Satan and his sly affair

My greatest enemy… is myself.

One may say Satan is our greatest enemy, but really, (most of us) have free will to do what we want. We can *personally* choose to listen to Satan, to worldly desires… to that voice inside our heads that is tainted by “the Fall” (of mankind via Adam and Eve). That tainted voice tells us that it is OK to do something that we know is bad for us or others. Conversely, we can  *personally* choose to listen to God, and to live our lives pointed towards Heaven. It is our choice. We are responsible for saying yes to the voice of the Enemy, consequently becoming our own enemies– or for saying yes to Christ Our King.

Am I listening to God? Moreover, am I DOING something about what I hear: am I clinging to His every word?

In Matthew 4:4, Jesus tells Satan: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Am I listening to Satan, who in subtle AND not-so-subtle ways tempts me, daily? I am but a fool if I fail to see how hard Satan is working to gain my soul. Bit by bit, day by day, little by little… it’s a sly affair. 

Even the greatest of saints were tempted. In big ways AND in little ways. All the time. Tempted to make choices that would lead them to be less alive… less alive in Christ.

I am a saint in the making, and I need to be aware. That’s step one. Step two? To take courage! To pick up my cross and to follow JESUS: the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

It is Christ Our Lord’s grace that helps me to flee temptation and to fly towards Heaven!

As Saint Josemaria put it:

“Don’t forget, my son, that for you on earth there is but one evil, which you must fear and avoid with the grace of God: sin.” The Way, 386

Some youth chillin' with Papa Francesco and taking a "selfie." May God bless them on their quest for HOLINESS... holiness: striving to turn from sin and to run towards Jesus... by listening to Him and living a life built around His word!

Youth chillin’ with Papa Francesco. Hopefully, they left this inspiring pope with a thirst for holiness: to turn from sin, run towards Jesus, and live in Him by clinging to His every word!

“Be not afraid”… of what? why, my own fear…

I’ve heard that the phrases “Be not afraid,” “Fear not,” “Take courage,” and other variations, are in Holy Scripture / the Bible 365 times. I am guessing that in the Catholic Bible (which has seven more books) there are EVEN more references! (Here’s one source.)

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Like Jesus, “Be not afraid!” was also a favorite saying of this Vicar of Christ, Blessed Pope John Paul II.

In regards to sin… of what am I “afraid”? What do I “fear”?

Certainly, when I sin, I do not feel “afraid” nor “fear.” Instead, I feel “tempted.”

When I sin, I feel like I need something or like I need to do something. But really, I only want something. And that something is not good for myself and/or others. No matter how hard it may be to see that, and no matter how easy it may be to rationalize that that something is not.

SIN: an act that goes against God’s Will.

No matter how small (e.g., “venial”) or how big (e.g., “mortal), I am hurting God’s heart BECAUSE I AM HURTING MYSELF. And God is weeping for me,  because He loves me (and His other children who I am hurting). Yes, via sin, I am always indirectly and/or directly hurting God, myself and others, since we are ALL connected.

BUT THEN I REMEMBER THIS…

God does NOT wants to control me or be “strict” with me, as if I am a robot! Rather, His desire is that I use my freedom to do what will NOT hurt me. He is THAT loving of a Father!

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Myself and my grandfather, who loved me with a fatherly love.

When I sin, yes, I AM afraid… I am afraid that if I cannot get what I want, I will not be able to function.

When I sin, I DO fear… I fear that if I cannot get what I want, I will not be able to be happy.

This Lent, I have come to ponder how my SINNING is the same as FEARING my own FEAR… fearing the very fear of my own lack of courage to do what is RIGHT… a very human tendency.

Sinning is fearing that if I do not get what I think I need… I will be helpless. But God wants to help me, and I hope that I can always trust, with childlike trust, that He knows what is BEST for me.  In Isaiah 55:8, He tells me, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…”.

Virtue has never ever been deemed “easy.” It is much easier to live a mediocre, morally tepid, not-so-virtuous life. But God is calling me. And He’s telling me not to be afraid!

Not to be AFRAID of turning away from my tendency to go the easy route: to cling to sin.

Not to FEAR turning towards virtue: away from darkness and death, and into light and life.

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Like 14-year-old Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, one of the Mexican “Cristero” martyrs, did not FEAR his own FEAR… I, too, am called to let Christ conquer sin in me. #BlJLOraProNobis

Culture of Life vs. Culture of Death

Evening Prayer (“Magnificat” version) this evening included James 1:15: “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”

This reminded me of Blessed John Paul II’s term, “culture of death,” which includes sins of concupiscence / the flesh.

