Messengers of Hope

While recently out of town visiting family in Charlotte, NC, I attended Sunday Mass at the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (If you ever visit the area, you will enjoy the intentional liturgy and spiritual atmosphere of this parish.) To my delight, Fr. Chris Alar of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge, MA was visiting St. Patrick’s that morning. He celebrated Mass and gave the homily. I expected a good homily, because I’ve heard him speak before. But I was blown away by the story he told.

While in another country, he had celebrated Mass in a Church of pilgrimage for thousands of people from many different countries, who spoke many different languages. After Mass, he exited the Church into the large courtyard, and he was going to turn left toward the blessed sacrament, but something was drawing him to go to the right. As he walked that way, he suddenly saw a woman standing apart from the crowds of people, and she was sobbing. 

He had no idea if she spoke English, but he approached her and asked if she was okay. “No,” she said. “No one loves me; God doesn’t love me.” And then she told him of her plans to take her own life. Fr. Alar told her that he had actually just finished writing a book on suicide, and he spoke confidently to her of God’s passionate love for her. “The mere fact that you exist,” he said, “is proof that God loves you.” After they had talked for a few minutes, Fr. Alar asked her where she was from. She said she was Ukrainian. He told that he was impressed by how beautifully she spoke English. She just stared at him. “Father,” she said, “I don’t speak English. I’m speaking Ukrainian.”

The whole time they spoke she was hearing Ukrainian, and he was hearing English.

Miracles like this actually happen all of the time. We just have to be open to witnessing them. What is so powerful about this story is that God, out of his deep love for this woman and compassion for her suffering, made an extravagant gesture to make the message of hope—ultimately of His undying love for her—real to her soul. He brought her into contact with the person that had the message that she needed. Fr. Alar was designed to be a beacon of hope for that specific person at that specific moment in time, and I’m sure that at many other moments of his life he has been the divinely appointed beacon of hope for many other individuals. 

Fr. Alar’s story, and the main point of his homily, left me with one clear message—we are all designed by God to be messengers of hope daily to specific people. We may not always know who they are or even realize that we have come into contact with them; so often God means for us to spread His message of hope through our actions rather than our direct statements. Yet sometimes he gives us words at the right time, intended for one of His dear children who need them. 

We are to be His messengers of hope every day; and if we don’t do it, if we don’t respond to His nudge in the daily moments of our lives, then who will? Who will reach the people who are living without hope? If only we can accept that God intends for each of us to deliver His message of hope to particular people every single day. If we live as ready messengers, imagine how many people might be rescued from despair and encouraged to live in the light of God’s love for them. 

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

Because He Lives

For the last several days, and especially on this eve of Easter, I have been reflecting on the significance of tomorrow. As we end our fasting, eat good food, and gather eggs, we can celebrate without giving enough thought to why we are celebrating. Or perhaps we think about it, but the way that we live poorly reflects what Easter means for our lives. If you are a Christian, then you must realize that Easter has changed the trajectory of our lives’ for eternity. Easter is everything.

Matt Maher’s song, Because He Lives (Amen), convey’s this truth so powerfully:

“Amen, Amen. I’m alive, I’m alive, because he lives…let my song join the one that never ends.”

Are we singing along with the unending chorus? Are we living to the tune of eternity? Because Jesus lives everything is different — everything. Every pain is comforted; every hope is realized. We were dead; now we are alive. Are we living fully alive? We were filled with fear; now Peace himself is here to dwell in us. Are we at peace? Our cause for despair is, in the light of his resurrection, now reason to hope. Do we exude hope in this world? Continue reading “Because He Lives”