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Posts Tagged ‘Sr. Marie Paul Grech’

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Each day we encounter the incomprehensible, we often do not see the “whole staircase.”  There are so many opportunities for us to demonstrate faith in ourselves, in others and mostly in God.  When I was in Uganda several years ago, I was touched by the parish community’s heartfelt rendition of the Creed each Sunday. These were people who had little.  The church itself had a dirt floor, simple benches, and no glass on the windows. People had walked from as far away as eight kilometers to come to Mass.  The Creed was sung with alacrity, resounding in the tiny church to the beat of drums and homemade instruments.  With each sung article of the Creed, the refrain was almost shouted:  “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!”

Still today, I try to sing this in my heart. We do not understand so many things in life: the death of a young person, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!” The destruction and suffering caused by a typhoon, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!”  The conflict in a neighborhood or in a family, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!” The anxiety of unemployment, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!”  The debilitating aging process, “YES, LORD, I BELIEVE!”

If we have faith, we know that in all things, God is still here. That knowledge doesn’t take away the pain, but it does give us a measure of hope.  Pope Francis is a man of hope, a leader who reaches out to the neediest among us.  He is not afraid to embrace suffering humanity and to give us an example of what it means to live a life of faith and integrity.  As we come to the end of the Year of Faith, hopefully our faith is deeper, stronger, and more embracing of those whose lives we touch.  And if we still feel we have work to do, we can always make a commitment to make the next day, the next week, or the next year another time of faith, and give ourselves another chance to fall more deeply in love with the God who loves us so much!

I read the following statement recently about faith and our need to continually work at it:  “I was playing on the surface of my faith most of the time and not plunging into its depths.  I was splashing about in the shallow waters, when I needed to be scuba diving.” (Tom Mangan)

So, how about it?  Will you continue the journey of faith?  Will you join me in the scuba dive?

God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, or sun without rain,

but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.

If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

-Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

 
 

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In today’s Gospel, we hear the apostles voice a sentiment that should be our daily prayer:  “Increase our faith!”  They recognized, as we often do, that our faith is not always what it should be.  Even though we have hopefully tried to deepen our faith, especially in this Year of Faith, we may find ourselves overcome by the inevitable challenges of life—the illness of a loved one, the headlines in the newspaper, the constant barrage of “bad news” on the radio, TV and computer…our personal sense of loss, fear or doubt.  Our faith is tested! No doubt about it!

Jesus doesn’t ask us to have boundless faith, but “just a little,” that of the size of a mustard seed—which in Jesus’ time and in his locale, was the smallest seed.  As with so many of Jesus’ parables, he focuses our attention on the ordinary things around him…our faith, even though small, has great potential.  God delights in using what many might deem insignificant to prove a point. We hear Jesus talk about the child, the widow’s mite, the single lost coin and single sheep.  We know Jesus used only five loaves and two fish to feed 5000 people (not counting women and children).  And in this parable, we hear of the tiny seed which grows into a very large bush and is expansive enough to “house” innumerable birds of the air of various kinds.

We see the movement from a tiny faith to an abundant evangelization!  Our tiny seed of faith can draw others to Jesus if only we hold out our arms and embrace all those who come into our lives.  As faith-filled people, we can be the means by which others come to know and love and serve our God who loves all of us so much.  Like Pope Francis, with his gentle smile and welcoming touch, we can be instruments of God’s peace in our words and actions.  With arms outstretched, we welcome all people—not just those we know, but ALL people.  We aim to BE Jesus to them, caring for their needs, and not limiting ourselves in generosity.  So many of us are impressed by the simplicity, the life choices, the kindness and compassion of Pope Francis. What are we doing to challenge ourselves to follow his example, his spirit of discipleship?  We can all do our part!  We have many opportunities to do this…calling a lonely person, visiting the sick, showing patience toward a restless child, praying for the troubled parts of our world, contributing to Together in Mission, supporting a homeless shelter…and on and on. In the words of the foundress of my community, Sister Maria Aloysia, “You are not asked to do all the good in the world, but just the bit that lies within your power!”

-Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

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Mpopeany of us have been touched by the joyful simplicity of Pope Francis, and it is telling that so many people refer to his simple lifestyle choices as an example for all of us.  His preferences in living quarters, dress, modes of transportation and so on have been commented on by the media, his fellow priests, and Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  His smile and obvious love for people radiate a God-centeredness that is refreshing and inspiring.  He is truly a man of faith, a man of hope and a man of deep compassion.

In Pope Francis’ first encyclical (letter), he called us as disciples of Jesus to carry the light of faith to all that we meet.  The encyclical was first drafted by Pope Benedict (intended to complete his three-part series on hope, love, and faith) but completed by Francis.

We are called to be people of faith:  “Those who believe are transformed by the love to which they have opened their hearts in faith.”

We are called to be evangelists, sharing our faith:  “Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion, or a personal opinion.”

Pope Francis challenges each of us: “Could it be the case …that we are the ones who are ashamed to call God our God?  That we are the ones who fail to confess him as such in our public life, who fail to propose the grandeur of the life in common which he makes possible?”

We are called to reflect on the gift of our faith and Pope Frances encourages us to ask Mary for help. He concluded the encyclical with a beautiful prayer to her, quoted here only in part.

