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 https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.


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: https://diocesan.com/joy/. 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 bprice@diocesan.com.