Such sins in particular destroy the human individual, marriages, families, and society at large. Via unchastity, the using and abuse of others, inordinate and excessive emphasis on worldly pleasures, a plethora of addictions (drugs, alcohol, pornography, masturbation), self-deprecation and mutilation, hatred, murder… the list goes on… the human soul no longer teems with life, but is blackened by death.

Even when it might “feel good” at first, the soul is slowly… being killed… dying. One day, it’s dead. It’s over.

And like James 1:15 says, it all starts in small, subtle ways. Very lovely-seeming ways. Our inordinate desires can deceive us. Satan uses them to steer us off course from the Giver of LIFE… from a Culture of LIFE.

But you know what is so beautiful?

Jesus Christ has already won the battle! By His Passion and His Resurrection.

Jesus assures us: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11).

The question is: will I let Him conquer my heart?

O, if I but let the thorns of his crown pierce my hardened heart… it will become flesh again. It will become alive again.

I must think this over and over in Lent! How can I continually let Him give me life as He is wanting? More and more abundantly?

As Jesus said “no” three times to Satan, who was tempting Him in the desert (when He was famished from fasting), I too can say “no” to Satan.

I have nothing to fear! Only my mediocrity, my own lack of courage.

By saying no to my (inordinate) desires this Lent (with which Satan so subtly plays), I can let the Culture of LIFE triumph in this battle in the world of LIFE vs. death.

LIFE will win. Christ Jesus assures me of that!

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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!

I wake up for him

You thought I meant for my boyfriend, hm? Nope. Well, OK, I really do look forward to his good morning calls or text messages. But there’s Someone infinitely more important (no offense to my dear boyfriend).

In the morning, every morning, I wake up for Jesus. Moreover, I wake up hungry for Him in the Eucharist!

When the Holy Spirit somehow, in His kindness, awakens me to a new day, do you know what I should be able to hear? I should be able to hear Christ whispering to me! And O how lovely it is when I am listening well!

As Song of Solomon 2:10 reads:

“Behold my beloved speaketh to me: Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come.”

Jesus says this to me every morning. Not only does He want me to “come away” with Him by inviting Him into every moment of my day. He also invites me to meet Him as He comes down for me on the altar.

Even more exhilarating, every Holy Mass, my Beloved LORD asks me if I will let Him enter into me– if I agree to willingly receive Him– in the form of the Eucharist!

What an invitation. There are no words. What God in the Universe would do such a humble, romantic thing?

In college, I heard a priest once say: “A day without a Mass, if one can attend, is a day wasted.”

O, how verily so.

I pray that I will never take Our LORD’s invitation to receive Him in the Eucharist for granted. That priest was right. Not to go to a daily Mass, when I am so able, truly is to waste my day. The Mass is the highlight of any day on earth, so long as I shall live, because it is there that I meet my true Love, receive Him, and am one with Him. It is there that I give back to Him all that I will do or all that I have done throughout the day, and moreover, all of who I am, in love!

If Your LORD and Your GOD is offering Himself to you daily, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Eucharist— in the “form” of bread and wine, but truly JESUS Himself– what, o what, is holding you back?!

So you say you want a revolution?

Let’s start a revolution.

A Eucharistic revolution.

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Eucharistic miracles: they’re real. Jesus is waiting for you to meet Him at the altar, to receive Him, to adore Him. He wants you to carry Him with you wherever you are! He wants to enter your body and your soul.

the Divine romance

“May Jesus be in your mind, Jesus in your heart, Jesus on your lips, Jesus in all your works.” –Saint Gaspar del Bufalo

My mind, my heart, my lips, my works. Does Jesus rest in them all?

You see… I am not just a Roman Catholic… I am also a romantic Catholic! *cymbal clash* Haha 😉

Romantic because Jesus always has me on His mind, His heart, His lips, His works! In this Divine romance,  how can I offer back to Him all of me? Well… if I really look into my core, the purity of my intentions matters.

As for my mind… do I merely wish to be powerful?

As for my heart… do I merely wish to “use” God to fulfill my “needs”?

As for my lips… do I merely wish to sound filled with the Spirit, in my own search for human approval?

As for my works… do I merely wish to appear a devoted daughter of God?

I have no power; it is Christ’s power alone.

My heart is a heart of flesh because of the One who made me. Otherwise, it would be a heart of stone.

My lips speak goodness only because He has first spoken goodness to me and offered me tenderness, mercy, and an image of a love that touches and affirms and endures, even in infidelity.

