Your life can change in a moment. Someone comes along and says something that alters your path. A friend points to a gift that you didn’t know you had or a stranger suggests an alternative you didn’t know existed and suddenly – or gradually – your life changes.
Some years ago, while I was doing research on how people find their callings, I met a Franciscan priest with an interesting story.
Father Damian was happy in his priesthood. He had been a Franciscan for almost 30 years and was confident he would live the rest of his life as a priest.
When I asked him how he found his calling, he smiled the way a person does before telling you something important. He didn’t have to search for an answer. He knew immediately.
The Department of Homeland Security recently included “single issue” anti-abortion advocates in a category of “right wing extremists.” While I suspect they were referring to the likes of the Atlanta bomber, Eric Rudolph, rather than to peaceful, outspoken pro-life proponents, there is no doubt this characterization will be mishandled and abused by both media and pro-choice organizations.
Add to the Catholic anti-abortion stance, our opposition to embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia, it becomes a reasonable bet that orthodox Catholics will be bearing the “right wing extremist” tag often in the next few years.
As these attacks escalate, we must knowledgeably present our positions on these subjects whether in everyday conversations, letters to the editor or even radio call-in shows — all the while not being intimidated by name-calling and unfair generalizations.
Mass and receiving Jesus are highlights of my day. During the week I go as often as possible.
Before Mass recently I prayed that God would show us His presence in a concrete way in our lives. I was surprised in the ways God answered that prayer. I saw it in the courage of a woman who cantored for the first time in our church. Her gentle voice added as much to the Liturgy as did the guitarist, who also played beautifully. I saw God’s presence in the pride of the cantor’s family. I saw it the reverence in which the Mass was celebrated.
I saw it most profoundly in the interaction between a mother and her son.
Ah, the sweetness of springtime. After being up north in the snow for a week, I turned the corner onto my street and saw my yard ablaze with spring color. Dogwood and redbud trees and tulips were beginning to flower.
However, something did remain in my yard from the winter: gumballs. If you do not have sweetgum (gumball) trees in your yard, consider yourself blessed.
Gumballs are brown, one-inch balls with spikes that fall from sweetgum trees in the late autumn, winter and spring. They can make a trip to the mailbox an ankle-turning event. Don’t walk on one in soft-soled shoes.
I spent an entire day raking up gumballs last month, only to have a storm come and place just as many gumballs back in my yard again. Dear Lord, why did you create the gumball tree?
How could I possibly embrace the extraordinary gift of the glory and everlasting freedom of Easter when I was holding tightly to my own troubling sins? I half-heartedly believed that Jesus loved me tenderly and would have suffered and died for me even if I were the only person who ever lived. I also knew that He included everyone, yes every person, in His love and mercy. He welcomed all to come to Him and receive the reassurance of salvation.
This fact is emphasized at Easter more than any other time. At Easter, we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death and all sins. Jesus suffered tremendous agony on the cross so that we could be free from sin. He was beaten and experienced unrelenting torture until He died — all for you and me. We are enabled to welcome Christ’s love, turn from all our sins and receive His mercy. When we accept the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are freed from fear and can live like the apostles did in the Book of Acts. We’ll be aware of our sins more often, so we can confess our wrongdoings and be freed from the bondage of sin and continue to be “the light of Jesus” here on earth.