Alleluia! Alleluia!

Psalms 108:1-5: “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to thee, O LORD, among the peoples, I will sing praises to thee among the nations. For thy steadfast love is great above the heavens, thy faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let thy glory be over all the earth!”

Tonight I went to the Easter Vigil with my dear boyfriend. I could not believe our Lenten journey was coming to a close. But my, was I ready!

I was ready to enter Mass with the lights off… With lit candles… With the Exultet proclaimed to the Heavens for Our LORD!

I was ready to go through the 7 Old Testament readings, 7 Psalms, the Easter Old Testament readings and Gospel, the Easter intercessions, and the Litany of the Saints!

I was ready for them to turn on the lights in the sanctuary to signify the conquering of darkness and death by Light and LIFE!

I was ready to see the elect became members of the Body of Christ: baptized, confirmed, and receiving their first Eucharist! (This was so moving.)

I was ready to renew my own Baptismal vows! (I remembered why I am alive!)

What a journey it has been trying to uphold a spirit of sacrifice and penance in order to await this glorious day: the Feast of the Resurrection of Our LORD Jesus Christ, Easter!

I’d have to say that of the various Lenten sacrifices and “holy additions” to my life I have made these past forty days, my favorite has been trying to regularly frequent Confession again.

I am glad to conclusively and to confidently say that I re-met Mercy Himself this Lent. And He had a name: Jesus!

Jesus is not only Love; He is also Mercy.

AMEN.

ALLELUIA! (We can finally say it!)

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JESUS: in others, and alone with just me!

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Jesus.

Name above all names.

Worthy of all praise.

The above is one of the classrooms at the school at which I am a counselor. Saw these window decorations  and I just smiled big.  Jesus. That is the most important thing… er, Person… these kids will ever learn… er, meet!

I honestly believe that I have come to know this this Son of God Made Man, JESUS, primarily through relationships. And yes, starting at a very young age. My grandmother once told me that one day when she was praying the Rosary, when I was three years old, I just joined in with her. I knew every word to a tee. My grandmother was absolutely shocked.

My grandmother should not have been shocked, however. To this day, I remember how she would constantly pray to Jesus… and also, constantly praise Him in her deeds and actions. Yes… I knew Jesus from the fresh age of three because of my grandmother’s vivid WITNESS to Him!

My grandmother had a relationship with Jesus. He was her answer. He was her purpose. He was her love. I could tell this, and I wanted to be a part of it, even as a toddler. I wanted to know Him, too.

Granted, my faith has grown tremendously since then (and thank the LORD! it is all His doing!). Especially in my teenage and young adult years, I have questioned things, and gone astray at times. But I have always come back.

I ardently believe my constant “coming back” to Jesus– and rediscovery of who He is and how He loves me, throughout my life– is a result of purely A) God’s grace and B) my grandmother’s prayers. And not only that: most likely my great grandmother’s prayers as well.

According to legend (or, actual truth!), just like my grandmother, my great grandmother was also a woman of great faith. After my great grandmother raised nine kids and her husband died, she became a third order Carmelite!

I have no doubt that my faith (which I am still ardently working on day by day) is a gift from God (not earned) and a fruit of the intercessory prayers of my grandmother and my great grandmother. Moreover, I have no doubt that I have come to know Jesus through relationships with others who have borne witness to Him! As a kid, I knew who He was; and yes, I loved Him. But it wasn’t until college that I really met Him in a deep, personal way and realized that He loved me far better than I could ever love Him.

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Fast forward to today, and I believe that I am coming to know Jesus– Who He is, and also how to follow Him– in my courtship with my dear boyfriend, or “Saint Joseph,” as well. My boyfriend is teaching me Who Love is; and our relationship is teaching both of us how to love with Jesus’s love– side by side.  🙂

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What’s beautiful, however, is that although Jesus has met me through all of those relationships, it is ultimately those intimate moments, with just He and I, that shine the most! However, I truly believe that you need both type of experiences to meet Jesus: through His image and likeness in others’ and their love stemming from Love, and through encountering Love Himself, Jesus, one on one.

