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Jesus’ and a Mother’s Love: This Sunday’s Gospel 5/9/2021

For this Sunday’s Gospel and other Mass readings, click here!

Jesus and His disciples are gathered around the table. Having finished the Last Supper, Jesus gives His friends a few last words of wisdom before His Passion begins. I can imagine the disciples listening to Him intently. He shares important instructions, theological truths, and most of all, His love.

Although it might seem like a stretch at first, I think this Gospel passage applies a lot to Mother’s Day. I think of all the meals I shared with my mom, and all of the lessons she taught me. I remember our after dinner conversations while we’re still sitting around the table filled with stories, lessons, and post of all, love.

Jesus repeats His command to love each other often, saying “Love one another as I love you” (John 15:12). As He stresses His love, Jesus gives us a glimpse of His infinite love. As we strive to be like Jesus, we’re called to love each other unconditionally. Some of the most beautiful examples of unconditional love that I’ve witnessed have been in mothers. The reminders from my own mom of “I love you no matter what,” show me that unconditional love is real and give me an idea of what Jesus’ love for me is like. Loving as perfectly as Jesus does is difficult, but my mom shows me that it’s possible.

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Here, Jesus is talking about sacrificial love. I used to think that this verse only referred to actually laying down one’s life for someone. Now, I know that you can sacrifice for someone without literally dying. It might be a small death to yourself, but it’s worth it because it’s for someone else’s life. Moms do this all the time. Aside from Jesus, I think of mothers when I think of sacrificial love. I see in my own mom the ways that she sets aside her own wants for my needs. She prays while she cleans the house and listens to Catholic speakers while she cooks dinner. With such a constant example of sacrificial love in my life, I remember Jesus’ sacrificial love, and I’m inspired to grow in this virtue.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, godmothers, grandmothers, mothers-in-law, step mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, and all women who generously give a mother’s love.

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We’re All Called to be Disciples

Growing in Discipleship
I noticed that I write about discipleship often in my blogs. This subject has become an important part of my faith journey, and as followers of Christ, we’re all called to be His disciples. You might think that the only disciples lived 2000 years ago and encountered Jesus face-to-face, but we can still be, and we should be, His disciples today.

I always knew about the disciples from Mass and Catholic school. I knew that the first disciples were 12 men who followed Jesus and evangelized after His Ascension. In college, however, I understood and appreciated the concept of discipleship. When I met the FOCUS missionaries, they taught me about discipleship, invited me into it, and prepared me to make disciples of my own. Growing in discipleship had its difficulties, but they were all worth it. Now, I think discipleship is one of the most beautiful gifts in the faith, and I love sharing about it.

We're All Called to be Disciples
We’re All Called to be Disciples

What is a disciple?
Disciple comes from the Latin word discere meaning to learn. Back in Jesus’ time, young Jewish boys would go to school and study the Torah. If a young boy was very apt and passed his tests in school, he would be invited to discipleship. A Pharisee would say to the boy “follow me,” and he would follow the Pharisee everywhere and do everything that the Pharisee does to learn from him and be like him. They even had a saying that went, “May you be covered in the dust of your discipler,” meaning that they would follow their disciplers so closely that they would catch the dust that flung off of their discipler’s sandals!

Jesus invited the first disciples to follow Him in a similar way. When He met Andrew, Peter, James, and John, He invited them to follow Him. From that point on, they went wherever Jesus went. They did what He did, learned from Him, and became like Him.

Discipleship is how we follow Jesus in order to learn more about Him and become like Him. Although we can’t physically follow Jesus around in the same way that the first disciples did, in His goodness, we can still be with Him.

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How to be Jesus’ disciples
One way that we can be with Jesus is through the gift of the Eucharist. Because Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, we can encounter Him when we go to Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. In Adoration, we can pray, talk with Him, and simply be with Jesus. When we receive the Eucharist at Mass, we receive Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, and come into communion with Him.

Another way that we can follow and be with Jesus is through prayer. I love to think of prayer as spending time with Jesus. When we pray, we don’t just ask for things or check things off our list. Prayer isn’t all about praying for a certain amount of time, reading a specific number of chapters, or saying the right things. Time that we spend praying is time that we get to know Jesus. When we pray, we open our hearts to Jesus and grow closer to His most Sacred Heart.

