All Things New: A Reflection

During this season of Easter, the readings in the Divine Office have been taken from the book of Revelation. There is one passage that has particularly grabbed my heart and offered much fruitful meditation and consolation. Revelation 21 speaks powerfully of the “new heaven” and the “new earth,” and how God himself will come to his people to “wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Then verse five invites us to take in the re-creation, as the One on the throne says: “Behold, I make all things new.”

Do you feel the invitation to inhale this truth deeply and exhale peacefully when you read those words?

I do. I so often need to remember this truth and allow it to sink into my heart. I have brokenness, and I have loved ones with brokenness. I regularly experience the consequences of brokenness, and I have felt sorrow for all that needs to be made right. We all daily experience the reality that there is much wrong with the world. And how do we respond? We sometimes distract ourselves. We sometimes are paralyzed with grief. We sometimes bravely move forward on our pilgrim journey with great faith, despite the dismal circumstances that result from our fallen humanity. 

Whatever our response has been to the brokenness in our world, we need to inhale deeply of the truth that our Lord is the one on the throne making all things new. This is no greeting card sentiment; this is a promise that will be fulfilled.

Our God sits on the throne and is in the process of making all things new: in my life, in your life, and in all of the world. We do not see clearly how now, but we are assured of what we hope for and given evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). With that in mind, I offer the following reflection exercise that you can take with you into your quiet prayer time with the Lord:

  • Quiet your heart as you enter His presence. He is there already, waiting for you, in the space of your Interior Castle. 
  • Be conscious that you are bringing your heavy burdens with you—every one of them. Perhaps, imagine them strapped to your shoulders like a large hiking pack. 
  • Imagine the glorious light of God’s presence ahead of you. Look forward and see our Lord on the throne, in all His glory and goodness.
  • Take Him in. Take in the glory of His presence and the truth of His sovereignty over all the world. Spend a few moments with this vision and worship Him for who He is. 
  • Then, take off that heavy pack of burdens and set it at your side.
  • Open the top and take out the first broken thing you see. Walk with it toward that glorious throne and leave it at His feet. As you release it, pray over it by name, and ask our Lord to make it new.
  • One by one, take out each broken thing you have carried. Walk each one to the feet of Jesus. Ask Him to make each one new.
  • When you are finished, when you have emptied your pack of all your brokenness and all the brokenness of others you love, take in the sight before you. See all that you have carried at the feet of the King. See these things in their redeemed state; see them in the light of His promise to “make all things new.” And worship Him again for His faithfulness.
  • As you leave this time of prayer and worship, know that His presence stays with you and your burdens of brokenness stay at the foot of the throne. They are being made new. You are being made new. 

Go out in joy and peace, giving thanks to God. Alleluia!

Revelation 21:5

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey

The Voice God Uses

As we are within the season of Lent, we are expectantly listening for God to speak to areas of our hearts that need to be redeemed. I doubt that most practicing Catholics who approach this season with sincere intentions for repentance would be surprised to find that God has a specific message of conversion in store for them, but they might be surprised by the particular messenger He sends.

I don’t know about you, but when I imagine God speaking to me or I sit down for prayer desiring Him to do so, I have a good idea of what I expect Him to sound like and what I expect Him to say. Whether it be Lent, or any old time of the year, I often take for granted that I will recognize the sound of His voice and the tone of His message. He will meet my expectations exactly, right? I’m afraid that I have been proved wrong more often than not.

The problem with our expectations is that they are often rooted deeply in pride; they can be tied heavily to our emotions and formed from our deceitful heart condition. We expect the type of correction we feel we can tolerate, the one we have determined to be bearably fair. We are very good at looking just long enough to find a sin that isn’t too inconvenient or a means of conversion that won’t be too difficult. But Jeremiah 17:9 tells us: “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it?” God, that’s who; and He’s the only one. His perfect comprehension of the state of our hearts and the root of our actions often results in His message sounding quite different from the pre-vetted ones we have conjured up for ourselves.

But it is not only His messages that often surprise us; His methods and messengers do as well. God is no respecter of persons, and He uses all kinds. He uses both the people from whom we have asked advice and those from whom we’d rather not hear. He uses both beautiful rhetoric and plain words. He uses brilliant minds and simple ones alike. He uses both saints and sinners.

I want God’s reproach to be palatable, and I want His messenger to handle my feelings with kid gloves. I want the corrections to be as sweetly worded as possible, so as to not trample my delicate emotions nor overlook my admirable achievements. Oh, pride. Oh, deceitful heart. In trying to place a protective hedge around it, I have blocked out the voice of the Father who wants to heal it and make it new.

And though the Father’s voice is one of love, he often uses sinners (just like you and me) in their sin to deliver his messages to us. He’s going to use the disrespectful child’s remark, the husband’s frank observation, the grumpy stranger in the grocery store, the gossiping woman in the carpool line, or the parent who never thinks you do anything right. I believe that it was Elisabeth Leseur who said that every time that someone offends you it is an opportunity for you to examine your own conscience. I think she’s right. If we are waiting for God to use perfect people to speak to us, then we will often miss the voice that He is using to show us where our hearts are deceiving us.

I’ve had to learn the hard way–usually kicking and screaming–that God’s going to get His message through to me one way or another. It’s truly a grace that that’s the case, that He doesn’t stop speaking when we are hard of hearing. Perhaps if I would listen sooner it wouldn’t be such a hard pill to swallow, but then again pride is always a hard pill to swallow. And isn’t it ultimately prideful for us to insist that had the message been more gentle we would have obeyed immediately? Our track records prove otherwise. What we require is humility to hear His voice, whatever the method or messenger. May we take to heart the Invitatory antiphon that we pray during Lent: “Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.”

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey

The Joy of Sharing Books

My husband and I launched our podcast, The Catholic Reading Challenge, at the beginning of the year, and it has been such a joyful experience. Not only has it brought the two of us together, giving us more intentional time to spend discussing stories and ideas together, but it has connected us with other people who take joy in sharing books as well…but maybe didn’t have an avenue opened before to do so.

I’ve heard from many listeners so far that they are enjoying it as much as we are, and I think what they enjoy most is the communal part of our podcast. I started The Catholic Reading Challenge on my blog two years ago, and it was a fairly standard list of 12 categories of books to read through in the calendar year. I think there were good categories, but the down side was the independent nature of it–reading in complete isolation.

I would blog throughout the year about what I was reading for each category, and ask people to share in the comments what they read. But we weren’t reading on the same schedule, so rarely were people reading the same category at the same time. It was the longing for more sharing that birthed the idea of turning the reading challenge into a podcast, one that was more of a book club. We are only in our second month (and second category) of the podcast, but already I’m having more interactions with people excited to share what they are reading. And that is truly delightful.

I have realized an important universal truth through this experience. Not only do all people love good stories–for as J. K. Rowling has said, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book”–but they also want someone with whom to share them.

We make time for so many things in our daily life that don’t really fill us with joy. I think there is room for us to intentionally create more space in our daily rhythms for life-giving books and the communities in which to share what we encounter in them. Where can you make room for this in your life? I would add to Rowling’s sentiment: If you don’t like to read, perhaps you have never encountered the joy of a fellow reader.

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey