Just Keep it to Jesus ...
A Gospel Reflection on: Mark 3, 13-19
“Hey,” my sister’s email began; “Can a friend of mine contact you to chat about Church?” Sure, of course, came my quick response. But, she continued, don’t go all Catholic on her, she just has generic questions.
Just keep it to Jesus. Got it, he is kinda my favorite anyway so that should be easy enough.
Within a day I received an Instant Message on Facebook and our discussion began. She shared her life was missing something, especially now that she had two small children, but didn’t know exactly what she was searching for. Yep, got that and could totally relate.
We chatted about Jesus and the powerful role the Scriptures had played in my own re-commitment to following and loving Jesus in 2005. We discussed spiritual reading and coming together with others to talk about what we had read, and how sharing the journey is always more fruitful. Then we tackled the question about where to worship.
My advice was to pray and follow her heart. My family had recently changed to a new Catholic Church after feeling a tug in our hearts that it was time to go, although it was difficult at first, we never regretted, even for a moment, answering that stirring. She shared that there was something about the Catholic Church that always moved her when she entered. I suggested that maybe that was the place to start, if for no other reason than to rule it out.
A few months later I received one more correspondence from her – the boys were being baptized and she had begunRCIA in preparation for entering the Catholic faith the following Easter. Jesus is still sending out the appointed to share the good news.
But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?
What event or circumstance, that Jesus has clearly touched, can you use to share His message of love with others?
Lord, help me to see that like the Apostles, I am chosen by you. Chosen to be with you, and provided all that I need to share your message of love.
Reflection first appeared as part of the Daily Gospel Reflection series on Catholicmom.com
Copyright 2016 Allison Gingras
Image Pixabay, PD
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Love Like Water Reflection by Deanna Bartalini
Water, love, God – all necessities of life. Water is powerful, cleansing, calming, and life giving. It sustains us. The same can be said of love. Both are gifts from God. In Ben Walther’s song, Love like Water, he reminds us that God’s love is like water and we can’t live without it. We long for God’s mercy and strength.
Take a few minutes and listen to the song:
My favorite line in the song, “Thirsting for your strength, will you stoop and carry me?” mimics the many times I have been afraid, confused and so weary all I wanted to do was crawl up in God’s lap, rest my head on him and let him hold me. Do you ever think about God stooping down and carrying you? The Incarnation is the ultimate “stooping down” and by that manifestation of God, we are carried to salvation.
As I listened to the song, a few images from scripture came to mind. The great stream in Ezekiel, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, and the water which flowed from Jesus’ side on the cross.
God's Promise for Us
In chapter 47 of Ezekiel the LORD shows him the prophet waters flowing from around the temple and then leads him into the water until he can no longer stand. Standing on the bank of the river, he sees fruit trees and is told that fish will be abundant; “Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.” (Ez 47:9) That promise is for us as well. When God’s love touches as, when we allow it to flow freely over us like water over the earth, we are renewed.
Jesus’ baptism is recorded in Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11 and Luke 3:21-27, all have in common a voice from heaven saying “you are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” after Jesus is baptized. God says the same thing about each of us. We are his beloved daughter or son and our very being pleases him.
His love for us caused him to give us Jesus and Jesus dying on the Cross saved us. His death gave us life. In John 19:34, a centurion pierces Jesus side to be sure he has died and blood and water flow out. Even before the image of Divine Mercy became popular, this was looked at as a symbol of both Baptism and Eucharist. The blood and water which flows from Jesus covers all of us in his love and mercy. In Baptism we are cleansed of original sin and in the Eucharist we are refreshed and strengthened.
Read, Reflect, and Pray:
ReadEzekiel 47 and picture what Ezekiel sees, then ask God to show you where you need to be refreshed. Imagine him standing over you, pouring refreshing water over you, filling all of your needs with his love and mercy.
All Rights Reserved Allison Gingras and Deanna Bartalini, 2016
Music copyright - Ben Walther Music
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Deanna Bartalini is the Director of Faith Formation for St. Edward Catholic Church in Palm Beach, FL.
For most of her life she has been a planner; however, the Holy Spirit usually intervenes, sometimes quite forcefully, and leads her to another path. Deanna is still learning to adjust to that fact; in her experience, when you put your trust in God he doesn’t let you down. It’s a lesson she learns often, sometimes daily.
She writes at deannabartalini.com, serves as the editor of the NewEvangelizers.com blog and is a contributor there as well as CatholicMom.com and AmazingCatechists.com.
Unresolved anger or hurt feelings only leads to bitterness, and that never leads any place good. Unfortunately, there are opportunities to be hurt in every relationship we are willing to engage in.
Work, school, home (especially home) – every time we say yes to growing closer to a person (regardless of the degree); we also say yes to the possibility of being hurt. So, it is a risk that we must be willing to take to reap the rewards of having meaningful human contact.
St. Paul offers a better way to finding peace despite the circumstances of our relationships in his letter to the Ephesians, we are given tasks for acquiring peace within our hearts. Admittedly, these aren’t easy:
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander,
And when you are the only one still holding onto it...
He often reminds us that Christ’s ways take perseverance and involve trials, suffering, and sacrifice.
How many of us have troubled hearts because of unresolved disagreements or stifled hurt feelings?
After months of stewing over the behavior of a relative; I finally got up the nerve to meet with them and hash things out. I went on and on – probably for 15 minutes or so; about an incident that had left me so dejected. When I finished; they looked baffled. They had absolutely NO RECOLLECTION of the exchange at all! What!?! ARE you kidding me!! YOU Mean to tell me ... I missed hours of sleep; this consumed my thoughts for months, and you don’t even REMEMBER IT! This fueled my anger even more, mostly at myself for being so foolish. I had allowed my feelings to imprison me and the situation to take over my life.
