No one can turn faster on you than a sixth grade clique. One day a classmate is popular, the next day ostracized. Her offense was inviting the new girl in school to sit with them at lunch. One moment of kindness, and the crowd turns. She now walks the school halls alone, hearing whispers on one side while feeling sharp stares from the other. This scenario repeats itself day in and day out, in every school. It happened when I was growing up, when my girls were in school, and now—over and over.
I have a friend who remembers being picked on in middle school for standing up for another. Her mother encouraged her to be strong and secure in her worth as a beloved child of God. This wise woman also explained that by taking on the stares, the unkind remarks, and the ostracism, she was actually protecting the next girl—any other girl—who would have been the target of their fury. It was the crowd mentality reacting out of fear and insecurity in the presence of truth and goodness.
This fallen human nature repeats itself, not just with “Mean Girls,” but everywhere in society: politics, Hollywood, the workplace—everywhere. One moment we’re praised, and the next rejected. A politician’s words go down like honey when speaking what the crowd desires to hear. But the minute—the second—he or she speaks truth—the call to sacrifice, self-control, and selflessness—the crowd turns on a dime to the next candidate. Fans swoon over a handsome actor until the moment he takes an unpopular stand and then they turn their adoration to the next pretty face.
Jesus fully understands fallen human nature and begins His public ministry confronting this harsh reality. When He steps forward they are at first “amazed” by His “gracious” words, but the minute He speaks an uncomfortable truth, they turn against Him. Jesus, the Messiah? The Messiah from Nazareth? Impossible. And the fury begins. Furious in the face of truth, they drive Him to the edge. But He passes through their midst as Truth cannot be destroyed.
As parents/grandparents, we name grace by raising our children to be compassionate, loving, inclusive, merciful, and truthful. We name grace by reminding our children they were formed in the womb by God and loved for eternity. We name grace by preparing our children to be prophets in their own hometowns/schools/activities: including the outsider, standing up for what is right, speaking up for their faith, and loving others in the face of fury. We name grace by gifting our children with the assurance that, with Jesus, they will safely pass through the difficult times of life.
All Christians are called to stand for their faith, whether sixty or a sixth grader. When prophetic in our own spheres of influence—speaking up for the poor, the disabled, the homeless, the unborn, the lonely—we must be prepared for whispers and stares. No one—much less Jesus—ever said faithfulness would be easy. But with the Spirit of the Lord is upon us, we can trust that LOVE, which never fails, will pass us through the maddening crowd. Now, that’s good news!
Ordinary? Anything but. On this “Second Sunday of Ordinary Time,” the readings pulsate with the extraordinary: vindication shines, salvation announced, “My Delight” bestowed, Spirit manifested, wedding celebrated, wine poured, signs given, glory revealed.
Why is this very first miracle presented in ordinary time? Are miracles meant to be a part of our everyday, ordinary lives? What’s ordinary here? A mother, a son, a human need, water, a request spoken. Ordinary stuff. Yet someone extraordinary is at this wedding feast. Jesus is in the room. Concerned for the hosts, the Blessed Mother approaches her Son and nudges, coaxes—okay, lovingly prods—Him into action. Love responds and the ordinary becomes extraordinary: water into wine—miraculous!
With Jesus present in our homes, grace—God’s strengthening, reconciling, calming, rejoicing love—flows. As John states in the gospel, “God is love.” And God’s love creates miracles, for love is stronger than even death. What’s the key for miracle making in our homes—our own domestic churches? First and foremost is to recognize Jesus’ presence in the room and to invite His Spirit to permeate our homes with love.
A son, angry when told he may not attend a party, jumps from the table as the car horn blares. The mother closes her eyes—recognizing Jesus in the room—and prays for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts. She holds her breath as he walks stridently out the door. After a few minutes, without a word, he creeps back into the house and up to his room. In the morning, at the breakfast table, he says quietly, “I’m sorry.” She replies gently, “I love you.” And the relationship begins anew. Miraculous? Who can say? But surely, grace flowed and grace is miraculous.
As parents or grandparents, we name grace when we recognize Jesus in the midst of ordinary family life. We name grace as we proclaim the very presence of Jesus in the kitchen, the living room, the bedrooms, the laundry room, etc.—anywhere and everywhere in our homes. We name grace when we invite Jesus to work miracles in our homes—our hearts—through his love and mercy.
We sometimes desire an escape from our ordinary, messy, life—often the most difficult place to love and forgive—but with Jesus in the room, life becomes extraordinary as the miraculous occurs. If we ask Mary to intercede and do whatever He tells us, water turns into wine: anger into calm, bickering into peace, irritation into patience, cutting remarks into kindness, resentment into warmth, fear into love. Grace flows. Signs given. Glory revealed. Not one bit ordinary because Jesus is in the room. Now, that’s good news!
Dearest Elin Faith,
Last Sunday you were dressed in a long white gown with satin, lace, and pearls. Water was poured, oil smeared, and words spoken: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
You have become God’s beloved daughter—an identity granting you the highest dignity and the greatest beauty. I pray you will claim your identity each day for the rest of your life. I pray you will allow God’s beauty to shine through you in kindness, compassion, and love for each person you meet. And I pray you will remember this divine identity, especially when you hear a cutting remark, fall short in love, or experience a devastating loss.
I pray you will understand God loves you unconditionally and beyond compare. God has created you, Miss Elin Faith, for a special purpose. Never be afraid of God’s calling, for building the kingdom of God is the great adventure of life and God’s grace will surely lead the way.
With the Sacrament of Baptism, your life will not be your own—you belong to Christ. You will learn that discipleship demands carrying your cross and pouring yourself out for others. In the journey, you will discover that by giving we receive, and by dying to selfishness, we begin to live—really live.
