Do You Know Who You Are in the Fear of the Lord?

Today we celebrate Pentecost when God gifted, confirmed, us with the Holy Spirit. Jesus, appearing to the apostles in a locked upper room where they were hiding in fear for their lives, entered, offered a blessing, and breathed on them.

This life-giving breath is the Holy Spirit, imbued with charity, which is the perpetual relational outpouring of love shared between the Father and the Son.

There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord, but perhaps the most challenging to understand is the last. If scripture entreats us to not be afraid, if Saint Pope John Paul II repeatedly lovingly invites us to do the same, why does this gift seem contradictory?

As Father Gregory and Father Patrick discuss in this podcast, St. Thomas Aquinas listed three types of fear: worldly, servile, and filial. While calling us to address different forms of fear in our lives, all three point to this Gift of the Holy Spirit, which ultimately invites us into relationship with God. We are not meant to simply fear Him for our sinfulness, but rather this is a fear which more specifically coexists with our right reverence for Him.

In other words, our fear of losing things, social standing, punishment, and ultimately disappointing God should order us understand that God is greater than all these fears. This Gift reminds us that He has the power to heal all suffering in ways we cannot understand. Fear of the Lord invites us to rest in Him always; to love him as Father and redeemer in whom “we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:28).

Do You Know Who You Are? Some Initial Thoughts on the Theology of the Body

Do you know who you are? No, I’m not asking your name, what you do for a living, or if you play a sport. I’m asking, Do you actually KNOW WHO YOU ARE?

Today we are told our identities are fluid, changeable. We are told our sex is not only “assigned” at birth, but also that our sex (the physical bodily expression of maleness or femaleness) is only a servant to our more “important” gender–how we self-express and see ourselves in society. In other words, we are told our gender (how we self-express) is to comply with how we feel, rather than aligning how we feel (which can change depending on our state of mind or mood) with the reality of the body, which is our “sex.”

At the root of all of this confusion is our disrupted relationship with God and with the Holy Spirit who lovingly calls us into right order with Him. As our culture increasingly rejects Him, we become more confused and willing to accept the dystopia and dysphoria that result from this separation. As Gaudium et Spes declared, “When God is forgotten, the creature itself grows unintelligible” (36). Commenting on this idea, Jason Evert explains in Ascension’s course on Theology of the Body, “When we lose sight of supernatural realities, we will lose sight of natural realities” (Segment 2, Session 1). Indeed, we have lost sight of the reality of who we are, not only physically (we reject our very bodies), but also spiritually–who we are in God.

Here are some additional excerpts to ponder from Jason’s presentation:

“Our bodies reveal not only our identity as male and female, but also our calling.” Who we are is determined by our bodies, and it is this identity that calls us into relationship with one another in a unique and ordered way. When we don’t know who we are as male and female, our relationships with ourselves and each other become disordered.

“Men and women make the invisible love of God visible on earth by the way we love.” Although God is invisible, He is made visible, made manifest, through our very bodies and the way we love one another. We are called to reflect the perfect love of the Trinity. God’s relationship with the Son is expressed through the Holy Spirit, who is the unending and ever-moving love between them.

Today we are encouraged to identify with our concupiscence; we are encouraged to declare, “God made me this way, so I’m fine as I am.” But this is not who we really are. “If I come to think that my brokenness is who I am and who God wants me to be, then I’m normalizing my brokenness. And we will assume the Church is out of touch with reality if it expects us to live differently.” But JP II has a different vision. He declares that “our brokenness is not who God created us to be…These vices do not [constitute] our identities. We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures.”

What is your identity? How are you defining it? Do you know who you are?

We are the Woman of Tyre

Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone (Mark 7:24-30).

When I read this Gospel early yesterday morning (2/9/23), it immediately resonated with me in a deep way, and I smiled to myself, understanding that God was speaking to my heart. 

Here is the Lord, wanting some time away from the crowds during His full days of ministering to them. In His humanity, we can imagine He is tired; He has been talking and healing for hours. But alas, this is not to be. A woman, a Gentile, no less, has found Jesus, followed Him into the house, and then falls “at His feet.” 

At first, He is noticeably a little irritated (although probably just responding in a clarifying manner) and tries to dismiss her. Jesus makes a comment about children and dogs, which scholars have argued has a variety of meanings, but ultimately suggests that He is at least appearing to be reluctant to help her. The woman, however, understanding His meaning, persists. Her love for her daughter is so great, her willingness to confront the Lord is so courageous and faithful, that Jesus cannot deny her. Even in this brief encounter, she and Jesus have formed a relationship—one of trust and love and faith. Jesus bears witness to the woman’s very real vulnerability, understands and hears her, and because of this frees her daughter from sin. 