When going to Mass, praying Lectio Divina, or studying scripture, pay attention to the passages where Jesus is with His disciples. I listen carefully to passages that begin with “Jesus said to His disciples,” because I am His disciple and He’s speaking to me. As followers of Christ, we’re His disciples, so His words to His disciples 2000 years ago still apply to us today.

Making Disciples
Finally, an important part of discipleship is to make disciples. During the parable of the vine and the branches, Jesus says “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples” (John 15:8). Naturally, when we follow Jesus and become like Him, we’ll share His love with those around us. Then, our brothers and sisters will come to know Him through us. When we share the Gospel and help our neighbors to know and love Jesus, this not only fulfills God’s will, but it also glorifies Him.

Jesus stresses the importance of making disciples again before His Ascension. When He gives the Great Commission, He says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Whether that be our friends, our students, or our children, Jesus desires for us to make His presence known to everyone around us. He calls us to be instruments of His love, share the Gospel, invite those whom we encounter to encounter Him.

Perfectly Reflecting Him
The more time that we spend with Jesus, the more we become like Him. Like how we reflect the friends who we spend the most time with, we come to reflect Jesus when we grow closer to Him. Jesus desires us to be like Him and His Father, and He encourages us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Through discipleship, we strive to be like Him. The most beautiful thing about discipleship is that it’s for everyone! Through discipleship, Jesus gives us a way to grow in holiness and become His faithful followers and close friends.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: May 2, 2021

For this Sunday’s Gospel and other Mass readings, click here!

I sat on a beautiful porch in Florida, changed forever after returning from a mission trip in Nicaragua. My team and I sat in a circle for a debriefing session before we parted ways and returned to our respective campuses for the rest of the spring semester. As we have done so many times over the past week, we opened our Bibles to pray Lectio Divina together.

This passage filled my mind with images of vines and branches drenched in the light of Christ. Prior to my time in Nicaragua, it was just another lovely parable. Now, I read it with a new perspective. I experienced Jesus working through me as I served as an instrument of His love. I imagined myself beautifully intertwined with Him like twisting and turning vines overtaking a sturdy branch.

Jesus nestled the word abide into my heart. This beautiful word brought a smile to my face when I discussed it during Lectio Divina. It truly describes Jesus’ desire to dwell with us and be close to us, and I began to joyfully feel the same way. I eagerly wanted Him to help me grow, to bear fruit for Him, and for Him to prune me so that I’ll bear more fruit.

“Pruning hurts though,” Becca lovingly pointed out. Wrapped up in consolation, the difficulties of discipleship didn’t cross my mind. As I continued my journey with Jesus throughout college, He began the pruning process, holding nothing back. Knowing that I desired a relationship with Him, holiness, and Sainthood, He strengthened me with trial after trial.

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Although I didn’t always endure the pruning gracefully, I know that it happened for a reason. He helped me bear more fruit because I longed to abide in Him. I wouldn’t trade the pain of pruning for anything because it’s the price I pay for abiding with Jesus, and apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5).

Let’s strive to be as close to Jesus as a vine is to the branch. Let’s abide with Him and let Him wrap Himself around every part of us.

Stay radiant!

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Resting to Restore

It’s been a while!
I’m back! It’s been a minute (about 28 days) since I posted a blog like this on Radiant with Joy, and it’s simply because I needed a break. It started as a short one, but I didn’t realize until I was in the middle of it that I needed more time than I thought. Because transparency and vulnerability is my mission as a writer, I want to share what happened during my break and how I’m doing.

The Big Break
Around Easter Sunday, I found myself taking an unannounced, unplanned, but certainly necessary break from blogging. I don’t think it was because I was tired of Radiant with Joy, but I was just tired in general. I feel like I always talk about how crazy life is, but it’s my reality. Although I enjoy being busy, I feel like my days are always booked. When I look at my planner, each week brims with work, activities, and things to do. For Easter, Franciscan Mission Service gave us Good Friday and Easter Monday off. I relished in having a few days to rest, but as I usually do, I didn’t notice how much I needed those days until I had them.

