We Do Not Belong to This World

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said to His disciples: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated Me first.”

He then goes on to remind them that they do not belong to this world. 

We all need that same reminder. We do not belong to this world either. 

We belong to God. And eternal life with Him is our ultimate goal.

Our time here on Earth is short. Though we often get caught up in the here and now; though we have day-to-day responsibilities, problems, and dilemmas; and though we must take care of ourselves materially, we must also prepare ourselves for the next life. 

Since we don’t belong to this world, our focus must be on what we have to do to earn heaven.

To that end, as long as we are doing God’s will, we cannot worry what others think about us. We cannot hide our faith or keep our mouths shut when we see injustice being done. Nor can we fail to stand up for our fellow human beings, especially those who are shunned by society. That includes the preborn, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled. It is our job to speak for those who cannot use their own voices. 

And just like the disciples, we might be hated because of our beliefs. We might get ridiculed. We might even lose friends. But those are worldly and temporal things, and God encourages us to maintain our focus on Him.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy. In fact, it’s very difficult to be hated or ridiculed. It’s difficult to lose friends. But that is why Christ constantly told His disciples that He would never leave them. He understood that they would need to draw strength from Him. 

God tells us the same thing. He will never leave us. And we must trust in His mercy and goodness. As He said in Jeremiah, “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord; the Lord will be their trust. They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.” 

Though we may encounter many droughts in our lives, our steadfast faith ensures that we will produce the fruit that enriches our days and that will lead us closer to God in heaven. 

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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.

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Friend Group

Think of the personalities in your friend group. Who’s the de facto “leader” of your group? Which person comes up with the plans, gets everyone else excited, keeps everyone connected? Every group has that person. Maybe it’s you.

Jesus’ friend group included a lot of personalities too – the Rock, the Boanerges (“Sons of Thunder”), the doubting one, the young and Beloved disciple. But it wasn’t Jesus’ personality that kept them all connected, it was WHO HE IS, and WHAT HE DID for them. He is God and he gave everything for them. Wow.  The really awesome thing is that WE CAN BE IN THAT FRIEND GROUP TOO!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is reiterating the most important lesson for his friends: they must love one another AS HE LOVED THEM. In case they might miss the point, he tells them exactly how he loves them; his love is so great that he will LAY DOWN HIS VERY LIFE for his friends. He chose them, he told them everything he heard from his Father, and now he will die for them.

What are they (and we) supposed to do in response? Jesus’ friends are called to love one another in the same way and GO AND BEAR FRUIT, to the glory of the Father. A few verses earlier (Jn 15:1-8), he has explained that without him, we can do nothing, and so we are like branches which must remain firmly connected to Jesus, the Vine, in order to bear any fruit.

These words, spoken just before Jesus actually gave himself over to death for love of his friends and love of his Father, must have resonated deeply with the disciples. The Church built up around this genuine self-giving love and Communion with the very Person of Jesus Christ, defining his followers as those who loved one another and their enemies! This was a profound, sacrificial love, far deeper than “being nice” or any kind of natural human compassion – this is love with an eternal perspective, love that wants what is spiritually, eternally, best for the other. This is love that can only come through us from the One Who IS Love, and only if we remain firmly connected to the Vine, and allow ourselves to be pruned by the Vine Grower. Jesus taught us that we can call God “Father,” because we are IN the Son.

Anything we think we can do without Jesus is just self-assertion, self-insertion, self-sufficiency. None of these keep us connected to the Vine so that we can love truly and bear lasting fruit. Today, let’s consider how well our attitude toward God mirrors Jesus’ attitude toward the Father, and how deeply we love the people around us. Enough to lay down our very lives? This is the profound love that can be ours IN CHRIST, if we set our own agendas aside. This is the glorious grace that is ours through baptism. This is the profound commandment Jesus gives his friends. 

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

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True Joy

How can we be happy? This seems like the question that has echoed through the ages. Everybody wants to be happy and wants to find the key to peace. Often we turn to worldly things for this happiness because we are given a glimpse of happiness when we receive material things. We turn to money, status, food, relationships, whatever we can in order to feel happiness for just a few moments.

But today in the Gospel we hear Jesus talk about joy instead of happiness. He says, “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”

So Jesus doesn’t seem super occupied with happiness, but instead with joy. What is the difference? I think if we truly look at it, happiness is an emotion that can come and go, but joy is a virtue that stays. What do I mean? Think of some of the martyrs who were joyful even during their death because they knew where they were going. They were able to live the virtue of joy even in the most “unhappy” of times. They did not let the world affect their virtue.

So we really should be asking how can we always have joy? The answer, of course, is given to us in the Gospel. We ask Jesus for it. He has perfect joy and wants to share it with us. He wants to give us this virtue that lasts even when it seems that we should be unhappy or broken or hurt or suffering.