 “Mary, help our faith!  Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call…Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus that he may be light for our path.  And may this light of faith always increase in us…”

-Sr. Marie Paul Grech, SND

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After Jesus returned to heaven, he and the Archangel Gabriel were talking.  Even in heaven Jesus bore the marks of the crucifixion.  Gabriel commented on the pain Jesus must have suffered and asked,

‘Do people know and appreciate how you love them and what you did for them?’  Jesus replied,

‘Oh no, not yet, right now only a few people in Palestine know.’  Gabriel was perplexed.

‘Then what have you done to let everyone know about your love?’  Jesus answered,

‘I have asked Peter, Andrew, James, John and a few more friends to tell others about me.  Those who are told will tell others about me, and yet others still until the last man and woman in the farthest corner of the world will have heard the story of how I gave my life because I love them so much.’  Gabriel frowned and looked skeptical.

‘Yes, but what if Peter and the others grow weary?  What if people who come after them forget?  Surely, you have made other plans?’  Jesus said,

‘Gabriel, I haven’t made any other plans.  I’m counting on them.’”

OK, that’s quite a responsibility!  Jesus is counting on us, each of us—to preach his Gospel, to let others know of his love for each of us.  So, what am I doing about it?

-Sr. Marie Paul Grech, SND

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Half empty? Half full? What do you see when you look at the sky…? At a stranger on the street?  At your children? At your elderly parent? At your backyard? What do you see?  Do you see what is wrong or what is right? Do you see what needs “fixin’”? or what has potential…?

A friend of mine shared a picture taken by her granddaughter….a picture of wispy clouds…where some of us may see only clouds….she saw angels…and so did I!  Did her vision plant the idea in my head?  I really don’t know, and it doesn’t matter because I did see the angels! It is much like other things in life.  If we have the Spirit’s guidance planting ideas in our heads, we do see things differently. Are we able somehow to look at a friend and not be conscious of his/her faults but to see through them to the innermost heart? Will we be able to look at our child (even if he/she is in a naughty mood) and see the beautiful gift from God who lightens our life? Will we look at a weed-laden yard and see the possibilities? Can we walk with an elderly friend and experience the wisdom — and forget the slow steps?

So many things make a lasting impression on us….what we see, what we hear, what we hear about…opinions shape our thinking, our prejudices (yes, we all have them!), our ways of responding to people, situations, uncertainties. We are bombarded from all sides….and we seem to never be able to “get away.” We get emails, phone calls, text messages, snail mail. To whom are we most open? Who influences us most? Are we guided by the bold headlines in the newspaper, the news flashes we receive as text messages, the consumerism of advertising? Sometimes we are just not sure where we are going, in which direction we find our real peace. What role does our God play in our personal and family decision-making? Do I pray in a spirit of openness to whatever God’s answer may be? Do I believe that God always answers prayer…even when the answer is NO or NOT YET? Who is my compass….?  Where is my true north?

During these “lazy,  hazy days” of summer, may I be open to the Spirit so that I may be open to the good things God has in store for me!

– Sr. Marie Paul Grech

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Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 10.06.09 AMAs we welcome the month of May we look to Mary–we recognize that she gives us the example of how to put our gifts at the service of others:

First we see her as a young woman, using her gift of a listening heart as she hears the call of God to give of herself so that God’s love for humankind could be expressed in a remarkable way.  We then see her as a mother-to-be who could rightly have been focused on herself and her unborn child, sharing instead her gift of helpfulness as she hurries to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

We see her later, giving her gift of compassion as she notices the potential embarrassment at the wedding feast; and we see her gift of motherly insight as she tells the waiters to do whatever her son would tell them.  Throughout her son’s public life, we see her quietly living her gift of self-sacrifice, willingly letting go of her son, empowering him to go about his father’s business.

At the cross, she again shares one of her gifts–the gift of quiet suffering but she doesn’t stop there– from the foot of the cross she makes yet another commitment to give of herself–as our mother.  Mary wasn’t given every gift possible–we don’t hear that she was a good artist, or math scholar, or even a good housekeeper.  What we hear about are the gifts of the heart–one or more of her gifts may be ours as well–or we may have different ones–it doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that the gifts we have, we share.  Whatever light God has put into our hearts, we let shine.  Whatever it is that makes us “tick”, we know who our creator is–and we thank him for the gifts he has given us.

– Sr. Marie Paul Grech, SND

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Screen shot 2013-04-16 at 10.08.53 AM“Spring sale!”…  “half-price”… “discounted for limited time only” … “buy one, get one free”…..this kind of advertising catches our eye, lures us in, sometimes even makes us buy what we don’t even need—just because it is on sale!

What catches our eye in our faith? Would it be a miracle right in front of us? Would it be a dynamic speaker? Could it be a moving musical performance?

Or can it be as simple, and as powerful as the words in Scripture?  In our life of faith we don’t need to wait for the sales to take advantage of the “good deals.” Jesus has given us everything we need—and HE paid the price! Our life with God is FREE!  We can access our God with a few quiet minutes in prayer. We can build a relationship with His Son simply by receiving Eucharist (another free gift!) and we can share in the wisdom of the Spirit just by asking for His help. If we go through our day, conscious of the many “freebies” God gives us, perhaps we will become more and more grateful for all the good things God does for us!

– Sr. Marie Paul Grech, SND

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