Jesus.

I am still trying to wrap my head around Who Jesus is. I am still growing in my faith tremendously. Our relationship will forever be “forming” one way or another! Deeper and deeper, I will meet Him, every day that I live.

Yeah… It’s You and me… and all of the people… with nothing to do, nothing to lose.

Yeah… It’s You and me… and all of the people… and I don’t know why. But I can’t keep my eyes off of You.

–Lifehouse

Jesus. 🙂

For Jesus or Against Jesus: NO MEDIOCRE FOLLOWING!

We are either for Jesus or against Him. Christian discipleship is not for the faint of heart, the indecisive, or the person who is satisfied with the mediocre. It is only for the courageous and the ambitious. We cannot strive to be “a good person” and stop at that. This complacent spirit will not suffice.

We need to give our whole and entire selves to Christ, and to embrace responding to our unique vocations to the full! A vocation is a call. We are to answer back with the way we live our life!

In the Eucharist, Christ teaches us how to give our whole and entire life to God…. And to one another. After all, He is the Bread broken for all! 1 Corinthians 10:16 reads: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”

Moreover, 1 Corinthians 10:21 reads: “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” Whoa now! This gives me shivers. I’m either for or against Jesus. There is no middle ground.

God Himself tells us that if we are lukewarm, He will spit us out. Revelation 3:16 reads: “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.”

In fact, I never realized that 1 Corinthians 10:31 contains a direct reference to the Eucharist. I always thought the eating and drinking reference was random… But it refers to eating Jesus’s Body and drinking Jesus’s Blood! It reads: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

After we receive our Lord in the Eucharist, by His grace, we become Him whom we have received (as St. Augustine says). Thus, fed by Christ Himself, and one with Him, we are called to do ALL for the glory of God!

Are we giving entire and whole– that is, Eucharistic-like– gifts of self to God and to others?

Are we answering back to our unique calling from God (“vocation”)… with our very living?

We are meant to be living sacrifices, just like Jesus, who Himself is alive in the sacrificial Eucharistic host.

We are either for Him or against Him.

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Jesus: a living sacrifice. He’s alive in that tabernacle. Are we living sacrifices too? (And look who snuck into the background! Bl. Pope John Paul II.)

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Blessed Pope John Paul II, in books like “Love and Responsibility” and his “Theology of the Body” audiences, always spoke of love as sacrifice. Bl. JP II stressed how love required a “total gift of self.”

All in or all out.

the Holy Mass > service + praise and worship

When I attend (or rather, “pray”) the Holy Mass, readings from the Old Testament and New Testament are read, and the Gospel is proclaimed. This is called the “Liturgy of the Word” and it is the common denominator of most Christian worship services, Protestant and Catholic. However, at a Catholic Mass, instead of “praise and worship” following, the “Liturgy of the Eucharist” follows. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Our LORD gives Himself to us in the Holy Eucharist: body, blood, soul, and divinity!

In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Jesus offers me a perfect Oblation and Sacrifice: Himself! None of my own human emotions can change His gift to me. However, I feel that in praise and worship, the focus is on offering my human emotions to God. I realize that others may see this differently than I do. However, this is my own personal experience.

Truly, in the Mass as well as at a “service” or “praise and worship session,” we must similarly offer ourselves to God (physically, spiritually, and emotionally). However, in the Mass, that’s only half of the equation. In Mass, Our LORD comes down to us physically, as well as spiritually, in the Eucharist! In His decisive love, regardless of our merely human emotions, He offers Himself to us in a re-presentation of His Sacrifice at Calvary!

1 John 4:10 reads: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”

That second half… “that he loved us and sent his son”: now, that’s the entire gist of the Holy Mass… the Son of God coming to us! Body. Blood. Soul. And Divinity. Amen.

