"But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days says the Lord. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God and they shall be my people." ~ Jeremiah 31:33

 

This page contains excerpts of our 3 latest blog posts from our blog site Written on Our Hearts, for the full site click here

 

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Written on Our Hearts: A Patchwork Heart Blog

08.06.2017
Patchwork Heart
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“Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:14 As Bert, the beloved chimney sweep in Mary Poppins, feels the winds change in the opening scene of the movie he chants; “Winds in the east, there's a mist comin' in, like somethin' is brewin' and 'bout to begin. Can't put me finger on what lies in store, but I feel what's to happen all happened before.” He alludes to the arrival of the world’s most famous nanny - who soon floats onto the doorstep of the Bank’s home to animate the lives of Jane and Michael and answer the plea of their father George for a qualified and diligent caretaker. Her unexpected arrival is a pleasant surprise to almost everyone involved. She solves problems with a touch of magic and routinely suspends the laws of reality, to provide those whom she comes in contact with a reality check. Her iconic bag is filled with a unique combination of advocacy, orderliness and spontaneity. With these gifts she inspires people to live a joyful life with both freedom and self-control. Some are radically and instantly transformed by following this way of living; some are bewildered and astounded by the transformation in their loved ones lives. The effect of their encounter with Mary is so great that the children cannot imagine life without her ever again, and beg her to always be with them. Mary Poppins responds, “I’ll stay until the wind changes.” Assuring them that she will challenge and help them grow during this time of transition in their lives, serving as a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. In other words, the wind knows the needs of the Banks family and will provide for them the right person, in the right situation, for exactly the right length of time. Ultimately, when all relationships (and kites) have been mended, Mary Poppins magical umbrella catches a gust of the breeze that carries her onward and upward. Mary Poppins is a great example of what it means to be driven by the Holy Spirit in our lives. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you - oracle of the Lord - plans for your welfare and not woe, so as to give you a future of hope (Jeremiah 29:11 NABRE).” God created and uses our unique personalities, talents and gifts to place us at particular times throughout our lives in our families, jobs and various situations for the good of both ourselves and others. While we may not be delivered to the porch of our neighbors problems via magical flying umbrella (those looking to acquire the skill might ask St. Joseph of Cupertino for his intercession), we are created for a purpose filled life and empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish the will of God. The powerful action of the Holy Spirit is recognized from the very beginning of scripture as the author of Genesis writes; “the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2 NRSV).” In other translations of that verse, the Holy Spirit is described as “a mighty wind (NABRE).” The Third Person of the Holy Trinity is also described similarly during Pentecost; “and suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were (Acts 2:2).” Christ promises that the wind of the Spirit will carry us and supply us with all that is necessary to spread the Gospel. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).” What is even more impressive than the power of the Holy Spirit is that all we need to do is open our hearts and the same Spirit that hovered over the waters of the deep abyss will dwell within our souls. We then can be the wind of change and transformation the world so desperately needs. Like Mary Poppins, when we allow the mighty wind to catch our umbrellas we will be given the fruits, gifts and charisms of the Spirit to do great works, glorify God in great tongues (yes, even greater than supercalifragilisticexpialidocious), and be witnesses of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Is it just me or is there a draft in here?
17.05.2017
Patchwork Heart
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Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. ~ Philippians 4:4 I think the month of May was given to us by God for celebrations. Star Wars fans begin the month wishing well to one another, saying “May the fourth be with you.” Mexicans celebrate a victory in their struggle for independence a day later on Cinco de Mayo. A few weeks later we celebrate Mother’s Day. Finally, on the month’s last Monday we memorialize all those who have died defending the United States of America. That is just the societal celebrations, we haven’t mentioned high school and college graduations and proms or those who receive the Sacraments of Initiation. It goes without saying there are many reasons to celebrate this month. As the weather gets warmer, these events and occasions give us reason to gather with family and friends to share in some silliness like Star Wars day, give thanks to our mothers for blessing us with the gift of life, celebrate the accomplishments of loved ones and honor those who have protected a nation’s independence and freedom. There are abundant blessings for us in celebrations, if you don’t believe me God says so himself, in the book of Leviticus. I don’t know about you but in my bible, the pages of Leviticus are not very worn. A compendium of old Jewish laws is not my first choice of literature for recreational reading. But it is where you’ll find a divine decree declaring the need for celebration. Too good to be true, right? It isn’t. God says to the Israelite's, “you shall hallow the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants, it shall be a jubilee for you when each of you shall return to his property and each of you return to his family (Lev 25:10 NRSV).” Jesus says to us in his Good Shepherd discourse that He came to us so that we might have life abundantly (cf John 10:10). God knows there is need for us to rest from work and enjoy life, after all we are created in both in His image and His likeness (cf Gen 1:26-27), so we are to live and enjoy life, not merely exist. The Catholic Church has maintained the importance of a celebrating as a family of faith since pontificate of Boniface VIII established the Christian Jubilee church-wide in 1300. Today, it has become the common practice that an ordinary Jubilee year is celebrated every quarter century, our next regularly scheduled Catholic gala will be in 2025. However, there are occasions when the Pope has decided to throw a special party celebrating an aspect of God’s love. This occurred most recently when our current Pontiff, Francis, declared an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy that lasted from December 8, 2015 until November 20, 2016. He recognized that we needed to celebrate in a special way God’s mercy, saying “at times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives (Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus).” It was an occasion of grace and reconciliation for many. As both the Jewish law and Christian custom allude to the act of celebrating with one another can transform our spirituality. While we don’t need a Papal Bull to attend a college graduation ceremony or Memorial Day party, we do often receive or extend an invitation for family and friends to join us. In some small way that invite mirrors the words of Christ, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28).” Our earthly celebrations are an opportunity to stop working, cast aside the struggles (even if for just an afternoon or weekend) and taste the joy of heaven. Hallow these opportunities for great joy. Party with a purpose. Intentionally enjoy these moments for they are part of the abundant life we have been promised by Jesus. Your spiritual life will bear fruit, families will grow closer to one another, friendships will be strengthened and God’s kingdom will be made manifest on earth. May we celebrate.
