Human or Spiritual?

I really enjoy Eastertime. It is really brought to life when we read the Acts of the Apostles every day! It also brings to life what they did and what we should be doing. A couple of verses before today’s readings in Acts people would bring their sick and lay them in the street hoping that at least Peter’s shadow would fall upon them and they would be healed (and they were). Folks, is that great or what? 

It is no wonder then that the Sadducees  became jealous of those involved and threw them in prison. We know that the Lord had a different plan for them. That day, an Angel let them out. They went to the temple and did exactly what they were told to do, preach the Good News. 

Have you or I ever failed to do what God has asked us to do? For me, I would have to say yes. There are two ways to solve a problem like this: humanly or spiritually. We are confronted every day with a myriad of problems, some big and some small. But we need to make decisions on every one of them. I am reminded of a time a few years ago. A coworker came into my office and was perplexed as to what color to paint his house. He and his wife had gone through many color chips and just couldn’t agree on a color. I asked him if he had prayed about it. “What?!” he said. “God doesn’t give a rip about what color my house is!” “Not true”, I said. “He does care. He cares about everything.” He replied with something like, “Whatever!” then threw his hands up in the air and walked out. I never did hear how that turned out. 

I entered the business world knowing nothing about the business world. It was very stressful to say the least. Little by little I learned that saying a short prayer before jumping in on something really made a difference. 

We have hundreds of thoughts going through our minds every day. We have plenty of opportunities to ask the Lord what would be most pleasing to him. Let us remember the apostles. The world told them to stop…and God told them to go! You may say, well, they had an Angel to help them! So do you. Your Guardian Angel. Put him to work! He will help you to do the right thing. 

Serving with joy! 

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Deacon Dan Schneider is a retired general manager of industrial distributors. He and his wife Vicki recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They are the parents of eight children and twenty-nine grandchildren. He has a degree in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. He was ordained a Permanent Deacon in 2002.  He has a passion for working with engaged and married couples and his main ministry has been preparing couples for marriage.

Featured Image Credit: Ralph, Skirr, https://unsplash.com/photos/5WWkAYZgw7U

Change In Community

Imagine a parish where you walk in and are greeted at the door by a smiling face who welcomes you and directs you to a seat that is reserved just for you. Imagine that those around you aren’t interested in your political ideals or viewpoints on hot topic issues, but they are just grateful to meet you and welcome you into God’s house. Keep imagining, if you will, a place where everyone can freely worship God the way that fits their spirituality, without being mocked or scorned, but they can just be with Jesus in the way they most prefer. Imagine a place where the full truth is preached with conviction, despite what the consequences may be. Imagine someone who is willing to walk through the mess of your life and not judge you or condemn you, but also not leave you in the filth of your sin, but help guide you to the truth.

Sound like a place you have ever been? The reality is that what I just described should be what every Christian church looks like. The question is, do they? Let’s read through the First Reading today and really reflect on it in light of the questions I just asked.

“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Thus Joseph, also named by the Apostles Barnabas (which is translated ‘son of encouragement’), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the Apostles.” -Acts 4:32-37

So what can we say about this reading? As I read through it what stood out was how this is what Jesus wants us to look like as Christian communities. This is what he wants your church to look like. So the simple question is, what can we do to make it more like this? Are we giving of our time, talent, and treasure to help those around us? Are we trying to sow unity while also standing firm with the truth. Are we like Jesus who gave the fullness of mercy to the woman caught in adultery and then promptly said to sin no more? Let’s make a commitment today to be the change. Preaching the Gospel through our actions with the people God has given us. From all of us here at Rodzinka Ministry, God bless!

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Tommy Shultz is the Founder/Director of Rodzinka Ministry and the Director of Faith Formation for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative. In these roles, he is committed to bringing all those he meets into a deeper relationship with Christ. Tommy has a heart and flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. With a degree in Theology from Franciscan University, Tommy hopes to use his knowledge to help all people understand the beauty of The Faith. Contact Tommy at tommy@rodzinkaministry.com or check out his website at rodzinkaministry.com.