Do we know this Jesus who wants to give us this joy? Ask yourself that question personally. Have you met this Jesus who wants to take your yoke and make it easier, who wants to give you joy beyond your imagination, who wants to bring you peace and love? I think we want to believe that Jesus is that person or we easily believe he does that for others, but do we pray to know this Jesus who wants to bring us joy? 

Especially during this time of Easter, let’s all pray fervently for the grace to grow in this important virtue. So that we may always have joy even when the things around us seem negative, we know that nothing and nobody can rob us of joy. From all of us here at Rodzinka Ministry, God bless!

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Tommy Shultz is the Founder/Director of Rodzinka Ministry and the Director of Faith Formation for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative. In these roles, he is committed to bringing all those he meets into a deeper relationship with Christ. Tommy has a heart and flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. With a degree in Theology from Franciscan University, Tommy hopes to use his knowledge to help all people understand the beauty of The Faith. Contact Tommy at tommy@rodzinkaministry.com or check out his website at rodzinkaministry.com.

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Branches on the True Vine

“I am the vine, alleluia; you are the branches, alleluia”, is the antiphonal refrain before the canticle of Zechariah in this morning’s Divine Office. Throughout the Office and today’s Readings we find God’s people and all of creation rejoicing that Jesus Christ is Risen. The Psalm today calls to us, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”

In the Gospel Jesus proclaims, “Remain in me, as I remain in you, whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.” Jesus continues speaking to his disciples saying, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

Rejoicing, dancing, joy and fruits are part of my offertory to God. I say only part because I frequently forget that there is work to be done; the pruning and cleaning of my own branch on the true vine. It is an essential part in the natural progression of any life cycle. There are times of growth, dormancy or rest and purging inherent to growth in life to produce good fruit. 

I get stuck on pruning and purging, getting rid of the things and thoughts that can damage and inhibit new growth. I have clothes, shoes, containers, and things I’ve saved because I will ‘reuse’ them. There are items that have sentimental value but have no function or purpose in my life that need to be let go. There are parts of my life that require pruning to facilitate new growth, not just collecting cobwebs and dust, slowly suffocating and dying.

Many of my things can be of service or value to someone who’s beginning a new chapter in life; those will be donated. Some things need to be recycled and others thrown out. I also must nurture my way of life with the sacraments and teachings of the Catholic Church and the study of all the Bible, especially the Gospel. It’s as necessary to do as putting food into my body, breathing air, getting rest, interacting with others, praying, mourning and rejoicing. It is all part of the cycle of life for a healthy branch of the True Vine.

Rejoice, read scripture, attend Mass, interact with the community, live the Gospel, prune, rest, repeat! 

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Beth Price is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She is a Secular Franciscan (OFS) and a practicing spiritual director. Beth shares smiles, prayers, laughter, a listening ear and her heart with all of creation. Reach her here bprice@diocesan.com.

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The Peace Jesus Offers

“Peace I give you.” These words are some of the most important words found in the Gospel readings from today. Jesus is offering us peace for our troubled souls. He reminds us that we are not to be afraid or troubled, for we are given the Holy Spirit to help us every day. Jesus’ peace is an internal experience. We can come to identify this peace and learn to trust that God is with us even when life is hard. 

Heavenly peace is accessed through prayer, obedience to God, and learning to trust Jesus.  We must be aware that the ruler of this world- Satan, wants to destroy our peace. The devil rules by fear and intimidation and wants us to believe that all there is to life is what we can see with our eyes. The devil lies, tricks, and is called the “prince of this world” and can offer us short-term pleasure but for an eternity of pain and suffering. Please do not run from your hardships but rather give them to Jesus and be sanctified and even transformed by your suffering. Jesus wants to help you through these difficult seasons of growth and give you the peace you need to endure. When we live in the peace of Christ, we also serve as an example to others.

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Emily Jaminet is a Catholic author, speaker, radio personality, wife, and mother of seven children. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mental health and human services from the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  She is the co-founder of www.inspirethefaith.com and the Executive Director of The Sacred Heart Enthronement Network www.WelcomeHisHeart.com. She has co-authored several Catholic books and her next one, Secrets of the Sacred Heart: Claiming Jesus’ Twelve Promises in Your Life, comes out in Oct. 2020. Emily serves on the board of the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference, contributes to Relevant Radio and Catholic Mom.com.

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The Works of the Father

Today we celebrate the Feast of Sts. Philip and James, two of the apostles. Today’s Gospel is one of those readings that makes me feel better as a human person because it shows the true humanity of the apostles. Here they are walking, living, and learning, from Jesus and still they don’t understand a word he is saying. 

