Monday, July 31, 2017

A Pearl of Great Price

Harbor at Nantucket, Massachusetts
This weekend I attended mass at a nearby parish.  I sat in the congregation a little uncomfortable at the strangers around me.  Only one kind soul greeted me with a hello while another young lady a smile.  All the other parishioners were absorbed in their own matters unaware of the visitor among them. A natural reaction I get in most Catholic churches.  Perhaps a husband next to me or a child by the hip would have elicited a little more attention. (Hopefully not the screaming child sort
of stares!)  I do not mind being left alone.  It gives me more private time with Jesus!!

When I peeked up at the crucifix on the wall behind the altar, I immediately felt peacefulness.  My mind that often spins incessantly with negative and self-deprecating thoughts began to quiet down as I admired the crucifix and the beautiful stain glass window above it.  Christ died for us!  It is hard to imagine anyone desiring to die for ALL of us fallen women and men so torn up, battered up, messed up physically and mentally. We dismiss Him.  We are too busy to pray to Him.  We often forget Him as we scramble throughout life consuming and hoarding!

How many of us rather sleep in on a Sunday morning than get up early to attend mass?  How many of us , if we do go to mass, don't even listen to the readings or the priest's homily?  We are wondering when that out of tune choir will stop singing or the long communion end!  We lose focus on the fruit of the mass:  To worship Our Lord, breaking bread and wine with one another as a community.  Celebrating Christ's death and resurrection with the utmost reference and respect. 

In the gospel reading, the merchant sold all he had to purchase a pearl of great price.  Something so rare and so extraordinary that he could not let it go!  Are we willing to let go of our own habits and hang-ups to grow closer to Our Lord?  Are we willing to step out of our own selfishness and open our arms wide to help the foreigner, the disabled, and the prisoner?  What is considered a pearl of great price in our hearts - some expensive meaningless "thing" or Jesus Christ?

What are we willing to sell to live a fuller life of great price?  A life of freedom and love.  A life with God at the center.  He loves us so very much! How can we turn away from Him?

-J.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Resurrected from the Past


Summer 2017 has arrived and as my life settles down just a wee little bit I got to thinking about this blog.  Boy, has my life changed since August 2016 when I last penned a post.  I thought it would be nice to resurrect my blog, adding a few reflections as the Holy Spirit moves me.

In the past year, I have entered a new career in healthcare.  My very good income and absence of maintaining a house allows me to travel more.  In 18 months I have traveled to Rome, Vatican City, and even the Holy Land.  Just last month I was blessed to participate in a mission, helping the people of Piura, Peru rebuild from the devastating floods that hit the city this past Spring.  Despite their immense poverty, the Pervuvian people have a joyfulness and faithfulness.  I will share some of my stories from this incredible trip.

I celebrate my accomplishments  as well as learn from many mistakes.  (Speeding through a school zone on driver's auto pilot is a costly no no!) I've e experienced times of misunderstanding, selfishness, and even anger.  Life is hard.  Life is a challenge.  Life is worth living even as I go through the highs and the lows.  I know I would never have grown into the mature woman of today if it wasn't for my closeness to Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother. 

I have taken a long sabbatical away from my Lay Dominican commitments.  I found my life transitions were a bit overwhelming and needed time to discern my vocation.  I am pleased to say thay I am now back to following the rule as a Lay Dominican to the best of my abilities. 

 Now that I have traveled to pilgrimage sites and participated in mission work I understand the importance of evangelization.  What better way to share the Word than returning to the blogsphere?  It is nice to be back to the writing that I love.

-J.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Team Jesus



Father, yours is the harvest and yours is the vineyard: you assign the task

and pay a wage that is just. Help us to meet this day’s responsibilities, and let nothing separate us from your love. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today I'm not feeling so well.  I blame my headache and tummy upset on the heat and the terrible ozone pollution.  It's been over 100 degrees for the past thirteen days. August is always the hottest and consequently longest month of the year. It's hard to concentrate on daily tasks when the mouth is dry and the body sweaty and uncomfortable.  I don't know how our Lord did it walking through the desert heat without complaining!  He journeyed on converting and healing despite discomfort at times.