Sometimes my body is smarter than my mind, so when my body tells me I need rest, it’s great at making sure I get it, whether I like it or not. It’s nice to have designated time to do nothing, but it also makes me feel bad about myself. As someone who likes to stay busy and be productive, I find it hard to make time to relax and to value that time.

Resting to Restore
Resting to Restore

Too Much Rest
Some time to rest is good, but as always, indulging too much of a good thing doesn’t end well. I began my period of rest by doing life-giving things, like reading and enjoying the beautiful weather, but sooner or later, I started I staying inside and scrolling on my phone for hours. Before long, I felt myself turning to laziness, and wasting my free time became a bad habit. I began to neglect my time in prayer, which only made me feel worse. This month proved what I had always known about myself. If I don’t make time for God and pray every day, the other areas of my life seem to deteriorate. When I don’t pray, I’m constantly anxious because I don’t have the peace that only God can give.

God desires us to work, but He also wants us to rest. The word “rest” comes from the word “restore,” which implies that rest should rejuvenate you so that you can return to work from a place of abundance. With this being said, work and rest go hand-in-hand. We need to rest so that we can work well, but we also need to return to work after we’ve had adequate rest.

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Now that I’m back…
Returning to blogging has been difficult. Caught up in doing nothing, I had lost motivation and inspiration to write. In my despair, I didn’t think that I could or should write anything meaningful. I wanted to get back to writing so badly, but I didn’t know how. Fortunately, I remembered “This Sunday’s Gospel,” which gave me a low-stakes way to return to Radiant with Joy. I had set myself an unspoken goal of writing something like this by the end of April, and by the grace of God, I did it in the nick of time.

Our God is a God of second chances and new beginnings. I feel like I’ve had enough time to restore my desire to write, and especially because of my return to daily prayer, I’m ready to begin again. Now that I’m returning to blogging, I’m reminding myself why I started and why I write. During my break, I learned that if I neglect my prayer life, my writing will suffer. More importantly, my relationship with God suffers. Moving forward, I plan to make spending time with God a priority in my life again. By doing this, God will become the forefront of my life again, and my writing will outpour from my relationship with God.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: April 25, 2021

For this Sunday’s Gospel and other Mass readings, click here!

When I think of sheep, I think of them as adorable fluffy animals. They always look so pure and perfect for snuggling. But they’re also and fragile, and they need to be watched and cared for. Because sheep are so precious, they need to be protected. This is how Jesus views us. We’re His flock of sheep that He guards and keeps safe.

On Good Shepherd Sunday, I’m reminded of Jesus’ gentle love for us. I think of images of Him holding sheep with tender loving care. On one hand, I like to contemplate these sentimental images, but on the other hand, they seem watered down. The cutesy pictures of Jesus snuggling lambs don’t do Him justice as the Good Shepherd.

More than simply the fact that Jesus loves me, Good Shepherd Sunday reminds me of the depth of Jesus’ love for me. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus explains the lengths that He goes to to protect us and find us when we’re lost. Unlike a hired shepherd who flees when his sheep are in danger, Jesus says that He will lay down His life for His sheep, and He did on the cross.

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While sheep are adorable and fluffy, Jesus thinks of us as His sheep because we’re precious to Him. He doesn’t make any profit or gain anything from keeping us safe. He does these things for us out of His infinite love for us. As our Good Shepherd, Jesus constantly protects us from evil and leads us closer and closer to the Father.

Stay radiant!

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Good Friday: The Most Passionate Love Story

The Greatest Love Story
I used to love dramatic romance novels, the kind where a couple fights to protect their relationship against all odds. I would root for them as they clung to each other through obstacle after obstacle. I would swoon over grand gestures of one’s love and passionate scenes of intimacy. Oftentimes, the story would end with a climactic sacrifice of one lover laying down his or her life for the other. These stories inspired many a daydream for me, and (understandably) stirred up unrealistic expectations for my high school relationships. As a teenager, I would delve into these romances and dream up a love who would at least be willing to die for me.

As it turns out, I had the most perfect lover all along, and He already died for me on a cross before I even knew Him. When I realized this, I began referring to Christ’s Passion as “the greatest love story of all time.”