Feature Image Credit: Cathopic, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/5323-luz-iglesia

Death to Life

“Every baptized person should consider that it is in the womb of the Church where he is transformed from a child of Adam to a child of God.”– St. Vincent Ferrer – 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus that “unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” and, after Nicodemus expresses his confusion, Jesus continues by saying that “unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God”.  Jesus is talking about the importance of Baptism. In order to enter the Kingdom of God, we must first die to ourselves and be reborn in the Holy Spirit. This rebirth is not solely our Baptism that only happens once, but it should be a continual renewal of our Baptismal promises. We ought to be rejecting Satan, and all his works, and his empty promises every day of our lives. We should be confessing our faith in God and His mercy – in word and action – every day of our lives. This is what we celebrate during the Easter season. The Risen Lord is always in our midst and our lives should be a reflection of His presence. 

Being born in the Spirit, being baptized in the Christian faith demands a life radically lived. Our faith does not call us to complacency, it does not call us to mediocrity. Rather, it calls us to participate in the radical love the Father has for us. We are made to be part of a love so great that the Father sent His only Son to die for us so that we may be united eternally with Him in His Heavenly Kingdom. It is for that reason that we are to continue to rejoice in the Easter miracle that is the Resurrection of our Savior, Christ Jesus. It is only through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection that we are able to be born again into His love. 

As we continue through this Easter season, may we commit ourselves to continual renewal in the Holy Spirit. May we be willing to die to ourselves in order to be reborn in the Father’s love for us.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: Luis Ca, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/7607-bautismo-senor

Divine Mercy

In today’s First Reading in Acts, it is noted that following Jesus’ resurrection, the Church was one. This was what God had always intended. One heart, one mind, one body, one soul.

The common theme reflected in Psalm 118 is  “His mercy endures forever.” God’s love is everlasting. In the Divine Mercy Chaplet we pray, “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world”.

Jesus came for sinners. To have compassion on us and forgive us. To save souls. Our strength and our courage is the LORD, our Savior! Give thanks!

May the Holy Spirit fill each of us with the joy of the Easter message.

Let us live boldly, as the Apostles did following Christ’s resurrection, recognizing that we are indeed saved.

Let us be steadfast to the Lord, keeping his Commandments through the trials and tribulations we face.

Let us be in peace with one another, just as Jesus reconciled with us, appearing to the Apostles, “Peace be with you.”

Let us pray that our love increases for Christ as well as each other every day. 

As reflected through the message of the Divine Mercy, Jesus, I trust in You.

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Dr. Alexis Dallara-Marsh is a board-certified neurologist who practices in Bergen County, NJ. She is a wife to her best friend, Akeem, and a mother of two little ones on Earth and two others in heaven above.

Feature Image Credit: Juan Diego Camarillo, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/22408-divina-misericordia

The Eighth Day?

Alleluia! It’s still Easter!

Every year, I marvel at the reality that we prepare for Easter with 40 days of penitence, and then celebrate the magnificence of Christ’s Resurrection for 50 days! And every day of the Octave of Easter (from Easter through Divine Mercy Sunday) is like Easter Sunday, liturgically speaking. It is one long day of rejoicing, encompassing the “first day of the week” (the day of Christ’s resurrection from the dead) and the “eighth day” of the week (the following Sunday). This “eighth day” after the Sabbath is the new “first day”, the symbol of the new creation the Resurrection has set in motion.

The eighth day as a day signaling sanctity and freedom can be seen repeatedly in the Old Testament, particularly the Book of Leviticus. On this day, children were circumcised, becoming purified and receiving the seal of the covenant (Lev 12:2-3). Even animals were ceremonially unclean before their eighth day, and could not be sacrificed before then (Lev 22:27)!  All people who were unclean for any reason remained so until the eighth day, when they were accounted clean (Lev 14:8-10; 15:13-14). Even the vessels for ministry and the priests went through seven days of purification, and were “clean” on the eighth day.

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus rose on “the first day of the week,” which is the same as the “eighth day.” The Jewish people hold Saturday, the seventh day, as a day of rest and worship, as God rested on the seventh day of creation. But Christians acknowledge that Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary fulfilled every Levitical oblation and sacrifice, and the resurrection on the “eighth day” points to the NEW creation and the final fulfillment of all creation.  In the early Church, the baptismal font was often octagonal, to symbolize the truth that it is through this font that the baptized become a new creation in Christ!

