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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Schroeder Prayer

The Best Gift from Jesus

Jesus, gift, peace, Ascension, featured photo

I’ve read the words in the Gospels and I’ve heard the line proclaimed in Mass a million times, yet I’ve largely blown by it. But recently, my brain zoomed in on this sentence as I read the recounting of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus in Luke. “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36) 

Before reading the bible one recent evening, I spent a few minutes praying for people I know. Like so many of us, I have a lot of people in my life who are going through a variety of trials, from health to family conflict to personal struggles. I prayed for their healing, that God would fix what was broken in them. Then as I read Luke, I suddenly found Jesus’ choice of words so interesting. He was about to leave them to ascend to His Father and they were facing some very big trials and he gave them peace. Jesus didn’t give them happiness or an assurance of an easy road ahead.  He gave them peace, but what is that exactly?

Peace springs forth from faith. It is a calmness in the midst of a storm that reassures us that we are not alone and that God has everything in hand. Peace is not a guarantee that everything will work out as we want it to, but it is a promise that God’s plan will be fulfilled through us if we believe. It takes faith to accept that whatever happens to us here will ultimately, be the best possible result for our eternity. It may be difficult now, it may be painful now, but it will be for good. That knowledge, that awareness brings peace.

Peace is also something that we can’t achieve on our own.  It truly is a gift given to us when we place our trust in the Lord. It’s something that we have to pray that we can accept because, let’s face it, total trust may not be so easy to have in every situation. Surely, even when we are aware of this gift Jesus offers us, we may still face periods of fear, despair or panic.  We may have our “moments” of doubt and anxiety. The disciples certainly did. They initially freaked out in several situations! But when we consistently accept Christ’s offer of peace, we get to that place quicker. We may still have our first moment of panic but then we quickly remember Him. We are in His care; we are under His protection. Faith, that beautiful gift our Lord gives us, is the cornerstone of this peace. Accepting His gift of peace takes prayer and practice. The more we accept it, the more He gives us and the faster we move from anxiety to His peace.

As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that the best prayer that I can offer for anyone in any situation is that the peace of the Lord be upon them. There is simply no other remedy that will provide true, lasting relief! This understanding is changing the way I’m praying for others and for myself. We all need to accept the gift of peace from Jesus. It will help us ride out all of life’s crazy ups and downs with security and steadiness. We can then pass that gift to others who are navigating difficult paths and in doing so, spread His love and most importantly, His peace in our communities.

 

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Ink Slingers Michelle Schroeder

The True Presence and Our Conviction

There’s been a lot of talk lately about many Catholics not believing in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Certain I was fully convicted, I hadn’t given much thought to my own conviction, until we met with our confirmation class and the topic was the Mass. One of the other adults who was leading the discussion talked about what it means to wholeheartedly believe in the True Presence and he posed a question: Would you die for a consecrated Host? It’s one thing to ask if you’d be willing to die for Jesus but it’s an entirely different thing to ask whether you would give up your life for a little round, flat piece of bread that you believe is Jesus. The truth is, American Catholics probably don’t have to ponder that question often. That is not our reality. We are not attending Mass in secret or having to attend moving churches that change locations so anti-Catholic militia won’t find us. We don’t worry about being abducted walking from our car in the parking lot to the church door. We don’t risk our lives to receive communion. And as a result, it’s easy to say we believe. We haven’t been tested. That is not to say that I want to switch places with Catholics in parts of the world where there is a very real and very significant threat, today. At this very moment, there are people in other parts of our world who are risking their lives to consume that host. I am friends with one such person who lives in India and as a Catholic priest, he is in danger. I pray for him and I worry about him, but I would not want to be in his shoes. While I’m grateful to be able to freely live my life as a Catholic, I am also aware that I’ve never had to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to the Eucharist. I can go through life believing
that I am a believer, yet I never have to prove it. This is, most certainly, a true first world problem. So, let’s take it down a notch to try to evaluate our conviction.

