Tuesday, July 1, 2014


We’re getting in to the swing of another summer full of missions here in Honduras! We recently had an awesome group from Baton Rouge, Louisiana come down for a mission in the mountains. We were in a town named Carizal, very simple and without electricity. Here are some different stories from our week:

-We had a priest with us for one day in the village, and we had a Holy Hour, praying before Jesus in the Eucharist. It was the first time this village had EVER had a Holy Hour, and the people were coming up and touching the altar with so much reverence, stroking the altar cloth tenderly. They just wanted to be close to Jesus! Their faith and humility astound me.

-Near the end of the week, a little girl came up to one of the missionaries, Anna, with a little toy mermaid. She said just one word: “suya,” which means “yours.” And she gave her the mermaid and ran away. This little girl most likely didn’t have many other (or any other) toys, and without even thinking she just gave it away to someone she barely even knows!

-We always split up in to a few groups to visit the houses of the villages we are in, just to get to know the people and pray for them. One of the groups visited a house, and the women was very cold and standoffish. She didn’t really want to welcome the missionaries or talk to them. Eventually she let them in, and throughout their conversation she began to open up more and more. At one point she began to share about various struggles and problems in her family. One of the missionaries, Kelli, couldn’t understand this woman speaking in Spanish, but she could still feel her pain and struggle. The two of them, from two different cultures and without being able to communicate, began to hug each other and cry together. And then this woman, Doña Santos, transformed. She became super friendly and joyful and welcoming. She invited us all over to her house and served us three meals on our last day in the village. She shared her wedding pictures with us, and she even gave us her wedding guest book and asked us to add our names to the list of her guests! When it was time to say goodbye, her and Kelli again just hugged and cried. The connection that they had was beautiful and beyond language barriers. It was a connection of two people just loving one another. It’s amazing what can happen to someone when you just treat them with love – transformation.

-Speaking of transformation, we witnessed another transformation right after the mission ended. We always take the mission groups downtown to see the cathedral, the main square, etc. So after visiting the cathedral, we were walking through the streets, and a little boy, probably about 9 years old, came up and began to ask us for money. He looked, for lack of a better term, like a typical beggar-child: sad, a bit aggressive and persistent in asking for money. He literally asked each person in our group like five times. Our mission tries not to give out money to these kids, because a lot of times it doesn’t get used for very good means, but if we can give them food we will definitely help out. We headed in to a smoothie shop, and the kid followed us in, so we offered to buy him a smoothie. I asked him, “What kind of smoothie do you want? What’s your favorite flavor?” He responded, “I don’t know…” I don’t think he had ever had one before. Eventually he picked pineapple, but as he waited to receive it he kept asking us for money. One of the missionaries, Ana Sofia, sat down with him and began to talk with him. Then she took a napkin and began to teach him how to play tic-tac-toe (or in Spanish “gato”, or “cat”). And again – transformation. His face changed from one of sadness and desperation to one of joy and excitement. He changed from being a little beggar boy to being just a boy, and one with a name, Gerson Isaac. His smile shown and he began to laugh and talk. Each time we would start a new game of tic-tac-toe, he would grab the sides of his head in anticipation and say, “I’m ALWAYS gonna win!!”

Eventually we left the smoothie shop and were headed to a souvenir shop down the street. Gerson said he had to go, and he turned around to leave. But he kept looking back over his shoulder at us, and we invited him to tag along. He sprinted back to join us, and walked along chatting happily. He hung out with us in the shop, and accompanied us back to the central park, where we had to leave him. He joyfully said goodbye to each one of us as we loaded up in our truck. As we pulled away, he went skipping and jumping in to the park, scared a big flock of birds, and ran away, waving wildly with a great smile on his face. He transformed. Why? Because we treated him like a person. We didn’t treat him like a little beggar boy. We treated him like Gerson Isaac Gomez. And why does that simple act of kindness transform? Because we were made to love and to be loved. As it says in a book I’m reading: “What deeper pain could you have than to have little love?”

