Christ Has Come to Be with You

Wonderful things often happen when few know they are taking place at that moment. That night in the Bethlehem stable was certainly the greatest of these. Quietly, in the solitary presence of Mary and Joseph, our savior came into our world.

Inns at max capacity and homes full of people slept on obliviously. Kings and rulers in palaces were none the wiser. Only a select few were given the gift of knowing the good news soon after. Humble, ordinary shepherds on a hill heard the angelic announcement that the Shepherd of Souls, from the line of the shepherd-king David, was born. Three kings followed a star that would lead them to the One who sits on the eternal throne.

But at first it was just the Holy Family. Christ’s birth came silently and privately. The great joy of the coming of the Promised One was realized first by this chosen couple. It was intimate and personal, the opposite of the birth of any earthly king. 

I had been meditating through Advent this year, and now through this joyous Christmas week, on how the coming of Christ in our hearts, daily, is meant to be the same quiet, intimate, personal experience. He comes to us in our humility. It is not a fanfare on display to the world around us; it is the precious, private stillness of His presence in the mangers of our souls. 

What is of course miraculous is that this is accomplished simultaneously in every heart. His coming to each of us is so personal; it is always our own quiet moment, like a mother’s singular embrace of her baby right after birth. The crowds don’t know what happens here; no loud announcements have yet been made. He just comes to us individually, lighting our darkness, filling us with joy. And then, it is our lives that become the proclamation. We become the angels on the hills; we become the star that shines the way. But it is humble beginnings; it is an intimate initial encounter.

During this Christmas week, seek the quiet, humble stable. Look for His birth in your hearts with new eyes and new appreciation for the intimate and personal way that your savior comes to you. It’s a manger of hay; it’s a cross of wood; it’s through simple bread and wine. It’s in the broken human heart. He comes and transforms us, and once transformed we transmit His glory and radiance to the world around us. 

This truly is the wonder of Christmas: Emmanuel, “God has come to be with us.” He has come individually, personally, to each of us. Embrace the quiet coming of your king. Delight in it. He has come to be with you. 

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey

Expectations Fashioned by Love

It’s that time of year…back to school, back to a different routine than the one summer allowed. And with this season of fresh starts grows a long list of expectations. I’m a planner, and maybe you are too. But whether or not you enjoy schedules and routines, I’ll bet you have you own set of expectations about any new season of life. Here’s the thing about our expectations: they have the tendency to set us in opposition to the world, others, and God when they aren’t met.

We instinctively know this, yet the desire for the elusive security they offer prevents us from learning from our past dedication to them. When life and the behavior of others goes contrary to what we have envisioned, we are disappointed — sometimes rightly so. But even when our disappoint is justified, reasonable, where does that leave us? Expectations are of no ultimate good to us unless they are fashioned by love, by the one who is Love.

What does that look like though?

I came across a great quote the other day from St. Teresa of Calcutta:

“Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness.”

Kindness. Mercy. These fruits of the Spirit may keep our expectations from ruling our emotions. When our highest daily goal is to extend kindness and mercy to each life we contact, then we will have a plan for our reaction when all other plans have fallen apart. But I’m learning that authentic kindness and the extension of mercy toward others only comes from humility. Humility recognizes our own brokenness, the realization that we too are incapable of meeting expectations. Mercy is possible and abundant when we don’t see people as “other,” when we have a clear perspective that we are all equally in need of mercy.

I think another important mental shift is to see people, particularly the ones placed in our daily lives through divine providence, as our primary mission in life. Loving people — this is our number one job description. It is more challenging for some personalities than others…not because some personalities are less loving, but because they are quite aware of tasks that need to be accomplished. (Ahem. I might know a little something about this.) If we are too focused on the game plan, on how things ought to play out, then we miss the opportunity for calling an audible. Basically, we miss an opportunity to show love, extend mercy, and (as St. Teresa said) have people come away from you better and happier.

Thank goodness for the grace of a new day. Scripture reminds us, “His mercies are new every morning.” So that means that our mercy can be renewed every morning as well. It’s never too late to let go of what we thought we wanted and accept what God is placing before us in that moment. It won’t be our inclination at first, but we won’t regret showing mercy, kindness and love. And after awhile, we will find ourselves less disappointed by unmet expectations, less inconvenienced by the opportunity to “be the living expression of God’s kindness.”

 

Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey

My Reading Challenge Pick for “A Book by a Female Saint”

I hope you have been able to join me for the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge. I’ve been sharing what I’m reading for each category throughout the year. But even if you aren’t doing the reading challenge, these posts might provide you with recommendations that need to be on your TBR list. 

Category: A Book by a Female Saint

My Pick: The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena

I chose to read St. Catherine’s Dialogue for a few reasons. First, she was my Confirmation saint when my husband and I entered the Catholic Church four years ago, and I have really be meaning to read her book since then. I think most people can relate to having a book on their list for years and finally getting around to reading it, and I’m so glad that I finally did (better late than never).

Second, I read Sigrid Undset’s biography of St. Catherine earier this year, and I was deeply moved by it. Not only did it provide an intimate connection for me to St. Catherine, but it seriously raised the bar for me on saint biographies. This is hands-down the biography to read on St. Catherine. Reading about her life and her life’s work compelled me to spend time with her spiritual writing.

Third, St. Catherine is a saint who experienced profound and regular mystical encounters with our Lord. However, the majority of her life was not lived solitarily. She was an servant of the Church who lived an active and vibrant life of ministry very connected to others in the world. I believe that someone who could move so easily between mystical encounters and practical service is a saint to learn from and study. Continue reading “My Reading Challenge Pick for “A Book by a Female Saint””