Thursday, June 30, 2011

Your Personal Apostolate: Chapter Seven

A series of blogs presenting you the contents of the book, an award-winning love story for every soul.

Not sure what God has in store for you?
His plans are wondrous, loving and beautiful.

Accept Him, seek Him, love Him,
and return His love to those around you.

Prepare to be amazed, for
God is at work in you!

Chapter 7 ~ His Resurrection And Our Journey

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.“ Luke 24:36-47.

Imagine what life was like for Mary, the Apostles, and the followers of Jesus immediately after the brutal torture and death of the most loving of men. They must have experienced terrible shock and profound grief. Perhaps they also felt confusion and uncertainty as they did in Jesus’ final days: “They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him” (Mark 9:30-32).

All was not said and done with the Death of Jesus, for on the third day He Resurrected as foretold in the Old Testament. Imagine the joy His beloved Mother, Apostles, and followers experienced when Jesus appeared to them! “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20).

Jesus’ Mother and His Apostles and followers experienced dramatic changes to their apostolic life after His Death and Resurrection. They accepted God’s Will and the Catholic Church spread throughout the world. In the previous chapter we discussed the role suffering plays in our relationship with God and in our service to one another. We also considered how suffering can transform us as followers of Christ. Trials can stimulate us to consider taking a path that perhaps we never even considered, but is more in conformity with God’s Will.

Imagine if God bluntly said to several of the Apostles, “In three years I want you to stop fishing. The work you have done your entire adult life is about to change. After Jesus’ Crucifixion I will institute a new religion called Catholicism and you are going to travel extensively to bring it to people all over the world.” Visualize what their reaction would have been! Instead, Jesus prepared His followers for their career changes over the course of His public ministry and also after His death. The Holy Spirit enlightened them during Pentecost, and God continued to guide them through the Holy Spirit and Mary, for the rest of their lives. Similarly, God prepares and guides each of us with His loving “Triune approach,” through Mary, His Mother.

Trials may lead us to look outside our limited view so we can consider God’s plan for our lives. However, difficulties can throw our lives out of balance. Unresolved fear and trauma can limit what God can do through us. In the Bible passage quoted at the start of this chapter, Jesus acknowledged the feelings of His Mother and the Apostles when He appeared to them after His Resurrection. He stated “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Jesus reassured and instructed them, stating that as it was foretold, He would suffer and rise again on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached to all nations in His name.

Great good came out of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, and His presence after the Resurrection must have brought His beloved great comfort. Jesus did not instruct those present to get even, to hold a grudge, or to remain in despair. God had work for them to accomplish! He wants us to ask for healing and also embrace repentance and forgiveness so we can share in His great ministry of love. God is always ready and available to heal us, so ask God to mend the wounds you have acquired during your life.

In previous chapters we determined that once we have made the decision to have a relationship, that relationship requires maintenance. Just like our relationships with people have their ups and downs, so too can our relationship with God. We are especially tempted to doubt during trials. At times after we have pursued a relationship with God, we choose to still believe in Him but hold back from greater faith, intimacy, and trust. This can happen when we are disappointed or wounded. Perhaps we have been hurt by our own choices, or we have been hurt by people and events in our lives. Unresolved anger, grief, and trauma can cause us to resist when things do not work out the way we had hoped or planned.

Throughout life we need to ask God to help us recognize what our hurts are. The God who created us understands exactly how we feel and why we feel the way we do. He patiently waits for us to accept His personal invitation to greater intimacy. Each person has been given an unique mission in conjunction with God’s Divine plan. Each person has their own unique talents and is always in formation. Even if our gifts are not readily apparent, they most certainly exist! Plain and simple, the world benefits from the contribution of every person’s Christian service.

“The reason moments of catastrophe may be the eves of spiritual victory is because it is in those moments of defeat that man’s pride is most humbled and his soul thus prepared for the help of God…It is only when Peter had labored all the night and taken nothing that he was given the miraculous draught of fishes” (Fulton J. Sheen, Our Grounds For Hope) 11. Trials prepare us for growth and change. Ask God to reveal to you how He now wants you to serve Him through your personal apostolate.

