph rose and took Jesus and Mary immediately out by night on the long journey to Egypt.

Jesus also showed obedience in his childhood- to Mary and Joseph, and then on into his adulthood. For example, when Jesus was experiencing tremendous agony in the garden before his crucifixion. He pleads with his heavenly Father “If you are willing, remove this chalice from me; nevertheless, not my will be done, but yours.” Lk (22:42) Not my will be done, but yours. That was the prevalent motto of the Holy Family. Accepting the will of God with total obedience to their Father.

The Holy Family is a model for us to imitate. Obedience is something we can all work on. So, I invite you to join me in working on obedience in 2018. It won’t be easy, but with help from the Holy Family we can grow in this virtue. One way to bring the virtue of obedience with you into this new year is to reflect on something that you struggle with obeying. Maybe you struggle with following a teaching of the faith. You just don’t “get it,” or you think that following the teaching is not really in your “best interest.” Your prayer can be God, it is hard for me to be obedient. Please help me to trust like Joseph. Help me to say yes like Mary, and help me to do your will like Jesus.

Or maybe this New Year instead of asking yourself, “What can I do to become a better person this year?” Why not ask God, “Lord, what do you want me to do this year to become a better person?” Yes, ask him to let you know what New Year’s resolution you should make! Then listen; be attentive. He will let you know.

Truth be told, saying YES to God’s plan and saying no to your own plan is difficult. It is a yes to love, but also a yes to sacrifice and hardship. It will be hard to confront our seemingly unyielding defiance towards obedience. So prayer; the quiet listening kind, like in silent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, is paramount in this undertaking. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to God’s grace, then amazing things will happen. For his plans for us are way, way bigger and better than any plans that we can create or imagine for ourselves.

Know that if you make a New Year’s resolution with the Holy Family regarding obedience, you will have the best teachers in the world as your companions through these next 12 months. And though it will be a demanding and challenging journey, take to heart what the angel told Mary-it is a message for all of us. That “nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) With God being the key words. We can’t do this on our own.

May God shower us with grace as we strive to grow in this virtue.

Have a blessed (and obedient) New Year everyone!

Stretch Out Your Arms

Stretch Out Your Arms

One of my favorite things about going to Mass during the Christmas season is seeing the nativity set. My most favorite piece, the one that always mesmerizes me, is the infant Jesus.

The infant Jesus at our church has his arms extended – reaching out with love to embrace us – as if the baby already knows his role. His arms reaching out to serve, his hands ready to heal. The young arms of this child will grow and stretch out on a cross to show us how much he loves us. The tiny hands of this babe will have bloody holes in them to save us. That’s what I always saw. The beautiful Christ Child reaching out to me and showering me with his love.   A love that I joyfully accepted, but usually kept for myself.

Then, a few years ago, it changed.

No, they did not change the nativity set. All the figures and the baby Jesus were the exact ones they had always used. But this particular Christmas I saw something different when I looked at the Christ Child with his arms outstretched.

Infant Jesus looked at me and pleaded with me, “Will you embrace me? I need you to pick me up and love me.”  The “me” I realized he was referring to was all those in my life who I was struggling with loving. Jesus wanted me to embrace his love, and then share it with others. The Baby was inviting me to change; to stretch out and give his love to those who needed it most.

So consider this when looking upon the infant Jesus in the manger this Christmas:

  • Yes! Embrace and accept his love, but don’t stop there….
  • Ask yourself–Who does that meek and helpless baby represent? Who in my life needs me to embrace them with the love of the Christ Child?
  • Then stretch out your arms and ask for the grace to do it.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

Look East

Look East SUNRISE

My body screamed for more sleep. It was pitch black and very quiet. Why did I agree to get up so early on our girls weekend away? My friend had pleaded with me to wake up and watch the sunrise on the porch of the beach house we were staying at. She knew I was a single mom who was tired and ragged from working a full time job, cooking, cleaning house, taking care of the yard, and running around all busy with my children’s school and sports activities, so why not let me get some long needed rest?

When we first arrived she asked me if I had ever seen the sun rise on the beach. After I told her that I hadn’t, she became passionate about convincing me to get up early. As she talked, I heard something in my friend’s voice that intrigued me- a peaceful joy as she told me the simple plan for the morning, and I found myself agreeing that I would join her. She had never steered me wrong before.

But now, under the warmth of my covers, everything was telling me to stay in bed on this cold December morning and blow off the whole idea. All the other ladies were still asleep and I could roll over and be snoozing again in two seconds. Then I faintly heard my friend slipping on her shoes not far from me and I sighed. I had made a promise, and she was almost ready. So I mustered up what little energy I had and got out of bed.

Before long we were on the porch swing, looking out at the dark ocean with no sign of the sun yet. Not even a sliver. I waited and waited. Nothing. Nothing but a black sky and slow rolling waves that were lulling me back to sleep. I started to nod off, but the squeak of the swing and its hard cold wooden slats wouldn’t let me. My friend was silent; waiting patiently, seemingly content. I on the other was impatient. Thoughts raced through my head. When was this going to happen? Why did she have us wake up so early? How are my kids doing with me away? What am I going to get them for Christmas with virtually no money? And so on…

My eyes strained to see something on the horizon-anything. Maybe clouds were covering the sun. I scanned the vast waters from left to right, my eyes getting used to the darkness, but I could not make out any clouds. Maybe I was looking in the wrong direction. What was the right direction!? Then the words of a song from Mass the week before came back to me… people look east, the time is near…I glanced at my friend out of the corner of my eye, who I knew would be looking east, and strived to mimic her peaceful posture; unfortunately though, the ashy sky was still barren of any hint of light.

