Fire And Division

Peace and harmony, love and unity and every good thing. Isn’t that what we all hope for, what we pray for, what we sing hymns about?  Isn’t that what Jesus came to bring to earth?

Apparently not.

Jesus says he came to bring fire and division. “I have come to set the earth on fire…! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

Wait. What?

Fire and division? What kind of fire? What causes the division?

The fire that Jesus wants to set on the earth is not a destructive fire, but a creative fire, the Fire of Love, the Fire that is the Spirit – the Spirit that IS the Fire of Jesus, sent from the Father and the Son. The Spirit that sheds the light of Truth on everything, the Spirit that is the Word that is a Lantern to our path, the Spirit that comes from the Father and the Son and allows God to be “over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6), the Spirit that consumes everything that is not Love so that Love can reign. The Spirit of Love that draws all souls to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. That is the Fire that Jesus came to set on the earth, and why he was in anguish; without this spiritual fire, we are dull and lifeless.

And those who choose this Spirit, those who allow themselves to be ignited with the life-giving Love of God, will be opposed by those who do not! Even within families, there will be division because those who resist the Spirit cannot understand those who surrender to the Spirit; those who are living only a natural life cannot understand those who are living a supernatural life. Households will be in disagreement, but the patience of those who are filled with the Spirit can eventually share that radiant joy and love and unity with others!

So, Jesus ultimately DOES want peace and unity, in love. But not a shallow and superficial unity that is no more than mutual tolerance in order to avoid confrontation or authentic conversion. Jesus wants a communion that is true and deep and bubbling up from the Springs of the Spirit, a communion that is only possible when we are whole and free, a communion that it is everlasting.

In this world, that kind of communion will always encounter opposition. It is our task to reach out to the opposition in patience and love, knowing that the Spirit can make all things new. 

Contact the author

Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Father Rob), and four grandchildren. She is President of the local community of Secular Discalced Carmelites and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio. Currently, she serves the Church by writing and speaking, and by collaborating with various parishes and to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is www.KathrynTherese.com

Feature Image Credit: thommas68, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/fire-and-water-hands-fight-fire-2354583/

Being Prepared

“You also must be prepared for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Spending five months recently in my parents’ apartment as a caregiver has given me a deeper insight into this Gospel. 

We are told to wait expectantly for the Master’s return, to be alert to that moment when the Lord Jesus will return to take us into eternity, as well as to the moment when Christ the King will return in glory on the last day.

Be alert and at work, treating others justly and doing your duty. He whom the Master finds conducting himself in this way will be rewarded. 

For all of us, those last 10 or 15 years waiting for the Master’s return are definitely times of being alert. Alert to one’s own changing issues around health and that of the loved one we may be caring for. Alert to insurance issues and long-term care preparation. Alert to the questions surrounding the time to begin nursing home care, move someone into memory care or arrange for at-home care. Rather than “staying awake” these years can be filled with sleepless days and nights where we toss and turn from exhaustion, worry, financial concerns, wondering how do we best love. We could find ourselves overwhelmed with the love we are trying to show our spouse and the feelings of grief and guilt, and just feeling we are not-enough for the daily multiplying needs…. Our own and others…

Jesus says that he will come at a moment we don’t expect, and yet we spend YEARS preparing for it on every level. Years of love, of service, of suffering, of surrender, of doing to Jesus what we are doing for another. Jesus’ coming is not tomorrow or next year. He comes suddenly and unexpectedly into our midlife and aging lives TODAY. He comes not to check up on us. No. In the struggle of these aging-years, struggles that seem to just compound over time, Jesus is gathering us to himself, through the tender endless acts of love rendered at every moment to each other, to spouse, parent, child, relative…. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world…. Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me“ (See Mt. 25:34-40). 

Contact the author

Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey. Website: www.touchingthesunrise.com Public Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/srkathrynhermes/ For monthly spiritual journaling guides, weekly podcasts and over 50 conferences and retreat programs join my Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/srkathryn.

Feature Image Credit: Sabine van Erp, Pixabay.com

Vigilant Waiting

Do you ever have those days when you wish Jesus would return – now? The world often seems like it is permanently opposite day where right is wrong, up is down and near is far. And in these verses of Luke, we hear another opposite posed to us, with a caveat. If the master returns and the servants are doing as they ought to be doing, they will be waited upon by the master.