Tomorrow is Divine Mercy Sunday, when we see Jesus putting Thomas’ doubts to rest on the eighth day by revealing his glorious wounds, through which he poured out mercy on the world. It is through these wounds that Jesus gave us the incredible gift of forgiveness and proved that Love overcomes every sin and shortcoming. On this “eighth day” of Easter, we glimpse the whole point of creation and hear anew the call to fulfillment of all creation: the final victory over every uncleanness and sinfulness, and our final, glorious rest at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, celebrating the definitive conquering of death on the mystical eighth day of creation in eternity.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

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Leave Your Boats Behind

He is risen! Alleluia! The most life-changing thing has happened in the lives of our dear apostles and where do we find them today? Fishing. Unsuccessfully at that. 

Skipping down to the end of the Gospel reading, John reveals that this encounter with Jesus was the third time since the Resurrection. Twice before this day, Peter and the others had seen and spoken with the risen Lord. And still, by their actions, we see their doubt, their unbelief. 

When we want to feel comfortable, when we are unsure of change, what is the human response? We find something familiar, a past habit or location, something we are sure of. For Peter and the other apostles with him, that place of familiarity is in a boat on the sea. John is showing us that they are returning to their old way, their previous habits and professions which had sustained them before following Jesus. But look, where they were previously proficient, they find themselves lacking. They caught no fish! 

Something has changed, they are fundamentally different men. It’s not that they have forgotten how to fish or read the waves and winds. John is exploring how deeply encounters with Jesus change who we are. Peter can no longer provide for himself. He and the others can’t “go it alone” as so often we try to do even today. Only when Jesus reveals Himself and provides a way forward do they make their catch. And of course, in God’s goodness and generosity, it is a catch more sizable than they could have ever achieved.  

Today we find ourselves at the start of the Easter Season and in the middle of the Octave of Easter (the initial 8 days after Easter Sunday). The newness of the Resurrection is still tingling in our consciousness and daily life – or is it? Have we already become like Peter and the others, unsure, perhaps unbelieving, and looking for our old comforts and habits to shield us from the radicalness of God’s saving work? Have we found ourselves drawn back into our comfortable boats, trying to reconstruct a known life from before?

In his reflection on this passage a few years ago, Pope Francis said: “Let us all remember this well: The Gospel of Jesus cannot be proclaimed without the concrete witness of life. Whoever hears and sees us must be able to read in our actions what he hears on our lips, and give glory to God.” Take some time today to consider how the reality of the Resurrection is shaping you into a disciple of the Lord. How are you different this Easter season? How have you grown? Can you, like Peter, jump out of your boat and go to the side of Jesus with enthusiasm and joy?

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: Quangpraha, https://pixabay.com/photos/lonely-feeling-wait-tranquility-3062043/

You are Witnesses

I was talking with someone the other day, laughing about how often Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” and, “Do not be afraid,” in the Gospels because it’s not just his way of greeting people, it’s that Jesus would do crazy things (like randomly appear) and frighten people! 

Then, in today’s Gospel, we are reminded just how human the disciples were. We might read over the gospels and think, “Yup, Jesus turned water into wine. Yup, walking on water, he does that,” but we fail to truly consider how utterly amazing and confusing it would have been to witness all of these miracles. If we saw anyone do these kinds of things today, we would totally lose our minds, record it on our phones, share it with everyone we know, etc. Why do we expect anything less human from the first Christians?

So I LOVE today’s Gospel because it literally says that they, “thought they were seeing a ghost,” because I would have acted the same way (Luke 24:37). Just imagine for a moment that you’re telling your best friends about walking with Jesus, then recognizing him while breaking bread and then he just SHOWS UP. “Peace be with you. It’s just me, Jesus… Alive.” No big deal, right? Jesus told them he would be back, right? 

And yet they were still surprised!

They were still shocked and terrified. 

