Jesus, Our One, True God

Today’s Old Testament reading sounds a bit scary: “You alone have I favored, more than all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your crimes.”  The last lines are particularly ominous: “So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! And since I will deal thus with you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”

I am always surprised when I read about all the trouble the Israelites were always getting into. They were God’s Chosen People, delivered by Him from the power of the Egyptians and led to the land He had promised them. They had ample opportunity to witness the power and miracles of God, and Moses and the prophets gave them clear rules to follow to please Him. Yet they were continually falling into sin, particularly that of worshipping the false gods of the cultures around them.

But are we so different?  Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Irenaeus, a Doctor of the Church who was instrumental in fighting the heresy of Gnosticism. He reminds us of the seductive quality of evil when he writes, “Error, indeed is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced more true than truth itself.

We may not be worshipping golden statues or sacrificing people to Baal nowadays, but don’t we let attractive worldly things come between us and God? Perhaps it’s money, or power, or romance, or status, or even being right instead of being kind. You alone know what your idols are, but we all have them.

We live in difficult and confusing times. We spend much of our time on social media consuming other people’s opinions. People we respect share ideas that seem to make sense. We are bombarded by messages designed to ensnare our hearts and minds. It can be hard to discern what is factual, let alone what is Truth. Politics and opinions can be idols too.

Just like the apostles in today’s Gospel, we are battered by the storm around us.  It can be easy to laugh at their fear. After all, they had Jesus right there in the boat with them! How could they be afraid that He would allow them to sink? 

Well, I have news for you. Jesus is in our boats too.  And while, as the Psalmist reminds us, He is a God of justice, we also know that his judgment is tempered with mercy.  When we turn from our idols, He will be there waiting for us. 

He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?”
Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea,
and there was great calm. 

May you feel that calm in your life today.

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Leslie Sholly is a Catholic, Southern wife and mother of five, living in her hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee. She graduated from Georgetown University with an English major and Theology minor. She blogs at Life in Every Limb, where for 11 years she has covered all kinds of topics, more recently focusing on the intersection of faith, politics, and social justice.

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Walk With Me, Jesus

Today’s Gospel tells us that the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head. There are the words the so-called disciples tells Jesus, “We will follow Him anywhere.” And Jesus answers with these words, “the Son of Man has no where to rest his head”. Every time I read that line I feel kind of sad to think that my Savior has no place to rest. I believe that Jesus was telling this man that following him is not an easy task. Jesus was moving from place to place in order to bring the good news to as many people as possible. I believe he was trying to tell him it’s really difficult to follow him. And it can be.

We are told that the road to heaven is very narrow. Now we know why, because it can be difficult! To reach any worthy goal it takes work. It’s the same in our spiritual walk, but isn’t it worth reaching for? Does it take some effort? Of course it does. Few of us are given things on a silver platter. Scripture is full of stories of times when Jesus met those that were not happy with what he was doing, spreading the good news. He left friends and family behind. But even then He had those that would follow him and help him along the way.

We have three daughters (and five sons) and all three of them experienced some form of what Jesus did, one at a time. They all left home and became missionaries for several years. They left family and friends to give themselves to Jesus and to help spread the good news. Some were in different countries even farther away from home. But they persevered. As time went on they discerned that the Lord was calling them to a new vocation. They are all raising families now and doing well. But, they tell me that those years they spent in the missionary fields they would trade for nothing. God has blessed them for giving Him their first shot.

One thing we never know is how we would react in a certain situation or when making a very important decision. This of course takes a process of discernment. Even that sometimes is very difficult. If you were to ask me if I would give my life for Jesus, what would my answer be? I have thought of this many times in my life. Of course I tell myself, sure I could do that!  But in reality I would not know unless I actually did it and if I actually had the faith to do it.

Many decisions in life are not that heavy, but even some of the lighter ones can be troublesome. This Gospel reading is about making decisions. Many times I have used the term  “Am I all in”? Meaning, am I all in for the Lord? In my heart, I say yes. My mind actually doesn’t prove that I have. So, I continue to do my best for myself and for my family and my Church that we all will help Jesus, to find a place to rest his head and believe the Good News that he continues to give us!

Serving With Joy!

