Paul sets the example

Today is the feast day of the Conversion of St Paul, the Apostle.

Recently, I noticed an Instagram account I follow that for the most part exhibits the universal Church message. They push more on the side of the Church Militant which we are, but in a way that explains the evil forces we fight against addictions, pornography, etc.

However, they posted a clip from a ‘speaker’ who I defiantly don’t follow or give any of my time. I have heard a couple of this speakers’ talks and my heart shut off once I started to hear him point out things that get others angered or rage about either the Pope, “weak priests”, certain Church teachings. It scares me the following he has because he gets many to settle in on what he thinks should be the focus. Intertwined with some uplifting faith remarks to make him look like a good and faithful servant.

What dumbfounds me is that the same group of people will listen to Bishop Barron, Fr. Mike Schmitz, and then ‘this guy’ who at this time I don’t want to make known his name.  How they don’t see how vastly different ‘this guy’ is to others who are being disciples of the Church by preaching/teaching words of salvation. Do they ever hear our great evangelizers share out the same message as ‘this guy’?  Isn’t it strange there are not more like him in the spotlight?  Don’t get me wrong, he does have a spotlight because more and more follow his message.  And the message is attack and divide. Comes at a time, when so much is this focus. Good timing.

That may sound too strong of an opinion on this person, but when it comes to pointing out things to stir up negative emotions, that’s a red flag for me. And it saddens me how the faithful fall in it. Why are some giving ‘this guy’ any time?

Which brings me back to St. Paul.

St. Paul was zealous for God in his mind. Yes, God did choose past Old Testament individuals to fight against opposition who did not want to follow the Law nor count God as God. He did use them to fight and conquer even to the point of bloodshed. In the New Testament, Saul, who later was named Paul by the Lord, was much like those characters from the past but no longer needed. He thought it was his duty and right, to fight against those who he and the group he followed, to separate those who didn’t worship God in the way they thought was accurate. He admitted he had been following human invention. Persecuting areas he thought were his right to do and getting others to join in with him. Those that joined in with him could no longer recognize the tone Saul had because he made them believe he was a true believer of God.

Tone.

Once St. Paul had his conversion what struck me the most was his tone. His tone was full of strength but abundant with great love and humility. First thing was recognizing what he had done, the great remorse, and then opening himself up to learn what God wanted him to gain. St. Paul’s message that we are greatly blessed to have in his writings, teach us the main purpose of our call to discipleship – leading others to Christ. Period. That’s it!

Not to be overcome by the world. Not to give others the power to dictate to us what is darkness and how we are to go after it. The power to guide us comes from the Word of God, Church teachings, and prayer. Anyone can manipulate anything to make it seem right. You see it every day. Fear causes us to want to jump on something that is going to protect our right, our future. But we are not to live in that manner. But we are to test it asking the Holy Spirit to help us discern and place in our souls His wisdom.

Wisdom from Above

13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, free of hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James 3:13-18

When St. Peter was with Christ at Gethsemane, when the soldier guards came to take him away, St. Peter thought on his own to strike Malchus. What did Christ tell St. Peter?

Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”

John 18:11

St. Peter did not consult Jesus before striking. He did it in what he thought was zeal for the Lord. He did it out of his flesh in thinking he was standing up for something. Never in any teaching does Jesus asks us to assemble and fight against things that stir up agitation, rage against other human beings. Never.  He asks us to live in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Steadfastness in Faith.

27Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear news of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the gospel, not intimidated in any way by your opponents. This is proof to them of destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing.

Philippians 1

These ‘Catholic speakers/podcast/Youtubers/Influencers’ who like to preach with false authority, arrogance, are the ones to watch out and pray others stop taking the bait. Recognize what Church organizers, leaders, evangelizers are to possess. If it carries disrespect, strikes fear towards your fellow brothers/sisters, pretty sure, that’s not the one to follow. Listen less to their gospel and literally pick up the Gospel.  That will stamp out the noise.

1. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.”

Romans 12:9-13

St. Paul, the Apostle, pray for us!+++ Help us to know who we are fighting!

Mama’s Day

Mom passed away on April 12th.  I feel like my whole being is frozen. Living, moving, but frozen. I feel a sense of me is no longer. 

It was not that we did not know she was not well.  It was not because there were lack of signs making it evident that her end was near.

But the speed in which it came is something I am still coping with.

I’ve often written about my childhood and my parents’ selfishness in my upbringing. How the effects of their decisions impacted my sinful choices.

I have also written about the dynamics of how taking care of my mom in her elderly years, reverse roles, was designed by God’s providence to teach us both area of our lives that needed healing.

But there was a lesson given right after Mom died that I had no idea would exist.  I’m pushing through and learning from it.

It is something I feel as though I need to make known to other daughters who care for their mom or don’t even know they too will be put into a situation to care for them.  Sometimes the pace of caregiving can make you lose sight of many things. If I knew those last months, days were my mom’s last, I would have changed how I did things. Some families are blessed where they know their loved one is at the end of their life. Much of my mom’s end felt quick and out of control. I know I can’t beat myself up, but wish I had paid less attention to the tasks and more of the sacred time with her.