Good Friday: The Most Passionate Love Story
Good Friday: The Most Passionate Love Story

Passionately Suffering
During the Easter Triduum, we remember Jesus’ Last Supper, Passion, and Death. I always wondered why we refer to Jesus’ Way of the Cross as His “Passion,” and fortunately, I found out why from a podcast a few months ago. As a lover of words, I learned with interest that “passion” originally referred to suffering. Passion in it’s truest sense isn’t merely steamy scenes of physical intimacy. However, both intimacy and suffering require the body. Because of this, we can see why this notion can be skewed.

If Jesus’ Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane wasn’t the beginning of His Passion, then it was certainly a prelude to it. Overcome with anxiety, He shed His first drops of blood in the form of sweat. This condition results when someone undergoes extreme levels of stress, which causes capillaries to burst and blood mixes with sweat. He shed even more blood as He was scourged at the pillar the next day. I can only imagine the pain He felt when whips tore the flesh from His back. When He was crowned with thorns, fourteen sharp thorns pierced Jesus’ scalp, and they only dug in deeper while He carried His Cross. Exhausted from the weight of His Cross, it bit into His shoulder with every step. Finally arriving at Calvary, Jesus was stripped of His clothing and left completely vulnerable. I’ve always cringed at the thought of Him being nailed to His Cross, so I can’t bear to describe what it would have been like. Jesus hung on His Cross for three hours, gasping for air the whole time before He breathed His last breath.

Grand Gestures
It truly is hard for me to imagine Jesus bruised, bloody, and humiliated. When I really think of it, I can hardly bear to picture the face of Jesus in the midst of His Passion. I love Him so much, and it’s hard to think of your loved one suffering. Jesus teaches us that suffering is the price we pay for love, and His Passion and Death is the epitome of sacrificial love.

When I used to see grand gestures of romance, I found it hard to believe that someone would ever do something like that for me. Now that I’m older, I’ve definitely experienced some lovely gestures, but of course, none of them will ever top the greatest act of love of all time. Honestly, reflecting on Jesus’ love, especially during His Passion, can be overwhelming. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that Jesus was thinking of me during His Passion. I sometimes stop and think that He suffered and died for me out of His infinite love. Despite all of my past, present and future sins, all of my shortcomings, and the times that I chose other things over my relationship with Him, Jesus died for me so that He could welcome me with open arms when I return to Him. I remember this because each time I look at a crucifix, I see His outstretched arms and remember His perfect love.

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Passionate and Sacrificial Love
Whether we refer to passion in the context of romance or suffering, passion cannot exist without love. To be passionate with a romantic partner without love would result in lust and use. To suffer, especially for someone else, without love would be pointless. All of this reminds us that authentic love requires sacrifice, and sacrifice is supposed to hurt and be difficult in one way or another. In other words, sacrificial love requires suffering. Amidst His Agony, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning with Thorns, His Way of the Cross, and His Crucifixion, Jesus without a doubt suffered tremendously for us. “Passion” appropriately describes His sacrifice, as it was the greatest act of love of all time.

He loves you and me more than we can ever imagine, and every time we look at a crucifix, we can be reminded of His never ending love.

Stay radiant!

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How the Annunciation Reminds me of Discernment

Revealing His Will
I love to reflect on the Annunciation, when Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would be the Mother of God. It resonates with me for several reasons, including Mary’s fiat, or her response to the Annunciation, meaning “let it be done.” In this moment, Mary learned of God’s plan for her, and it was life-changing to say the least. In college, I would look forward to the day when God would reveal His plan for my life, hoping that I would learn of it in a blaze of glory. I know now that this won’t be the case, but I still find myself musing over the Annunciation and romanticizing it. I think I do this because I realize that the Annunciation can teach us a lot about discernment.

How the Annunciation Reminds me of Discernment
How the Annunciation Reminds me of Discernment

Growing While We Wait
It goes without saying that none of us are born knowing what we’re going to do with our lives. God doesn’t share His plans with us on day one, and understandably so. We have a lot to learn and we need to grow a lot before we can say “yes” to God’s will for us. Needless to say, Mary had a life before the Annunciation. Born without original sin, Mary always chose God and followed Him perfectly. Mary’s plans for her life probably didn’t include being the Mother of God, but when Gabriel revealed this plan to her, she graciously said “let it be done.”