Jesus is turning people’s world upside down. He is showing us in this passage that when he comes, life will be different. Indeed, he showed us this in his public ministry, yet many chose not to believe, not to follow him. Jesus turned the world upside down; his passion, death and resurrection allow us to know, love and serve God and one day enter heaven.

Do we allow Jesus to turn our world upside down? That’s a serious question. To me, it means, have I given all to him, have I surrendered? One day, while contemplating Scripture, I wrote, “to know Christ is above all things so that losing all things does not matter.” Okay, not the best grammatical sentence, but when I came across it again, I realized that is a spiritual goal for me. He is above all things, all people – Jesus is the Master. And yet, if we are doing the work we are created to do when Jesus comes, we will be waited on by him. 

When we contemplate what our own vigilant waiting looks like, it helps to remember that whatever we give up for Jesus we receive back more than we can imagine. It may not be here in this world, but it will be given to us when we need it the most. In God’s time. And so now we wait on God’s perfect time, for Jesus to return. We do not know when, but let us keep our eyes on the Lord and our minds, bodies and souls alert in vigilant waiting, out of our great love for God. 

Contact the author

Deanna G. Bartalini, is a Catholic writer, speaker, educator and retreat leader. She is the founder of the LiveNotLukewarm.com community, a place to inform, engage and inspire your Catholic faith through interactive Bible studies, courses and book clubs. Her weekly podcast, NotLukewarmPodcast.com, gives you tips and tools to live out your faith. At DeannaBartalini.com  she writes about whatever is on her mind at the moment.

Feature Image Credit: Jeanne Rouillard, https://unsplash.com/photos/txVwsCuWC94

We Belong To The Lamb Who Was Slain

Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves….

Lambs among wolves. The image is frightening. I ask myself, “Why lambs?” There are plenty of other vulnerable animals that could be prey for wolves that Jesus could have used in these instructions to the 72 disciples as they departed on their mission. But Jesus chose to send his disciples out as lambs into the mouth of danger. 

Living as a Christian is risky. Just before sending out the seventy-two, Jesus had foretold his own death and resurrection (9:21-22, 44-45), and he had told his apostles that they would bear a cross and lose their lives (9:23-25). We as Jesus’ followers belong to the Lamb who was slain (Rev 5:12), the Lamb who was led to the slaughter and opened not his mouth (Is 53:7), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29), the Lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pt 1:19).

In a video as Afghanistan was falling to the Taliban, a tearful Afghan Christian pleaded with Christians around the world not to forget them. Andrew Boyd, spokesman for Christian rights organization Release International, claimed that the Taliban have been “searching door to door” for Christians. Foreign church leaders fled the country and Afghan Christian leaders’ activities were closely monitored by the Taliban. Amid all the bad news for Afghan Christians, Shoaib Ebadi, an Afghan-Canadian Christian and executive director of Square One World Media, told Voice of the Martyrs Canada that he sees “good news” for Afghan Christians. “The good news is that Afghan Christians are now leading these groups [small house church fellowships]. They are meeting in their homes, risking their lives every day … taking God’s Word to the people of Afghanistan. And they are the ones sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with their neighbors, families and friends.”

Behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves….

The defenseless lambs are sent out as he himself was sent by the Father. In the words of Catherine of Siena: “We are of such value to God that he came to live among us … and to guide us home. He will go to any length to seek us…. We can only respond by loving God for his love.”

“I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture” (Jn 10:9). Lambs are free from burden or concern about going the right way, for they look to the One who is “The Way” to lead them to salvation.

“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Lambs have no power to force things to happen according to their own plans. In fact, this power to manipulate and overpower leads away from true life. The abundant life Jesus came to give us is received always as a gift, and comes to us unexpectedly under circumstances that would seem least opportune.

“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11). Lambs are often carried in the arms of the Good Shepherd to protect them on their way. And when they are lost he will find them and bring them back to the flock at the cost of his own life.