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The man who died and rose for us… and offers us Himself to be broken in the form of bread… is also the son of Mary and Joseph. As well as the Son of God. Amen!

friends in Christ

“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure.” Sirach 6:14

I have found very faithful friends in my life. Or rather, I believe God has placed them in my life. I am so blessed.

After going to young adult group tonight, I realize that it is truly a gift to have a friend of whom you are be able to say that you can:

A. connect deeply regarding your shared meaning and purpose: loving Jesus AND

B. just laugh and laugh and smile away together.

What a gift to be able to say that I can share my deepest concerns as well as my most uplifting joys with my best friends! True friends can see the darkness you experiences as well as the Light. True friends try to bring you to the Light all the time– or to sit with you when you feel like Jesus is so far.

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Myself and a couple of my best friends last summer! The friend on the right is in a religious order right now, and I cannot wait to hear from her after Lent is over! 🙂

a Light bearer I know

Have you ever met someone filled with Light… and when you meet them… you just know?

You just know that that person has a deep trust in Our LORD Jesus Christ, and that that person derives his or her joy from Him.

You know from that person’s glances, words, and actions.

You can see it in his or her eyes, and voice. You can see it in everything he or she does.

Christ is his or her light. He or she is a Light bearer.

Such a person I know is my boyfriend.

“Glory and praise to Our God! Let us sing glory and praise!” I’ve never told my boyfriend this, but when I hear this song at Mass, I think of him. I’ve pondered why, and concluded that it is because I can tell that this is exactly how my boyfriend feels about life– about his purpose and meaning– at the core of his heart. My boyfriend has a joyful, grateful heart, filled with the Light of Christ. I know that my boyfriend lives to give glory and praise to Our Lord.

Well, tomorrow is my boyfriend’s birthday, and I’d like to say that I am so blessed to be best friends with such a Light bearer. I am so very blessed to share that purpose and meaning with him.

Christ, be our Light! Shine in our hearts; shine through the darkness.

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Found a picture of some WYD Madrid 2011 pilgrims. Can’t you tell by their smiles that Christ is in their hearts, and is their joy and meaning? Fellow Light bearers of my generation! (c) piercedhearts.org

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Amen!

being in love is…

“….If you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love. ‘What is your beloved more than another beloved, O fairest among women? What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you thus adjure us?’ My beloved is all radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand.” Song of Solomon 5:8-10

Another family party tonight. I smiled as my family teased me for my “first love” syndrome. When people ask me about my boyfriend, I cannot help but smile, because I definitely know that I am one blessed young woman.

I am not afraid to say that I love the most loving, caring, self-sacrificing young man I have ever met!

And as evidenced in Holy Scripture, I love how God knows exactly how I feel, emotions-wise, about my dear boyfriend.

I mean, this is the way God feels about me. He’s “sick with love” for me. I stand out “among ten thousand”– even if all ten thousand are His children! How humbling.

In His eyes, there is only one me, and His Fatherly heart cannot stop rejoicing over how I am His one daughter, just this way, that can never be replaced! How flattering.

Divine love is such a gift. And what does it look like? Not just emotions, but also decisions…. sacrifice.

And human love is also such a gift; it is truly a gift from the Divine! Therefore, although the emotions may come in abundance… I too must remember that my human love necessitates decisions and sacrifice to be brought to the level of Love.

Being in love is so exhilarating emotionally! I smile at just the though of my dear “ruddy and radiant” boyfriend.

However, being in love also teaches me so much about Christ– and about how “being in love” emotions-wise isn’t enough… deciding to love and sacrificing is what really matters most. Decisive and sacrificial love: now, this is love that has been brought to the Cross.

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Amazing book. Stumbled upon it by accident at UCLA when I was 18 wandering the research library. I was hooked… and never the same after I read it…

“Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not tell you so. Love demands a personal commitment to the will of God.” Pope John Paul II

trust

“[Simeon] took him [the infant Jesus] up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.'” Luke 2:28-32 (the “Canticle of Simeon”)

The long day is over now.

