Seek What Is Above

Today is my wedding day so the readings I hear at Mass will be different than the ones heard at a normal Saturday Mass. I chose this day on purpose because, in looking at the readings I thought to myself, “How incredibly appropriate for this big day.” Please bear with me and hear me out while I explain my thoughts…

The overarching theme of today’s readings is the universal scope of Christianity. In the first reading, we hear of how Christianity spread to Greece. The humble origins of the Church are always so striking to me. Christ chose normal people, unassuming people as messengers of the Good News. He knew that His message of love and redemption would be spread by people who were on fire because of what they witnessed. The responsorial psalm reminds us that God’s love is universal, it belongs to everybody: “Let all the earth cry out with joy!” His love doesn’t belong to just one people, one time, etc.

I recently read an article with the provocative title of something like “Stop Trying to Make Christianity Relevant”. I read it with the intention of figuring out what the “other side” had to say about the relevance of Christianity. What I read, however, was surprising. It was from a Christian perspective, not from the perspective of someone who was tired of hearing the “Christian narrative”. The author was calling other Christians to lead a more radical life. He reminded us that the Christian life is not easy, it is not made for this world. Rather, it is difficult; there are many trials and obstacles. We must fight many battles and sometimes it seems as though we lose all of those battles. What we must realize in our fight is that our battle is not to win favor in this world, it is to merit the next. Our fight is towards Heaven and against evil. To be a Christian is to be a witness of Christ and to be a witness of Christ is to embrace the Cross of Christ.

Now to bring it back full circle….how in the world is this relevant for a wedding? Well, I work in a very secular environment and I often get questions about why my fiancé and I didn’t live together before getting married. The questions often came in the condescending form of, “Is it for religious reasons?” I found myself wanting to avoid the answer of, “Yes! It is for religious reasons.” Finally, I asked myself why I was so ashamed of that answer and realized that it had nothing to do with being ashamed of my faith but everything to do with how the question was asked. Why would an affirmative answer of “Yes, I do this because of my belief system” be looked down upon? Because, to the world, our faith seems oppressive and restrictive. But the truth is that our faith is incredibly freeing and hopeful! Our faith is based on Truth and Goodness and Beauty. Unfortunately, our world doesn’t recognize that. So, perhaps in our culture, the Cross we bear is weighed down by condescending questions, intolerance, and misguided perceptions of what the Catholic faith truly is.

We, like the Apostles, come from humble origins. We are unassuming people. We work in schools, offices, hospitals, and churches. We encounter people of every race, creed, culture, and tongue. It is our mission to be witnesses of Christ, spread the Good News, and carry our crosses with joy.

May we recognize that even when the world hates us, Christ loves us.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO is studying for her Master’s in Spanish, and loves her job as an elementary school librarian. She is engaged 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

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Reading 1 Acts 16:1-10

Paul reached also Derbe and Lystra
where there was a disciple named Timothy,
the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer,
but his father was a Greek.
The brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him,
and Paul wanted him to come along with him.
On account of the Jews of that region, Paul had him circumcised,
for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
As they traveled from city to city,
they handed on to the people for observance the decisions
reached by the Apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem.
Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith
and increased in number.

They traveled through the Phrygian and Galatian territory
because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit
from preaching the message in the province of Asia.
When they came to Mysia, they tried to go on into Bithynia,
but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them,
so they crossed through Mysia and came down to Troas.
During the night Paul had a vision.
A Macedonian stood before him and implored him with these words,
“Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
When he had seen the vision,
we sought passage to Macedonia at once,
concluding that God had called us to proclaim the Good News to them.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 100:1b-2, 3, 5

R. (2a) Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R. Alleluia.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R. Alleluia.
Know that the LORD is God;
he made us, his we are;
his people, the flock he tends.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R. Alleluia.
The LORD is good:
his kindness endures forever,
and his faithfulness, to all generations.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia Col 3:1

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If then you were raised with Christ,
seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
and I have chosen you out of the world,
the world hates you.
Remember the word I spoke to you,
‘No slave is greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,
because they do not know the one who sent me.”

For the readings of the Optional Memorial of Saint Bede the Venerable, please go here.

For the readings of the Optional Memorial of Saint Gregory VII, please go here.

For the readings of the Optional Memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, please go here.

