Sunday, I stood in a crowded mass just steps from where I stood beside my husband’s casket in front of the baptismal font almost seven months ago.
“Here I am,” I thought.
I thought of the many times Jon stood beside me in this familiar spot or at the altar, at the Baptismal font, at a funeral mass for those we loved, as I walked alongside his casket saying good-bye, and here I am now standing without him by my side.
What a reality.
Sunday’s gospel reminds us to feed the hungry, offer drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned.
The truth of those words takes me back to standing next to Jon’s casket and the 33 months that brought us to that moment. The truth is, not just 33 months, but our 33 years together brought us to that moment. But that’s another story. It may be the biggest glory story of all.
For now, I think of all the days of our greatest hours of need and how others responded to that need. I saw love poured out many times.
Jesus says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on the right and the goats on the left…”
It all comes down to this.
How will we live and love now as we prepare for the eternal Kingdom?
May We Prepare
In the liturgical calendar, we celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King at the end of the ordinary time. Yet we look ahead to Advent prepare ourselves and our hearts for a tiny King to Be Born in a manger in just a few weeks—a gentle, loving King who will come to save us from ourselves and sin and death. That King who reigns with weapons of love and peace made us in his own likeness and image. Why do we turn away from Him and look to the world for joy and peace?
Reflecting on the gospel, I think of those who nourished us and quenched our thirst (in many ways), cared for me while caring for Jon, and helped minister to free me from the prison/oppression of sin that tried to sneak into our darkest days.
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of the brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Those loving, selfless Christ-like gestures sustained us even when they may have seemed inconsequential to those offering to support us in our hard times. They were enough, even when we heard, “I wish I could do more.” The mere act of showing up was enough. The act of listening to God and being present was more enough.
May our small gestures in love magnify the Lord rather than deepen the pain we are already experiencing.
Like the antiphon echoed today, “The Lord will reign for ever and will give his people the gift of peace.”
I sometimes wrestle with the notion that I experienced such profound peace at the most curious times throughout the journey these last several years. How could I possibly feel peace? It’s the same question I presented to God as I drove home after leaving Jon’s side in 2020 after his first brain surgery.
“Lord, how is it I feel peace? If you are going to trust me with this journey, you are going to need to help me through. I cannot do this without you.”
Only Christ the King.
He got me through then and continues to get me through now, just like He shows me the way to trust Him when He asks me to walk on these stormy waters.
This supernatural peace can only come from God, a King who established his Kingdom not by force but with gentle love.
Many things are attempting to steal my peace as I navigate this life now without the man I married walking beside me, cooking our Thanksgiving Feast, planning upcoming Birthday and Christmas Festivities, helping me to put lights on the tree, or planning our day-to-day activities. I would give anything to have that life back for a moment.
Maybe not anything.
I won’t sell my soul; I will do my best to stay on the path. The cost is too great not to do my best now to allow Christ to rule my heart and mind.
The celebrant priest asked us to take a moment to consider if we call ourselves a sinner or a saint.
That’s an easy answer.
Without a doubt, I am a sinner. That’s why I need a God of mercy and grace.
But given the stakes are too high—I choose to “die to self” and do my best to follow God’s Will and to keep striving to become a saint.
It takes work. It’s a choice every single day. I am a work in progress.
Read the lives of the saints. It wasn’t always the easy path, but the loving one. They chose to empty themselves, too. God separated them to the right with the sheep.
Life in the Eternal
I want to live in that eternity.
The reality of death, and whether I will be living an eternity in the glory of heaven or forever plunged in the fiery embers, hits closer to home than ever before.
Our time is precious and finite.
I have seen this truth through the many people I love who no longer walk the earth. Some left far too soon, others who lived a lifetime. I hope they are all enjoying the glory of heaven.
I need to care for my soul and pray my husband is doing his best from his seat in the throne room to intercede for all 5 of us.
Most importantly, there are four souls—my kids—who I need to witness in my choices, in how I love and see others, in how I serve lovingly, in how I extend a hand to strangers, in how I welcome others in and even how I sometimes need to step aside, to let Him do the work He needs to do.
Sometimes, the most charitable thing to do is to get out of God’s way.
We need to love like Jesus.
May we remember He created us in His image and likeness.
As I stood in mass contemplating the words of the gospel and homily. I thought about the wounds and hurt that made our lives more difficult, on top of the stress of caring for my husband while he lived with a terminal illness. I wondered where Jesus was in all of it. He was in all of it.
