By: Sam Abbott, UF student
Today, we heard Peter speak to the Jews. He’s honest with them – brutally honest. He tells them,
“You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death…”
That same Peter, who in the Garden of Gethsemane drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, now strikes the People of God with his tongue. He pulls no punches, leaves no uncertainty: the People of God have blood on their hands. Not just any blood, either: it is the Blood of Christ, the Son of the Living God, who was perfect and blameless. Take a moment, now, and dwell on the sorrow and bitterness of that profound injustice. Understand the complete failure of the People of God.
It’s been two thousand years since the historical event of the crucifixion. It would be easy to think that our hands are clean – that we bear no responsibility for the crucifixion. It would be comforting to think that Peter was talking only to those particular Jews, way back in the first century. He’s not.
Father Mike Schmitz put it wonderfully in this video:
Christ died for our sins. In each of our sins, we put Christ on the cross. It is our arms that scourge Him, our blows the bruise Him, our words and taunts and irreverence that pierce Him. Our cruelty and indifference that crucifies Him.
I want to emphasize this, because we often tend to downplay our sin and our guilt. We think “Well, I’m pretty good most of the time. I’m an alright guy.” We tell ourselves that it’s not that bad – even when it really is. Our sins were so serious that they required a sacrifice of infinite value – the Blood of the Spotless Lamb – to be washed away.
Don’t stop reading here, though. Don’t despair, because Peter’s not done. There’s another half to that line that I haven’t mentioned yet:
“…but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.”
What does this mean? That even though our sins put Christ to death, Death himself could never win! Jesus is not just the Paschal Sacrifice, but Conqueror, Redeemer, and Savior!
For indeed, just as He died to true death, He rose to true life – today’s Gospel makes that clear. He arose, not as a ghost or spirit, but was resurrected bodily as well.. A true body of “flesh and bone,” and He showed them this by asking for food and eating. This resurrection from death is available to all of us – if only we are humble enough to admit our faults, to seek forgiveness, and to strive to amend our lives out of love for God.
John tells us in today’s second reading that even when we do sin,
“We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.”
Christ died so that we might have eternal life with Him – don’t let that sacrifice go to waste! Don’t let the death of Christ be in vain!
In this Third Week of Easter, let us remember that even though we put Christ to death by our sins, that death is not the end of the story. For even the gravest of our sins, the power of Death itself, could not triumph over the Son of God. In a flash of heavenly light that burned His image onto the burial shroud, He rose from death, and brings us with Him into eternal life!
Alleluia, He is truly Risen!
By: Sam Abbott
St. Faustina Kowlaska was just 19 years old when she had started having visions of Jesus. While at a dance in a park in Lodz, Poland, St. Faustina saw a vision of Jesus suffering. This vision changed her, and she joined a convent to fully dedicate herself to Christ. Throughout the rest of her life, Christ repeatedly visited and spoke to St. Faustina. Christ’s most influential vision to her was on February 22, 1931, when he appeared to St. Faustina, calling himself the “King of Divine Mercy.” Wearing a white garment with red and pale rays emanating from his heart, Christ told St. Faustina that he wanted the Sunday after Easter to be the Feast of Mercy.
An answer to what Divine Mercy is and why it is celebrated the Sunday after Easter is found in today’s Gospel. In John 20:19-31, Christ reveals himself to the apostles hiding in the locked room. When Jesus stood in the midst of the apostles, he did not admonish them for fleeing his side. These men had devoted themselves to Christ, yet they cowered, hid and denied Him out of fear for their own lives. The first words Jesus told these men were, “Peace be with you.” Christ forgave them for rejecting Him. When Thomas doubted the other apostles’ statements that Christ had resurrected, Jesus again appeared and showed Thomas the scars of his Passion to alleviate any skepticism. The message of Divine Mercy Sunday is this: We must always remember His mercy is far greater than our sins.
To fully understand the message of Divine Mercy we must apply the struggles of the apostles to our own lives. When have we doubted Christ? When have we denied Him? When did we betray Him?
The remedy for these sins is presented right in the Gospel. Jesus gives the power of his Divine Mercy to the apostles, so they may absolve our sins in His name. Through the sacrament of Reconciliation, Christ’s Divine Mercy is available to us all. The sacrament of Reconciliation proves that God loves all of his creation and wants every one of us to experience his Divine Mercy. To quote St. Augustine, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
Even if you were the only person on Earth, Jesus would have still sacrificed himself and gone through the agony of death to save you from sin. The treasury of Christ’s mercy is infinite. We must be willing to humble ourselves and accept this grace.
Sara Zarb, UF student
“Hey Sara, let’s go to Gator Nights tonight.”
“Ok, but I have to go to bed pretty early tonight, because I have to get up at 7 a.m.!”
“Where are you going?”
“It doesn’t matter…”
“What? Just tell me!”