How many times have we suffered for our children? How many hours have we worried, sought answers, and committed ourselves to doing anything we can to alleviate their suffering, pain, and struggle? How many late nights and early mornings have we sat in prayer, asking the Lord to deliver them? 

This mother in this story represents every one of us who has found the courage to become righteous warriors for our children—every one of us who is willing to go to the Lord, pleading for His merciful goodness and healing. It is not enough, however, just to ask for God’s help. Like this woman, we must remain determined to seek Him, follow Him, and then speak to Him with hearts fully open to His love. We cannot do this haphazardly. We cannot neglect Jesus for long periods of time and then only go to Him when we’re desperate. Of course, God can attend to us at any time. Even when we’ve been away from Him for a while, we can experience the healing of actual grace. But what this mother shows us is that when we are in relationship with Christ, when we are determined to find Him, be near Him, and ask for His understanding and help, He will always answer us. 

Although in this story Jesus was seeking time away from the crowds, He actually wants us to look for and find Him. In fact it is our very suffering that serves to draw us close to Him. He knows this, which is why, when we call for Him in our pain, He is there to comfort and heal us. 

At a time in our culture when women and mothers are often undermined and questioned, and when we sometimes ask ourselves if we have the courage to help our children through their sufferings, let this woman assure us we are in fact capable of doing just that. We cannot do it alone, however. As we cultivate our relationship with God, as we sit at the foot of the cross and integrate our pain with Jesus’s sacrifice, we are then in a position to best serve, care for, and lead our children. 

Mirroring the humility and faith of this woman and of course, Our Lady, may we continue to seek God’s love and goodness. May we pursue Him with courage and fierceness. And may we know when He answers us that it is our faith, born out of the crucible of suffering, that has saved us.

Are You Stuffed?

“If you have stuffed yourself with worldly satisfactions, then it is no wonder that you have no taste for spiritual delights.” (De Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, p. 414)

We don’t much like to deny ourselves. We live in a time when we can do or have just about anything we want at any time of day. And quiet? What is that? How many of us seek out a quiet place for a time each day, where we can actually pray, think, meditate, contemplate, and breathe?

Advent invites us into a time of darkness, waiting, expectation, and even penance. It is not Christmas yet. It is not time to stuff ourselves “with worldly satisfactions” (despite what society encourages).

No, it is a time of refraining, holding back, discovering our patience, and exploring our weaknesses and brokenness so that we may more clearly discern our need for Christ—the light who is coming.

Just as we cannot taste the subtle natural sweetness of a ripe peach if it is immersed in syrup, neither can we taste spiritual delights when we are stuffed from banqueting on the world: entertainment, technology, media, politics, materialism.

Let us retreat. Let us find quiet. Let us sacrifice some of our fullness and comfort so that when Christmas comes, we are prepared to feast on what is truly nourishing.

Honey Nut Squash Soup

Even better than Butternut Squash, their petite cousin, the Honey Nut Squash, available now in many supermarkets and farmers’ markets, are sweeter and create a smooth soup you will enjoy throughtout the fall and winter.

I know fall has arrived when Honey Nut Squash appear in baskets at the supermarket and at my local farmers’ markets. Related to the Butternut Squash, they are smaller and the flesh is more intensely orange and sweeter than that of their larger cousins. A couple of pointers. First, you do not need to peel the squash. Yes, it’s true. Thank you, Jamie Oliver, for teaching me this time-saving tip years ago. As the soup simmers, the skin becomes tender and blends beautifully into the resulting puree.

Second, because this soup requires so few ingredients, use whatever vegetable broth you like best. Some recipes suggest chicken broth, but I think it’s too strong (“chickeny”) here. Vegetable broth allows the sweet-savory flavor of squash, onions, and spices to sing more harmoniously, plus our vegan and vegetarian friends will be happy. I happen to like Better Than Bouillon concentrate, but I have also used cubes from Knorr and Edward & Sons. Of course, boxed shelf-stable vegetable broth can also work; just make sure you are happy with the flavor before using it here.

Finally, this soup is delicious on its own, but consider using it as a base for other ingredients to round out your meal. Adorn it with a dollop of creme fraiche and roasted pepitas. Stir in a handful of arugula drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Or add pieces of veggie burgers, sliced sweet cherry tomatoes, and rubbed kale to create a warm salad of sorts. However you enjoy this soup, I hope it becomes a nourishing staple of your fall and winter kitchen as it has mine.

Makes about 5 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion

Sea salt

Ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

3 small to medium Butternut Squash, trimmed, seeded, and chopped


1 heaping teaspoon bouillon concentrate

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, season with a generous pinch of salt, and saute until softened and light golden.

Season with a generous grinding of pepper and stir in the spices. Add the squash, add enough water just to cover, stir in the bouillon, and bring to an active simmer.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially, and simmer until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth, adding more water if necessary and seasoning with additional salt and pepper and bouillon as needed.