16.04.2017
Patchwork Heart
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He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; in Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities - all things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the Church; He is the beginning, the first-born of the dead, that in everything He might be pre-eminent  ~ Colossians 1:15-18 It was an early spring Friday afternoon, my little brother and I got off the school bus and walked the familiar two blocks home. As we approached our house we could hear the sound of chainsaws and soon noticed a crew of so-called “landscaping professionals” just about finishing the removal of our neighbor's apple tree. While the roots of this particular tree were definitively on our neighbor's property, the branches hung over a fence by our vegetable garden providing some shade and blocked the view to an ugly bright blue home. My parents liked the tree for these reasons. Our neighbors however had disdain for it, mainly because unlike us they had a pool (may I add that we were never invited once to go swimming) and the apples would fall into it and they would have to fish them out constantly. Because the tree was on their side of the fence, it belonged to them and it was well within their right to cut it down. But we didn’t have to like their decision. As we entered our house, my mother was quite upset. She said to us, “can you believe they are cutting that tree down. I went over and talked to Janet about it and told her that I really like that tree. Why didn’t she come over and talk to me about it before just cutting it down all of a sudden?” My brother and I took one look at each other and knew how we would avenge our mother after our afternoon snack. We quickly changed out of our school uniforms and grabbed the tennis racquet from the garage.  Now, over the years, we played many games of homerun derby and frequently we would hit the balls over the fence and they would land in the pool. Instead of throwing the balls back over, our frustrated neighbor would just throw them in the garbage or give them to their dog to chew. This history coupled with the apple tree violation was reason enough to inflict the worst type of punishment nine and twelve year old boys could mete out to our unneighborly neighbors.  As we ran outside with our tennis racquet, our massive black walnut tree at the opposite end of our yard still towered brilliantly...and more importantly it couldn’t be touched by our neighbor’s chainsaw. It was a healthy tree that yielded a plentiful harvest of sticky and sappy walnuts from spring through fall. The exterior of a black walnut while it had striking resemblance to a tennis ball was not a tennis ball, the outer coating when dissolved by water treatment chemicals in a pool, would release a black ooze in the water. These would serve as the ammunition for our operation code named Pete Sampras Mad at His Neighbors. We gathered the fallen black walnuts, finding easily over one hundred of them, and then one-by-one hit them over the fence aiming for the pool. I pitched them to my brother who with incredible precision for a nine-year-old sent most of them swimming. We listened intently for each walnut to make a splash then cheered exuberantly with each new delivery of retaliatory justice. To this day my younger brother and I laugh about how we defended our mom and protected our territory. Our neighbors never confronted us and our parents never punished us, we still like to think we were angels of God’s perfect justice that day.  Alright, I admit I went off the deep end for a moment, and as my brother recently admitted recounting the experience “the amount of black walnuts we hit into that pool was wildly uncalled for [in that situation].” But by now I’m pretty sure you are wondering what this story has to do with Easter. As grossly flawed as the episode of Pete Sampras Mad at His Neighbors is, like Easter at it’s core is all about a son answering the call to restore justice.  Maybe you’ve never thought of Easter like that before - but it is exactly why God sent His only Son to earth; to restore and make His justice perfect through a new and eternal covenant with His chosen people. We can get easily lost in the soap opera of salvation history, but it boils down rather simply. The original sin of Adam and Eve left a gaping wound between humanity and God, that left us unable to attain union with Him. Our Heavenly Father offered us opportunity after opportunity, covenant after covenant, but each and every time we failed to live up to our end of the deal. Through our repeated failures and unfaithfulness, as detailed through the Old Testament, God recognized that we were incapable of restoring our relationship with Him through our own merit. Then, in radical act of love and mercy, “because God so loved the world, He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”  What makes this act nearly incomprehensible is that God was not obligated to redeem us, rather He loved us so much and desired to spend eternity with us that He provided “the Way and the Truth and the Life (cf John 14:6)” in the person of Jesus our Christ to restore our access to complete union with Him in Heaven. The manner in which he defeats death is equally unfathomable. He subjected His only Son, the sinless and spotless Lamb, to be slaughtered on a Roman instrument of torture and death for the punishment we deserved for our sins. Simply, Jesus took our place on the cross. Just in case that wasn’t enough for you, He tops it off with a glorious Sunday morning resurrection restoring our life. To us, it might seem wildly uncalled for but that is how much God loves each and every one of the souls He has created - including you. So whether you’ve vindictively launched walnuts into your neighbor’s swimming pool or sinned in some other seemingly brilliant manner, out of perfect love God left his heavenly throne, came to earth and died for you so that you can have eternal life. In return, He asks that you do your best to love Him. How then do we glorify the Lord by our lives? We spend time with Him in daily in prayer, build up the kingdom through serving our neighbors in need, attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and admit to Him the times we’ve stumbled and fallen in sin by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is the real meaning of Easter and by faithfully carrying our crosses to the finish we will receive the imperishable crown of glory in heaven (cf 1 Corinthians 9:24).

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