“I’m going to March for Life in St. Augustine tomorrow.”
This was the conversation I had Friday night with my friend, who is pro-choice. Notice that I wanted to avoid the conversation altogether. I was afraid my friend and I would get into an argument, just by me saying I was going to a local March for Life!
Why was I reluctant to tell her? Because I’m the minority. I speak for the unborn, which is something I don’t see often, especially on a college campus.
The St. Augustine March for Life, however, was a gathering of like-minded people. We were all in this together. We were all there for the same purpose. We were all advocates for the protection of the most vulnerable.
Before the March, we attended Mass, we sang, we listened to a few testimonies and speakers, and then we started the March. Seeing extremely passionate people, from ages 1 to 92 (yes, seriously!) made my heart happy. I was astounded.
Pro-life activist Stephanie Gray spoke at the closing of the event. She was absolutely brilliant. She gave us many scenarios and answered them from the other perspective (pro-choice), to give us insight into what to expect while discussing our beliefs to people. This brought me peace. I realized there is an effective way to communicate our pro-life message.
After her speech, I went up and introduced myself. I told her I was a college student at the University of Florida, and I’m struggling to find my voice, to communicate to others about what I believe in.
“How do you do it?” I asked her. “I’m in the minority at UF as far as my pro-life beliefs, and I’m so scared to talk to people. Like, Stephanie, you really know your stuff! What would you recommend I do?”
And Stephanie gave me three points: Pray. Study. Practice.
“First,” she answered, “you have to pray to God for wisdom, because we can’t do this alone. Then, study! Do your research. Know the material, know the facts. Then, practice. See how people respond to what you say. Know what’s effective, and what’s not.”
When we pray, we connect with God. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with Him, then we are more able to truly inspire others. Let’s pray to God to give us strength; to give mothers and families the strength to overcome the difficult obstacles they are facing for the unborn, for all the children He created, but didn’t have the same opportunity as we. Pray to the Holy Spirit to guide not only us, but those we are trying to reach.
Then, research. Learn from others who have had these tough conversations, understand what has already been said, what has already been accomplished. Find legitimate sources: another good pro-life advocate (besides Stephanie Gray) is Abby Johnson, former Clinical Planned Parenthood Director, now Pro-Life Activist. Staying up-to-date with reliable sources can help us with our research and understanding the topic.
Finally, practice! And remember, it’s not an argument – it’s a conversation. “So, I recently went to the March for Life…” Surprisingly, the more we discuss, the more we can delve deeply into an understanding of why that person believes in abortion. Sometimes, there is a previous experience attached to the person’s belief, causing him or her to think differently about abortion than we do. Above all else, let’s be respectful and persuasive. Flexible and firm. Enthusiastic and calm. Instilling balance into our conversations creates a positive atmosphere.
No one said advocating for pro-life would be easy. And yet, God is encouraging. He is encouraging us to voice, to showcase what we believe in, and to not hold back.
Matthew Fulton, UF Student
The full beauty of the Catholic faith was on display during our three-day trip to Washington, DC. We met some who had driven 48 hours to the nation’s capital. Why? Why take that amount of time out of your busy life for an event that couldn’t have lasted more than three hours?
I learned that it was because people care. They care and love so much that they are willing to do irrational things like sit in a car or bus for two days just to take a stand for the sanctity of life. During the March itself we waddled like penguins, unable to move more than a few feet a minute for long stretches. We were packed in tight, it was loud, it was cold (for me at least), and we had every reason to complain about our discomfort. But nobody was upset. In fact, everyone was smiling. There was true joy in these people’s hearts, joy stemming from the fact that life in America is winning. You could feel it, and it was awesome. Rosaries were offered up for the unborn, songs of praise rang out, and banners from all around the country were raised proudly in the sky. It was neat being reminded of the universal Church. Sometimes you get too caught up in your own little world, and in today’s media environment it can seem like you’re the only pro-lifer around. Experiencing the March for Life myself makes me confident that one day soon we are going to win this fight, and we won’t need to march anymore.
Allie Jackson, UF Student
This year was my second year attending the March for Life in D.C. It honestly is one of those events that I will always look forward to. This year’s March was especially exciting. Bigger steps were taken with the passing of an anti-abortion bill and many government representatives, including the President of the United States, addressed the March for Life. The band Plumb opened up the rally with her beautiful worship songs, Sister Bethany Madonna prayed with us and gave a wonderful talk, and one of the most powerful testimonies I ever heard was given by Congresswoman Beutler. We peacefully march for those who cannot defend themselves. As JPII says, “Every human person…is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God.” Every person is formed, loved for and created by God with a worth and value that we cannot even comprehend. We were given a chance to live this beautiful gift of life and we marched for those whose chance was taken away from them. We also marched for women; for those hearts that are torn or broken; for those who cannot stand for themselves.