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Deacon Dan Schneider is a retired general manager of industrial distributors. He and his wife Vicki have been married for over 50 years. They are the parents of eight children and thirty grandchildren. He has a degree in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. He was ordained a Permanent Deacon in 2002.  He has a passion for working with engaged and married couples and his main ministry has been preparing couples for marriage.

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Beyond Mammon

You will remember that just a few days ago, the Gospel for June 18 gave us that famous line from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mt 6:24) It’s an easily understood concept. To put it in a more modern vernacular, “How can you expect to ‘get God’ if you’re busy trying to ‘get stuff’?”

Here we are, 2,000 years later, and the world basically runs on the accumulation of “stuff.” We invent stuff, develop stuff, manufacture stuff, grow stuff, buy stuff, sell stuff, collect stuff, service stuff, and dispose of stuff. Cars, electronics, household goods, food, baseball cards, stocks and bonds, money — it’s all stuff, and the emphasis on acquiring it is getting in the way of what we’re really here for: to know, love and serve God in this world so that we can be with him in the next.

The Church in its wisdom ups the ante with today’s Gospel, where Luke tells us about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, where he will suffer, die and rise — all for us, by the way. It’s not the simple “God or stuff” dichotomy. These are real “punch in the stomach” examples today.

When Jesus tells someone, “Follow me,” the reply is “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” The Lord’s reply is blunt: “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Another person thinks he has it figured out: “I will follow you Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” See, Jesus? I’m leaving them behind for you. Again, Jesus pushes for more: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Even in requests that seem reasonable to us, Jesus sees the truth. And that truth is this: God first. Always, always, God first. There can be no compromise. Look at it this way: Your father died and must be buried. What if, in your love for and belief in God, you commend your father to God’s mercy, you pray for his soul, you realize that God created him, gave him his life, and knew the moment when it had to end. You thank God for what your father taught you, and you ask God for mercy for yourself, as well. 

What if, instead of saying goodbye to your family before following Jesus, you bring your family with you? You teach them of God’s greatness, His love, mercy and justice, His only begotten Son who became man, taught us, healed us, suffered for us, died for us, rose again, gave His very self to us in the Eucharist. What if you prayed for them, and asked God to help you guide them to communion with Him?

That plow Jesus talks about is the course of your life. If you’re looking back to what was, you’re going to have a pretty crooked row. If you keep your focus up front — on God, your life’s goal — putting Him first and foremost, the plowing might not be any easier, but it will be heading in the only right direction — straight to God, your ultimate joy.

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Mike Karpus is a regular guy. He grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, graduated from Michigan State University and works as an editor. He is married to a Catholic school principal, raised two daughters who became Catholic school teachers at points in their careers, and now relishes his two grandchildren, including the 3-year-old who teaches him what the colors of Father’s chasubles mean. He has served on a Catholic School board, a pastoral council and a parish stewardship committee. He currently is a lector at Mass, a Knight of Columbus, Adult Faith Formation Committee member and a board member of the local Habitat for Humanity organization. But mostly he’s a regular guy.

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The Spotless Heart

Catholics use a lot of language that is particular to us, for many reasons – it may come from Latin or Greek or theology or the ancient Church, and has been passed on and continually used. Some examples are words like “pope,” “eucharist,” “devotion,” “communion,” “benediction,” etc. These words, like non-Church words, can be used so much that we might forget to think about what they actually mean.

“Immaculate” is one of those words. We use it to describe both Mary’s origin and the state of her being: the Immaculate Conception and the Immaculate Heart. What does this mean? The word literally means “without spot/stain.” She was born without the stain of Original Sin, and she preserved her absolute “spotlessness” throughout her entire life, something 100% of us are not able to do!

In every situation of her life, in every moment, she chose God instead of herself. She understood her absolute dependence on God for everything and she lovingly trusted in God for everything.

Was she tempted? Yes. But she never succumbed to sin.

Did she suffer? Yes. Deeply. But she knew how to suffer fruitfully.

At the Annunciation, the angel calls her “full of grace.” Full, because there was no selfishness or sin taking up space where grace could abide. He says, “the Lord is with you,” because she opened herself fully to Him always and invited Him into every moment of the day, every thought, word, and act. This young girl’s response to the angel’s invitation is the profound response of a soul who knows her position in the universe and in the Heart of God clearly: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me as you have said.” It is the confident response of an immaculate heart that trusts, a free heart that can make a way for the Word to become Flesh, a bold heart that can stand at the pivot of history and change humanity’s course, a generous heart that can say YES to God in a new way and begin to unravel all the NO.

