Matthew 28:19-20 New American Bible (Revised Edition)
19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
First Holy Communion is one of the seven sacraments celebrated by Catholics. In the month of May, our parish hosted three First Holy Communions: children from our parish, the Spanish program’s children, and the parish’s school children was this last Saturday. This special sacrament requires one year of classes, but at some parishes it may take two years of preparation. The child must first be baptized into the Catholic Church before receiving this sacrament.
In baptism we are joined to Christ. Baptism washes away our original sin. Baptism is the inception of our Christian life. Once you are baptized into the Catholic faith, you will always be considered a Catholic.
Catechism of the Catholic Church:
An indelible spiritual mark . . .1272 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. 83 Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.
First Holy Communion
First Holy Communion is the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Receiving First Holy Communion strengthens us to bond closer with Christ. Through penance and reconciliation our sins are forgiven. The Church wants us whole, and it is through the forgiveness of sins that we can move forward without any guilt. We can repair damaged relationships through reconciliation and it restores our spiritual peace. So many graces are bestowed on us when we learn to forgive. The sincere purity of the forgiveness restores our weakened character and gives us confidence to move past our sins. It helps us to clear our conscience of any unpleasant thoughts that have kept us in bondage. With a clear conscience the Enemy can no longer remind us of our shortcomings. As for myself, not a day goes by without me committing venial sins, it is for this reason that I attend daily Mass. I desire to remain in the good graces of God.
Teaching the Children
The most important lesson in life for your children is to lead them to Christ. Setting a firm Christian foundation starts with the parents. We are their first role models. If you want your children to live a peaceful life, they need God; without God they will be lost. To instill the love of Christ, is to live a holy life. We will always be surrounded by the world’s annoyances. Only through the love of Christ can we maneuver through life’s challenges by understanding the fundamentals of our Christian faith. The Catholic Church has centuries of experience in laying down the path for our salvation. The sacraments are fundamentals of our faith; and we cannot move forward without Baptism and First Holy Communion.
Children’s minds are pliable for a reason; we must, at a young age, introduce Christ. This is referred to as the “age of reason.” This takes place around the second grade, when children understand the difference between good and evil. At this age children are aware when they have sinned, they also understand that sin is breaking God’s law. We all want our children to become productive members of society. This is why, as parents it is our God-given responsibility to introduce Christ at a young age. This is part of the molding of children’s spirits and characters as servants of Christ. Parents who do not instill Christianity in their children’s lives will suffer the consequences of wayward children. These are the kids who will fall for every wind of doctrine. This is all due to the lack of a solid Christian foundation. Yes, many of these children will succeed, but they will always feel that sense of void in their lives. The void is in their spirits waiting to be awakened by serving God. There is nothing more fulfilling.
Our job as parents is never done because we must continue to pray for our children. I have been praying for my grandchildren to continue with their Christian walk. I have also started praying for their future helpmates. I know that both of my grown children are instilling Christ in their children. Nothing is more pleasing to me as a Christian parent, because what the future holds for them will be fulfilled because they will be complete.
Croatia is a country that is not influenced by the craziness of this world. This country of over 4 million is 90% Catholic. They are grounded in their Catholic beliefs. Religion is a priority for them, going to Mass is part of their existence. When our team visited this beautiful country, I was amazed at how packed out the churches were on Sunday and how people walked to church. There are no schisms in Croatia because they all understand who God is.
My friends Danijel and Ivana son, Damjan made his First Holy Communion. In Croatia, the boys are dressed in white robes because their souls are white and clean, representing their purity. Ivana shared with me that after the service, Damjan kneeled before the Tabernacle to thank Jesus.
Dear Lord, I pray for all the children who will make their First Holy Communion. Lord, help these innocent children to continue their walk with Jesus. May they never forget the Eucharist and the holy experiences they shared with You. Lord, I pray for all parents who have not taken that step to bring their children to You. Tug at their hearts, and help them make the right decision on behalf of their children. Lord, we need to fill our nation with love, and it is only through Your Holy Spirit that this can happen. Amen.
It had been a while since I last visited my 97-year-old aunt. She lives with her son and her grandson in the foothills of the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains. As planned, I picked up my cousin Debbie and then drove to my tia Pilar’s house. While parking, both Debbie and I noticed a strange man watering the lawn. I immediately became an expert on people who are drug abusers. “This guy looks like a heroin addict!” Debbie was in agreement with my observation. I grabbed my purse and made sure that no valuables were left in the car. As we made our way to the door, the stranger greeted us. He was wearing a wife-beater tank and his arms were covered in tattoos; he was really frail looking too. He introduced himself as our aunt’s caregiver. “My name is Santos, because I am like a saint,” he said. “Oh, so you say you’re a saint?” I replied. Tia Pilar was sitting on her ottoman, waiting for us and asked if we could help her get her earrings on. Both Debbie and I could not accomplish this simple task. I set my purse on the table next to the ottoman and helped get my tia into her walker. As we were walking out I noticed a pair of sunglasses and my cell phone. I asked my tia if the sunglasses were hers and she answered, “No.” “Those are mine,” Santos replied. Pilar was still making her way to the car when she announced that maybe she should use her wheelchair instead. We called for her grandson Brian, and he came out to assist. While we were talking to Brian, another man was exiting the house. Debbie asked our aunt, “Is that Ruben (another grandson)?” Pilar answered, “No! I don’t know why he is here!” She was not happy about the situation. When the young man (Joe) was headed to his car I asked, “Who are you?” but either he could not hear me or he ignored me. Then he went back into the house to retrieve something and off he went.