Like Mary, we won’t immediately know how God will call us to know, love, and serve Him, but this is a good thing. He calls us to use our seasons of waiting well. While we wait and discern, we can learn more about God and fall more in love with Him by strengthening our faith. Saying “yes” to God in little ways, like spending time with Him in prayer, doing acts of penance, and loving the ones He placed in our life will prepare us for the big “yes” that we’ll give Him later. Praying, receiving the Sacraments, and serving will make us more open to God’s will for us so that when the time comes, we’ll be able to say “let it be done.”

Discerning with Openness
Mary is always open to God’s plan for her, and she always seeks to do whatever God wants. As much as we desire this openness, it’s often easier said than done. I remember the days when I radically claimed that I would do whatever God wanted me to do and I would go wherever He wanted me to go. Then when I was discerning missions, I realized that I wasn’t so open to go just anywhere. I recognized that I didn’t want to be too far away from Nathan. I know you’re probably thinking that I turned down mission for a boy, but this turned out to be a good thing. In discerning out of something that would potentially take me far away, I was free to discern marriage with Nathan, which was the vocation that God had planned for me all along. As it turns out, God was asking me to be open to His will in a different way.

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Some Encouragement for Your Discernment
When I was unsure of God’s plan for my life, I would pray and ask for the wisdom and courage to say yes to His will for me. I think that Mary was gently leading me to the path that God forged for me, like the perfect mother that she is. Now that I’m consecrated to Mary, I notice the ways that she leads me towards her Son, and I strive to be more like her. If you’re in the middle of discerning and you’re wondering what God has planned for you, know that you’re not alone. It’s not fun when you’re in the thick of it, but God will journey with you and you’ll make it out with clarity and confidence in Him. Dive into prayer, ask Mary to intercede for you, and know that you’re in my prayers.

Stay radiant!

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According to His Timing

For this Sunday’s Gospel and the other Scrutiny Year A readings, click here!

When I pray, I ask God to answer my prayers in His “perfect timing.” I lift up my friends and family and offer Him my intentions. After my laundry list of prayers, I end with “Father, I ask that You answer these according to Your will and Your perfect timing.”

I’ve been told that God’s timing is perfect, but deep down, I don’t always believe it. There are things that I want to happen right now, but God gently asks me to wait. There are things that I don’t want to happen yet, but God reveals that it’s time. Whether we like or understand it or not, God’s timing truly is perfect. He has good and beautiful plans for each one of us, and He makes sure that they unfold exactly as He sees fit. Whether God’s timing is exactly when we want it to be, or if it’s not what we expected at all, it’s still greater than our own.

According to His Timing
According to His Timing

In the Scrutiny Year A readings, we read the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus intentionally waits to go to Judea, and by the time He gets there, Lazarus had been dead for days. Martha approaches Jesus and tells Him that if He had arrived sooner, Lazarus would still be alive. I see so much of myself in Martha. I can recall quite a few times when I grew irritated at God because of His timing. I remember asking Him why something couldn’t have happened sooner, or if He would’ve worked a little harder or a little faster, something wouldn’t have happened. But then, Like Martha, I realized why God answered my prayers with a patient “not yet.”

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Witnessing Jesus heal Lazarus would have been great, but witnessing Him raise Lazarus from the dead must have been even greater. Earlier in the story, Martha and Mary didn’t understand why Jesus didn’t heal Lazarus. When Jesus made Lazarus to walk out of the tomb, they knew that He had something better in mind than just healing him. Through this miracle, He affirmed that He is the resurrection and the life. Just like Lazarus’ sisters, we don’t always understand God’s timing in the moment. We might get to see the reasons behind God’s timing in this life, and if not, we’ll understand when we meet Him.

Stay radiant!

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A Lot Can Happen in 23 Years

23 Years Later…
Today I turned 23 years old, and needless to say, I’ve grown and changed a lot from when I was born. I love to look back on the plans that 3-year-old Madeline dreamed up versus where I am in life now. I spent my days playing dress-up and making crafts. I thought I would grow up to be a ballerina or a princess. Twenty years later, I still love to dress up, and I still love to dance. Although it would be nice to be a princess, I have other career goals in mind now.