Philip tells Jesus that if they just see the Father that would be enough for them and Jesus promptly responds with, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Now, let’s give some credit to Philip, what Jesus says here is really confusing to a normal person. If someone were to walk up to you on the street and say my father and I are distinct persons but one God, you would probably be confused as well. So we can give Philip a break for being confused because these truths can only really be understood through revelation. But what I want to focus on is the faith of Philip. 

Jesus is speaking about his father in heaven, and Philip immediately just wants to see. He wants to know God the Father. He wants to know him personally. I think sometimes we make the mistake of believing we have to know everything there is to know about the Catholic Church or about God before we can truly enter into a relationship, but today’s Gospel would say otherwise. Philip didn’t know much at this point about God the Father or even about Jesus. But he wanted to know. That faith was enough. 

As we move on in the Gospel we see the result of this faith. When we have faith in Jesus and rely on God the Father we can do the works of Jesus. Philip didn’t understand this yet, but that’s exactly what happened. The apostles relied on God the father, listened to Jesus, and allowed the Holy Spirit into their lives, and then their works were effective, they were miraculous, they were the works of the Father. 

We have the same call today. Do we have that kind of faith? Do we trust that God will allow us to do these works as well and bring many back to the Lord? This isn’t a work that we do, but it comes from God the Father through Jesus Christ. Let’s pray for the grace to live this faith boldly and proclaim it loudly as Philip eventually did. From all of us here at Rodzinka Ministry, God bless!

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Tommy Shultz is the Founder/Director of Rodzinka Ministry and the Director of Faith Formation for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative. In these roles, he is committed to bringing all those he meets into a deeper relationship with Christ. Tommy has a heart and flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. With a degree in Theology from Franciscan University, Tommy hopes to use his knowledge to help all people understand the beauty of The Faith. Contact Tommy at tommy@rodzinkaministry.com or check out his website at rodzinkaministry.com.

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Remaining in Him Who Strengthens Us

A clear theme seems to run through all of today’s readings: remaining with God – seeking Him, honoring Him, and striving to do His will – and, through Him, you will be able to do unimaginable things.

A person can go from being an enemy of the Church to being one of its most prolific evangelists, as Saul (turned Paul) did.

We can receive from God whatever we ask that is in accordance with His will.

We can grow from the struggles in life that prune us, and bear an abundance of spiritual fruit, which we never could have done on our own.

We will be able to say, as Paul did in Philippians 4: “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” In turn, people will say of us, as the onlookers said of the apostles at Pentecost, “How is it possible they are doing this?”

And the Father will be glorified.

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J.M. Pallas has had a lifelong love of Scriptures. When she is not busy with her vocation as a wife and mother to her “1 Samuel 1” son, or her vocation as a public health educator, you may find her at her parish women’s bible study, affectionately known as “The Bible Chicks.”

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Hardworking St. Joseph

This day has always been one of the most special dates on my calendar. As a young adult, I made an effort to foster a close relationship with Mary and Joseph, and today we get to celebrate them both (since it’s the first day of the month of May)! When I finally found my husband, we decided to name our first son after this incredible saint. We couldn’t believe that one of my numerous siblings hadn’t named one of my even more numerous nephews after him. What a blessing!

Today we focus on a specific aspect of Joseph’s holiness, his spirit of hard work. We know that he was a carpenter and worked with his hands to provide for Jesus and Mary. I find this virtue to be particularly difficult to instill in our Joseph. As parents, we want to give our children everything, to provide for their every need and at times it’s hard not to spoil them. The chore charts hang on the refrigerator unenforced, the dishes schedule remains an idea in my head, and it’s like pulling teeth trying to get him and his brothers to pick up toys so we can vacuum.

Sure, we’ve had plenty of teaching moments where we talk until we’re red in the face about the importance of helping out as a family and how when he grows up he won’t have money to buy food unless he works… but what will help him and his brothers to truly understand?

I admit mommy and daddy need to be a tad more consistent, but deeper than that, we can point him to the example of good St. Joseph. The optional reading for this feast day states “Over all these things put on love…And let the peace of Christ control your hearts…And be thankful. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…for the Lord and not for men…”

I can see St. Joseph living out these words each and every day, working tirelessly out of love. He worked calmly, peacefully, skillfully using his tools to shape the wood, most likely praying as he went along. And most certainly he was thankful. Thankful for God’s guidance and provision, for allowing the work of his hands to provide for the needs of his most holy family. And we already know he did not live before men, because if he did, he would have never married Mary in the first place. His vocation was to serve the Lord.

