“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’
John 15:13 NIV
So often when we read these words we think of soldiers dying in war or first responders risking their lives. But there are millions in our society who day after day lay down their lives as they take care of their loved ones. So many people sacrifice to take care of aging parents, disabled spouses or children. Maybe you’re one of them.
I want to tell you that there is a special place in God’s heart for you and people like you. The world may never recognize your sacrifices but God sees every one of them. He knows how hard it is for you to deal with the obsessive compulsiveness of your loved one. He knows how hard you struggle to be patient and loving when you’re exhausted. He sees the messes you have to deal with. He knows your fears, your fear of making a mistake, of making the wrong decision or of an uncertain future. He knows how difficult things are. He knows how alone and overwhelmed you feel.
You don’t have to be alone. He is there by your side waiting for you to reach out to Him. He wants to give you His strength, His patience, His peace, comfort and courage. All you have to do is turn to Him.
What are your thoughts of Lent? Are you one of those who dread Lent and find it dreary? Maybe you look forward to Lent. You can if you try to see this Lent as a golden opportunity.
Most of us try to sacrifice something for Lent. That is part of being raised Catholic, giving up something for Lent. It is a good thing but it could be even better if we offer all our sacrifices for a purpose. I’m sure all of us have a loved one who needs to return to the Church. This Lent whatever sacrifices you make offer them for the conversion of that loved one. Often difficult sacrifices become easier when we put a face on it when we make them for someone you love. This Lent take the opportunity to bless your loved ones.
This may feel like “mission impossible” but the gospel says that all things are possible for one who believes. God always honors our prayer and sacrifices for others. So often it is not when we want but it is always in His perfect timing. Trust Him!
What sacrifice might we offer? What is it that God wants us to do? So often we are tempted to cut out sweets and maybe lose weight but most likely God is calling us to make a different kind of sacrifice. We are called to be a people of joy, a people of praise and of gratitude. People should see the joy of being a Catholic in our lives. We are a blessed people! We get to go to Confession! We get to receive Jesus in the Eucharist! What a privilege!
Every Lent offers us the opportunity to grow closer to becoming the person God created us to be. Our goal this Lent should be to move in the direction of becoming a person of joy. This can be our resolution. Concretely, we can start by trying as much as possible not to complain or at least to complain less. Every time we resist the temptation we complain we can offer it up. It may take all of Lent before we see a difference. I don’t think any of us really realize how negative we are.
This may seem like even more of impossibility than the conversion of our loved ones but we need to remember that all things are possible with God. We will not be alone in this effort. God wants this more than we do. He will give us the grace we need if we ask for it. This should be our daily prayer, maybe even hourly prayer.
We also should remember we aren’t perfect. We will blow it but we can ask for forgiveness and try again and again.
Make this Lent a time of grace both for you and your loved ones.
This morning our parochial vicar, Father Cassabon, said something that struck me. God is not a lawyer or an accountant. So often we get caught up in these negative images of God and close ourselves off from His blessings. We keep away from God because of fear.
We need to remember what the apostle John wrote. “God is love”. God loves us more than we can ever imagine or understand this side of heaven. Psalm 103 tells us that once we confess our sins He places them as far as the east is from the west. He no longer remembers them. We no longer need to worry about them. We can stop beating ourselves up over them.
Yes, we aren’t perfect. Yes, we mess up all the time. He knows that. He knew that when He went to the Cross. Nothing we can do will surprise Him or diminish His love. He is love. That is His character. He is incapable of doing anything but love us.
We don’t have to earn His love or become worthy of His blessings. We just have to open our hearts and accept His love, His blessings. He knows and wants what is best for us. We haven’t a clue. We want to hang on to our grudges and bad habits. We refuse to forgive all the while the anger in our bodies is making us sick.
We hang back afraid to surrender to God. We’ll wait until we are more worthy. We refuse to ask God for the help we need because we don’t deserve His love. We search for the perfect prayer. Maybe if we say the prayer that St. Ambrose or St. Pio said God will bless or heal us.
It doesn’t matter how fancy, deep or profound our prayer is. It doesn’t matter how perfectly we prayed or how worthy we feel. All that matters is that God is love. He loves us and longs to bless our socks off. He wants to pour His love upon us. A virtual Niagara Falls of blessings is waiting for us to turn to Him, open our hearts to Him and allow Him to do what is really best for us. All we have to do is trust His love, His goodness and mercy.
A Valentine’s Message
Have you ever thought what a Valentine from God would be like? What would He have to say to you? I bet too many of us would never expect one or be afraid to open it; which is too bad because it would be truly awesome and would most likely read like this:
My beloved child,
Yes, you are my beloved child. I know this is hard for you to believe. You see all your mistakes and failures, all the times you lost your temper, all the times you’ve hurt people, all the times you stayed away from me. You look at yourself and see your failures.
I look at you and see your beauty. I see the love you’ve given to those you encountered in your life. I see the times you tried to love others, all the times you’ve given of yourself. I see a beautiful person struggling to become the person you were created to be.
There is a beauty and love deep inside of you. Right now you may not see it but someday the whole world will look at you and see this rare beauty, someone very special and unique, a gift to the world, my gift and my beloved child.
So often you’ve been afraid of me. You run and try to hide, hoping that I won’t notice your mistakes. You run, doing everything you can to stay busy, too busy to think, to talk to me. You run but I long for your company. I long to shower you with my love, to pour my blessings upon you. I yearn to comfort and console you, to be there for you in your pain. My desire is to take care of you. My passion is for you to come to me, seeking me, to know and love me.
I want you to know that I know everything you ever done and I love you with a passion so intense that human words can not describe it. Your past is forgiven and forgotten. I remember nothing you confessed. I passionately desire to forgive you everything. All you have to do is repent and confess.
Come to me; come so that I may pour my blessings upon you. There is so much I want to give you. I want to do so much for you. I want you to know my peace. I want to set you free from the guilt that robs your joy; from the fear that plagues you, from the worry and anxiety that is tearing you apart. I want you to know my joy, to know my freedom and love.
Come, now! There is nothing you have to change or do, no improvements you have to make before you come to me. Come as you are. I love you exactly as you are. Just, come!
originally published on Catholicexchange.com
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