As I grew up and navigated life, one thing stayed consistent. No matter where I went to school, who my friends were, the extracurriculars I did, or what I dreamed of doing with my life, I always loved God. Of course, my relationship with Him developed and I grew closer with Him as I grew up, but He was always in my heart.

A Lot Can Happen in 23 Years
A Lot Can Happen in 23 Years

My Lifelong Faith Journey
When I was really little, I knew that God was important because I went to Mass with my family every single Sunday. At the time, I would have rather played with my Barbie dolls, but I’m glad that my parents taught me the importance of worshipping God. I was fascinated by the Bible stories I learned about, and I heard “Jesus loves you!” and “God made you special!” all the time. I think my faith first ignited when I received my first Holy Communion. When I received our Lord in the Eucharist for the first time, the way I approached Mass changed because I felt more connected to Jesus. After that, I felt more involved in the Mass, and I looked forward to going.

My faith only grew stronger when I prepared for my Confirmation and when I was Confirmed. I saw some of my peers question and fall away from the Church, and I knew I never wanted that to happen to me. I related to Peter when he told Jesus “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). God has loved me for longer than I can comprehend, and I can be united with Him in the Eucharist. I knew that I could never separate myself from Him and that I wanted to be with Him forever.

In college, I grew radically as a person, as a student, and as a disciple of Christ, especially because I learned what it means to be a disciple in college. For most of my life, I thought the disciples were just the twelve men who followed Jesus while He was on earth. Now, I understand that anyone desiring to follow Jesus is His disciple, and He still calls us today to be His disciples. With the encouragement and friendships I made at the Newman Center, I fell more in love with God. I encountered Him through my authentic friends, at Mass, and in Adoration.

What Changed in One Year
So much can happen in 23 years, but a lot can happen in just one year too. The world and I have changed significantly since my last birthday. When I turned 22, I had no idea that we would soon be plunged into a pandemic. I didn’t know that my amazing evening at Slippery Rock would be my last one there. I went from celebrating my 22nd birthday with Nathan and a few of my good friends at the Brewery in Slippery Rock to celebrating with my Franciscan Mission Service community in Washington, DC. I went from not knowing what I was going to do with my life to having at least a little more clarity. Nathan became my fiancé. My faith is stronger, and I’m able to trust in God and surrender to Him more.

In my 22nd year, I learned that everything is temporary. When my life seemed to crumble, I was so angry at first, but I learned to cherish the memories more and to really savor my time with my loved ones doing the things we love. I learned that God truly does have a plan, even when we can’t see it unfolding. Because of this, I finally surrendered control of my own life so that God can take the reins and guide me to do His will.

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Thanking God for My Life
Today, I’ll FaceTime my family and Nathan, and I’ll probably celebrate with my community tonight at dinner and tomorrow evening. No matter what, I just want to spend today being thankful for the gift of my life. To me, my own birthday isn’t a huge deal. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s a special day. I love to celebrate it and have fun with the people I love, but I never go crazy for my birthday. It’s a day that I’m happy to be me. On my birthday, I thank God for creating me and loving me and giving me the gift of my life. I’m thankful that He blessed me with another year of life so that I can share His love and come to know Him more before I meet Him face to face.

I’ve grown so much in my relationship with God in the past 23 years, and I look forward to seeing how much closer I can be to Him in the remainder of my life. So much has happened in my 22nd year, which just reminds me that we never know what God has in store for us. 23 holds unlimited possibilities, but no matter what, they’re part of God’s plan.

Stay radiant!

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Sent as a Witness

For this Sunday’s Gospel and other Year A Scrutiny readings, click here!

We often hear people ask “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I can think of a lot of reasons why, but Jesus gives us an answer in the Scrutiny Year A readings which are optional for this Sunday. Jesus says that the man born blind wasn’t blind because of his sin or his parent’s sins. He was blind so that God can work through him. Whether God heals us or not, we can still glorify God. We can praise Him when heals us and lifts our burdens, and we can still praise Him amidst our struggles, knowing that He’s close to us.