This Immaculate Heart never wavered from that YES, through uncertainty and danger, poverty and loss, maternal bonding and letting go, all the way to the Cross and beyond. And this Immaculate Heart was a steady beacon for the early Church, from the tomb to the ascension, through the prayerful waiting for the Spirit at Pentecost, to the missionary preaching and sacraments. And when her work here was done, God lifted her to Himself, body and soul, to be near her Son eternally.

The Church situates this Memorial the day after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to help us see the closeness – the communion – of these Two Hearts, of Mother and Son. In Heaven, there are two human hearts beating as one before the Father, and they beat with love for you and for me.

Mary, help us to love as you love, and to give a ready YES to God!

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Father Rob), and four grandchildren. She is President of the local community of Secular Discalced Carmelites and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio. Currently, she serves the Church by writing and speaking, and by collaborating with various parishes and to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is www.KathrynTherese.com

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The Great Feast of the Sacred Heart: An invitation to Encounter the Love of Christ

Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

“The designs of his heart shall endure from age to age, to rescue our souls from death and nourish us in our hunger.”- Entrance Antiphon (Ps 32: 11,19)

The Feast of the Sacred Heart is a beautiful opportunity to seek out new graces and renew our love for Christ. Jesus continuously offers us His eternal love that is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This great Feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated the Friday after the Second Sunday of Pentecost or 19 days after Pentecost. 

This feast day is a personal favorite of mine as it is a sweet reminder of what the authentic love of Jesus looks like. We learn in Holy Scripture, the attributes of faithful love are patience, kindness, forgiveness and slowness to anger, and that “it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13). This holy love is perfectly displayed in the Heart of Jesus. For Jesus is love, and He is offering us His Heart as a reminder of this love.

The Gospels tell us that the Good Shepherd is willing to leave the fold to find the lost sheep and rejoices over finding it. We read, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” Let us turn to the Heart of Jesus asking for new graces so that we can return to His Most Sacred Heart and invite others to do so as well. When we encounter this loving Heart we can not help but be filled with gratitude and want to spread His Kingdom of love to others. 

One of the greatest blessings of being a Catholic is understanding that we can honor the Heart of Christ and seek out His graces to perform loving acts of reparation for those who have offended the Lord. These acts of reparation serve as a way to show Christ that we love Him through our willingness to offer our sacrifices to make up for the transgressions of others. A powerful way to do this is to say the Daily Offering. When we pray this prayer we offer up the daily “thoughts, works, joys, and sorrows” of our lives to Jesus.  

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus reminds us of how Christ loves us, renews our love for Him and re-commits us to practicing this Devotion. 

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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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You Play A Vital Role In The Story Of Salvation

“What then will this child be?” How many parents, marveling at the mystery of their newborn nestled in their arms have asked the same question. “What will this child be?”

We are certain that God has a plan for great people who populate the pages of Scripture and have an important part to play in the story of salvation. We can think of Moses, and Jeremiah, and Peter, and Mary, and Paul. We can imagine the divine plan prepared for them which unfolded day by day in their life. When we read the narrative of their response to God who called them for a specific purpose, we might be a little bit in awe of how God used them and how clearly he loved them. Maybe even a bit jealous. “That could never be me.”

Today is the feast of one of these “greats” of salvation history: the birth of John the Baptist. The mystery and the miracles that surrounded his birth indicate how important he was as a hinge between the Old Testament prophets and the arrival of the Messiah. The Baptist’s austere life and courageous preaching when he became an adult confirm the divine predilection God had for this child.

He truly could say with the words of the Responsorial Psalm today:

Truly you have formed my inmost being;
            you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
            wonderful are your works.
My soul also you knew full well;
            nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret,
            when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.

These words of the Psalm came spontaneously to my mind one difficult yet amazing day 40 years ago. I remember it so clearly. I was sitting on the side of my bed in the hospital after having suffered a stroke. On that day, I was finally able to stand up with the help of two of the nurses. How marvelous! How amazing is the human body! We are truly “fearfully, wonderfully made,” and how “wonderful are your works,” O God. Look, today I can stand!