I've been watching the Rio 2016 Olympics. The US Team is incredible this year.  Best talent I've seen in years!  All of the hours of practice and completion, along with natural talent, makes these young men and women all winners!  It's incredible exciting to see such athleticism as well as team building.  Members cheer other members on.  Pats on the back, hugs, and good lucks keep the spirit alive.  It also helps that millions of Americans cheer th US Olympic Team fromthe comfort of their homes.

It's easy and exciting to cheer on Team USA.  However, do we ever think of promoting and cheering on Team Jesus?  Do we place athletic ability above our religious faith?  Do we idolize the teenage gymnasti, the X times Olympic swimming medalist, or the favorite track athlete?  Would we rather be a famous Olympian on earth or an Olympian for the Holy Spirit?

Sadly, I think most people rather become a member of Team USA than Team Jesus.  I mean, just think of the advertisement endorsements and financial incentives behind every won.  Unfortunately,  no material rewards promised upon admission into Team Jesus.  However, something much better and long lasting is handed out:  spiritual rewards.

As Olympians age, their bodies lose strength and speed. A younger, more talented athlete comes around to take over the number one spot.  Team USA  is always changing with new raw talent.  Team Jesus changes too as more people, regardless of age or athletic prowess, decide that closeness to God is all that really matters.  Yes, members of Team Jesus may not be the most charismatic, the best looking, the most athletic or the wealthiest.  They may not even possess "talents" that our secular society believes are useful.  Team Jesus doesn't follow the status quo.  They shake things up.  They rather reach for gold in heaven than any Bronze, Silver, or a Gold medal on earth.

I will keep cheering on Team USA and hope they earn as many medals as possible.  It's awesome of witness such athletic talent.  But, I feel even more joy knowing although I will never make ithe Olympic Team, I will always be a part of Team Jesus.  Practice humility on earth with the goal reaching heaven someday.  Now that is medal worth achieving!

-J.






Thursday, August 4, 2016

Fallen Scraps from Christ's Table

Bella looks like the "Flying Nun" as she
 begs for table scraps.

Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 15: 21-28

But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And her daughter was healed from that hour.




Whenever I read this passage from scripture, I am amazed that Jesus can refer to a fellow human being, particularly a woman, as a "dog."  Not very loving, is it?  Maybe Our Lord was experiencing a bad day, tired of the people begging.  Perhaps he just wanted some time alone in peace and quiet.  I guess we will never understand his uncharacteristic reaction.

What I love about the Cannanite woman is her persistence.  Despite being pushed away and ignored, she kept asking our Lord for her daughter's healing. Fallen scraps from Christ's table is all she needed for satisfaction and proof even an outsider can be a believer in Jesus!

Back in February, I adopted a 3 year old piebald miniature dachshund named Bella. Her previous home life was horrible.  Dumped off at an area kill shelter - infested with fleas, tapeworms, and heartworms- it was amazing she survived!  After several months of medical treatment, She is now heartworm free and loves her new home!  Her appetite is huge, so she is always on the lookout for table scraps. ( Mommy wasn't too pleased to discover her Dairy Queen blizzard stolen and licked to the last dregs! Bad poochie!). Her "begging" includes the display of her Flying Nun "airplane" ears!  I think Our Lord brought Bella into my life in order to not only provide me with a furry snuggle buddy but to remind me just how spiritually "filling" life can be.  Bella loves me unconditionally just as much as the Lord does.

The one thing I am most thankful for in life is my faith in Jesus Christ.  If it wasn't for the Church and the "Real presence" in the Holy Eucharist, I'd be lost. Like a wild dog roaming the streets begging for food and eating "scraps", I'd be perpetually hungry without His Presence. Hungry for comfort, hope, love, friendship and unity.  Hungry for spiritual food only available from God!