My mom’s decline started to happen in December 2020. Out of nowhere she started to experience extreme pain in her upper arms. Thanks to God, mom never had debilitating pain ever in her life. This was new to her which caused her to stay in bed. And with Covid still lingering above our heads, a heavier cross was given to her overall mental health. Since she was already working at being patient in what her frail mind allowed her. Through January we were seeking answers to her pain. Then her blood pressure became an issue and even though her liver issue had seemed to be normal, at the start of March evident physical signs emerged.

I have always done good by mom when it came to her care. If I saw something, I would contact her doctor or research for a home remedy. When I noticed her repeating things, I had her see her neurologist. He said it was Alzheimer’s, but I felt there was something more to it. In the days after, her physical ability started to change. Sleeping more, eating less. I could not get her in with her hepatologist because he was booked, he instructed I take her to his hospital ER to evaluate her. That sequence of events turned out to be her final days.

During the last six months, I was so caught up in the tasks, I would lose the preciousness of the moments.  But there were times we discussed our faith and readiness for death. How on one afternoon I pushed myself to have the discussion with mom on what to pray for in those conversations with Our Lord. Her convicted response was she does pray for a “happy death” and how she prays “for God’s mercy on her sins”. Other times, we talked about memories of her childhood, her love for her grandchildren, and her two marriages.

But there is something more that I am reconciling with Our Lord about “time” at the end of my mom’s life despite all these conversations. Something I feel was missed. And this is what I feel I must make known in some cautionary way.

So often in our relationships with our mom’s we don’t take hold of the sacred time. We don’t ever think of life without her. I have known many women including my mom who lost their mother at a young age. I have seen their tears.  I have counseled and expressed my prayers to them. But there is something I missed or did not understand from them in their mourning. No fault of their own.  Not easy to express what it feels like to lose your mother.  Even now, me trying to put into words how much life drastically changes when your mom’s life is taken, isn’t fully explaining it.

This “feeling” of your mother’s soul not existing on earth is like a deep hole in your heart that extends to the clouds. It’s a hard, anxious exhale. A deep wound looking to be comforted from the one who no longer physically can. It is not like any other deceased loved one in your life. I can’t say I have experienced losing my husband or sister.  But I have lost my father, family, and friend.

Your mother brought you in the world. God’s great gifts are bestowed in a Mother. The fruits of the spirit are the definition of a mother – charity, generosity, joy, gentleness, peace, faithfulness, patience, kindness, self-control, goodness…

In God’s great design, all that I felt I didn’t have in my Mom in my adolescence, she took on His will to allow her to live these great fruits in her later life once she became a grandmother.  Her focus, time, and attention were elevated in what she always had possessed, but didn’t let shine until God helped her recognize.

There are moments I think, did mom know how much I appreciated her? Did she know how much I loved her as she loved me? Did I communicate to her these same fruits she showed me?  All these thoughts are normal in the grieving process.  To question but not stay asking.

When you’re living your life you don’t often think of the moment. We can get caught up in the family gatherings, holidays, etc., but not necessarily pay attention to the person.

I can say my family and I had many great memories.  Mom lived for 78 years.  Birthday celebrations, mother’s days, trips to California.  Shopping sprees at Walmart, her favorite place. Driving down to Tucson, visiting family. Learning her recipes – creole chicken, salsas, chile con carne. Her teaching the grandchildren how to play poker where she learned from Camp Pendleton marines in the early 1960s.  We also had many conversations on her life.  Her childhood. Father dying at age two.  Mother dying at age 38. Never having a father figure. No male ever to show her how she should be valued. Her marriage to my Dad. How much she loved him and the shatter of her dreams when he chose addiction over their marriage. Later, how strong a blessing it was to her that in dad’s recovery, he asked her for forgiveness. Her seeking to find value and love after but never finding it. I value every time we spoke and thank God for all those random discussions that helped me to see her.

I often say to family and friends that God had us come together under the same roof again for healing. Even though mom’s move in with my husband and I was due to her health.  For almost seven years, we learned things about each other.  I learned there was still pent-up anger towards her for not giving me the attention I needed as a child. There were often challenges with that in that moments would hit me where I’m splitting time of my married life to care for her. How I would often have to decline invites because I was caring for my mom. Canceling trips, events, etc. because I couldn’t leave my mom alone. Battling with these reminders on how easily I sacrificed, at times, crippled me because I would remember how mom would set herself first.

Then God did what He could only do.  He flourished in her soul so that I, my sister, family, those in her life, could feel her love in the way He always meant it to be.

For all those daughters who have similar experiences, for the daughters who maybe too busy to see the preciousness of time, to the daughters who are getting fatigued with the care of their mother, for the daughter who thinks there is all this time ahead, for the daughter who doesn’t take the time to forgive – please stop and turn your heart.  The moment Our Lord takes your Mom – nothing – will ever matter so much more than to just have another moment with her.

