Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? Sounds like a simple question, right?

Savior.

Son of God.

Redeemer.

Prince of Peace.

King of Kings.

The list goes on and on. The past few months the title that has resonated in my heart and kept me pondering is the Word of God. Isn’t it funny when we find ourselves in these moments of epiphany? Then we speak it out loud, and all of the sudden it sounds so silly. Because it should be obvious, right?

It’s right there in the first lines of John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” [John 1:1-2]

And yesterday’s first reading:

“So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” [Isaiah 55: 11]

While it’s been right under my nose for years, it’s finally hitting me. A deeper understanding of the Second Person of the Trinity through this title: Word of God. The fact that all of scripture is God’s one uttered Word. Total & complete. The catechism states that we venerate the Scriptures as we venerate the Lord’s body. How beautiful is that?

I think it’s pretty dang beautiful. And powerful.

God’s will, free will, and Middle earth

I’ve been re-reading Lord of the Rings lately, which I’ve been loving. I read them for the first time in college, more than six years ago now. Fellowship is a great one to go back to in the fall, with Bilbo’s birthday being in September, and with so much of the book taking place in autumn. The descriptive language of the Shire and Rivendell just makes my heart sing.

Now, we all know (or should know) that Tolkien has a way with words and is a phenomenal writer. He also was a Catholic and there is truth, beauty, and goodness infused in his characters, his stories, and his themes. As I arrived at the Council of Elrond, I was struck by some beautiful speech of his. It is right after Frodo announces that he will take the ring to Mordor, and Elrond looks at him and says this:

“I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will […] But it is a heavy burden. So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you. But if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right.” – JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

This paragraph stirred something in me. I’m no theologian, but I at least know that our God has a divine will; he has a will for my life, for your life, for the whole world. But we are free to choose as we will. Sometimes that can be confusing, right? It is true that we can choose the wrong, a path that God had not desired for us. Does that mean he cannot still work our poor efforts for good? Of course not, he is God! All things are within the realm of His divine providence – nothing is beyond him. Sometimes he intervenes, and other times he lets nature take its course. But the greatest fruits come when our wills are aligned with that of our Maker’s.

I say this because when I read those words Tolkien wrote so beautifully, I saw a teaching that can be so hard for me to comprehend, written down in an accessible dialogue between and elf and a hobbit. Is it perfect and do I now understand fully how we, as created beings, can live freely while our God has a divine will for us? Nope. But it’s a start.

Elrond tells Frodo what he thinks, and he affirms the hobbit in his willingness, but also says that he would “not lay it on” him. Frodo is free to leave, to say no, to go back to the shire, or even to stay in Rivendell. If he does, there may be consequences that affect the free people of Middle Earth, including himself, but it is still his choice.

What if Frodo had been forced to take the ring? What if the Council had all looked upon him and demanded that he make this potentially impossible & deadly journey to Mordor? I imagine that would have made it all the more difficult. I imagine Frodo’s heart would have been colder towards his companions, or his longing for the shire may have been crippling. Or he may have felt angry and kept the ring for his own use along the way. Maybe not. While Frodo knew in his heart he must be the ring-bearer, he was the one to declare it – nobody else.

Furthermore, while Elrond deems Frodo’s decision to take the ring as the right one, he understands it is not easy. He, more than most, knows what an arduous task would lie ahead of Frodo and company. It is a burden that he could not give to Frodo, but one that Frodo must choose to bear on his own. That’s when the next line caught me as well. Immediately following the previous lines, Elrond says, “And though all the mighty elf-friends of old, Hador, and Hurin, and Turin, and Beren himself were assembled together, your seat should be among them.” By choosing the good, the right, and the just, in the face of such great temptation, there is greater hope and greater reward. (And to bring it back to the Catholic faith – is Tolkein hinting at Frodo living among the Angels and Saints for his brave choice?) It is precisely because Frodo takes up this burden, or this cross, with courage and free will, that he is worthy.

I think we can all agree that Frodo’s burden was great as well as his suffering. He could have chosen otherwise, he could have let someone else try to take the ring. But it was ordered that Frodo should take it – and all people were better off because of his yes that was freely given. And was he not ultimately rewarded for his choice?

 

“No one heals himself by wounding another.”

A mess of thoughts as I try to process something here…

We live this life. We believe it. We believe it so much that it hurts. We sacrifice all kinds of worldly things and look like fools to so many people, even our closest loved ones. Then there are those around us who don’t live this life, who don’t really believe, who don’t sacrifice, and things just seem to work out for them. And then we, who are trying (and sometimes greatly failing) to love and serve God and follow all the teachings of the Church, end up getting the short end of the stick. It’s a bold statement, and I understand we can never truly know the inner workings of another person’s heart – what often seems like perfection can be threaded with sorrow. But please just go with me.

I know there’s some deep theological questions here, and we have been trying to probe them and understand what we can while still leaving a big part of it up to faith. But emotionally…mentally…physically…spiritually…it’s hard.