-J.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Nation at Half Mast



Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,
and naked I shall go back again.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord!
We accept good things from God;
and should we not accept evil?
-Job 1:21; 2:10b
On Friday, July 8th ,I woke up to the sound of the 5 am news.  Words struck my attention:  Protest....police officer shootings....5 dead, 6 wounded....suspect killed by a drone....Downtown Dallas shutdown after an ambush.  I heard these words but could not comprehend in the midst of morning grogginess.  It was not until after I drank a piping hot cup of coffee that the situation sunk in.  Wow, not since September 11th, 2001 had so many police officers been killed at once.  Of course. It had to happen in my home city of Dallas.  I always cringe when the City of Dallas makes the national news.  Usually it is not in the best limelight.
Everywhere in Dallas, the US and Texas flags fly at half mast in solemn memory of police officers killed. What tragic and senseless violence.  One delusional man with a hate for white people.   Black Live Matters peacefully against racial brutality.  Police officers peacefully protecting these black protestors from harm.  None of this makes sense.
Black Lives Matter, of course they do, but also ALL LIVES MATTER!  Life in itself is a precious gift from God.  Our Lord made us unique races, cultures, and ethnicity with love in mind.  Our own prejudices, bias, and sinful nature cause us to do things that harm one another.  No one color of skin is better than another!  No one race should rule over another.  We all fall into a huge melting pot of differences that bring diversity to this earth.  We can learn from each other if we can let go of the stereotypes and truly listen to each other's point of view.
Time and time again I feel MEDIA play the number one role of fueling societal woes.  They bombard our minds with sensationalized reporting of hot topic issues.  All we hear about are blacks getting shot dead by police.  How many deadly police shootings of non-blacks happen routinely?  Black people are not the only criminals even if they statistically commit more crimes and are thrown into prison than non-blacks.
As Job asks, "We accept good things from God and should we not accept evil?" Sadly, evil is everywhere, often lying dormant behind the scenes until it makes its appearance.  Destroying lives and fueling fear; fear that is so debilitating that most of us wonders if good will ever win over evil.  Of course it will! 
God does not leave us alone to suffer. Accepting evil as a part of our human existence  challenges us to pray, minister to others in need, and do whatever it takes for the goodness of the human spirit to radiate.  
A nation at half mast. As we mourn and pray for the souls of those who have been tragically killed, we will triumph over evil because we have the power of the Holy Spirit at our sides.  

-J.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Life's Dramatic Changes (Intro)

Hallway leading to the Sistine Chapel @ The Vatican Museum 


I have been waiting for several weeks now to return to my blog.  Ever since my beautiful trip to Rome, my life has dramatically changed!  The blessings the Lord has granted me are incredible.  As one of my old high school friends recently commented on my Facebook page, "You have the best life! You go, girl, go!"

I never imagined a year ago my life would turn in such a positive direction.  Seems like ever since I sold my house, life has gotten better.  Perhaps my mind is clearer and I am beginning to think of situations in new found light.  Let go and let God.  Hand things over to him and just go with the flow.
 
When one thing crashes, burns or goes nowhere I have learned to accept it however painful. Yes, there are tears and complaints.  Maybe I just don't understand why things could go so wrong.  I thought the death of my old dog was the worst thing to ever happen in my life.  I thought I'd be stuck in a dead end job the rest of my life.  I thought I'd be drowned in financial worry, bringing me into an early grave.  Yet, despite the hardships I did not lose complete hope.  I kept praying, meditating, and looking for subtle signs from God....
Our Lord finally answered my prayers and in ways I never thought of. 

My trip to Rome was amazing.  I did not have time to write like I originally planned.  Instead, I explored every inch of the city by foot.  Sore feet, arms, shoulders...my body felt like a train wreck.  But with so much to see in a short period of time I dealt with the aches and pains.

My favorite parts of my trip included visiting Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, and the Colosseum.  The Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and Gallery Borghese were so amazing I am at a loss for words.  Photographs just do not capture the essence of being in the museum presence!
As part of the Year of Mercy, I walked through the Holy Doors of each papal basilica.  I even attended an evening Friday mass at the St. John Lateran Basilica with the Archbishop of Rome preciding the liturgy.