How many blessings have I missed being locked in the past?
“Never pay back evil with more evil.
Don't Become the Monkey with an Orange
Hence, it is far healthier, spiritually and mentally, to give those events and emotions over to God. Still, we struggle, believing that letting go of the pain means letting the offender off the hook. Trust me. God hasn’t missed it, and His Word assures us that He will serve justice– not in our time or way but His.
Instead, pray for that person – not as I once did, “Dear God, change them” but with a true heart of one who has been shown mercy themselves. “Dear God, bring them every blessing and grace they need to live in accordance with your will.”
If nothing else, as we are reminded in the Word, our kindness will baffle them. We are not only showing them Christ's more perfect way but also keeping right with God and we can surely get some enjoyment from that!
All rights reserved, Allison Gingras 2017
Column first appeared as a guest blog on MelissaKirk.org
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Small Group facilitating is truly a blessing especially when you have a few tools to manage the challenges!
When you bring together many personalities even to discuss spiritual matters; there are bound to be situations that need to be addressed. Some participants may be more chatty than others; leading people sitting around the table to feel bullied or left out of conversations. Sometimes opinions can be shared with gentleness and love; other times a more staunch or heavy approach is taken. Although we are all one body in Christ that doesn't mean the parts will always play well together. In order to keep the group from becoming imbalanced or "sick" - facilitators need to be proactive in establishing group expectations. Furthermore, leaders need to be aware of the groups personalities and communication styles. A prayer for sensitivity and wisdom to the Holy Spirit before each meeting never hurt! The key to keeping the focus on Christ is to remember the reason we've come together - and to be ready with many tactics and techniques because there is really no ONE way to insure a friendly, spiritually fruitful group!
Keeping the Group on Point:
Dealing with the Derailer
Lastly, I want to touch on the inevitable inclusion of the "derailer" . This person can actually change for meeting to meeting - all depending on the subject and their current life circumstances. First, you have to be clear what your objectives are - support or spiritual. It is not that the group can't ever engage in that personal level of discussion but if it overtakes each meeting; especially when participants are not signing up for that - then it can become toxic to the group dynamics. Second, there are times when you will need to appear like the heartless meanie to keep the focus on Christ and not on individual members.
There are a few ways to handle this situation:
Have any further questions or concerns regarding facilitating a small group faith sharing or bible study? Feel free to email me -and I will address it in an upcoming blog post!
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2016
Today's Reflection by Debbie Gaudino
When I hear this word images of a raging, hot, unstoppable fire are immediately brought to mind. When something is ablaze it is visible and radiant and very much contagious - eager to consume all that it within its reach. The connotation is not always positive. A raging fire can be a very scary, dangerous thing indeed.
Why then do the Scriptures, and the Saints, and even contemporary Christian music challenge the believer to be ablaze? Christian music artist Ben Walther's anthem "Ablaze" provides us some insight to the nature of being Ablaze in the Christian life.
Take a listen to his powerful song here:
InZechariah 13:9 we read:
"I will bring the one third through fire, and I will refine them as silver is refined, and I will test them as gold is tested. They shall call upon my name and I will hear them. I will say "They are my people," and they shall say, "The Lord is my God."
Our hearts and minds need to be set ablaze by God's purifying fire in order to be refined of our sins, and our bad habits and our twisted thinking - of selfishness and greed and unforgiveness.
The process, quite frankly, stinks.
Purification is painful. It is challenging and humbling to face our sins; it is HARD to revisit the hurts of our lives in order to forgive those who hurt us, and it if often a long and tedious process to break the bad habits that keep us from full surrender to Jesus. The results of this process however, like the precious gold and silver which emerge from the fire, are radiant and precious. Allowing the Lord to set us ablaze in order to purify us creates a new "us" that is a credible and compelling witness to God's love and mercy
Fire Illumines the Darkness
In the Israelite's journey out of Egypt the Lord made his presence known to them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night: Exodus 13: 21-22 tells us:
"The Lord preceded them, in the daytime by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and at night by means of a column of fire to give them light."
The Lord's presence in the column of fire lit up the darkness so that the Israelites could safely travel through it.
Ben Walther's song begins with these words: "By his grace we are conceived to be mercy, to be peace, to be light amidst the darkness."
Our mission as Catholics is to carry within us the presence of God, a presence which will be a column of fire for those who walk in darkness. At our Baptism we received an anointing to share in Christ's anointing of priest, prophet and King. Through that anointing we can bring the light of Christ, his mercy and his peace to others.
Lighting up the darkness for someone else doesn't have to be complicated. It may be as simple as a kind word, an invitation to a retreat, dropping off some spiritual reading to the person, or simply being a shoulder to cry on. When people ask us about our faith, we can shine that light through humbly sharing what the Lord has done for us. Above all, it involves praying for those around us who dwell in darkness.
Set the World on Fire
Debbie Gaudino is a Catholic blogger and speaker. You can read more of her fabulous writing on her blog: Saints 365.
She is a happily married, homeschooling Mom to two beautiful children. She and her husband were raised Catholic and had both fallen away from our faith for most of our young adult life. We experienced a major conversion at a Mass celebrated by Blessed John Paul II in Rome in 2000. Since then, our lives have been centered on knowing, loving and serving the Lord and his church.
Learn more about Debbie's work and speaking over on Saints 365!