“Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that… you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price.” Most of us do not like the thought of being bought, owned or purchased. For being bought implies that we are not our own but rather are in debt or in service to another perhaps one who is more powerful, wealthier and more influential than us. Being purchased can imply servitude, slavery, ownership. It certainly is not a pleasant thought to consider belonging like a piece of personal property to another. For we most likely consider ourselves self reliant, self sufficient, totally independent and never having to ask for assistance from anyone. The fact is, most of us would rather do things on our own. We don’t want to feel dependent on another or in debt to another. The truth is, we are all dependent in one way or another. We often need support, guidance, knowledge, assistance from someone else. We all need help – whether we ask for it or not, whether we accept it or not, whether we realize it or not – we could all use some assistance. We are interdependent on each other and have been bought in one way another whether we admit it or not. We say we can’t be bought or purchased. Is that really true? Have we ever sold out or bought in? What if we were items on display in an antique shop each with an individual price tag. How much would you be worth? What would your price tag say? Would it read: “For Sale” – “On Sale Today” or “Not For Sale?” Or perhaps your price tag might say: “1/2 Off – “BOGO” – “Best Offer” – “Cheap” – “Free to a Good Home.” The fact is we are priceless, for we have all been purchased at a great price. An amount that no sum of money could buy. No sum could recoup, recover, replace the cost that has been paid on our behalf. Our tags now read, “sold – paid in full” for our debt has been satisfied and paid in Christ. We were slaves to sin and darkness. We chose death rather than life, lies rather than truth, darkness rather than light. We were chained, imprisoned, slaves unable to enjoy the freedom of the Children of Light. And now you belong to God. For you have been purchased at a great price. For Jesus, “himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross… By his wounds you have been healed.” Fr. Ivan
Reflections from the Heart
“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” The Epiphany of the Lord is a great moment in time and an amazing image in scripture for us to take into prayerful contemplation and consider God’s desire to be with us and to walk with those who made the possibility of being in God’s presence the most important event and prized possession in their lives. We must take the Epiphany to heart and into silent prayer for we can learn so much about ourselves and where our own journey is taking us. We must take a closer look at this encounter with the Divine for it offers us a valuable lesson about the hearts of people who were relentless in their pursuit to encounter the Lord. It speaks of individuals who fasted from the comforts and riches of their own life because they hungered and thirsted for God’s life more. It gives us a glimpse into the souls of individuals that desired nothing more than to adore the Lord and offer him the finest gifts we can give God; the precious gift of an undivided heart and our undivided attention. Why would these individuals who had all life had to offer: wealth, prestige, intelligence, status, leave the comfort of their homes and lands to follow a star? Why would they forego their work and businesses they worked so hard to establish and which afforded them luxury and security to chase a dream? Why would they separate themselves from their families, friends, society and the privileges awarded them as wise men to validate a prophecy? Why would they risk such a long, perilous journey through unknown lands, rough terrains, hostile territories to see a child? Because they simply believed. They hoped to encounter the Christ. Their faith told them the prophecy was true. They desired to see the gift of our salvation more than anything. What would you do to see the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God? Perhaps we can begin by desiring to spend more time in prayer and to have a greater longing to encounter Jesus in adoration and offer him our undivided attention and give him the gift of an undivided heart. Scripture says adoration by right belongs to the Lamb of God. Adoration simply requires us to seek the face of God. To desire to be in God’s presence. To desire to be with God more than anything. To silence our phones and to silence our hearts and to put ourselves in the presence of the Divine. Fr. Ivan
“Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man. Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy. Blessed be Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse. Blessed be God in His angels and in His Saints.” I love my family. And thanks be to God and to the Holy Family for showing me how to love my family and all of God’s family better. For teaching me how to love family from the bottom of my heart; the most profound place where God dwells, where God gives, where God heals, where God forgives. It is a holy desire of mine to live with and through the Holy Family so I can experience immense joy and profound love always to help me get through difficult and challenging times. I must confess that I couldn’t always say that I loved family from the bottom of my heart. At times, loving them was a bit of a struggle. It was difficult to love them because of the terrible things they said, the poor choices they made, their lack of faith, their