It almost seems too easy: loving people in these small ways. So often we feel like we have to do GREAT things in order to change people or change the world or serve God. But the Bible offers us a beautiful reflection. There was a man with leprosy, and a prophet told him: “Go and wash in the river.” The leper, finding this too easy, wanted to go away, but his servant said, “Something simple can always be tried.” So the leper went and washed, and was cleansed. We can do the same. God doesn’t ask for huge things. He asks for the small. He asks for the ordinary actions: eating, drinking, sleeping, working, our whole day, lived with love and gratitude. Couldn’t we try something so simple, so small? Couldn’t we just try? Maybe we would see ourselves transform…

Friday, April 4, 2014

Distressing Disguise

In March we were blessed to have 2 groups come down from the US, who gave up their spring break to come and serve in Honduras. Both of these missions were absolutely awesome, and I feel like Jesus was trying to tell me the same thing during both of them.

In our first mission, I went to a town called Casa de Piedra. Our team was awesome and we were in a beautiful place, simple and without electricity. But one thing stuck out to me more than the rest. We were visiting houses one morning, and we entered one house just like any other. The mother told us that her son was sick, so we went in to see him. Sick was the biggest understatement. This 8 year old boy was completely emaciated – he was probably the size of a 3 year old, and you could see every bone in his body. It was literally something you would expect to see in a video of Mother Teresa, serving the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. It was really enough to scare or disgust someone. But instead of feeling scared or disgusted, I saw JESUS. I saw Jesus lying there on that bed. It was so clear that it was Him. I felt such a huge surge of love for this boy, Josue. We sat on the bed and talked with him, and he began to move around. He could sense our presence and our love. How many people are there in our lives that are the same? That just need our presence and our love to wake them up? How times each day do we overlook Jesus living in one who is poor, depressed, addicted, afraid?

During our second mission, I went to a little village called Guajirquirito. Another beautiful place and beautiful team. One day we walked 4 hours round trip to visit another village that was really remote. Here we were visiting houses, when we came upon a woman named Maria and her 30 year old son Jorge out in a field. We came to learn quickly that this field was their home – they didn’t have a house. Apparently the community had come together various times to try to build them a little house, but each time Jorge, who has mental problems, would burn it down. So they lived out in the fields, alone and rejected. Immediately when we approached their little spot, Maria came over with a big wrinkling smile and offered us coffee on a tiny pot she had over a fire. This woman who has NOTHING in this life, without knowing us and without thinking twice, offered us the only thing she had!! Imagine going up to a homeless man in the street, and instead of begging from you, he offered you something!

 After talking with her and Jorge and praying with them, we left to visit other houses, and then went to the tiny church to lead a program. Maria came. At the end, she came up and put 2 lempiras (10 cents) on the altar, and left….Nobody asked her for money. She did it out of the love she has in her heart for Jesus. I was in shock. This was the Gospel lived out literally. Jesus speaks of the widow who came and put her two little coins in to the collection box, and how in the end she gave more than all the rest. Maria did the same. And for her generosity, God blessed this poor woman with a great joy. Her smile was radiant! One might think, “How is it possible for a poor homeless woman to be happy?” What a testament for all of us – if we really believe Jesus and follow His words and live them out, He will give us peace and joy.

So, through these encounters, Jesus was telling me: I am in the poor! I am the sick and the lame and the homeless. Visit me; serve me; love me! It’s so hard for us to truly believe this – that the poor person truly is Jesus. But Jesus said it Himself; I’m not making up anything new here. These are His words (see Matthew 25). We look for happiness in so many places; who would think to look for it in the despised, in the forgotten, in the suffering?

Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. He presented Himself as the needy one, thirsty and in need of water. Jesus continues to present Himself as the needy one to us today, as Blessed Mother Teresa always said, in the “distressing disguise of the poor.” Why would Jesus choose to reveal Himself to us in this way? Not to show us His need, but to show us our need. He comes to us in the poor, the broken, the sick, the helpless, to show us our own need to become small, humble, to serve, to give of ourselves, to love others selflessly – not just those who we like, or those who are beautiful, but the most despised. This is our need as humans, and until we live it, we can’t be whole; until we live it, we are the needy ones.

“Christ will not live in you if you cannot find Him in other men.” – Thomas Merton

“We return our love to God through our brothers and sisters.” – Thomas Merton

“The only appropriate response to another human person is love.” – Blessed John Paul II

“If you look too much for your own peace, you will never find it, because peace is the fruit of love and service to others. Ask how you can better love your brothers and sisters. Then you will find peace.”