When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice” (Jn. 10:4). Lambs simply keep their gaze on the Shepherd and abide wherever he leads them, wherever he is. They know that if they are where he is, no matter how risky it is, they are safe.

Contact the author

Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey. Website: www.touchingthesunrise.com Public Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/srkathrynhermes/ For monthly spiritual journaling guides, weekly podcasts and over 50 conferences and retreat programs join my Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/srkathryn.

Feature Image Credit: Cathopic, marthaartess

Serving God

The Apostles seem to often spend their time with Jesus confused. Jesus, however, does not hold this against them. Instead, he takes every opportunity to teach them, and help them through their humanity in various ways! One of His most powerful teachings resides in the following: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In today’s First and Second Readings, we see that through Christ’s obedience, He has obtained for us everlasting mercy. Christ can understand our weaknesses as He has undergone the same tests and has prevailed.

To unconditionally serve one another is the essence of true love as Catholics. As stated in Mk 10:38-39, “The chalice that I drink…you will be baptized”. Just as Christ suffered, his followers would suffer for their faith in him. (CCC 536, 618, 1225). This is particularly relevant for those in religious life, since bishops and priests possess authority given to them by Christ, but their authority is based on becoming a servant to everyone. I think the same is true in families though, through the love of a spouse, parent, or child. Ultimately, this life of service is exemplified in every action of Christ.

In chapter 10 of the Gospel of Mark, James and John ask to drink from the same cup as Jesus. To others, this may seem like the opposite of wanting to serve; it appears they are seeking power above others. It is boldness, to ask for something they don’t yet even understand. Yet at the same time we can admire the sons of Thunder as they turn to Christ and speak their prayers with infinite trust. 

Are we running to Jesus with all of our innermost questions and concerns? Let us pray ambitiously, ask clear questions, and our answers may be clearer. May we ask with full trust in God and be not afraid.

contact the author

Dr. Alexis Dallara-Marsh is a board-certified neurologist who practices in Bergen County, NJ. She is a wife to her best friend, Akeem, and a mother of two little ones on Earth and two others in heaven above.

Feature Image Credit: Aaron Burden, https://unsplash.com/photos/lPCu8HnGU2E

God is Faithful

In today’s Gospel Christ is warning His disciples (and us) to practice what we preach. It is not only through our words that we can deny Christ; through our actions—and even through the things we choose not to do—we can deny God. Christ’s words are not just cautionary, they are encouraging as well. He reminds His disciples that we do not have to rely solely on ourselves when speaking of the Truth and of faith in God. The Holy Spirit Himself will guide our tongues to say the right thing. When we are faithful to God, He is faithful to us. 

We are also reminded of that faithfulness in the First Reading in God’s covenant with Abraham. Even in times of human failure, when man’s side of the covenant was not kept, God remained faithful. God knew that despite Abraham’s failings, he had put his full trust in the covenant He made with God so God kept His promise and made Abraham the father of many nations. He remains faithful to us because of His love for us. 

How often are we faithful to God in our words but don’t support those words with our actions? How often do we ask God to give us what we think we need but don’t turn to Him in moments of true despair or forget to praise Him in moments of true joy? May we always remember that it is by His love for us that we are saved from our sins. 

Sts. Hedwig and Margaret Mary Alacoque, pray for us!

Contact the author

Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Feature Image Credit: dodo71, https://pixabay.com/photos/stained-glass-window-church-6358716/

A Father’s Love

I am currently two weeks into a study on getting to know the Eucharist and this perfect sacrifice for us and I am realizing that I have spent nearly my entire life only skimming the surface of Our Father’s love. 

Yes, I know Jesus died for me and for my sins, but sometimes I get too caught up on the “for my sins” part. I constantly try to be “perfect” and can be so hard on myself that I get discouraged. I forget the mercy of God that is offered to me even though I will never truly be worthy, because there is no such thing as perfection for (99.9% of) humans. 

I’m not trying to gloss over the fact that I am a sinner, but I think I forget that God sent His only Son for me… because he loves me. He did it because He wants an eternal relationship with me. In fact, that’s all He asks in return, for me to truly know Him and His truths because once I know them in my heart, how can I deny them in my actions or words?  