I will post more later.....

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Rome in Lent

I am outside a cafe in Florence, Italy (Oct 2004)!


"Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!"  Nehemiah 8:9, 10

I'm back to bloggin' away.  I've been on a short hiatus.  When work and personal life get super busy, writing suddenly takes a seat on the back shelf.  

As part of my Lenten observance I am traveling to Rome, Italy. ( In fact, I am typing this post while on the flight!) I will embark on my mini pilgrimage for 8 days, staying at a Dominican convent guest house.  I plan to visit the main tourist attractions but then also walk along the unknown paths, hopefully uncovering some hidden gems in the Eternal City.

My first stop will be the Colloseum, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon.  Then I will explore the Roman Baths and the Protestant Cemetery where Romantic poets Shelley and Keats are buried.  I'll visit the Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peters Basillica with surrounding burial grounds.  A short bus ride will take me to some of the early burial catacombs.  I hope to attend mass at a different church each day beginning with the Dominican mother church Santa Sabina. 

Of course, I will take time to explore some antique shops and authentic Roman cuisine.  I purchased a ticket to the opera and will see an Italian production of "The Barber of Seville."   Fantastico!

I hope to post reflections each day depending on the reliability of Internet access. Stayed tuned....

Have a Holy Lenten Season!
-J.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Baptism and New Beginnings

The Baptism of Our Lord

Gospel of Luke 3:15-16, 21-22


After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”


This past week flew by so fast that I did not get a chance to write blog posts.   I still made time for daily prayer.  That resolution is still going along well....

My mind is so focused on change.  As an acquaintance texted me this week: "This new year will be one of joy."  Just what I need to hear as I have experienced so much turnover.  However, I see the light peeking through the clouds as my heart is beginning to lift from mourning and depression.  A new beginning is in progress and I am actually excited about it!

What does God have in store for me?  I feel as if a gate has been set ajar, the lock removed, so I can freely enter.  Things of my past have been taken from me, some by own hand and others through God's hand.  I cannot form words to describe this Change that has overwhelmed me since the beginning of the New Year.  My intuitive sense suggests that circumstances will finally move along in a peaceful and positive way.  I think God is pleased with my growth and maturity, and he is ready to bless me even more.  But, again that aged old question lingers:  How will all this change work out in the end?

Since I have moved to the other side of town, I have visited a few parishes trying to figure out where I feel most comfortable.  On New Year's Day I received a random email from a parish I used to attend over 10 years ago.  It invited those who have fallen away to return and "Rediscover Jesus."  In fact, the entire parish community is reading Matthew Kelly's Rediscover Jesus with videos posted by parishioners themselves telling their stories how Jesus has impacted their lives.  I was intrigued, so I attended Sunday liturgy at St. Ann Parish in Coppell, TX this morning....

I felt like I found my new parish home.  I noticed a few familiar faces in the pews even though I am sure they do not remember me, a decade later!  The bulletin is thick with various ministries and activities.  I plan to slowly enter back into volunteering because the parish is so large.  (The size is something to get used to.)  I will wait for the Lord to gently nudge me into the ministry where I am most needed..

Maybe a few people reading this blog attend St. Ann Coppell.  I would love to hear from you and gather suggestions where I can serve the most, of course within my God-given talents.  (See Contact Me form.)

Sitting in a sanctuary pew, admiring the beautifully painted stucco wall with my Spanish mantilla draped over my head, I imagined Jesus' baptism in the Jordan river.  John the Baptist gently leading Jesus into the warm Jordan waters.  John says a prayer before he sprinkles Jesus with baptismal water. Our Blessed Mother is at the river's edge smiling at her son as other relatives look on.  The bystanders may even clap as Jesus walks out of the water....

Jesus is the Son of God.  He doesn't need baptism!  However, his own baptism launched a new beginning in his life - one devoted to ministry and the service of others.  He will teach, preach, and heal.  He will forgive easily and mercifully.  He will invite others to a life of faith, trust and hope with the ultimate goal of inheriting the Kingdom of God.