Thanks be to God, we’re going to be bringing Josue (the 8 year old sick boy) to live with the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s sisters) for a while to get healthier, so that he will be able to receive surgery during one of the medical brigades that we help with every few months. It’s amazing how much God can use small acts of love and do great things!

Now, homework time: go find someone, try to find Jesus in them, and love them!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Kingdom of God in the Hidden Things

Hello friends! Hope you are all doing well! Things in Honduras continue to be happy and hot - summer has begun to arrive in full force! Sorry to all those suffering through this horrifically never-ending winter up north! The end is in sight!!

A few random thoughts from Thanksgiving to Christmas that I recently found in my journal:

The other day, I took a quick little nap after lunch, when I woke up to hear Jamie and Omar, two missionaries in our community, discussing about going to minister at San Benito (the hospital run by the Franciscan Friars). Jamie wanted to go, but Omar didn’t have time. had time…but I wanted to keep sleeping! I determined to fake sleep and let it pass. But then it hit me – this is the reality of choosing between the “kingdom of myself” or the Kingdom of God. Deciding to serve myself, or God and his poor. This is the Kingdom of God. It may be so small and quiet and imperceptible, but this is truly the Kingdom of God! This is the victory that Jesus won for us – the ability to liberate ourselves from our own selfishness and agendas, in order to serve God and to put others first; even when it gets in the way of my plans, my desires, my self.
So I decided to get off my lazy bum and offer to go with Jamie. Such a simple action, but God taught me such an important lesson. His Kingdom may be small and easy to miss (just as He said it would be!), but it is here and it is real! And when we allow it to take root in our heart, it will transform us.

Prayer really works! I had really been struggling with a particular person that I know. Almost everything that this person did got on my nerves! But I decided, instead of playing out in my head over and over again exactly what I wanted to say to this person, I would pray for them. Even though I really didn’t want to, and it cost me a great deal. And very quickly something amazing happened…our relationship changed! Not overnight, but pretty rapidly! I was shocked. I’m trying to better understand where this person is coming from or why they react the way they do. And since then we’ve had many beautiful encounters. Sometimes we just need to ask in order to receive! Another experience of the Kingdom of God!

Two of my great friends, Cheryl and Kari, came down to visit me over Thanksgiving. It was a truly blessed and super fun time! Both Cheryl and Kari had collected tons of donations to bring to the mission, many of them for one family in particular. This was the family of Sergio, an 8 year old handicapped boy that I do physical therapy with each week. Sergio can’t talk or walk, but you can tell that he understands some of what you’re saying. His mother and siblings love him very much. So the day after Thanksgiving we went to Sergio’s house to give them all of the gifts the girls had collected. It literally felt like Christmas. We were in this tiny one room cinderblock house, but as Cheryl and Kari gave out their gifts and the family received them with joy and gratitude, I just felt like I was back at my own home on Christmas morning. The Kingdom of God strikes again!

After visiting home for Christmas, I went to Nicaragua to visit friends before heading back to Honduras. During my entire flight from Atlanta to Managua, there was one single star right outside my window. I was surprised we couldn’t see more. After all, it was night and we were above the clouds. Then all of a sudden the cabin lights when off, and a million brilliant stars popped out. - So often we just need a change in perspective to see the beautiful realities that are truly there. God, give us wisdom and clarity to see the beauty that we so often overlook!

Peace friends! Praying for you!

Friday, January 24, 2014

I'm back!!!

I'm back!! In 2 senses - back in Honduras after going home for Christmas; and back here on my blog after more than 2 months without an update! Yikes!

Before returning to the US for Christmas, we went on a mission to the mountains for a week. I was in a village called Palo Blanco, very small and primitive. I stayed with a beautiful old couple who had been together since they were 16. They had 10 kids, 9 grown up and married, and 1 still in the house. Angela, the mother of the house, would heat up a pot of boiling water for me each morning to go out and shower, because it was freeeezing there!