More lyrics floated through my head- stars keep the watch when night is dim and people look east and sing today, Love the Star is on the way. And I realized, that’s exactly what we were doing! Looking east, keeping watch in the dim night, and looking for the sun, our star to rise.

Slowly I began to settle into the still greyness all around me and started noticing things- the fresh smell of the salt water, the gentle wind that was brushing wisps of my hair, and sound of the waves caressing the sand. Then the song playing again, and those words, Love the Star is on the way. And I thought; my Lord and my God…MY LOVE was on the way! And not just in a sunrise, but as a babe into this world, for Christmas was just around the corner. The swing that seemed so cold and hard earlier now felt warm and cozy, and I laughed at the sight of a sandpiper leaving his tiny footprints all over the sand as he scampered after his breakfast.

After enjoying the bird’s antics for a while, I looked east again. It was different. Something was happening. The darkness was slowly fading. A faint hue lingered along the line where the sky and the water kissed. I kept my eyes on the horizon not wanting to miss a thing. There was a definite glow in the east.  Yes, Love the Star was on the way.

What unfolded that morning is beyond words. There were no clouds to shield the view. No trees or mountains or buildings in the way. No rumble from traffic, or airplanes. Only endless sky and water and the soft sounds of nature. And entering into this masterpiece was an orb of light, so radiant and splendid. So colorful and warm. So perfect and peaceful. Love the Star was reflecting on the water, and a golden beam stretched all the way out, in a straight beeline towards me, touching me with the words… this is for you! The healing rays melted my dark worries away. I now felt the peace and joy that I heard in my friend’s voice the night before and was so very glad she convinced me to wake up early, for a love story was being written before my eyes and in my heart.

I thought of the other ladies still asleep in the beach house that was missing this work of art. I thought of the vast majority of people that were in this hemisphere, still asleep and not experiencing this sunrise. Not unlike the night Christ was born. Most everyone slept through it, and didn’t realize that an incredibly amazing thing was happening. But the sky knew. The stable animals knew. The angles knew and told the shepherds. And a few wise men anticipated. Do we know? Do we really know what an incredibly amazing thing happened out east over two thousand years ago?

We must be careful not to sleep through Christmas. Don’t miss what this day is all about. God so loved us, that he sent his only son to be our light in this dark world. He did this for us.

So as we grow close to the birth of our Sun of Justice, the birth of Love the Star, remember to take the time and

Look east.

For the time is near.

And listen to the babe. He is saying,

“This is for you!”

Precious in My Eyes

Apple of My Eye

I couldn’t wait to get out of the elevator. When the doors finally opened I darted down the hall and into the room where my new grandson had just been born. My eyes instantly found him, and my breath was taken away. He was so beautiful! So tiny. So perfect. His black hair was all wet and curly. I kissed his head; he smelled so fresh and pure. His skin was softer than velvet. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. My arms ached to hold him. I stayed close, soaking in everything I could about him and longing for the moment when I could embrace him.

Finally, he was there, in my arms. His weak wobbly body totally dependent upon my hands as I cradled him. He started gurgling and cooing, and then — his slate blue eyes looked straight into mine! My heart melted.  My soul soared. A smile as big as the universe spread across my face and I cooed back to him saying, oh sweet, sweet little one; You are so precious! You are such a gift! You are the apple of my eye!

It was a couple of days later when I was holding my precious grandson again, gazing upon his beauty and in total awe of him, that a whisper of scripture came to me. “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4) As I looked with loving eyes upon my grandson, I sensed something sacred……there were eyes looking at ME! The loving eyes of Aba, my Father.  And a tender message; You, my daughter, are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” God was telling me that I was the apple of his eye!   I thought of the intense love I had for my new grandson, and realized that my Heavenly Father has that same strong love for me! Only more! Much, much more! More than I could imagine, and I was blown away.

He looks at me, with tender eyes?

He sees me pure and beautiful?

He gazes upon me with love?

He longs to embrace me?

He stays close by, soaking me in?

He holds me carefully, tenderly?

He can’t take his eyes off me?

The answer is YES! Yes, yes and yes! Yes, because I am precious in his sight. Yes, because I am his beloved daughter. Yes, because I am the apple of his eye. And here is the best part…God doesn’t just love me this way, He loves ALL his children, with this deep, passionate, eternal love.  Whether they are brand new innocent babies, or older tainted adults.

So, know that The Eyes of Love look upon us all and say the same thing…

Oh sweet, sweet one,

You are precious in my eyes, and honored,

and I love you!

Precious in My Eyes

Share and Grow? -or- Bury in a Hole?

Share and Grow Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel

Can you imagine a financial advisor taking his client’s money that he is supposed to invest and burying it in the ground? Or a car salesman going off to hide “in a hole” when a customer comes to him wanting to purchase an automobile?  Sounds absurd, doesn’t it?  Both would be without a job real soon.  In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells his disciples a parable that addresses this very issue. Continue reading