This evening was spent with family. Such a huge blessing that I can’t even describe it.

And now, sweet sleep in the Lord. May I always trust fully in Him.

do you love your body?

“Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

You have great reason to love your body! It is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Do you love your body? Do you take care of it?

I find it so fascinating that God reveals to us that “the immoral man sins against his own body.” We often think that sin is what we do to hurt other people. But do we ever think about how hurting ourselves is also a sin? The immoral man forgets that his body is a temple of the Divine.

We are called to love our bodies— in a non-conceited way, of course. They were shaped by God in His image and likeness! We are called to a possess a pure self love— including a love of our own skin and bones.

We are called to take care of our bodies— to keep them healthy and fit. How else can we be “fully alive” in other realms, such as spiritually, if we are unhealthy or dying physically? There exists an intricate mind, body, and spirit connection: God made us masterfully integrated beings.

We are called to use our bodies to glorify God— to keep them pure and chaste, truly worthy vesicles of His Pure Love!

Of course, it’s always easier said than done.

But just as Jesus sacrificed His body for us, let us always try to sacrifice our bodies for Him. We were made beautifully, body as well as soul. Let’s love our bodies the best that we can, and support one another in doing so.

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Me with headphones! Lots of media today tells me that I shouldn’t think of my body as a temple of the Spirit. I choose not to listen.

my crew: the God Squad

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“The Communion of Saints” (c) John Nava/The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

You become who you are around.

I was blessed to make friends filled with the light of Christ in middle school (and beyond). I saw a genuine goodness in my friends; they were different from my friends who just seemed like they wanted to be “popular.” I saw my new friends… living for a meaning and a purpose outside of the realm of self.

Moreover, even at such a young age, many of my friends lived as young disciples of Christ. I wanted that joy and peace in my heart, too! I soon saw that it stemmed from selflessness, not selfishness.

Fast forward two and a half decades later, and I’d like to say that my “crew” now consists of six of my (many) cousins, ages 18 to 27. I suppose we are the cousins closest in age and that’s why we kind of formed our own group. Anyway… just a confession… I like to think of this “crew” as “the God Squad.”

I honestly would like to say that none of my cousin’s or my parents “forced” religion onto us (my own dad: agnostic); but I do think we were all lead to God by God in various ways. Yes, our parents helped us to be lead to Him (and so did our Rosary-praying Lola grandma!) by taking us to church, praying with us, showing us a good example of faithfulness, etc.

But really, all I can do is smile huge and think about how God planned this all from the very beginning– how God planned each and every one of us’s personal journeys to Him on our own timetable! It just so happens that now, at least today, we all seem to be journeying into life together…. united in Him.

Back then, we bonded over Big Foot Pizza and rollerblades. Who would have known our deepest bond… would turn into Christ?

My cousins in this “God squad” all feel like my best friends, even if we don’t always keep up with each other on a daily basis.

I really believe that you become who you are around. I am so blessed to be surrounded by my “crew”– this “God squad.” They don’t even know that this is what I call them in my mind (and have been for a couple years now).

My cousins are Kingdom seekers. Just like Matthew 6:33 says, they seek first God’s Kingdom. Then they try to build. And they believe that God will provide so long as they first seek Him. I’ve seen my cousin crew members do  amazing things in their lives so far. My cousins inspire me to pick up my cross, too– and to live for God and for others in His name.

Moreover, my cousins also teach me that Faith and grace cannot be earned. It can be prayed for. But it is freely given by God; Faith and grace are our gifts from Him. I have merely seen my cousins say “yes” to receiving and to using those gifts. And I pray moment by moment that I can do the same.

Who are you around most of the time? Make sure you surround yourself with people who have virtues you would like to emulate. Chances are you’ll likely rub off on one another, in both the good and the not-so-admirable.