During a program with the whole community, some of the men were playing music – guitar, violin, drums – it was really beautiful. And one of the older men fell over and fainted. All of a sudden, everything stopped, and everyone around him immediately began to pray intensely: O Jesus, be with him! We trust in you Jesus!! Etc. Their faith struck me so much. If this would have happened in the US, everyone would have been like: What should we do?! Somebody call 911! Etc. Prayer usually isn’t something that even comes to mind. But here, they prayed. What else can they do? They have no resources. Nothing but relying on God; probably a resource we need a little bit more of.
The man did end up recovering, but was very weak and in bed the rest of the mission. We visited him the next day to talk and pray with him, and as we began to pray for him, he got out of his bed, got down on his knees, and began to pray for us and give thanks to God!! We couldn’t convince him to get back in his bed. He just kept saying how grateful he was for our presence. Such humility and faith.

We visited another couple where the man had no arms; both had been amputated. And yet somehow, he could still cut wood, harvest corn, pick berries...I haven't the slightest idea how!! His wife was so proud when she was telling us that he can do it better than her! They weren’t afraid to hide that they struggled, but they were happy. At the end of our visit, I gave the woman a little prayer card that we had made – it was literally a little cartoon of the birth of Jesus that I had colored myself…any 7 year old could have done it – and she cried when she received it. She accepted it with such gratitude and love.

Everybody told us we had to visit Emelia, an old woman who was suffering a great deal. But she lived 30 minutes outside the village, and not just any 30 minutes, but a 30 minute trek up a super steep mountain. Our very last day, we were finishing up visiting houses. There were still about 3 or 4 left in the village, but I just felt that we had to visit Emelia. So we made the hike up to her house. Definitely great exercise! When we got there, she told us that the other group of missionaries (we always break in to 2 groups to visit houses) had just left!! God, You are hilarious! But she really needed the the company and the prayers. It was a really incredible visit.

That same night was our closing party of the mission. It began at 6pm, and ended at 1:30am!!! Even Emelia, who lives so far up the mountain, came for the whole time. We said goodbye to everyone, and as we left I just picture Emelia trekking back up the mountain in the cold and the pitch dark.

After this party, a family invited us to their house for coffee and food! So at 2am we started the “after party.” One of the girls who lived in this very poor and simple house had recently gone to a market in another village and bought some small clay pots. She showed them to us, and without even thinking, she gave one to each of us. She didn’t even need to consider it. Her good and generous heart told her that the obvious thing to do was to share her treasure with others. It was better than receiving an iPad. Like the widow in the Gospel who put her 2 cents in the offering, it was worth more than all the rest.

We got to bed at 3am and got up at 5 to leave. When I walked outside, the stars were spread out all over the sky. The Big Dipper was right above, and I just stood there gazing at it. After a minute, I wanted to go back inside because it was freezing, but something inside me told me to wait a minute. So I stayed, and right in that moment, a shooting star shot across the sky. What a gift from God! I felt Him so close.

I was blessed by the opportunity to go home for 3 weeks over Christmas! It was a really beautiful and relaxing time with family and friends – something I really needed! On the 1st of January, I just kept thinking, I don’t want to get all caught up in the hype of resolutions and stuff. It’s all kind of silly. But then I considered it and thought, this actually could be a new beginning. I don’t want to be the same. I want to love. I want to focus more on people and not on things. I want to give of myself, to be other-focused and not self-focused; to not constantly seek my own well-being and comfort, to live radically, to live joyfully. I want to be different now. I want to live each day, with God. I want to talk to Him, rely on Him, be constantly aware of His presence. I want to smile.

The typical New Years’ resolutions are normally so superficial and self-centered: lose weight, look better, do better in my job, etc etc. What if we focused on others, and on the deep things that really matter, in simple ways: Doing one random act of kindness every day; forgiving someone for past hurts; taking 5 minutes of complete silence each day; being super nice to people working in the store; taking time to pray each day; saying hi to strangers on the street; praying for that person who most annoys you; smiling more. These are the things that will change not our appearance, but our hearts. They will bring us joy.

Gotta go! Hasta luego...hopefully in less than 2 months this time!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Little Steps

        This past week, some of the guys and I traveled 4 hours to an area of Honduras called Florida. There, we visited two villages, meeting with the leaders of the communities in order to plan two different missions we will be doing in December. In one of these villages, the people were excited to take us to a “touristic” spot close by. So we went with them on a tiny path through the woods, up and up. Eventually we came to the peak of the mountain, and understood why the people wanted to bring us there…the view was incredible! You could see all the way to the border of El Salvador, marked by a massive volcano and a huge lake surrounded by mountains. Closer in, the mountainous terrain was scattered with bunches of little white adobe houses. Beautiful!