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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi

On May 25, the Catholic Church celebrates Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, an Italian noblewoman of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries who became a Carmelite nun distinguished for her intense prayer life and devotion to frequent Holy Communion.In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI marked the 400th anniversary of St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi’s death in a letter to the Archbishop of Florence, her birthplace. He described her as “a symbolic figure of a living love that recalls the essential mystical dimension of every Christian life.�“May the great mystic,� the Pope wrote, “still make her voice heard in all the Church, spreading to every human creature the proclamation to love God.�Born on April 2, 1566, the future “Mary Magdalene� was given the name of Caterina at the time of her birth. She was the only daughter of her parents, who both came from prominent families. Caterina was drawn to the Holy Eucharist from a young age, and she resolved to serve God as a consecrated virgin shortly after receiving her First Communion at age 10.Late in the year 1582 she entered a strictly traditional Carmelite monastery, where Holy Communion was – unusually for the time period – administered daily. Receiving her religious habit the next year, she took the name of Mary Magdalene.From March to May of 1584, Mary became seriously ill and was thought to be in danger of death. On May 27 of that year she made her religious vows while lying sick upon a pallet. Her recovery marked the start of an extended mystical experience, which lasted 40 days and involved extraordinary experiences taken down by her religious sisters in a set of manuscripts.Mary served the monastery in a series of teaching and supervisory positions, while also contributing to her community through manual work. Her fellow Carmelites respected her strict sense of discipline, which was accompanied by profound charity and practical wisdom. Her experiences of suffering and temptation helped her to guide and inspire others.Extraordinary spiritual occurrences were a frequent feature of this Carmelite nun’s life, to a much greater degree than is typical in the tradition of Catholic mysticism. Many of her experiences of God were documented by others in her community, although Mary herself disliked the attention and would seemingly have preferred for these events to remain private.She did wish, however, to call attention to God’s love, which she saw as tragically underappreciated and unreciprocated by mankind. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi is remembered for making dramatic gestures – running through the halls of her monastery, or ringing its bells at night – while proclaiming the urgent need for all people to awaken to God’s love, and respond in kind.Her earthly life came to an end on May 25, 1607, after an excruciating illness lasting nearly three years. Pope Clement IX canonized St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi in 1669.

This I Command You: Love One Another

This last year has seen the cycle of life continue: life, suffering, death, rebirth, rebuild. I shouldn’t expect it to be any different than other years, but it has been more intense for me and I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. The deaths of my children’s grandma, as well as several friends’ parents and spouses, has really brought home the reminder that life is truly precious. The time we have on this earth is finite. We choose what to do with our time.

Kendrick Castillo made wonderful choices in his very short time here on earth. He is a hero, role model, and witness for his faith. Kendrick was 18 years old when he sacrificed his life for his friends and classmates on May 7th. He was granted status as a full member of the Knights of Columbus (he and his dad had logged over 2600 hours of service with KoC #4844). He exemplified today’s gospel, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you” (Jn 15:16). It is a beautiful tribute to Kendrick’s ultimate sacrifice.

I believe Kendrick truly lived the life of JOY that Veronica spoke about in yesterday’s reflection: Jesus first, others second, and yourself last. Many in today’s society put themselves first. We forget that Jesus put his life on the cross for each and everyone who has ever been created in his Father’s image, absolutely everyone ever created throughout all of time.

I don’t know if I will ever be put to the test as Kendrick was. I do know that we each have been commanded to love one another, twice in today’s gospel. If we follow Jesus’ teachings we are called to love one another. This is a herculean task in human terms… or is it? We are reminded by Jesus in scripture to become like little children and to be humble like a child (Mt 18). Young children have an innate ability to trust and to love and share. This weekend, I was sitting behind a 4 or 5-month-old set of twins and their extended family at Mass. They were sharing toys, looks, drool and affection with all those around them. As we age, we become less trusting and jaded due to our life experiences.

I experienced ‘JOY’ just sitting behind this family. To put Jesus first, we can start by being intentional with our actions, prayers, and responses to the situations that we encounter in our day and through social media. We need to remember to choose the unconditional love of Jesus and our Father and respond through prayer and action. We can choose to pray for people and situations that affect our shared global communities. We can volunteer and participate in ways outside of our usual life.

God so loved us he gave us Jesus. He commands us to love one another. What are you prepared to do?

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Beth is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She brings a unique depth of experience to the group due to her time spent in education, parish ministries, sales and the service industry over the last 25 yrs. She is a practicing spiritual director as well as a Secular Franciscan (OFS). Beth is quick to offer a laugh, a prayer or smile to all she comes in contact with. Reach her here