Let’s put it in terms that may be more relevant to our experience by asking ourselves these questions:

  1. Am I always in a state of grace when I receive Holy Communion? Many of us perceive it as a walk of shame to go through the line and receive a blessing but no Jesus. The fear of embarrassment may actually cause us to sin again if we receive Jesus while having a mortal sin on our soul.
  2. Every time I consume the host, am I free from all distraction and I completely focused on receiving Christ? We may be wrangling kids in the line or simply allowing our minds to wander as we stroll up the aisle.
  3. If I saw someone in line slip the consecrated host in their pocket, what would I do? It’s not just the job of the ushers to prevent sacrilege but it would take courage of conviction to actually stop someone and ask them to consume the host or return it to the priest. We would
    possibly second guess ourselves either because we were unsure if we really saw them pocket it or out of fear of causing a scene. As I consider my own answers to these questions (#2 got me), I realize I have to grow in my conviction.

Fortunately for me, and maybe you, the way to do that is to simply ask God to help you. “Lord, I believe, help me to believe more,” is a simple, effective prayer that shows God our humility and desire to deepen our faith. May we all grow in love for the True Presence that we so freely receive at every Mass!

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Ink Slingers Michelle Schroeder

Me and the Fig Tree

MeandtheFigTree

Sometimes when I sit in Adoration and read the gospels, I have random thoughts about a particular sentence. This happened when I was reading Mark 11:12 about Jesus cursing the fig tree and came upon, “Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs.” The part that jumped out at me was the fact that Mark clearly states that figs were not in season. It wasn’t there time. So, naturally, my next thought was, “what did Jesus expect to find on a fig tree if it wasn’t time for that tree to bear fruit?” I thought it strange, harsh actually, that Jesus would curse the tree when there would have been no reasonable explanation for a fig tree having figs if figs weren’t in season.

The next day, I talked to a friend who is a wealth of Catholic knowledge. I asked him my question about Jesus cursing the fig tree to which he replied, “Oh! That’s a really rich story with a lot packed in.” Great, but I just wanted the answer to my question about why Jesus would be mad at a tree that had no business having fruit at that time of year. He proceeded to point out that the fig tree represented Israel, and that as Jesus was approaching his Passion, His people weren’t producing fruit, etc. It was great information, but I sat impatiently waiting for my answer. When he finished, with my foot tapping, I asked my question again. He responded, “When one thing sticks in your head like that, you should really just pray about it.” Ugh.

I asked God to enlighten me and re-read the passage. The first thing that struck me this time was a sense of fear. Am I producing fruit constantly or could Jesus stop by and find my barren at any given moment? Sure, I think there are times when my life bears fruit and I’m growing in faith and deepened my commitment to the Lord. These are the seasons where I feel energized and engaged and active in living
the gospels. Then there are other times in my life when I’m not. In these seasons, I am struggling to pray and I feel far from God and I know I’m not moving forward one bit in my relationship with Jesus. In these moments I’m weak and barely hanging on and I have no figs. What if Jesus is hungry when I’m not in season?

As my thoughts started to spin out, the good Lord quickly rescued me. In my heart, I felt like I was beginning to understand what He wanted me to get at that moment from that Scripture. Don’t ever let your tree be empty, produce something. Even when you’re weary and worn and it’s not your season, don’t just shut down, produce at least one fig. Though it may feel temporarily empty, persevere in prayer, keep reading Scripture, continue receiving sacraments! When God is allowing you to be pruned back, it’s only in anticipation of a season of fullness. Maintain your efforts, keep the faith and you’ll soon find you’re in full bloom!

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Ink Slingers Michelle Schroeder

The Devil is in the Details

The Devil is in the Details

As Catholics, sometimes we just have to laugh at ourselves. We strive to live our faith, achieve closeness to God and gain access to heaven but we sure do love a loophole! Take Mass, for example. Let’s be honest, there’s probably not one of us who has been invited to a Saturday wedding who didn’t double check to see if it “counts” as our Sunday obligation. I bet we’ve all had at least one of those days when we were running late for Mass and were relieved that we blew in right before the Gospel. It’s not that we don’t love God or even love Mass but sometimes it seems the bare minimum is all we can muster. It’s not that our heart isn’t in the right place, but sometimes we allow the less important activities of life to distract us from the only thing that is truly important. Our church obviously realizes this because they have those rules so we know exactly how much we can get away with! 

Jesus always told his disciples that they just needed to do the minimum to get into heaven – NOT!  He told them (and by extension, us) that it takes our everything to get there! Sell everything you have, take up your cross, leave your livelihood, are just a few of the drastic steps Jesus described as what was necessary to follow him. So, what chance do we have of being true followers of Christ if sometimes we’re looking for the detail in the church “rules” to get us off the hook. The devil is in the details, literally. He wants to busy us and stress us so that we lose sight of what God desires from us. 