We finally made it to the car and headed out to a Mexican restaurant in Redlands. We got settled in and the conversation was about my recent wedding. I wanted to share the blessed event with photos, but my phone was missing. I have the most ridiculous handbag with so many compartments; it took a while to discover that my phone was missing. I went out to the car, but still there was no phone. We ordered our food, but I could not eat because I knew for sure that I left my phone on the table. My tia suggested that I call the house, but neither my aunt nor my cousin brought their phones. I made the call from the restaurant and tia Pilar’s son Adam answered the phone. He told me that there was no phone on the table. I could not eat, besides I ordered the wrong meal (story of my life)! The mood at lunch was dismal and the conversation went from, “Don’t worry,” to “Do you think that guy took the phone?” When our food arrived, my aunt ordered cocido, a Mexican stew. It looked delicious and the serving portion could have fed half the restaurant. But my mind went back to the missing phone.
When we returned to Pilar’s house, I ran ahead of them and took the cushions apart where Pilar was sitting, but still there was no phone. Both Debbie and I were pretty certain that Joe or Santos took my phone. In a panic I called my daughter and told her the story. My daughter always puts a tracker on my phone. The last time my phone was stolen in Israel she tracked it to a city outside Jerusalem. “Mom, I never placed a tracker on this phone! Let me see what I can do. What is your Apple ID?” I did have the ID but it was in my phone. “I can’t help you! Don’t you remember it?” she sternly said. Of course, I had no idea what the Apple ID was. In the meantime Adam was on the landline attempting to call Brian. “Where is Santos? Maybe he took my phone. Please call him.” Adam could not text Brian because he left his phone in the car that Brian was in. I was frantic and asked Debbie, “What should I do? Should I call the police?” Debbie said that it was Joe who took the phone and we needed to inform the police.
The Saint, Santos
Santos returned with a bouquet of fresh roses and a grocery bag. I could see through the plastic in the bag that he had purchased a variety of cat food. In my mind Santos was not the thief. He truly is saintly. Who buys cat food for a cat that’s not even his. And the flowers for my aunt was such a sweet gesture. So now that left Joe and maybe Brian.
My cousin Adam had a business card to the local sheriff’s because his bike recently had been stolen. Adam and my aunt got into a little heated argument. “I know Joe took my bike too! He should not be here!”
I was on the phone with the police. “Can I help you?” “Yes, I want to report a burglary!” I answered. “Okay, what happened?” the dispatcher asked. “My phone was stolen, and we know who took it.” “Well, ma’am, that’s not a burglary, it’s a theft.” “The name of the guy who took the phone is Joe, and he drives a gray Honda.” When those words came out of my mouth, I knew I turned into that crazed person, calling the police for petty theft. The dispatcher placed me on hold and told me that the sheriffs were busy, but if time allowed they would send someone out. My cousin Adam was certain that Joe took my phone as well. I stepped outside and said a prayer, “Dear God, please help me remember my Apple ID!” I called my daughter Sonja and between her and my husband Mike, they were able to change my passcode and lock the phone.
By the time Brian arrived, we all attacked him at the same time. “Please call Joe and tell him to bring my phone back! I called the police but we did not know Joe’s last name. What is his last name?” I asked. Brian looked at me blankly and said, “I don’t know.” In unison we all yelled, “How do you NOT know his last name?” I was worn out, and there was not a thing I could do. I looked at Brian and pleaded with him one more time. Brian, who has always oozed with charm, looked at me and said, “I’m going to get your phone back Lynda, I promise.” For some strange reason, I believed him. I kissed my aunt good-bye and turned to Brian and asked, “When?” Brian answered, “Today.”
When we got to Debbie’s house I needed to use the restroom. As I walked past her dining table, there, in plain view was my phone! I could not use it because it was locked. Thank God Debbie has a landline. The first call was to Pilar’s to inform her that I found the phone. Brian answered the phone, and I shared the great news. I heard him telling my aunt, “Lynda found the phone, praise God.” Then he hung up.
Now I understand the Confiteor prayer we say at the beginning of Mass. We strike our heart three times and say: “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”
If I could have gone through a drive-through with specialty foods, I would have ordered crow with a healthy portion of humble pie. I felt so terrible, and this all started with me judging Santos. The phone on the table was not mine; it belonged to Santos. Santos does help with my tia: he cleans the house, does the yard and buys her groceries. He is a recovering heroin addict and a living example of a successful rehab story.