Whether we are the greatest prophet who ever lived as was John the Baptist, or someone sitting on the side of a hospital bed struggling to stand up for the first time in a week, God has a plan for our life. 

Remember, you are important to God and play a vital role in the story of salvation. 

In your mother’s womb God loved you more than your own parents. He created you as a unique expression of his image and his glory.

Surely, the hand of the Lord was with you, and he continues to be with you each day of your life. As the courageous and difficult life of St. John the Baptist reveals, in both happy times and in paths filled with shadows, on mountain tops and in the deepest of valleys, you are fulfilling the very special purpose for which you alone were created. It is only as we wander through these ups and downs of life, faithful to allowing God to have his way with us, that we discover truly who we were made to be.

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Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey. Website: www.touchingthesunrise.com Public Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/srkathrynhermes/ For monthly spiritual journaling guides, weekly podcasts and over 50 conferences and retreat programs join my Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/srkathryn.

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Bearing Good Fruit

As soon as I walk in the door from any given workday, I am ambushed by a barrage of “Mommy!!!” “Hi Mommy!” and “Yeah! Mommy’s home!!” My usually subdued workplace atmosphere gives way to the chaos of several littles as I try to get dinner on the table while listening to their stories and their complaints. 

Sometimes these moments are overwhelming. Sometimes my reactions are not loving. Sometimes I wish I had some earplugs. Sometimes, I remind myself to take a step back and take it all in while it lasts. 

I often feel like I’m in the midst of a whirlwind. One day blows into the other at a rapid pace. The years go by in the blink of an eye. Am I behaving as I should as a Catholic Christian?

Today’s Psalm implores: “Teach me the ways of your decrees”. I do want to live in the ways of the Lord and I want to teach my children to live that way too. Everything I do matters. Every comment I make, every tone of voice I emit, will affect them in one way or another. Teach me your ways, Oh Lord, teach me your ways. 

The Gospel tells us: “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.” I long to be that good tree that bears fruits of goodness in my children. There are days that I hear sarcasm come out of their mouths and I say to myself, “I taught them that.” And there are other days that I hear them say, “I shared with my brother today” and I taught them that too. 

The daily struggle between good and evil is real, but if we remember to ask the Lord to teach us His ways, He can make that good fruit grow within us. 

May our children, and all those we meet, encounter Christ through our good fruits.

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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 projects, finding fun ways to keep her little ones occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby and finding unique ways to love. She works at for Christian Healthcare Centers, 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 over 20 years.

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Pearls of Faith

Discerning what the teaching, “do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine,” means in your life can be a little perplexing. The language is strange, and this verse may take extra prayer and even a little research to fully comprehend Jesus’ intended lesson. Additionally, “lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces” seems a little harsh, yet we trust Jesus, and those who recorded His words, never include filler—every word has purpose. 

There is nothing more holy than the Eucharist—the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. To receive this gift, our hearts must be properly prepared. On Corpus Christi Sunday, in dioceses across the nation, the USCCB launched the National Eucharistic Revival, “three years for discernment, encounter, and grassroots response on the diocesan, parish, and individual levels” to (re)kindle a living, loving relationship with Jesus Christ, especially in the Eucharist. 

In John’s Gospel, Jesus reveals the difficult teaching of His Real Presence in the Eucharist: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Many followers walked away, confused and unable to accept Jesus’ gift of himself in the Eucharist. He did not use those next moments to talk of symbolism but instead looked to those remaining and inquired if they, too, would leave. It is being able to embrace this difficult yet true teaching of the Catholic faith that leads through the narrow gate, also presented in today’s Gospel. The one that leads to life, Jesus tells us, although those who find it are few. There are many reasons we fail to enter the narrow gate— doubt, fear, caution, or merely unwillingness to allow the mystical to reveal something to us this world cannot.

Faith is a gift. Gifts are only useful if they are received, opened, and used. In light of today’s Gospel, when we refuse to allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten our hearts about the holy things of God, we are truly casting them down before swine. They will be trampled into pieces and, maybe even unwittingly, miss out on one of the most incredible gifts God has prepared for us. We can be no closer to Christ than when we receive Him in the Eucharist. The greatest gift God has given us is his Son, who took on flesh, our sins, and the suffering meant for us so that we may one day be with Him forever in heaven.