Serve immediately, or store in glass jars in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Called to Meekness and Gentleness

God responds to us with meekness and gentleness….We are called to be more like Him….Therefore, meekness and gentleness are expressions of mercy, which is the way He responds to us as opposed to anger….Why be gentle? Because God’s been gentle with you and don’t worry; other people have too….Because guess what? You are not the center of the universe….That’s God. And your emotions and passions are set to register ACTUAL REALITY and not your conception of your own play that you’re overdramatizing.–Father Bonaventure Chapman

Where is God? Look and See.

On this Good Friday, faithful Christians are participating in the Triduum and the remembrance of Christ’s passion. Many others, though, despite their religious upbringing or affiliation, are not. Their reasons are many and most have been offered for millennia.

One of the most common questions posed by nonbelievers, as well as those of us who periodically wrestle with our faith is, “Where is God? I can’t see Him, so he must not exist.”

Fair enough. Especially saturated as we are in a culture of materialism and scientism, we are shaped to think anything unproven to the eye is silly at best and downright dangerous at worst. And just to reaffirm that we’re not alone in our uncertainty, it’s helpful to remember that even one of Jesus’s disciples doubted His resurrection until it was proved to him.

Considered from just about every angle, however, this position of refusing to believe unless we see evidence is insufficient. There are lots of things we cannot see but we know exist. Love is one good example. What about faith or goodness? We know they exist even if we can’t see or touch them. How do we know? We witness their imprint and manifestation in beings and actions around us. We actually “see” the effects of these virtues at work in the world.

Seeing the Divine in nature is just the same. Aquinas teaches us it is through reason that we come to have faith—to believe in and see God. For Aquinas, the truth of God’s existence is literally visible everywhere, and he begins with nature—with the world around us. It is here that we repeatedly witness God’s hand and reflection. Nature and everything in it participates in God’s vision. As Richard Rohr explains, we live in a “Christ-soaked universe.”

On this Good Friday, as we wrestle yet again with how suffering leads to redemption; how death leads to rebirth; and how, even during our Dark Nights we may yearn and reach for the light, let us choose to seek God everywhere.

Ultimately, the question, isn’t simply, Where is God? The question is, Are we looking for and truly seeing Him in all things?

What Does It Mean?

Paraphrasing Pope Saint John Paul II, he explained that the reason for suffering is to return us to the foot of the cross. Does this resonate with you?

In other words, when life is good and going our way, it is easy to lose sight of God. We feel self-assured and content with our ability to control our experiences and outcomes. “I don’t need faith,” we might say. “I’m in charge. I’m fine on my own. I trust that I know what is right and wrong.” This might feel true for a time. But will this confidence last? And what happens when life becomes complicated, and we find the distinctions between right and wrong demand greater discernment and clarity?

Suffering has a way of redirecting us. Sometimes we just get tossed around and confused for a while. Sometimes it strips us of all self-confidence. Whatever the case, however, it is meant to remind us that we are not in complete control; that God’s love and plan for our lives are much greater than we could ever imagine; and that if we are willing to go to the foot of the cross, where His mother grieved as she beheld her only Son, so might we also be strengthened.

So today or tomorrow, when disappointment, pain, or suffering call us to discern greater meaning and clarity, may we remember that it’s at the foot of the cross where we will discover our most profound insights. It is in the surrendering to the discomfort of breaking open that we invite God to sit in our hearts. It is here that we allow understanding and growth and flourishing.

When life is easy, we don’t think we need anyone or anything. But when it’s challenging, we are called to more faithfully depend on and trust in God.

This is not weakness. This is Salvation.

Ash Wednesday: “A Good Lenten Start”

Heavenly Father, grant us a fervent spirit of love for your Son Jesus as we begin these days of Lent. Give to our hearts especially a desire for prayer” (The Magnificat Lenten Companion, 2022, p. 12).

As we begin our Lenten journey, so many obligations and concerns come to mind, such as abstinence, fasting, and repentance. All of these are important, but let’s not forget the significance of prayer.

Quite simply, prayer is our opportunity to talk with God. It is a time, hopefully repeated throughout each day, that we focus our attention on Him and share our concerns, joys, and gratitude.

We acknowledge that the heart is the seat of the soul, the center of our being. And so when we ask, “Give to our hearts especially a desire for prayer,” we are affirming that it is the very core of who we are, created by God, known to Him before we were born, that when rightly ordered, yearns to speak to Our Creator, Being itself.

By talking with Him, either out loud or silently, we are affirming that which He has already spoken into being: our relationship with and love for the Lord. The words themselves, expressed from the heart, are inspired and enlivened, reflecting the awesome power of the very Logos with whom we are humbly communicating.

May we take the time, everyday in our Lenten journey, to open our hearts and more profoundly experience the wondrous gift of prayer.