I forget He has loved me since before I existed and that when I sinned for the first time as a child, He didn’t flinch or shy away from me in my sinfulness, in the same way that he drew nearer even when I lost my way in college. Each time I mess up, He has opened His arms to me and asked me to come back, to know Him, to come home

And that’s something I forget because I try to picture God as a father in a humanly way. 

Now, I’m not saying my dad isn’t amazing. He’s awesome and I love him so much, but he’s also human. I know now that as I grew up and learned from my mistakes, I was also watching my dad grow up and learn from his. Still, something my dad does that reminds me of God’s love is how any time that I am hurt, my dad runs to me. Every. Single. Time. 

Knowing this, I’m amazed and overwhelmed in the best way because our earthly father or father figures’ love is only a glimpse, a tiny sliver, of the love that our Heavenly Father invites us into. He is a merciful God to all of us, “Gentile or Jew”. 

“I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation” (Responsorial Psalm).

He knows you. He knows all that you are and have been and will be… and He loves you.
He shows you mercy. He redeems you. He. Loves. You.

Never forget that part. 

Contact the author

Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Pennsylvania. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various Catholic articles in bulletins, newspapers, e-newsletters, and blogs. She continued sharing her faith after graduation as a web content strategist and digital project manager. Today, she continues this mission in her current role as communications director and project manager for Pentecost Today USA, a Catholic Charismatic Renewal organization in Pittsburgh. 

Feature Image Credit: Harika G, https://unsplash.com/photos/AjRA93pwgZs

My Soul Waits for You, Lord

The Responsorial Psalm for today says: “I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in His word. My soul waits for the Lord.”

Trusting in the Lord is often easier said than done. We live in a world filled with people who say things like “Your God must not care if He allowed [fill in the blank] to happen,” or “How could a merciful God allow [fill in the blank]?”

And then we begin to wonder Why does He allow that? It’s almost like those words take over our thoughts and stifle our faith. 

During the easy times in life, trusting in God is easy. But during the hard times in life, trusting in God is difficult. We wonder why He is allowing our suffering or the suffering of others. 

Realistically, suffering is a part of life. It has been a part of life since Adam and Eve brought sin into the world. 

Further, people have choices. And often they make bad choices—choices that hurt others. In addition, diseases, accidents, famine, sickness, and natural disasters happen on a daily basis.

We have to understand that God allows us to endure suffering in this world so that we become stronger and so that we grow closer to spending eternity with Him. When we suffer, we can—and should—unite our suffering to Christ’s on the cross. We can also offer up our suffering for someone else—a soul in purgatory or someone here on earth. When we do this, we grow spiritually. 

But God can—and will—help us make something good happen from the bad. We just have to be open to the good. We have to look at the bad and not allow it to beat us. Sure, we can stumble or even fall for a short period, but it’s that trust in Christ that will help us get back up and that will help us derive something good from the situation. Maybe we learn something. Maybe we can educate someone else. Maybe through the ordeal, we meet a new friend. Maybe we find a disease we didn’t know was there.

This very thing happened to a friend of mine who had been hospitalized with COVID. He struggled greatly with the illness and overcame it, but on a follow-up exam, the doctor found a cancerous mass in his kidney. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he felt grateful—and grateful he had COVID. For had he not had it, the doctors would not have found the cancer. 

Today, he is cancer free, recovering, and very thankful. 

Our God is a wonderful God who leads us out of life’s difficulties and closer to Him. We just need to accept His offer.

Contact the author

Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.

Feature Image Credit: Exe Lobaiza, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/5491-or4acion

Judge Much?

The theme across today’s First Reading and Gospel could not be any clearer – it’s all about judgment. You could ask Christians and non-Christians alike if it’s right to judge other people and you’d probably get a similar response, something along the lines of, “stop judging, that you may not be judged” (Matthew 7:2). Let’s dive a little deeper, though.

Saint Paul provides a good explanation to the Romans about  what happens when we judge one another. He first starts out by saying that we have no excuses, meaning that there are no good reasons for passing judgment on someone or anyone else. In doing so, we condemn ourselves. Why? Because we often do the very same things – we are human, we are fallen like our brother or sister on whom we are passing judgment. For example, if I judge someone for gossiping about someone else, I am failing to see the beam in my own eye versus the splinter in my brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5) because how many times before have I gossiped? Too many to count. We were not created to be judges of our brothers and sisters. Only God Himself is the just judge. 