 I’m living with thankfulness that out does any other experience I may ever have.  I will miss hugging her and kissing her every night. I will miss her sitting at her desk.  I will miss seeing her in my passenger’s seat driving around. I will miss arguing with her about going to the casino. Her telling me my dinners were “so good”.  Overhearing her conversations to my aunts on what my day consisted of instead of her own.  I will miss her asking me “what do you think” when she’s trying to decide to buy something.

Last, I came to realization that in all my time of seeking the Lord, reading countless books, attending church events, mass attendance, confession, podcasts, bible study that there is something strongly missed that could not be gained until your Mother passes away. The mother was designed to give life. Children born is to glorify God and to fulfill His will. The mother in her fiat to do God’s will passes onto the child in continuing to glorify God. Not all mothers know what their role truly is in those initial moments or years. It is faith and belief in Jesus that turns the cycle of life in what it is meant to be. No matter what time in life that becomes known. The love that pours out of the Son to the mother is the greatest source of living. Everything comes to be in right order. The understanding of heaven is ever more real to me now. Because how great the void of your mother’s love to just cease makes no sense. It’s as if to say, that’s it. You had it, now it’ s gone. You’ll never find that again. You’ll never know it again. But that’s not the case. We know a greater love and that is Jesus. That ounce of love that is your Mother’s love is a drop in the ocean compared to Jesus’ love for us. Knowing His promise, communion of saints, the chance to see our loved ones again…sustains me. Ever more real. Ever more grateful.

This way of life now with my husband at my side has forever changed. It’s awkward, strange, doesn’t seem real. But everyday, I ask God to have mercy on my wretchedness. To help me move forward with His plans. And with what I have learned may be shared and be a heart opening in their relationship with their mother so that God’s peace may be full.

I’ll never get another moment with Mom, but I know she knows how much I love her and need her prayers to grow and be ready too when it’s my time to go Home.

Happy Mother’s Day Mama! I love you.

We dare to say

Yesterday after mass, I came out knowing that I would need to stay away from social media because I cannot control what people say. In a broader spectrum, I cannot control much.

For almost the past week now, I have seen Catholics who I have been following for some time on social media, show their appearances of rigidness, judgment, divisiveness, and self righteousness, that has left me to resort to confinement of some degree.

They want to voice how their Candidate who upheld the Christian view is in a fight to keep his presidential role and that anyone who claimed they are Catholic and did not vote for him, must not be.

Maybe it’s a small portion of who I have come across. Maybe it is a sample of a larger scale of what is truly out there. But I do know, that it isn’t what I’ve known my faith to preach.

I heard recently, I think from Fr. Mike Schmitz podcast, how deep the beginning line of the Our Father at Mass is, but how many miss it.

“At the Savior’s command
and formed by divine teaching,
we dare to say:

How many times have I said the Our Father and not taken those words “we dare to say” more to heart! How many of us recite it too and missed it.

Many times, we have had a President in place who is pro choice, but have lived with the elected and worked together. We have many times entered Church and sat in the pew with others who do not approach the faith in the same way, but we’ve been told it does not make us better. How many times have we sat with others who have opposing views, and don’t even know it? The faithful are instructed what to do when our focus becomes to much about something or someone and not Jesus Christ. To be in the world, but not of the world.

As I shuffle through the verses that have been coming to my mind these days, I remembered this parable.

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. 9He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.c 10“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 11The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’d 13But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’e 14I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Our job as Catholics is not to add to chaos, but to refer to the Fruits of the Spirit. Why? God is spirit! God dwells in us. God has given us what to cling onto, to rally in when times get tough or trials hit. If the voices you are listening to do not grow your soul, provoke it to rattle , give off dissension and anger, then you have fallen for someone’s agenda.

God’s aim is not about us and them. They are this and we are that. Politics change. Jesus doesn’t.

Yesterday’s Gospel reading told us what each of us should be concerned about:

MT 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 
Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. 
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. 
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Fr. Shea said the oil represents wisdom. The foolish virgins that did not have enough oil were not ready for the Bridegroom. They along the way, stopped being prepared. As in the self-righteous, that think they own the Cross and that a political party owns the Cross too. Jesus is not contained. Didn’t we hear that before? What happened?

God help us to live as servants of God. Help us to foster love and reverence for God.

.

Corona

We’re in this together,
Some in the beginning did say.
We took each day with news,
It got worse along the way.
The mask, sanitizer, stocked in hand,
shoo’d the sick away from somebody’s land
Days, months in,
And here we are,
Some us yelling
Lives matter, are you listening?
Where brother, sister, neighbor, friend,
defending the color of their skin.
Days, months in,
People Covid, comes with questioning
Will this nightmare ever end?
Looks taken within ourselves
Are we gonna make it count?
For there’s no time for sorrow,
Because only with Him +.
Is there even a tomorrow.

Leticia Ochoa Adams

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