Dear St. Joseph, thank you for your example of hard work and fidelity to God’s will. Help us to imitate your loving, peaceful, grateful and pure way of living and to teach our children to do the same. May we pray with hearts full of trust “Lord, give success to the work of our hands” (Psalm Response) that we may glorify you. Amen. 

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Tami Urcia grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. She spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, studying theology and philosophy, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Western Kentucky. She loves tackling home improvement projects, finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby and finding unique ways to love. She works at her parish, is a guest blogger on CatholicMom.com and BlessedIsShe.net, runs her own blog at https://togetherandalways.wordpress.com and has been doing Spanish translations on the side for almost 20 years.

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Beginnings Without Endings

We all love good stories with satisfying endings. But it seems Jesus is the Master at building tension and leaving us to find the conclusion through prayer and reflection – sometimes decades of theological reflection!  Jesus is the fullness of revelation, but sometimes it seems that he holds back more than he reveals. He gives solid clues, but does not lay things out plainly, and the apostles are often left confused and probably discussing between themselves what he meant. So are we.

Today’s Easter reading actually comes from the Last Supper, after Jesus has washed his disciples’ feet and they are beginning to wonder what is going on. He speaks of betrayal, Judas has left early without any explanation, and Jesus begins to talk about going somewhere they cannot come right away. Something is stirring, and there is tension. Jesus knows this, and he cannot soften the blow of what is about to happen.

So Jesus tells them not to be troubled, to lean into their faith. He reminds them of their eternal future in the Father’s house. And then he tells the disciples that they actually already know the way to where he is going. Thomas objects that they don’t even understand what he’s talking about, they don’t even know where he is going. You can sense a kind of confused exasperation in Thomas as he insists they have no idea of the way.

Jesus’ answer (enlightened by retrospect and the Holy Spirit in the Church!) could be paraphrased something like this:

“You DO know the way, because you know ME. I AM THE WAY, and there is no other way.

You also know all you need to know because you know ME. I AM ALL TRUTH.

You can also walk in hope, because you know ME. I AM LIFE – abundant life, eternal life! 

So, FOLLOW ME by imitating what I have done and what I am about to do.

Walk confidently in the truth that I AM and that knowing me reveals the meaning of all creation and the deep desires of every human heart, including your own.

Hope in me, confident that the fullness of life will be yours, now and forever.

Human hope finds satisfaction in happy endings, but the Father loves beginnings without endings!

We are all journeying to an eternity in the Heart of the Father, and I am going before you.

The only way for you to get to My Father is through ME.

Because I AM THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.”

 Do our lives reflect this? Do our lives demonstrate that Jesus is our all, that we need him, that he gives us all, that our confidence is in HIM?

 Is Jesus our way, our truth, and our very life?  

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

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We Were Made to Serve

In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ talk of slaves and masters can seem a bit controversial- especially since He seems to suggest that slaves are lesser than their masters, rather than equal. In today’s world, we want to hear Jesus tell us that slaves are equal in dignity to their masters, or even better, that slavery is a reprehensible evil that must be abolished immediately. That would be the social justice Jesus that we all know and love. 

But Jesus is not talking about human slaves and human masters. He is talking about us and God. We are the slaves, and God is our Master. We are lesser than God. We will never be greater than our Master. We are called slaves because we are meant to serve. That is what we were made for- we were made to serve.

“Serve” is a beautiful word in the Hebrew language. It can also mean “work” and “worship.” Our work is our worship. Our service is our worship. We were made to worship God. We were made to love Him. We are slaves of love. Our entire being longs to worship God, to love Him with our bodies and souls. We are made to serve our Master, a Master who loves us enough to allow His only begotten Son to die for us. 

Jesus, the Son of God, came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). God became man, became a slave to show man what it means to serve. Jesus shows us all what it means to be a slave, what it means to serve. Jesus Christ, despite being God, got down on his hands and knees and washed the feet of his apostles. That’s what it means to serve. It means giving our lives for Love, whether that means living our life for Him or dying for Him. Our life and our death have the ability to be acts of worship. 

But there is more. Jesus calls us friends, not slaves. The Master became a slave so that the slaves might become like the Master. God became man so that man might become like God. Jesus Christ became human so that we might be friends. And not even just friends, but brothers, and therefore heirs of heaven like Christ Himself. That is Love in its truest, deepest, form. God came down to earth to show us what it would take to get to heaven. And now we just need to follow Him. Serve like Him. Worship like Him. Love like Him. So maybe being slaves for Christ isn’t so bad after all. 

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Shannon Whitmore currently lives in northwestern Virginia with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, John and Felicity. When she is not caring for her children, Shannon enjoys writing for her blog, Love in the Little Things, reading fiction, and freelance writing. She has experience serving in the areas of youth ministry, religious education, sacramental preparation, and marriage enrichment.

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