My tia Pilar has always opened her doors to people who are one step away from being homeless. Though we may not agree with some of the characters that swing in and out of her front door, she has provided a temporary safe haven for them. I came to the realization that she, too, is a saint because she’s trusting them to live in her home.
On the drive home I headed directly to our grandson’s baseball game. My husband Mike greeted me with these words: “Why did the San Bernardino Sheriff call me?”
Dear Lord, please forgive me for judging others because of their outward appearance. Help me to understand those who are struggling to find a place to live. Give me the heart of a loving servant, and remove the worldly attachment I have to my phone. Lord, I ask for Your forgiveness in this disastrous oversight on my behalf. I pray that my tia Pilar and my cousins would forgive me as well. Amen.
We Catholics are still in the midst of celebrating Easter. Yes, this is our longest liturgical season, lasting 50 days. Our readings have been from the first chapters of The Acts of the Apostles. This has always been one of my favorite books. If you are not familiar with the four Gospels, Acts may be challenging to follow. After the Ascension of Christ, Peter became the leader of the twelve apostles. He was a miracle worker who became a seasoned spokesman for the Christian community.
Peter, also known as Simon Peter, was not always this holy depiction of Christianity. The Lord knew that Peter would deny Him not once but three times. The Lord also knew that Peter needed to be restored because of his cowardice. This is the reason Jesus questioned Peter about his love for Him.
John 21:15-17 New American Bible (Revised Edition)
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
Our merciful Lord showed His great love for Simon Peter by forgiving him for his denial. The Lord’s three questions erased Peter’s three denials. Peter had to have a clean slate because what God had in store for him was more than Peter could ever imagine.
We cannot work miracles if we have doubts about God or within ourselves. The Lord knows about all our weaknesses; that is why we are given a free will. We refrain from sin because God knows our hearts too. In Peter’s case, the many trials that he would have to endure would strengthen his spirit and cause him to trust God for all his needs.
After Jesus’ Resurrection, He stayed and ministered to His apostles for forty days. Before His Ascension the Lord promised His disciples the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:2-9). Jesus left His followers well prepared, but without their Lord they were uncertain about the future. After they witnessed Jesus ascend into heaven, they gathered in the Upper Room to pray. (Acts 1:12-14)
I have been serving the Lord for most of my adult life. When I pray, sometimes I have doubts; at times I fall into a spirit of unbelief. Of course I dig my way out of this through prayer. Peter was an ordinary man as were the rest of Jesus’ apostles. God chose them because He believed in them. Our Lord knows when we are insecure and filled with doubt. Remember it was Peter who walked on the water, but as soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus he fell. As soon as we take our eyes off of Jesus, we, too, will fall. In Peter’s case Jesus was there to help him up. In our real-life situations, Jesus will be there to catch us. Sometimes it’s a simple loss of footing, but at other times we fall on our faces, causing spiritual injury to ourselves. Peter was headstrong and knew that through every testing he was being refined.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
In the gathering of the Upper Room, the apostles were all in one accord. When the power of the Holy Spirit filled the room, all their senses were alerted. The sound of thunder, the driving wind, the tongues of fire resting on each of them (Acts 2:1-4). These were the first Christians, and they were on fire for God. Nothing was going to get in their way; they had a mission to accomplish: to spread the Word of God to all nations.
Sometimes I don’t feel like attending daily Mass because I’m tired and I want to sleep a little longer. As I slowly get up, I make my way through my normal morning routine, then drag myself to Mass. It’s not always a great alleluia experience because my body is there but my mind is not. On days like these, it is only after receiving communion that the lethargic spirit is lifted from me. We are all on a mission, and it’s either to serve God or to serve man. The Holy Spirit has given each of us the same boldness that He gave to His first apostles. Peter’s boldness landed him in jail several times.
Acts 12:6-10 New American Bible (Revised Edition)
6 On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. 7 Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. 8 The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” 9 So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first guard, then the second, and came to the iron gate leading out to the city, which opened for them by itself. They emerged and made their way down an alley, and suddenly the angel left him.
There were so many obstacles that stood in the way of Peter’s freedom: the two chains on his hands, the two soldiers, the door, the two guards at his prison cell and the iron gate. Yet God freed him. When we examine our own obstacles and think that we will never be free of life’s chains, remember that God will send His emissaries to help us.
St. Peter was our first Pope. He was a simple, Jewish fisherman who became a great fisher of men. When St. Peter was crucified in Rome, he requested that he be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to die as Christ died.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for all of my blessings. I pray that we all develop the spirit of St. Peter. Give us the boldness of the Holy Spirit to spread Your message. Lord, we continue to pray for Ukraine and all that these precious people are enduring. Please put an end to this unnecessary war. Lord, I pray for a young man, Kaiden, who is currently in rehab due to drug abuse. I beg You, Lord, on his behalf to bring him and all others who are confined to the addiction to opioids. Open their prison doors and free them! Amen.