Sunday, June 5, 2011

Your Personal Apostolate: Chapter Two

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!


God in His Goodness never abandons us as we tend to our responsibilities. Not only is He always present, He has given us wonderful role models to follow in the Holy Family. Through the examples of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we learn much about what it means to live one’s life with great love. The Holy Family experienced both the joys and hardships of life in this world. Imagine the joy Joseph and Mary felt as Jesus, the long awaited Savior of Mankind, lived among them as a part of their family! Imagine that they held the infant God, Creator of the Universe, as a humble baby in their arms.

The Holy Family also suffered tremendously during their lives, and we learn much when we study how they behaved during trials. We know from Bible accounts that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did not live a carefree life up to the time of Jesus’ Crucifixion. Rather, they endured many hardships including poverty, pain, sorrow, relocation, threats to safety, deception, temptation, mistreatment, rejection, abandonment, fatigue, uncertainty, physical discomforts, persecution, cruelty, hostility, unfairness, and personal loss.

Like us, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph each had a personal apostolate. The Holy Family allowed God to work through them and remained faithful to Him through joys and difficulties. They agreed to be instruments of God’s great love. Every person ever created is a beneficiary of the love of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph because they chose to embrace their personal apostolate unconditionally. God’s plan of redemption came to fruition because the Holy Family cooperated with Him in good times and in times of suffering. What a powerful statement to ponder when we are tempted to view suffering as worthless and always to be avoided! Let us consider some events from the lives of the Holy Family.

In a tremendous expression of faith, Mary gave her consent to becoming the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:38). In his first encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est (“God Is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI explained “Mary’s greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God, not herself…She knows that she will only contribute to the salvation of the world if, rather than carrying out her own projects, she places herself completely at the disposal of God’s initiatives 3. For his part Joseph trusted in God, despite not knowing the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy (Matthew 1:18-21). God ordained that His Son Jesus be born into poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9; Luke 2:7), which meant a life of poverty for Mary and Joseph. Imagine how Joseph suffered as he tried in vain to find suitable shelter for Mary to deliver the Son of God into the world, “because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

Jesus shed His Precious Blood for the first time as an infant at His circumcision (Luke 2:21). Mary and Joseph were compliant in presenting Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:22), and were sorrowful at the prophesy of Simeon who stated, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too”(Luke 2:34-35).

Upon God’s instruction, the Holy Family fled their home and relocated to a foreign land because Herod sought to kill the child Jesus (Matthew 2:13-15). Later they obediently returned to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23). Jesus wept at the death of His friend Lazarus (John 11:33-35) and later for the people of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). During Jesus’ public ministry, learned men tried to trick Him with words (Luke 11:53-54) and also conspired against Him (Luke 20:20). Jesus was tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-2; Luke 4:13) and betrayed by one of His apostles for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus became sorrowful and troubled (Matthew 26:36-37). “…He now sensed guilt to such an extent that it forced Blood from His Body, Blood which fell like crimson beads upon the olive roots of Gethsemane, making the first Rosary of Redemption” (Fulton J. Sheen, The Life of Christ) 4. “And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”(Matthew 26:39). He was arrested and led away by armed soldiers and officers (Mark 14:43-46; John 18:12), forced to stand trial (Matthew 27:11-14), and condemned to death (Luke 23: 23-25). Imagine the sorrow of His loving Mother as she witnessed the cruelty her beloved Son took upon Himself to satisfy Divine Justice and merit our redemption. “Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?” (Matthew 26:67-68).

“And they clothed Him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.” (Mark 15:17-20). “and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.” (John 19:17-18).

Jesus was rejected by many people, among them some of His closest followers (Mark 14:66-72). John was the only Apostle present at the foot of the Cross. As Innocence hung crucified, soldiers divided the garments of their Savior by casting lots (Matthew 27:35). Others mocked Him (Matthew 27-39-44). Jesus responded by forgiving everyone (Luke 23:34). Jesus’ apostolate is the perfect example of a life lived in loving obedience to God the Father.

By imitating Jesus, we will one day merit the joy of His Eternal Presence in heaven. His passion and death culminated in the greatest act of love mankind has ever known. Jesus’ personal apostolate was one of great love! Consider that the people of Jesus’ time did not have the benefit of knowing how the events of their time would play out. The members of the Holy Family were obedient when doing what God asked did not always make sense to them. They were obedient when the outcomes of their efforts were not guaranteed in advance.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were obedient to God even when they knew that their obedience would lead to great personal suffering. What faith, what courage! Their courage and strength came from God. We should strive for obedience and holiness in our lives, even when we do not understand God’s Plan. May we wisely seek to imitate the love, faith, sanctity, courage, and obedience of the Holy Family.

Following The Holy Family: A Personal Reflection

When our boys were young, my former husband and I decided to build a new home. Tremendous amounts of time and physical labor went into the building process. We had faith that our efforts would bring our family a lifetime of joy. In contrast, putting time and effort into our relationship with God yields an eternity of joy. Such long lasting benefits are definitely worth working for!

Often times we are surprised, disappointed, angered, frustrated, sometimes pleasantly surprised, but more often stunned and devastated when things do not work out according to our plans, despite our efforts and good intentions. The unexpected events that occurred during the building of our home provide an example of the contrast of laboring for that which is of this world versus laboring for that which is eternal. Before our house was completed, we discovered that we were expecting our third child. We would have preferred that our home be finished before having another baby, but were open to life. We were in our early thirties and in my mind still had plenty of time to have more children.

This baby seemed to be arriving too early. I had my plan while God had His plan. Guess whose plan was better? The happy family living in the beautiful home was not to be. Shortly after we moved in, the marriage that was to be forever ended and our dream home went up for sale. So many hopes and dreams were shattered at the same time. Two years later the home we worked so hard to build was sold to someone who sought to take advantage of our sorrowful situation.

In fact, so many people appeared on the scene to take advantage of us it was reminiscent of Christ’s Passion. Many times my feelings of despair were great, but God in His unfathomable Mercy chose that very time to send me a child who would become one of my greatest consolations. She and her brothers constantly bring joy and meaning to my life. Praise God that I trusted in His Ways more than my own! With the benefit of hindsight I can clearly see God’s Loving Hand not only in my pregnancy but also in the timing of this child.

One day, while we still lived in the house, my grief was so great that I cried for an entire day except for the one hour I managed to stop while my children and I attended Mass. That afternoon two-year-old Alyssa had a very special message for me. Somehow that precious, tiny girl found me in our great big house, crying in the walk-in closet. She looked right into my eyes and said “Mommy, Jesus loves you!” I knew that God was loving me through her and I was greatly comforted. I love to reflect on the story of my daughter’s life. God knew that despite my hopes my marriage was ending, and He sent me a wonderful parting gift: my beloved Alyssa!

Years later I realized that I was being tempted during a time of great change to doubt God, His timing, and the very existence of this child. What seemed like a mistake in timing was no mistake at all. She was a case of Divine Intervention! God saw that her arrival was then or never. He knew that a time of tremendous suffering had already begun for me and returned to His servant love for love through the gift of someone very extraordinary.

Following The Holy Family: For the Reader

What are some of the joys you have in common with the Holy Family? What are some of the hardships you have in common with those of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph? What has God requested of you in your life thus far, and have you responded as The Holy Family did? Have you asked God to help you?

Dear Lord,
Thank you for providing
wonderful examples
for us to follow
in Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Please guide us and strengthen us
through joys and trials
as we seek to emulate
the Holy Family
and remain faithful to Your Will.


Chapter Three ~
Called to Faith