My works are mere gifts from Our Lord. My devotion is nothing of my own doing. I simply give my “fiat” and cooperate with God.

God is the source of all grace! In Him alone do I trust. In Him alone do I learn how to truly love. I pray that I can always grow better at having Jesus in my mind, in my heart, on my lips, and in all my works.

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Jesus in the Eucharist, in the center tabernacle, in the heart of San Francisco. My boyfriend and I took a mini pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Saint Francis!

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Jesus in the Eucharist, exposed in a monstrance, in the heart of New York City. My boyfriend and I took a mini pilgrimage to the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine!

 

Eucharistic LORD: You never change!

It’s so awesome to know that no matter where you are in the world, if you go to Mass, you can expect to see and to receive the very same LORD Jesus Christ: present there before you, body, blood, soul, and divinity… and to enter into you wholly.

Hebrews 13:8-9 reads: “Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever. Be not led away with various and strange doctrines. For it is best that the heart be established with grace….”.

Truly, Our LORD is always the same. In the light and in the dark, in the ups and in the downs, in the certainty and in the confusion… may we not only know, but believe and feel that He is LORD of Heaven and Earth, for all eternity.

Jesus, You never change. I at times feel like I change with the wind. But let me know that I am always your beloved daughter, no matter what. In the light and in the goodness (that I can only do through Your grace)… in the dark and in the sin… I am always loved by You, Love Himself.

May You, in the Eucharist, be the source and the summit of my life! Until we meet alas face to face.

You never change. Give me the grace to have a faith as true as Yours to me.

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from death unto LIFE: the Alpha and the Omega, MY Beginning and MY End

Last Friday, I saw my supervisor for the last time. When I said goodbye to her that evening, little did I know that would be the last time that I would see her with God’s breath within her earthly body.

Tonight I have chosen to meditate upon a Psalm that has me thinking about my human finitude on earth and God’s infinitude in all Creation, Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

Have you ever felt liked God was renewing you, refreshing your soul with His love, His joy, His mercy, His sweet sweet kindness, His downright romance?

There are so many points in our lives, day by day, not big turning points, but  tiny unseen ones, in which God turns us back to Him: our Ultimate Reality and Purpose!

I also often think of this Psalm before and after I go to Confession. For God offers me grace to re-turn my direction towards Him. I am either going towards Him or away from him; there is no standing still in this race of life. As St. Paul says, we are to “fight the good fight, finish the race, and [keep] the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Even in the darkest of hours, the driest of times, spiritually, I can still ardently say, “I am waiting, O Lord!” when none of my emotions feel that He, in fact, is going towards me. But oh, how He is always pursuing my heart! Like a Lover, attracted to me so sweetly and yet so fiercely at the same time (“Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree…”).

Sometimes, His cutting off that emotional love and making it purely “decisional” on our end is simply what makes for a more passionate re-uniting with Our Lord in the end. He makes the greatest of saints-in-the-making suffer the hardest.

Throughout our lives, we have endings and beginnings of various chapters. Our beginnings? Re-awakenings to God in the new chapters of our life. As I ponder on Psalm 51:10, I realize that I have my beginning in my Creator, and I have my end in Him as well. I have a beginning and I have an end: the Alpha and the Omega: my Lord and my God!

God creates and sends every individual to renew and to refresh the face of the earth with His grace in some unique way! And then… it is His ardent desire to be able to call every individual back to Heaven to be with Him, where He has a room for him or her with which he or she may dwell with Him forever. God desires this, but ultimately it is our choice to claim His as the Lord of our lives for all eternity. He does not condemn us to Hell; we do that to ourselves. How he so ardently longs for us!

God was my supervisor’s beginning; He is her end as well. Not only is He the Alpha and the Omega. He is HER Alpha and HER Omega. He is MY Alpha and MY Omega. And He should be YOUR Alpha and YOUR Omega, too. What are you waiting for?!

Jesus tells us: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)

Linda’s steadfast spirit truly inspired me to be ALIVE, to follow God’s Will without abandon, to make Him my beginning and my end. May Linda not only rest in peace in the room reserved for her by Our Lord, but also dance merrily, sing songs of praise, and be our fierce and active prayer warrior as she intercedes for us in Heaven!

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Stanford University has a non-denominational church and I saw this wallpaper in its foyer. I liked the Alpha and Omega symbols, as well as the keys of Saint Peter. (The church is secretly Catholic, it just doesn’t know. Ha!)

“You’re my Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End. You’re my Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, and Friend. You’re my Prince of Peace. And I will live my life for You!”