Still, they had the faith and strength to witness not just one miracle and run away, but to become witnesses of Jesus, the radical love he showed even the least of strangers, and to share everything they had learned with the world. They were so on fire with the Spirit, from seeing all this crazy stuff happen through Jesus, that they felt they HAD to share it with others. 

So today, as we continue through the Easter season, I ask if you have been a witness to the miracles that have happened in your life? Now that Jesus reminds you not to be afraid, are you sharing his love and miracles?

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.

Feature Image Credit: Ben White, https://unsplash.com/photos/qDY9ahp0Mto

What Calvary are you walking away from?

Emmaus. One of the Easter stories of the risen Jesus appearing to his beloved followers. It has the fresh breeze of a spring morning: “that very day, the first day of the week.” The day of resurrection.

Somehow, however, for these two disciples at least, their gaze was not on the risen, the new, the astounding glory of what “some women from our group” proclaimed to them. The women “were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his Body; they came back with a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.”

However, their minds were filled with other voices. Not the voices of angels, but the voices of people. The voices of people arguing about the meaning of the things that had taken place in Jerusalem that week concerning Jesus that Nazarene. The voices of people speaking to dominate a conversation, voices of power, of fear, of skepticism.

In these two disciples at least, their memories were trying to figure out what had happened to this leader whom they had followed in earlier days of so much promise and hope.

Their gaze was now filled with nothingness and confusion. Their eyes “downcast.” They were “prevented from recognizing” the Lord.

So what Calvary are you walking away from? What disillusioned hope for yourself or others or the world is the subject of conversation with others and inner frustration? What stories are you telling and retelling and rehearsing yet again? Over what situation in your life is your gaze “downcast”? What can you never forgive for entering into your life?

Jesus wants to take you where you cannot bring yourself on your own terms.

Jesus wants to free you from those conversations that trap you in complaint and criticism and certainty.

Jesus is dying to be your conversation partner.

Jesus wants to set your inner being on fire, that you may run with joy to tell others that you too have seen the Lord. Yes. You. Today. Now.

Jesus wants to share with you his secret. He wants to flood your consciousness with his Father. His Father’s presence. His love. His providence. His power. His overwhelming closeness that encompasses us in every detail of our life. At any moment in Jesus life, he was conscious of his Father’s desires for him and his will for his life.

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus told these two apostles that there was a plan. Beginning from Moses and all the prophets he opened their eyes to how they all referred to him. It was a plan of love for them. He revealed to them a plan that Jesus carried out with immense trust in his Father, ultimately breathing forth his spirit into his Father’s hands. 

There are many things about which we disagree these days. We see unthinking online mobs attack people, reducing a human being down to one idea they have had, one deed they have done (or neglected), one word they have said. We may have joined in, taking sides as we listen to the news, or in conversations with colleagues and friends. Prizing being right, being first, being on the right team. In the end, it’s only what we’ve figured out on our own terms, through our own interpretation of events.

Jesus is showing us today that we need to walk with him in order to understand his interpretation of events. To see how this one detail of human history fits into the whole. To reverence how all of human history is part of God’s salvation history that is unfolding and can never be stopped.

This Easter week, Jesus shows us the real words of power, the deeds of authentic greatness, the meaning that gives true value to life. Only if we live as a child of the  Father will we know the fullness of what is true, what is good, what is life.

Walk away from your Calvary’s if you must, but walk away with Jesus at your side. Listen to him along the way, and meet him in the “breaking of the bread.”

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Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey. Website: www.touchingthesunrise.com Public Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/srkathrynhermes/ For monthly spiritual journaling guides, weekly podcasts and over 50 conferences and retreat programs join my Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/srkathryn.

Feature Image Credit: Wikimedia: Fritz von Uhde – Der Gang nach Emmaus (1891)

Baptisms Galore

I am writing this reflection on Holy Saturday, in the midst of Holy Week. What is supposed to be one of the holiest weeks of the year becomes the busiest for anyone working for the Church. In my role I have many sacraments coming up, including Confirmation and First Communion. We of course, have all the Holy Week Liturgies as well as extra times of prayer and confession. It’s a busy time, which is good because a busy church is a living church, but that doesn’t make the stacks of paperwork any easier.