            But I’m not recounting this just to talk about the view. Two things really struck me about this experience. First – the people who brought us up to this spot kept telling us beforehand: “Hay una vista del mar!” (There’s a view of the sea!). I was confused about what they meant, because I knew that we weren’t close to the coast. But when we got there and saw the huge lake in the distance, I realized: these people think that lake is the sea! There was something so beautiful about this mistaken supposition. This lake is very far away, all the way in El Salvador; and these people and their ancestors have probably lived in this same village without electricity for centuries – they probably just always assumed it was the ocean, because they would have no reason to think otherwise! How cool is that?!

            Second – from this vantage point, I could also see another village named Guanacaste that I did a mission in last December, wayyyyy out in the distance. Just one year ago, I was there in Guanacaste, waking up in the early morning and watching the sun rise over the surrounding mountains. Now, one year later, I was standing on one of the very mountains I marveled at last year. It was truly like looking back in time – remembering where I was one year ago, who I was one year ago, as compared to now. It was like I could see everything that has happened in this past year, and all that has brought me to where I am at right now in my life – all in an instant. I was, both literally and figuratively, seeing things “from above.” God loves to bring things full circle!

            Another recent highlight: One of our ministries in the mission is to visit the homes of different families who have handicapped children, doing physical therapy exercises with them in order to strengthen them and help them to learn motor skills. I have the privilege of getting to serve 2 of these kids. One is name Cristian, and he is 18 years old. He was born with problems in both legs and one arm. As a child, he was able to walk a little bit with the help of braces, but as he grew older and the braces no longer fit, he sadly lost the ability to walk. Different missionaries have been doing physical therapy with him off and on over the past several years to help him to be as mobile as possible, but he still is confined to a wheelchair.

Helping Cristian to stand up
            This past week during our physical therapy session, Wendy, one of the Honduran missionaries, was trying to help Cristian stand with the help of a walker. He has been able to do that for some time now. All of a sudden she looked at him at asked: “Cristian, do you think you could take a few steps with the walker?” He seemed really unsure and a bit scared, but he said he would try. He began to slowly move one foot, and then drag the other one behind it, bit by bit……his first step! He then made two more steps, before we helped him back to his chair. He seemed honestly shocked and definitely pleased!! What a cool moment! It was even more amazing than getting to see a babies first steps, because a baby is supposed to take its first steps. You know that eventually, no matter how long it takes, the baby will get the hang of it. But with someone who is handicapped, you don’t always have that certainty. Many of the kids/teens we work with have lost any hope of ever walking again, even if it’s possible – mostly because they don’t have anyone to challenge them and to encourage them that it is possible. So getting to see these miraculous first steps brought hope both to Cristian and to us.

            Cristian was so tired after these 3 steps, he was sweating and had to take a break. Later in the day, after a lot of work and walking around, I almost began to complain about how tired I was --- and then I remembered Cristian, and I realized: how lucky that I even have the ability  to be tired after a long day of work! What a blessing that I have the gift to be able to work and serve and walk around! Sometimes we forget how absolutely incredible and truly miraculous those little gifts are. Just as Cristian’s first 3 steps are a miracle, so are my first 3 steps every morning… 

Pray for Honduras this weekend! Elections are tomorrow, and it's a very important election!
Peace in Christ,

Friday, November 1, 2013

God in the Little Things

Hello friends! I hope all is well with you! Things are great here in Honduras! Fall is in full swing, but the weather continues to remain quite hot! And as I recently posted on Facebook: “They were playing American Christmas music in the grocery store in Honduras yesterday, and they already had lights and decorations up all over the store. On Halloween. In Honduras. What is happening...”

A few thoughts/experiences from the past few weeks:

We work so hard to accomplish so many things. How often do we truly work hard to love other people? It’s the most important work of all, but we so often neglect it! Let me start today.