Sent as a Witness: 4th Sunday of Lent
Sent as a Witness: 4th Sunday of Lent

In the moment, we might be blind as to why we have to carry our crosses, but hindsight is 20/20. Like the man born blind, sometimes we understand why God allowed us to suffer after He heals us. In the moment, however, it’s often more difficult to embrace our suffering and find meaning in it.

When I experienced spiritual comparison in college, I questioned why God would allow me to go through it. I felt abandoned by Him when I spent months in spiritual desolation feeling hopeless and defeated. Now, I understand why I had to go through these sufferings. In a strange way, these trials strengthened my faith. I learned a lot and grew so much. Moreover, I understood how to relate to people going though spiritual comparison or desolation.

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When Jesus heals the man born blind, He tells him to go to the Pool of Siloam, which means sent. By healing the man born blind, Jesus sends him out to share what He has done for him. He became a witness to Jesus, and people came to know Him through his testimony. In other words, the man’s burden turned into his mission. So did mine with comparison and desolation. After Jesus took away the pain I felt, He sent me forth. Now, I pour my heart into showing people going through spiritual comparison and desolation that they’re not alone. They’re still beloved children of God, and they can still strive for holiness. I share my story in hopes that my testimony can help others stay rooted in the Father’s love.

We’ll all have to pick up our crosses and suffer in this life, but when we turn to Jesus, He redeems us. We might not understand why theses crosses were chosen for us, and we might not fully grasp our mission, but we can start with glorifying Jesus at all times. The man born blind was a living witness to Jesus’ goodness and glory. Let’s look to his example and praise the Lord through our suffering and our healing.

Stay radiant!

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Almsgiving: the Third Pillar of Lent

Almsgiving as a Pillar of Lent
I feel like almsgiving, or giving alms, is one of the most often forgotten pillar of Lent. Like I mentioned in last week’s fasting post, it seems like we’re more preoccupied by what we’re giving up for Lent. Almsgiving requires us to look outside ourselves and give to others.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Lent and almsgiving are the CRS rice bowls that you fold together and put your change in, but almsgiving isn’t just about money. Almsgiving involves sharing our time, talent, and treasure with others. We can give by spending time with our neighbors, by giving financial gifts, or offering our abilities as service. All of these require some sort of sacrifice, which is what makes almsgiving one of the three pillars of Lent. When we give alms, we tangibly lay down our wants and preferences for someone else.

Almsgiving: the Third Pillar of Lent
Almsgiving: the Third Pillar of Lent

Why should we give alms?
In a homily he gave a few weeks ago, Fr. Mike Schmitz said that almsgiving is how we become more like God. Now that we’ve been praying and fasting throughout Lent, our faith has grown and we’re getting to know God more. The more we come to know God, the more we become like Him. Because God is love, we come to know what true love is by getting to know God, and becoming more like Him will make us more loving, thoughtful, and generous. Naturally, we’ll want to extend His love and mercy to those around us, which results in almsgiving. When we’re generous and loving towards our neighbors, they’ll encounter God through us. Because of almsgiving, we’ll help others come to know God and His love.

How to give alms
Our almsgiving should extend farther than the pennies that we put in the rice bowls. We can come up with lots of reasons why we can’t donate or tithe, but Lent presents an awesome opportunity for us to do so. Use the money that you would have spent on things you gave up as donations. If you gave up trips to coffee shops or shopping, you now have extra money to give. Giving alms can be as simple as sending a note or a nice text to someone you love, or as grand as giving gift cards to someone in need. I love to see how people use their talents when they give alms, like when singers or musicians join music ministry. No matter what your approach is, get creative with how you give alms and remember to do little things with great love. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor, and almsgiving is a practical yet beautiful way of doing this.

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In case you need some ideas, here are 8 different ways to give alms this Lent:

  1. Tithe to your parish
  2. Donate to your favorite charity or a new one
  3. Write letters or notes to friends or family who might need some encouragement
  4. Seek out some service opportunities and volunteer
  5. Visit an elderly neighbor or somebody who might not get a lot of visitors
  6. Be an altar server, cantor, or lector for Mass at your parish
  7. Donate some of your gently used clothes, books, blankets, or other things
  8. Cook and deliver a meal for a family who just had a baby
Stay radiant!

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