At the end of the day, though, if I’m not offering joy to those around me who are experiencing great blessings, even if it seems unfair (how childish of me), than I am not glorifying God. Great theologians and philosophers have pondered the problem of pain and why God allows certain things to happen. I could ponder for years and end up back at square one. It’s not my job to understand everything in this life; it’s not my job to conclude why suffering exists and what exactly it means in my life. But I do have to love through it. Through tears, tantrums, isolated silence, I must love God and neighbor. And trust that all things work for good for those who love God. [Romans 8:28]

So that is what I will strive for. Love is not a feeling, it is a committed choice. And even though I may want to crawl in a hole sometimes and sit in self-pity, God calls us out of ourselves. By immense grace, he helps us to live a life of love that is infinitely greater than ourselves. And just because someone else is experiencing an abundant good, does not mean that I am robbed of good. So it is my duty and my privilege to celebrate for others…even if it hurts.

There. That is my rambling for today. Let’s be Saints, shall we?

 

 

 

Live the Fast

As Lent is approaching, I’m sure lots of people are racking their brains for what to “give up”. Often, this season sneaks up on us and we feel so unprepared (at least I do!). Now obviously we should all be praying as to how we can grow closer to our Lord through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But I did want to share a great ministry/business with the blogging world. It’s called “Live the Fast.”

LIVE the FAST

Live the Fast was started by Andy LaVallee, who owns his own bread company just outside of Boston. As it says right on their website, “Live the Fast is a Roman Catholic Apostolate that is centered on renewing the practice of prayer and fasting by providing nutritious fasting breads, educational resources on prayer and fasting and a prayer community that will inspire one to live the fast.”

There is a [slow] growing movement to fast all year round on both Wednesday’s and Friday’s. Why those two days? Wednesday is the day that Jesus was betrayed by Jesus, so therefore we can fast in reparation for all sins. Friday was the day that our Lord died on the cross. I won’t go deeply into the abundant graces of fasting, but in general, it opens up our hearts to the Lord, making room for his work to be done. We can also offer up our fasting for intentions we have.

Now, fasting all year round (sans feasting time, of course) is a big commitment to make. So a great place to start out, if you feel so called, is during Lent. You can order these fasting breads online, and they will be delivered frozen to your doorstep (with a bonus book on fasting). There are a few different kinds of breads per order, it’s super affordable, and they also send out encouraging emails the nights before each fasting day.

Before I was married, a few of my former roommates and I did this one Lent together, and our freezer was literally filled with little rolls…it was a bit amusing. But also encouraging. On the morning of each fasting day, you pop a few rolls into the oven for 15ish minutes, wrap them up for the day (I used foil), and eat one at each meal.

The rules can be as strict or as loose as you need, depending on your situation. Some people eat one roll for breakfast and one for lunch – then have a small dinner after 6pm (no dairy or meat). Some eat three to four rolls throughout the day and that’s it.

I encourage everyone to read up more on this great ministry. If you have any questions, you could certainly ask me, but also feel free to reach out to Live the Fast directly!

For those Long Car Rides…

Montreal Road Trip 2013

Over the past year and a half, Kevin and I have taken many trips to PA for wedding related things, holidays, to see my family, etc. From this, we’ve finally settled on the fact that it is just so much more economical to rent a car for the weekend than to buy two flights. Because for SOME reason, the airline industry thinks it should cost more to fly Boston to Philly than Boston to Phoenix (true story – I flew to Phoenix for a wedding for less than your average weekend home to PA). And what’s even more exciting is that renting the car at the week rate (7 days) is only $25 more than the 3 day rate! So we get some car usage for a couple extra days in Boston (helps with grocery shopping and such). 

With all this car time that is so foreign to us on a regular basis, we’ve invested in lots of talks for the road – primarily Lighthouse Catholic Media. Believe me when I say these are a worthy investment (and I mean, they’re only like a $3 donation at most parishes). And it’s been especially fruitful to listen to some marriage and family ones as we were engaged and now newly married! Let me share a few of my favorites: 

1. Raising Amazing Children by Matthew Kelly: gosh, if you’ve never heard this man speak, go do it! We buy a CD of his every time we see one, they are just that good. This was the first talk we listened to while engaged, and got us really pumped for kids. Some of what he says seems to us like a no-brainer, but it just might be a Catholic thing. Other things, while they may seem simple as he says them, struck us so profoundly. 

2. What Every Couple Should Know About Marriage & Prayer by Archbishop Fulton Sheen: what a wise man to listen to. He’s got a calming voice (but not too calming!), and gives great insight into deepening love & commitment in marriage. One of many of his talks on the subject.

3. Changed Forever by Father Mike Schmitz: this guy this guy this guy! He is the Chaplain for the University of Minnesota Duluth, so Kevin knows him well. And you cannot help but be 150% engaged when listening to him. And this one especially brought tears to my eyes. It’s on Baptism, and really hits on the deeper meaning of the sacrament and what it means to actually be a child of God.

4. The 7 Levels of Intimacy by Matthew Kelly: this one might be my favorite; it has incredible advice for building better intimacy, not just with a spouse, but in all relationships. Truly a talk that touched us on many levels.

5. For Better Forever by Dr. Gregory Popcak & Lisa Popcak: very beautiful & practical; they offer great wisdom from JPII and his Theology of the Body, connecting it to the everyday.

We bought a few more recently, so next time we have a long drive I’m sure I’ll have more to add to this list!