Two beautiful events have happened recently in my life.
The first: About 2 weeks ago, some of the missionaries and I picked up Cristian - a 17 year old boy who was born with a disability and is unable to walk – and took him to San Benito (a free clinic/hospital run by the Franciscan Friars). About every 6-8 weeks there is a medical brigade in San Benito, where doctors/nurses from the US come down for a week to do consults, surgeries, etc. Cristian has received at least 5 surgeries in the past, so we were taking him for a check up, and to see if there is anything else that could possibly be done for him.
When we walked in the front doors, it was literally like a neighborhood party in the waiting room! There were probably about 15 people inside, and I knew every single person. There was Noe (who I’ve written about before), a boy who was shot 4 years ago and is paralyzed. There was Reina, a girl who was also shot in a drive-by, and is paralyzed. There was Jenny, a friend of the mission, who needed a knee surgery. Some other people from the neighborhood and some of the friars were there too. It was beautiful! Beautiful to be all together; beautiful to have the hope that the brigades bring; beautiful to have Cristian and Reina and Noe all together – 3 young people in wheelchairs, who understand each other; beautiful to see how I’ve gotten to know people throughout my year down here; beautiful to see how our work, although small, touches lives. There was so much JOY in the hospital – not a place usually associated much with joy. I felt God so much.

The second: Also about 2 weeks ago, Honduras won their spot in next years World Cup. It is only the third time that they’ve qualified, and it is a huge deal here!! The next day, a bunch of schools and businesses were closed, and all the fast-food places were giving away free food! It was a national holiday!!
Every Wednesday I go to the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s sisters) to hang out with the old men (they’ve been abandoned by their families) or to help the kids that live there. When we arrived, one of the sisters informed me that we would be taking all the kids to Burger King to get free burgers! They were beyond excited – all 20 of them dressed up in their Honduras jerseys and jumping for joy to get to go to Burger King. What a joyous walk there; all of these kids – orphans, and infected with HIV – chanting “Honduras! Honduras!”, while the cars going by honked at this crazy crowd.
We got there, and all the kids got crowns and ran to play in the play-place. It was for me like a glimpse of heaven. In that moment, it didn’t matter that those kids lacked parents, or that they have HIV – they were just kids, playing together and full of joy. Kids are all the same, no matter their social status or where they’re from. Us adults are too --- we just forget it sometimes. Isn’t that what Jesus came to remind us of? Our Father….

These two experiences: one, a hospital filled with joy, the other, children playing and filled with joy. God revealing His face to us in the little things. Sometimes we don’t look hard enough for God. He’s here! Other times, we look too hard…He’s not just in huge events or obvious miracles. Where there is peace and true joy, there is God.

One quick prayer intention: 

One of my homeless friends in La Ceiba, Julia, just found out that she is pregnant. Her boyfriend is also homeless, and this is their first child. We are going to try to make sure she gets the care she needs, but still.....life on the streets here is very difficult and dangerous. So if you could pray for Julia and her baby, that would be amazing! Gracias amigos! :)

Finally, continuing the reflections from Pope Francis’ Encyclical Lumen Fidei:

-“Those who have opened their hearts to God’s love, heard his voice and received his light, cannot keep this gift to themselves…The light of Christ shines, as in a mirror, upon the face of Christians. We too can share in that vision and reflect that light to others.” – Let the light of hope shine on your face! What a gift and a responsibility in a world so often robbed of hope!

-“Through love we learn how to see reality through the eyes of others.”

-“Faith teaches us to see that every man and woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters.” – Let’s come to see others not as an obstacle or a problem, but as a gift. Let us try to see God in each one.

-“Let us refuse to be robbed of hope.” – Amen! :D

Peace to you all!

Friday, October 11, 2013


A new year has begun! We have 7 new missionaries with us, 3 from the US and 4 from Honduras. We just finished up orientation, and now are embarking on a new journey together! I’m so excited to see what year 2 has in store!!!