It one of his favorite tactics and to be fair, it’s been pretty successful. We get caught up in the all the running around and stress-filled days to the point that even the Lord’s Day is packed with things we didn’t finish earlier in the week. Mass becomes relegated to another item on our agenda for the day.  So, we take short cuts in the one event of the week that we should be completely centered around. Even though our heart says we want to spend time with the Lord, our actions don’t always reflect that desire. 

You may wonder why our Church gives us those specific rules about what qualifies as Mass attendance when our Lord clearly demands more? Well, the answer is simply because they know we are human. The reality is that God wants us to give Him our whole heart, soul, mind and body. He knows we are not always going to succeed, and Jesus knew it too when He expressed His expectations over 2,000 years ago. In addition to being great at lofty expectations, our Lord is also really great at mercy. But that’s no excuse for letting the devil convince us that the minimum is acceptable. We can’t let him change our heads because then eventually he’ll succeed at changing our hearts, too. If our goal is reach heaven when we die, then we need to start thinking about how actions are working to achieve that goal. It’s not enough to want it, we have to live it and when we fall short, we have to get up and try hard to live it again. 

Look at how you prioritize your life this week.

Is faith something you’re squeezing in or does it reflect the wholeness of yourself that you really want to give to God? 

Here’s to praying we all forget the details and throw ourselves completely into the arms of our Lord!

 

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Ink Slingers Michelle Schroeder

There’s No Denying It

There's No Denying It

There are moments when we say or do something hurtful to those we love. We’re not proud of these moments, we may be filled with regret and remorse and yet these mistakes happen again and again throughout our lives. Even though it’s frustrating and disheartening, It’s part of our human condition. And if you’re on the receiving end of these hurtful words or actions, it really stinks.  We feel hurt, sad and maybe even a little angry when someone we love answers us angrily when we ask a simple question or blows us off when we’re upset about something. Sometimes, when I’m on the receiving end of hurt, I am able to forgive quickly. Other times, I carry that hurt around for a while, feeling sorry for myself. 

Whether you’re on the receiving end or the dishing it out side, the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus can help you through it. Poor Peter, he wanted so badly to be a really great friend and disciple and yet the gospels are filled with gaffes he commits. But Jesus never let those mistakes disqualify Peter. Despite all of his missteps, Jesus still chose Peter to be the rock on which His church would be built. One incident could have changed all that. On the night of His agony, when Jesus was arrested, Peter made what could have been a fatal error. Even though he had promised Jesus that he wouldn’t run away when Jesus told the twelve that they would all desert Him. Even though Peter protested at the very thought of the notion that he would be like the others and flee, his biggest mistake was just hours away.

While awaiting the verdict that the was to be handed down regarding Jesus, Peter denied him in three separate exchanges. He had three chances and he blew every one of them. Peter had spent three years at the side of Jesus as his friend and his student. They traveled together, shared meals and prayed. Peter knew that Jesus had plans for him to lead the charge after the Ascension. Despite all of that, Peter messed up. He could have been like Judas who ran off and killed himself after realizing the gravity of his sin. Peter, instead, went to the garden and sobbed. His remorse changed him. He learned from it as Jesus knew that he would. Peter’s heart was always in the right place but his emotions overcame him and he let the stress of the situation cloud his judgement. This is often what happens when we dole out hurt on someone we love. We’re truly sorry that whatever else we were experiencing in life in that moment caused us to say or do something regrettable. 

This story also obviously contains a powerful reminder about how we should act if we’re on the receiving end of pain. Despite the huge disappointment it must have been for his close friend, Peter, to have done this to him it didn’t change the fact that Peter was still the one Jesus wanted to lead the church. Jesus didn’t change the plan and put someone else in that place. He forgave Peter even though the denial could have easily been classified as unforgiveable. If Jesus can forgive that, I guess I need to forgive every snarky comment that may be thrown my way.  

We’re all going to hurt people we love and we’re all going to be hurt by people we love. That’s life. Let’s pray that whichever role we’re in at the time, we can look to Jesus and St. Peter. Not only does their experience guide us to know what we need to do but it also gives us great comfort. If their relationship can survive Peter’s denial, there’s certainly hope that we can mend our injured relationships as well.