Do not cast your faith away. Do not let it be trampled under foot by worldly cares, cynicism, or confusion. As Matthew 7:7 so wisely counsels, ask, seek, knock, trusting the Lord will answer the door of your heart and He will answer your questions. Like the centurion in Mark’s Gospel, let us pray in those weak, faltering moments so as not to be lost, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” It is in prayer where we open our hearts to be renewed and redeemed by the God who loves us enough to be consumed under the guise of bread and wine so that we may have eternal life. 

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Allison Gingras is a Deacon’s wife and seasoned mom of three. Allison works for Family Rosary as a social media and digital specialist, as well as a new media consultant for Catholic Mom and the Diocese of Fall River. She is the author of Encountering Signs of Faith: My Unexpected Journey with Sacramentals, the Saints, and the Abundant Grace of God (Fall 2022, Ave Maria Press). Allison developed the Stay Connected Journals for Women series including her two volumes – The Gift of Invitation and Seeking Peace (OSV). She’s hosted A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras podcast since 2015.

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The views and opinions expressed in the Inspiration Daily blog are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Diocesan, the Diocesan staff, or other contributors to this blog.

Leave the Judging to God

It really is easy to judge others. And often we cloak it as help or worry or wanting what is best for the other person. Why aren’t we to judge others? It’s simple, we are not God. We don’t know the whole story. We don’t have the big picture. We compare ourselves and decide about the other person’s life or motive without ever talking to them. We may even use shame or try to manipulate when we judge. 

We say we are judging because we don’t want the person to sin. But before we go talk to someone about stopping a particular sin, we need to make sure of our motive. The best way to learn if we have the right intention is to ask God. In prayer, ask if you are supposed to do something about the problem you see. And God will let you know if you are to speak. You see, Jesus is telling us not to judge, not because He is unconcerned with sin but because He wants you to be right with God before you do anything. And then, this is the verse that gets to me the most, one of those that always makes me pause and think, “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” And that judgment, that measure will come from God. 

I cannot judge others. I am too harsh. When I was growing up, it was the time of ‘Jesus loves you.’ Yes, Jesus loves you, but there is much more to Him. There was rarely talk of sin or punishment. We did not know that God was justice and mercy. All we heard about was love, not even mercy. It was as if we had no need for mercy. Yet, we need all God offers us.

And that is the point Jesus is making in these verses from Matthew. God will judge, with great justice and mercy and love. Jesus wants us to leave the judging to the Father so that we can be free to live as His followers. 

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Deanna G. Bartalini, M.Ed.; M.P.A., is a certified spiritual director, writer, speaker and content creator. The LiveNotLukewarm.com online community is a place to inform, engage and inspire your Catholic faith. Her weekly Not Lukewarm Podcast gives you tips and tools to live out your faith in your daily life.

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This is My Body

As noted in today’s Gospel reading, our central role in honoring Christ should be one of service. Jesus commands us to “Give them some food yourselves.” CCC 1335 of the Catechism reads “The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist.” It is such a great visual, to partake in the miracle where Jesus took ordinary food and turned it into something extraordinary! Yet this was a foreshadowing that something much greater was to come.   

When asked the most quoted verse in all the Bible, we turn to “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” This is a verse we hear every time we celebrate in the most Holy Mass. It is a statement that is so well known, and yet, so difficult for so many to understand. Is there any dogma more central to that of Catholicism than recognizing that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Holy Eucharist? It is for this reason that attending Mass is so sacred. 

Like many, I struggled through the pandemic with being physically removed from the ability to receive Communion. In fact I am still struggling as of now, as services available on the TV which can be watched without the preparation of getting up and out to Mass remain available. Yet reading through today’s readings, I must be moved to remember the central essence of being Catholic, that whether a priest or a layperson, we are called to be part of the family of Christ, which can be best exemplified by being together in unity at Church and receiving Christ within us, so that we too can be his disciples and spread His message of love and redemption to all the world.

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Dr. Alexis Dallara-Marsh is a board-certified neurologist who practices in Bergen County, NJ. She is a wife to her best friend, Akeem, and a mother of two little ones on Earth and two others in heaven above.

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