Jon outlived that bleak terminal illness. He knew he was going to win either way. I am sure he’s living the eternal glory, witnessing the beatific vision, and praying and feasting daily with those holy angels and saints to help get me there, too. Jon is still doing his part in the sacrament of marriage.
I hope we chose the right one as we walked in the valley of the shadow. I know our goal was to love one another and others as best we could, even while we were suffering under the weight of the cross.
I listened intently as the priest repeatedly said, “God asks us, ‘Where are you?'”
“Where are you with those in need, those who are hungry or thirsty, those who are sick and broken?”
“Where are you?” Jesus asks.
Where am I when others need me?
I pray I am there, where God asks me to empty myself to offer a love like Jesus.
It wasn’t part of the plan.
But I saw God The Father’s gracious and generous love, too.
I saw a kingdom full of love.
I thought about how each of the smallest gestures brought the most abundant peace and offered the most loving embrace—a love like Jesus.
When I thought of the support we received, I knew those who emptied themselves as Christ does for us were where we received the most peace, the greatest gifts, and the most love in our hour of need.
Death and loss are part of my life now in some of the harshest ways and in the most beautiful way—dying to self more and more each day. I’m learning that dying to self is one of the most challenging things to commit to, yet it’s also one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves and others and, most importantly, to extend the Kingdom of God from my small corner of the world.
If this journey with Jon has taught me anything, it taught me that we cannot wait to be ready for the Lord.
Now is the time to be preparing our hearts and minds.
“Where are you?” asks the Lord.
Here I am, Lord.
Here I am, doing my best to become a saint as I hope to magnify the glory of God for the Kingdom of Heaven.
“For you know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope.”-Jer 29:11
Here I am, Lord.
The Story of the Poor Widow
As I sat in bed this morning putting finishing touches on this post, I learned today’s Gospel is the story of the Poor Widow. It feels like a gift from God, a confirmation of my words. It feels fitting to tie in a few thoughts about it.
The Gospel is sometimes referred to the story of the Widow’s Mite. A mite is a coin worth less than a penny. I often hear the Widow’s Might vs. Mite in my head. It takes so much might/strength for the widow to get on with her day—it is no exaggeration. I am writing from my bed today.
The Poor Widow story tells us that the widow gives from her poverty—giving her only two coins worth to the church treasury. This widow gives from the generosity of her heart. The Kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly. God deeply cares for the widow and the orphans. There is quite a lot I could share about this story. A widow who is living without her husband gives generously from her heart in poverty. And it isn’t even about giving away the only two coins she has to rub together. She had to give up her husband to God.
Listen here to the Daily Reflection of the Gospel from Jeff Cavins on Hallow that touched my heart.
“The last thing on that widow’s mind is that you would be reading about her.” Jeff Cavins said. What a beautiful message.
Once again, Jeff Cavins has this right. The last thing I could ever imagine is that I would be a person who could relate to the Poor Widow. This Gospel reflection is the best message of this season to add a footnote to my post about how we focus and move toward (or away from) the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is so much I could share about the state of affairs related to the expectations and added pressures a widow must endure.
I don’t have the energy or space to write about it today. I recently mentioned that I carefully measure my words and discern what I say about grief. I invite you to check out this reflection by my friend Jen @SisterhoodofTravelingRelics about St. Gianna’s Husband, Pietro, who was a widower living his life for building the Kingdom God.
Last week, I did talk with Sophia about why I reference and hashtag the Widow’s Mite. I explained that widows have little to nothing to give. This widow (in the gospel) gave all her money, but she also gave all of her heart and her spouse to God. This widow (me) has given all of her heart and her spouse, too. Most days it is hard to get out of bed and just put one foot in front of the other while not having their husband share in the burdens. Widow do it anyway. But they give out of their poverty, not out of abundance like those who have more. This is very pleasing to God.
The best thing to take away from this Gospel of the Poor Widow that ties in with my message of the earlier part of this Blog Post: Are we giving generously from our heart? Are we moving toward the Kingdom of God?
The widow knew what it meant to live for the Kingdom of God. This widow knows what it means, too.
In a reflection shared with by a friend written by a student at University of Notre Dame, the final line speaks volumes: “May we trust that, like the widow, God sees all our efforts, no matter how little, and will affirm us in our hour of need.”
Once again, I will say, Here I am, Lord with all my Widow’s might and mite. May I give without reserve