Are you ready for a new beginning?

-J.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Star So Bright

The Epiphany of the Lord

Isaiah 60:1-6


Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.


A star twinkles in the sky, pulsating as if alive.  The star is brighter than usual with asterisks of light shooting from spasmic particles, so illusive and mysterious yet brilliant beyond comprehension.  Astrologists of centuries past, like the noble Magi, knew exactly what such a radiant star represented.  Astronomers of today study such phenomenon theorizing origin and purpose.  Do they really know the answers?  God certainly knows since he created the universe: the stars and the heavens within. Overall, stars come and go - implode and explode - leaving only traces of existence in the cosmos.  What can one spectacular star mean for the world?  Someone incredible has been born - a child of such incredible promise that an entire universe will consider him King.

When I was a child, I enjoyed peering at the moon and stars through a telescope my mom gave me.  Every now and then I'd see of a shooting star! Around Christmas time I always thought about the star the Three Wise Men followed as they traveled such a long way to visit the Christ child.  Was it really as bright and large as depicted in artwork?  What would have it been like to see Jesus as a newborn, swaddled in clothes lying in a manger?

We all experience epiphanies every so often when we think of an answer to a question or a solution to a problem.  We experience an epiphany when the "Ah ha!" strikes us when least expected.  We take our new found knowledge and make the best use of it.  The ultimate epiphany occurred when the Magi followed that bright shining star knowing the end would result in seeing the Messiah and prophet; a tiny little boy who would grow up to be the most important religious figure in Christianity.

Do we notice the Jesus star in our own lives?  Do we follow the light and away from the darkness?  How can we better follow the Lord if we  find ourselves drifting away?  The Star is too bright for us to ignore!  Let us choose to follow Christ because so many rewards await us in the glory of heaven.

-J.

Make Straight the Way

Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church

Gospel of John 1:19-28
Dallas Arboretum - 1/2/2016


Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”
So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?  What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, Make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet said.”

One of my goals in 2016 is to visit some of the DFW area museums and attractions.  I want to "get out and about", see the new and interesting instead of isolating myself in my apartment stuck in front of the tv or passing boredom with endless naps.  My new mantra is this: Life is too great to waste!

This weekend's excursions included the Dallas Arboretum on Saturday and the Kimbell Art Museum on Sunday.   I have not visited the Kimbell in over 10 years.  Looking at the prized paintings of French artist Gustave Caillebotte transported me back to the late 1800's in Paris.  The long dresses, the top hats, the horse and buggies.  Wow, what if our lives never evolved?  What if we never became an industrialized, technology advanced society?  I cannot imagine still wearing petticoats or considered a man's property!

Make straight the way....Isaiah and John the Baptist knew someone incredibly special was about to arrive on earth.  They spoke out about this miracle to a people who just did not quite understand what to look out for.  Just like a painter's canvas, the medium is blank until dabs of color are applied. The work of art is not yet finished.  The shadows, transitions and details look visually hazy.  Maybe the figure is a man, a woman, or an animal.  Maybe the sky is a starry night or a sunlit day.  The artist swirls the colors in effervescent display.  It is hard to figure out the meaning.  What is in the artist's mind?  What type of story does he tell?

The prophet is just that.  A man who's voice speaks on behalf of God.  Everyone thinks John the Baptist is the One True Prophet.  Yet, he is only the Messenger.  The path to salvation is still crooked and wide.  The Jews still have a lot of work to do in order to make sure they live good, faithful lives.  Obey the Commandments and honor God.  Keep the path free of debris and open, accepting the Holy One to come.

How can we make straight the Lord in modern day? Attend mass every Sunday.  Pray and meditate.  Say the rosary.  Perform acts of charity.  Be kind and loving toward others.  Make God #1!  Suddenly, the blurry canvas becomes sharp and clear as the colors blend together.  Yes, there it is.  That's what the Lord wants from me.  This is how I should live my life:  Mindful of God, others and then myself.  

-J.