As such, God judges based on the actions and decisions of our lives and we ourselves know both the rewards and the consequences. Let me say that again – we know both the rewards and the consequences, primarily, eternal life with God or eternal separation from Him. And, if we know the consequences especially, why do we believe that we will escape God’s judgment? By playing judge, are we considering ourselves better or more important than God? Are we trying to make our own judgment? 

Reading a little further, Saint Paul explains that it’s more than just the simple act of judging another that causes such a problem. Rather, it’s the “stubbornness and impenitent heart” and “those who selfishly disobey the truth.” At face value, those words may seem a little harsh, but if we do a true examination of the depths of our hearts, we can see those seeds in the root of judgment. It’s the stubbornness and impenitence that cause us to forget our own sins, the very same sins for which we are judging someone else. It’s the selfishness in disobeying truth by thinking that we are above God and, therefore, able to pass judgment. 

On a little more personal note, about seven years ago, God completely wrecked me when it came to the beam in my own eye of judging others. When I realized what I had done and the impact it had both on those I had judged and on myself, I wept in repentance. While I am not perfect and I constantly need to remind myself not to judge others, this experience stands in the forefront of my mind even to this day and the conscious effort to not judge others has made a difference in my life. 

“Stop judging, so that you may not be judged.”

Contact the author


Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

Feature Image Credit: Tingey Law Firm, https://unsplash.com/photos/veNb0DDegzE

How Hard It Is To Enter The Kingdom!

**Post for 10-10-2021**

Is it easy to get to Heaven? Does everyone get in, in the end? What does it cost?

These are important questions for framing our worldview, our outlook on life, the way we approach decisions and choices in our daily life. Because if it is easy to get into the heavenly Kingdom, if everyone is admitted in the end, if it costs little, then the little decisions of our daily lives aren’t that important.

If, on the other hand, it is hard to enter the kingdom of God, if it is, in Jesus’ own words, IMPOSSIBLE for human beings to be saved, then we’d better have a good plan.

The Good News is that WE don’t actually need to come up with a plan on our own. Since the beginning, God Himself has had a Plan in place, because “all things are possible for God,” even – especially – things that are utterly impossible for us.

The rich young man has a poor plan. He seems to think that obeying the commandments is enough to get into the kingdom; he may even be asking Jesus the question about what he must do to inherit eternal life so that he can go away feeling justified after declaring that he observes all the rules. But instead he goes away sad, because Jesus tells him there is more. “You are lacking in one thing,” and directs him to sell everything so that he is free to follow Him.

“He had many possessions,” and he was not ready to let go of them. Possessions (material and immaterial) give security, comfort, prestige, even popularity and power. Following Jesus without clinging to stuff requires us to let go of the superficial securities and comforts of our stuff; letting go means trusting Jesus completely, and not our own resources.

Jesus was giving the man the opportunity of a lifetime – to jettison all the stuff he was hanging onto so that his hands would be free to embrace all that the Lord wanted to give him. But he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t let go. So he went away sad.

But there’s still Good News, because the man was not lost forever. Jesus didn’t say, “FAIL! You’ve missed your chance, and now you are forever excluded from the Kingdom.” He never does, because Jesus never runs out of options. The Lord is infinitely creative in opening opportunities for us to see what we are and holding up a vision of what He calls us to be, inviting us to let go of what we think is valuable so that we can open our arms to embrace all He longs to give us.

We can hope that this man who went away sad thought again returned to receive what he was being offered.

And we can too. Missed opportunities are not the end of our story. The Lord is still offering us opportunities to say YES to Him! Today, let’s say YES anew! 

Contact the author

Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Father Rob), and four grandchildren. She is President of the local community of Secular Discalced Carmelites and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio. Currently, she serves the Church by writing and speaking, and by collaborating with various parishes and to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is www.KathrynTherese.com

Feature Image Credit: Tumisu, https://pixabay.com/photos/man-rich-treasure-money-business-4886221/