Why I want to breathe in the New Year

A week before Christmas I stopped. Or rather I was stopped, called up short, forced to face some facts I would have preferred to ignore. In my anything-but-quiet heart, I began to connect the dots over the past few months, beginning with a couple unexpected changes I hadn’t seen coming, health issues I had overlooked, and a disappointment that seemed to have come from nowhere. As I stewed in the mess that now seemed so obvious, passions tugged at my mind and heart till they seemed to be nothing more than punching bags. Layer after layer of painful memories surfaced, hurts ignored, forgiveness never offered, losses never acknowledged.

It was time to stop and breathe.

At the end of a year, the events of the past twelve months can tug at the edges of memory with a demand for our awareness. If they are too painful, we are too busy, or issues are too complex, these situations and events will settle down uneasily, but they will never go away. Facing them gently, as we are able, or when the Holy Spirit raises them to our awareness, brings peace. This gentle encounter with truth can help us relax, release our anxiety, settle our passionate demands, and let us hear the voice of our King and Savior Jesus.

I’m breathing in the New Year 2019, so I can hand over to Jesus all the ways I’ve disappointed myself and others and calmly settle every unmet expectation.

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus leads you into this newness. He walks beside you, he holds you in his arms, he welcomes with the kiss bestowed by the Father on his Prodigal Son. Take a deep breath. Believe.

As the hours wane on this past year, allow all your worries and pains to sift slowly into his Heart. There they will be lost forever in the fires of his Mercy.

And there begin 2019 with a heart made new by his Love.

God hears the whisper of your heart

God as potter is deeply invested in what he creates. The image of potter is often portrayed as an image of power: God chooses how to shape the clay. For me the image of potter is intimately one with the image of God pouring himself into his creation. It is an image of love. I can hear God listening closely to everything we say as he shapes our lives. The shaping of the vessel is part of an ongoing conversation of love between potter and clay. On a particularly busy day, I (the clay) may tell God (the potter) that I am tired. I need help. It is characteristic of God to bend over the little vessel he is loving into being and care for me. Listen closely, God, to the whisper of my heart. Bend over your creature, here, and let me know your ever tender love.

From the book Cherished by the Lord


Cherished by the Lord

Be the Christmas you celebrate


“See how they love one another!” From the origin of Christianity, people were so attracted by the joy they saw in the followers of Jesus that they eventually felt they no longer could tenably hold to their viewpoints and prior beliefs. This joy and this love then spills over into legal and social action, ministries of justice, and service to the most vulnerable.

Pope Benedict XVI stated in his book Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures: “Our greatest need in the present historical moment is people who make God credible in this world by means of the enlightened faith they live. … We need men who keep their eyes fixed on God, learning from him what true humanity means … so their hearts can open the hearts of others”

So here are some suggestions for this Christmas and holiday season.

Advent is a time for online watchfulness


The end of the liturgical year, the anything-but-quiet waiting weeks of Advent filled with the tug between the contemplative and commercial, the awesome birth of Christ in hearts anew on Christmas night, the first day of the brand new year and the World Day of Peace. . . . There has always been something almost magical about the turn of the year. Children with their excited hope for what Christmas morn will bring and cloistered nuns with their contemplative immersion in the mystery of all Christmas is — and everyone in between — are swept up by something fresh and exciting and innocent in these weeks.

I’ve been thinking about how much we need this gift particularly at this time, this year. Our hearts have been so beaten and tainted by the mainstreaming of aggressive and violent language. It has infiltrated our hearts and minds through social and news media on our computers and television screens. Then like an unwanted blot of dark ink it has soaked into our conversations and relationships and thoughts and desires and dreams….

How can I keep a deep spiritual sensitivity of mind and heart so that I live as a citizen of heaven while yet on this Earth? (Philippians 3:20) The ancient practice of cleansing our thoughts holds a key. This is how I’ve started practicing this watchfulness in these end-of-year weeks.

May my life be a work of art

There are so many good things we could do; how do we know which specific deeds God desires most of us? This passage from the Letter to the Ephesians is full of clues. Words such as “rich in faithful love,” “through the great love with which he loved us,” and “it is through grace that you have been saved” tip us off. God has planned a tremendous work of art for humanity and civilization. This artistic creation is a direct reflection of God’s love and life. It is that simple. The Father, from all eternity, loved the Son. The Son turned around and, instead of holding on to this love which he had received, gave it away. He emptied himself, became a man, walked among us, lived our life, and died our death, so that, as the Father had done, he could pour himself out in love for us who needed salvation. It is by grace that we are saved. The deeds God desires of us are self-emptying acts of service of others, love to the point of giving our lives for one another.

Jesus, make my life a work of art. May I love others with a faithful love that seeks their good before my own.

From the book Cherished by the Lord

God trusts us

Jesus appointed twelve uneducated, unprepared, and unlikely men to help him in the very delicate work of saving the human race. They themselves were part of the humanity that needed salvation. If Jesus wanted the job done right, why didn’t he choose angels he could trust? What mystery that he entrusted himself instead to family, friends, disciples, and women “who provided for” him (Lk 8:3). Today he entrusts himself to you and me.

Never, Lord, will I complain about others in the Church now that I see how you have trusted us from the beginning to carry out your Father’s plan for salvation. Nothing we can do can destroy the power of that plan. Thy Kingdom come!

From the book Cherished by the Lord

9 – How to Live with Greater Love


God created the human heart to be like a large box vast enough to hold God himself. When we hate ourselves for what we’ve done or who we think we are, our hearts become smaller and smaller until our spirits have no more room to breathe. Sometimes we don’t think we can bring our shame into the open before God. Perhaps you believe that God won’t forgive you. You hide from God just as you hide from others when you are afraid to reveal your true self. At the root of this unhealthy behavior is the reality that you have rejected yourself. Do you love yourself in all your vulnerability and imperfection? When we refuse to allow ourselves to be held by God in the midst of our struggles, we deprive ourselves of God’s tenderness toward us.

To see who we really are is to see ourselves as God sees us. We need to expose ourselves to the messages, the Voice, the Words of God to know ourselves and others in truth.

Jesus is God in the world

We believe that God meets us in Jesus. Jesus is God in the world as the One who bestows Life and reveals the Father. The Church is the mystery of the Body of Jesus. It stands wide open to us, but, unlike other sociological institutions, the Church’s depths defy our sounding. This is the revelation God has made to us. We do not need to rely on lucky guesses or profound insights. We only need to answer, to respond with belief. Belief finds its own equilibrium through ways that are often unseen. Incredibly, it is only in believing that we know who we truly are. We can stand taller than labels, peel away criticisms, and go beyond curiosity to adoration.

From the book Making Peace with Yourself