I pray you will put Jesus before all—above all. He must come first because He is the source of all love and light. With His light, all others lights glow brighter. With faith, the world expands as we notice God’s shimmering presence in even the most ordinary.
In baptism, you are called to sainthood. Rely on the Holy Spirit, the source of all wisdom, and you will surely grow in love, mercy, and heroic virtue. Be close to those who will bring you closer to Jesus. Stay close to Jesus, especially in times of darkness. Cling to the cross—and the resurrection. Carry hope in your heart. Be willing to forgive. Be humble. Be good. Be true to yourself.
With the Sacrament of Baptism, we welcome you into the body of Christ. Elin, you are never alone. We are all here for you. All the saints in heaven (your great grandmothers and grandfathers) and on earth are praying for you and cheering you onto the finish line.
Elin Faith, you are absolutely beautiful—inside and out (even at your young age you exhibit a sweet spirit). I pray you will live according to your given name—a life of faith. I wish you the absolute BEST of life—love, happiness, peace, and joy—Jesus. Always remember, you are God’s beloved daughter—loved, accepted, and perfect—in whom He is well pleased.
I promise you my love and my prayers ~ always and forever.
My favorite scene from the movie, The Lord of the Rings by devout Catholic JRR Tolkien, depicts a young lad, desperate from arrows flying in the dark of night, lamenting an apparent loss in battle, “It is hopeless.” King Aragorn steadies the boy by looking him straight in the eye while declaring, “There is always hope. Look to the east!”
In the season of Advent, as we approach the shortest day of the year, darkness seems to engulf the world. Stories abound on terrorism, the plight of refugees, drug epidemics, gun violence, suicide, human trafficking, poverty, and sold body parts. The more we read and watch, the more we shake our heads and lament, “It all seems hopeless.” Consumed with worry as children drown in addiction, are caught in abuse, wallow in mediocrity, or dismiss the faith, many parents cry inwardly, “It is just hopeless.”
This Sunday’s readings center on hope—looking to the East—where the sun rises and Christ will return in glory. Baruch, scribe to the prophet Jeremiah, exhorts God’s people, led away by their enemies and exiled in Babylon, to take hope and have courage for they are “remembered by God” who “will bring them back.”
God remembers his loved ones and will bring them home! No matter how violent the world, the Lord God remembers our faithfulness. No matter how far away our children, the Lord God will bring them back! When reflecting on darkness, Rev. Ronald Rolheiser commented, “Even when a son or daughter is unable to hold onto hope, Jesus continues to hold onto them.” There is no exile too remote or distance too far for Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to seek and bring home his beloved children.
As parents and grandparents, we steady our children by turning them toward Christ, our light—our hope. We name grace each time we offer encouragement when threatened by darkness: “God has a future filled with hope for you!” We name grace as we light an Advent candle and recall God’s promises: “Today was really tough, but God is always with us.” We name grace as we hug tightly, hold closely, and whisper gently: “Jesus loves you; all shall be well.” We name grace each time we gather to celebrate life, whether at a funeral Mass or the Christmas table.
With Advent, we affirm hope because “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). The battle has been won, not with weapons or violence, but through Jesus Christ—the Prince of Peace. As Christians, we refuse to despair—no matter how dark the world or how far away our children—for God will not abandon us. God will make straight the winding roads and smooth the rough ways. Never, ever, give up. There is always hope. Look to the east! Now, that’s good news!
On a glorious autumn afternoon, I loaded up our pockmarked pickup truck with bikes, our two youngest sons (ages 10 and 8), and my friend, Becky. We excitedly headed out to the nature center by taking the main drag—and at the very first stoplight, the truck died. Two women in the car next to us looked on us with pity. Thankfully, the ignition switch turned and the engine started. Sure enough, at the very next light, the truck died again. This time I struggled, turning the switch several times—to no avail. While I sweated, some drivers whizzed by shooting us a look of disdain while others laid on the horn. In that tense moment, Becky turned to the boys in the backseat, “Boys, it doesn’t matter what you drive, what you wear, or what you do because you are the King’s kids. You belong to Jesus. Don’t ever, ever, forget who you are—the King’s kids!”
Our society assaults our children, attempting to dissuade them from believing blue blood runs through their veins. Our fallen world assails them with messages of unworthiness to strip their dignity. Truthfully, who could possibly claim a royal heritage when the mirror reflects smudged faces, torn robes, and bloodied, broken bodies—our humanness? Yet it is not us, but Jesus—the Alpha and Omega—who grants us nobility.
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Be assured this eternal King shatters worldly expectations: though deserving absolute adoration, Jesus kneels and washes feet; though being owed everything, Jesus pays our debt; though ruler of the entire universe, Jesus loves each of us gently, tenderly, deeply, unconditionally, and infinitely.
On this feast day, each of us—young or old—is reminded of our eternal worth and our kingly summons to humility and service. Jesus invites us, his beloved children, to the royal banquet of the Eucharist, where we bow low to adore and receive the King of the Universe. His Gospel charges us with our regal responsibility to lift high the last, the least, and the littlest.
As parents or grandparents, we name grace and testify to truth when we remind our children of their innate worth and royal identity as God’s beloved children—the King’s kids. We name grace as we witness to this heritage by working for the kingdom of God and treating others with mercy, respect, compassion and love.
Christ the King, whose dominion is everlasting, conquers our hearts through love. If we surrender to this love—claim and live it—our identity as the King’s kids remains our joy for eternity. My prayer is that our children, now adult, will always follow our benevolent King. May they never, ever, forget their true worth as the King’s kids—even if riding in the back of an old pickup truck. Now, that’s good news!
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.