Since my last blog, Honduras (and all of Central America) celebrated their Independence Day, on September 15. Amidst all of the parades and music, I got to thinking…what is freedom? We hear so much talk about freedom, and especially as people from the United States we value freedom so highly. But what is this ideal that we fight so hard to achieve and defend?
The proposed answer by today’s culture is: freedom means you can do whatever you want, without limitations. There is some truth to this – it is great to be able to choose where we want to live, what career we want to pursue, what kind of Cheerio’s we want to buy. But I also think this is a very flawed view. Young people today (myself included) are so used to viewing the world in this way, that we find it very hard to make decisions. Any decision “inhibits” me, because it closes so many potential doors. “I don’t know which major to choose in college because once I choose, I can’t do any of the others.” Or “Ya we’ve been dating for 4 years, but I’m just not sure if he/she’s the one. What if I find someone better in the future?” Etc etc.
I don’t find this idea freeing at all. In fact, when I came home from Honduras at Christmas last year, I went in to the grocery store, and was completely overwhelmed by the options! I don’t want 25 different types of Cheerio’s to choose from!! In one sense I’m freer because I have more options, but on the other hand, it makes it that much harder to choose anything at all! We’re so used to having a million options to choose from, that in the end we can’t choose anything!
For me, freedom does not mean having a million options to choose from; it doesn’t mean being able to do whatever I want, without limitations. In fact, just the opposite. For example, I speak English very freely. I don’t have to think about it or try to do it – I just do it! I am completely free to speak English. But why? Because I can put whatever words I want in any order I want? No – because I understand all of the rules and the structure of the language. I need there to be rules and structure. If I just spat out random words, I wouldn’t be free to speak English – I would be free to speak gibberish. The rules and limitations allow me to be free.
Or another example – let’s say I’m part of a symphony, playing the violin. Am I free in this symphony to play whatever I want, regardless of all the other instruments? Well, sure I am, but it’s going to be a disaster! I’m truly free when I’ve practiced the music and know it so well, that I can play in complete harmony with all the other instruments. It’s the same with our lives. We can use our freedom to “play whatever we want” on our violin, but it will be a disaster. Only when we recognize who we are, what we were made for, where we are going, can we use our freedom to play a beautiful harmony with our lives.
Any created thing works best when it is used for the purpose for which it was created. I can use a saw to chop down a tree, or I can use it to try to brush my teeth. I can use an oven to bake a cake, or I can stick my head in it. God has given us freedom in our lives. We can choose to use our freedom to bring peace, or to bring disunity. We can choose to follow God in the way that He made us, or we can choose to “stick our head in the oven.”
Ultimately, we’ve been giving freedom to choose love. That is the highest goal of our freedom: to choose to love. Because, like I said in my last post (and in the link I included), love is a choice. Our freedom has been given to us by God so that we may learn, day by day, to move from choosing our own selfish desires and motives, to choosing to love others – to put their needs and wants first, whether they deserve it or not.
            Jesus told us that if we gain the whole world, and lose our soul, it is a loss. This reveals to us something so incredible – that you, I, each individual person, are worth more than the whole world!! And yet, we often choose to sell our souls for much less than the whole world; in fact, for things that are worth nothing. We use our own freedom to enslave ourselves in things that leave us empty.
            But God has given us our freedom as a gift, and not even He could take it away. Jesus once said to St. Catherine of Siena: “I created you without you, but I will not save you without you.” It’s our choice. Will we say yes? Will we choose love?

As I said a few months back, I’m going to add a few reflections from Pope Francis’ Encyclical Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), with a few of my own, much less wise, thoughts added in:

-“It is precisely in contemplating Jesus’ death that faith grows stronger and receives a dazzling light. In that hour the depth and breadth of God’s love shone forth…gazing on the Pierced One. Jesus’ death is the supreme manifestation of God’s love for us.” –-- On the Cross, the deepest yearnings of our hearts are fulfilled…God loves me intensely, and is willing to suffer for me, to give me everything.
-“Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he or she becomes open to love.” –-- Faith is truly able to transform us and open us out from our selfish ways. It can free us from being trapped in ourselves, and open us outwards towards others. This is the goal of our freedom!
-“[Faith is] a light which, even as it enlightens us, calls us and seeks to be reflected on our faces and to shine from within us.” –-- Faith is not meant for us. One is not a Christian for one’s own sake! We are meant to be transformed in to God’s loving presence for others. Let’s let His light shine in our faces! Like Blessed Mother Teresa always said – Love begins with a smile!
Happy Fall to all you people who live in places where seasons actually exist! ;)
God’s Peace,