hatred for the Church, their disrespect of God, their offenses towards me. Perhaps like some of you, I often wondered if I was switched at birth or perhaps I was sent to the wrong family or perhaps I was adopted. That would help explain why we are so different. But then I think and ponder the true and most relevant questions in discerning family love; who am I really and why am I really here? Then my heart is moved with pity and I realize how selfish I’ve been – God helps me to see the error of my ways. I am a beloved child of God. Family is a gift from God. He has asked me to love him with all my heart and to love our families as God has loved me – which is with great mercy, understanding and compassion. I think about all the things that made expressing my love for my family and God’s so challenging. I now understand they could probably accuse me of the same things. In fact, God would be just in saying the same things about me. But thanks be to God for his love – his love is so forgiving, patient and kind. And now nothing can separate us from God’s love… except maybe our inability to love our own family and God’s family as God has loved us. Jesus, Mary and Joseph our beloved and blessed Holy Family, please pray for us and for our families.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.” Have you ever experienced the love of God? The love that is totally free, most unmerited and is beyond all telling? The love that is completely unconditional, undying in nature and meant to be eternal? The love that is wholly sacrificial, without a doubt life changing, is perpetually life giving and is always available to us? The love that words cannot describe, money cannot buy, people cannot fake, hearts cannot deny, the love that only God can give? You know the kind of love I’m speaking about, don’t you? That holy love, that pure love, the love that heals as it wounds and makes you cry with joy. That kind of love that makes you hope for the impossible, makes you a better person, makes you say I love you even to those who can’t love you in return, even to those that may hurt you again, even to those who dislike you. You know that special love that fills your heart with so much warmth that you can’t hide it, the love that helps you see the inner beauty in all things, the love that helps you see the Christ child, the love that inspires you to see Jesus in all people, the love that challenges you to look beyond the exterior and look into the heart of another. You know that love right? The love that binds marriages together, builds relationships up, strengthens family ties, forms friendships forever, the love that ends wars for good and brings everlasting peace? That’s the kind of love God has for us. His love cannot be contained, it is meant to be unleashed. It cannot be buried like a talent, it must be shared so it can multiply and grow. God’s love cannot be kept a secret or for oneself because it is always for another. God’s love cannot be taken from you unless you say so. You cannot be separated from God’s love unless you will it so. But who would want to deny themselves of the most precious gift humanity has ever known or be separated from the one thing that fills us with great joy and eternal peace? God is love and so are we. So beloved child of God, let’s us love one another as God has loved us. For that is the best gift we can truly give each other.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” In the eyes of the Church and in the souls of so many believers, the name Mary calls to mind so many splendid images of a special person who seems to always be available to us especially in moments of great need; of a kind woman who is always willing to walk the distance with us no matter how long the journey might be; of a gentle soul who prays for us unceasingly even when we don’t have the energy or the desire to pray for ourselves; of a humble mother who is always so willing to come to our aid no matter what the circumstance might be. She simply wants to help us poor sinners, poor children of God, poor children of Mary. Mary’s name also invokes in us so many stories of how God uses her as an instrument to share the Good News of our salvation; to deliver us important signs and warnings when we drift to far away from God’s presence; to offer us motherly advice at the crossroads of life or in moments of deep discernment; to give us a gentle correction when we choose the wrong rather than choose the right or when we do the bad rather than do the good; to provide us with loving inspiration when we are afraid and unable to move forward and to offer us help in moments of darkness, bleak situations or moments of dire need. The mere mention of Mary’s name brings strength to those who are weary, comfort to the sorrowing, hope to the despairing, faith to the unbelieving, something to brighten our day when everything else seems so heavy or everyone around us seems so gray. It brings to heart so many joyful memories that describe our awesome relationship with God, our awesome relationship with Mary, the Mother of God. Some immediate images that come to mind and heart are: Mother, Beloved, Immaculate, Blessed, Beautiful, Virgin, Star, Perfect, Holy, Pure, Vessel, Temple, Grace, Intercessor, Rose and the one that might help us during this season to more fully anticipate the gift we desire to more purely celebrate is joy. The Church calls Mary the “Cause of our Joy.” What is the cause of your joy? Not what makes you happy for a brief moment but that which fills you with everlasting joy? For Mary, it is Jesus – God’s Love. “Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!”