When we ask God to guide us in our efforts, He will! Do not doubt, for the God who can make something out of absolutely nothing can provide for our needs. He longs to bring us peace, healing, and inspiration when we are ready. Like the Good Thief, the first step is to make the decision to acknowledge God and accept Him into our lives. Then we must put forth the effort to have our relationship with Him grow. Like the Good Thief, our reward will be great.

His Resurrection and Our Journey: A Personal Reflection

Five years ago my little daughter and I happened to be in the narthex of the chapel at our church after dropping my boys off at the school on church grounds. Daily Mass was beginning and the congregation was singing the opening hymn “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” As I listened to the song and saw the faithful gathered for Mass, I felt God gently and lovingly invite me to attend. He knew that after so many years of hardship, I really needed His strength and healing. Even though I was right by the church every morning, I had never even considered attending daily Mass.

Soon I succumbed to God’s loving advances and accepted His invitation. Some of those who attend regularly fondly refer to daily Mass as “Breakfast with the King.” What a way to start the day, in the presence of Jesus! Daily reception of Jesus in the Eucharist provided me the strength I needed to persevere. My children joined me for daily Mass in the summer and on school breaks. Their presence at those Masses was the perfect balm for the sorrow we felt at their not attending Mass every other weekend when they were not with me. Frequent reception of the Eucharist provided us the love, strength, and healing we all desperately needed.

As Pope Benedict XVI stated in his first encyclical God is Love, to become a source of love, “one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God” (John 19:34) 12. Soon I began spending time in God’s Presence by visiting with Jesus in the Tabernacle just before picking my children up from school. God shared His peace and joy with me during many years of persecution. I learned of the immense value of the Eucharist, Eucharistic Exposition and Adoration, Reconciliation, Holy Hour, praying the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and prayer.

So many times while in great pain I affirmed my confidence in God to look after us, and He clearly demonstrated that He was. However, trauma can limit us. At times it can be very difficult to see beyond spiritual, emotional, or physical pain. For a while I chose to maintain an intimate “status quo” with God and not venture any closer to Him. Certainly part of this moratorium was due to the fact that all my energy was being used to get through each difficult day. God waited patiently for me to be ready to venture closer. He loved me all the while, never lost patience with me, and never forced me before I was ready. He understood my sorrow, my pain, and my burdens because Jesus had experienced them too, and in much greater measure.

Despite the wonders happening in my life and the gift of a solid faith, sometimes I was tempted to frustration and impatience as I looked for events to occur according to my expectations. God encouraged me to be patient in my trails. Like Jesus’ Apostles, I was being guided along a new path. Our journey through life is a learning process, and we must allow ourselves to be educated! Who better to help us than the God who made us and knows us better than we know ourselves. We must listen for God’s promptings to guide us as we make our choices, knowing that He is always there to pick up the pieces when we or others in our lives fail.

In time I began to heal and eventually was ready to approach the reason why I resisted deepening my relationship with God. My reason is a common one: God did not fix what was broken. Even though I trusted in God and loved Him, I was disappointed that my marriage ended. Certainly I understood that God does not interfere with anyone’s free will, but at the time I was disappointed that God, who can do anything, did not save my marriage. Later I came to understand that I had found God guilty of a crime He had not even committed.

Once I was far enough along in the grieving process, I was able to move beyond the trauma of my own “passion” into a personal “resurrection” and embrace my evolving apostolate. With God’s love and guidance, I made progress and experienced personal and spiritual growth in ways that I could never have imagined. God never rushed me and His promptings were always patient, gentle, and loving. May we seek to emulate Him in our relationships with ourselves and with each other.

His Resurrection and Our Journey: For the Reader

Have difficult circumstances ever led you to remain distant from God? How long did God patiently wait for you? What helped you to embrace your changing path in life? Do you view times of transition during and after trials as a chance to deepen your relationship to God and as an opportunity to grow spiritually and personally? How has your personal apostolate evolved over time?

Dear Lord,
May we find
personal strength and healing
in the example of
Your glorious Resurrection.
Help us to persevere beyond trials
to recapture joy and purpose
as we serve You
through our dynamic and evolving
personal ministries.


Chapter Eight ~
The Crucial Role of Sanctity