This is why I love the First Reading for today. Let’s look at just the last line which says, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.” I love how that is just casually mentioned as if it was normal to baptize that many people. Think about that logistically. The priest must have been out there for hours just baptizing one after the other. But what do I like most about it? No paperwork. Haha. But really what is the most beautiful thing about it? That it is the preaching of the simple Gospel and it was so profound that three thousand people decided to enter The Church.

Now I don’t know about you, but our Easter Vigil at my parish has never had this many people lining up. Then I get to thinking what is the difference between now and then? Why don’t we have such large numbers of people asking to be made children of God? I think there are many reasons one can think of. The process is longer, the world is more secular, there aren’t enough priests, people aren’t catechized. You could find many different reasons, but I think number one is that we have stopped believing in the power of the resurrection.

Here we are in the midst of the Easter season and I think that is the question I will ponder for the next few weeks. Do I believe in the power of the resurrection? Do I believe that if God wants it, then three thousand will line up at our doors? Do I believe that the same Holy Spirit that made those conversions happen is still active today? Or do I think that somehow God only had so much power in the tank and it has been running on fumes?

Now I hope anyone reading this believes God does have the power, but then the next question is, do we let that power work in our lives? Sometimes it can be scary to let God have full control and give in completely to the power of the Holy Spirit. It can be unexpected, new, foreign, or just uncomfortable. But what would happen if all of us submitted to the power of the Holy Spirit just like they did in this First Reading? What would the Church look like? That’s a question I ask daily. How can I submit even more to the Holy Spirit and God working in my life. What is he asking me to do? Where is he asking me to go? From all of us here at Rodzinka Ministry, God bless!

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Tommy Shultz is the Founder/Director of Rodzinka Ministry and the Director of Faith Formation for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative. In these roles, he is committed to bringing all those he meets into a deeper relationship with Christ. Tommy has a heart and flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. With a degree in Theology from Franciscan University, Tommy hopes to use his knowledge to help all people understand the beauty of The Faith. Contact Tommy at tommy@rodzinkaministry.com or check out his website at rodzinkaministry.com.

Feature Image Credit: II ragazzo, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/19650-bienvenido-familia-catolica

Let us be Glad and Rejoice

Rejoice! It is Monday in the octave of Easter.

The Gospel today begins with the Marys quickly leaving the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed. Then behold; they meet Jesus on their way and He greeted them. Wow. What a surprise! Imagine the excitement and joy that filled them at meeting the Master. I break out smiling picturing this scene in my mind while my heart fills with overwhelming love.

Each of the days during the octave continue the celebration of Easter. The following prayer written by St. Francis of Assisi helps me to keep the joy and wonder of the season alive in my heart. May the phrases resonate with yours as well.

Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty,

Who is and Who was and Who is to come.

Let us praise and glorify Him forever.

O Lord our God, You are worthy to receive

praise and glory and honor and blessing.

Let us praise and glorify Him forever.

The Lamb Who was slain is worthy to receive

power and divinity, and wisdom and strength,

and honor and glory and blessing.

Let us praise and glorify Him forever.

Let us bless the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit.

Let us praise and glorify Him forever.

Bless the Lord all you works of the Lord:

Let us praise and glorify Him forever.

Sing praise to our God, all you His servants

and you who fear God, the small and the great.

Let us praise and glorify Him forever.

Let the heavens and the earth praise Him Who is glorious.

Let us praise and glorify Him forever.

Every creature that is in heaven and on earth and under the earth

and in the sea and those which are in it.

Let us praise and glorify Him forever.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

Let us praise and glorify Him forever.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.

Let us praise and glorify Him forever.

All-powerful, most holy, most high, and supreme God:

all good, supreme good, totally good,

You Who are alone are good;

may we give You all praise, all glory, all thanks, all honor:

all blessing, and all good.

So be it!

So be it!

Amen.

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Beth Price is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She brings a unique depth of experience to the group due to her time spent in education, parish ministries, sales and the service industry over the last 25 yrs. She is a practicing spiritual director as well as a Secular Franciscan (OFS). Beth is quick to offer a laugh, a prayer or smile to all she comes in contact with. Reach her here bprice@diocesan.com.

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