JPII mentions that love is the most basic human vocation. We marched simply for that love. Love of all life. This march is unique, because as amazing as it is, our goal is eventually to not have to march anymore. But until then, we will always march, we will always fight and we will always pray for those who can’t. This march gave us that opportunity and allowed us to see the beautiful life that God has for each and every one of us. The March for Life in D.C. is a truly humbling experience that I will never forget. God Bless!
Morgan English, UF Student
I was given the opportunity to attend the March For Life in Washington, D.C. for the first time. The weeks leading up to the March I anticipated with great excitement, yet I was slightly nervous. I was excited to be able to march for something that I hold so close to my heart, the gift of human life, which the world tries to destroy daily. After arriving to D.C. and attending the National Prayer Vigil for Life Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, all my worries went away. I couldn’t imagine a better way to kick the weekend and march off than to participate in Mass with thousands — yes thousands — of other Catholics united for the same reason, to give thanks to God for the gift of human life.
The next morning came time for Mass with all the other Floridians in St. Peter’s Catholic Church and the March. As we walked up to the Mall it was beautiful to see all the people so excited and filled with joy to join the thousands to march. Before the actual March we got to hear from President Trump, Vice-President Pence, Sister Bethany Madonna (love her!!), Pam Tebow (Go Gators!!), a congresswoman, and many other speakers. The most moving part was to hear all these people speak about how they respect and fight for life. It was very empowering. Then it came time for the March! I’m not sure I have seen such a large mob of people somehow line up, somewhat ordered.
The March was absolutely beautiful. There were young children, women of all ages, young and old men, and former Planned Parenthood and abortion facility workers all marching together. It took about two-and-a-half hours to complete the march. Throughout that time, we prayed, sang, and chanted. Although I wish we did not have to have this March, and pray we won’t have to drive on a bus for 12 hours to attend another; but if we have to be there again, I will sign up in a heartbeat. This is something everyone should pray about attending because if we do not continue to stand up for human life, who will? My favorite sign was “I am the Pro-Life generation,” because this is so true. Our generation continues to respect and defend life more and more, while at the same time we are the generation most susceptible to ending life. The impact we, as young adults, have on this movement is greater than any other generation. Let’s take advantage of that and defend life!
By: Michael Arias
I sat there, hunched over, in the dark of an old cathedral, crying. I’m not one for crying, unless there’s something in my eyes, but that’s a different story. I was legitimately and genuinely crying, for the first time I could remember in a long, long time.
I was all alone on the Camino of Santiago in Spain, a country relatively foreign to me.
The country was undergoing a heat wave, and more importantly, I was getting sick very quickly, with a fever looming on the horizon. I could feel my energy draining with every step I had taken since I woke up that morning. The day started with me feeling like trash when I woke up at 6 a.m., and now, after four hours of walking only half the distance I could normally walk in that same amount of time, I was feeling like I had nothing left. It was a bad situation to be in. The next sizable town was easily six, if not more, hours ahead of me given my current pace. The village offered little to nothing, and the thought of going backwards: akin to giving up.
It was big question-and-answer time for me. Why continue walking the Camino? It was at that moment literally turning into a living nightmare of pain and loneliness.
I originally started the Camino half because I love the outdoors, half as a pilgrimage, and half because I had a month left on my student visa. I know that adds up to three halves, but hey, that was my deciding logic and motivation up to that point, and it had been totally sufficient before I got sick. Now though as I felt my strength disappearing, I needed better reasons to go forward.
But that’s when it hit me. I wasn’t alone. I mean, not as alone as I thought I was. I had already lived five months in Spain, studying Spanish. Being in a foreign country, a foreign continent, was no longer a radically new experience. Having been alone, without known family or friends, for five months had taught me an important lesson, and that lesson was about to be my saving grace: I had God with me, the same God that I saw every time I visited my church at home in Florida, prayed to at home, and talked to at home.
Jesus knew how to understand not only my English but also my American mannerisms and ways of thinking, an ability that suddenly became so very attractive when trying to live on a day-to-day basis as the foreigner in a very communal university student-residence. Those previous five months had taught me that I could rely on Jesus always. He always looked out for me, understood me, and helped me.
So in that dark, cool cathedral where I sat crying, I turned to Him.
To this day I don’t know if those tears I cried were of joy or sadness. Joy because I had realized how truly present God was with me, or sadness because I had forgotten how truly present He was and had thought I was alone.
The important part was that He was with me, and if He had gotten me through five months in Spain, he could get me through one more on the Camino, sick or not sick. Consequently, I got my new and ultimately more powerful source of motivation: the Camino would continue has a walk with Christ.
It may sound obvious to you: Camino de Santiago translates to the Walk of Saint James, James was a Saint, Saints walk with Christ, so it’s a Walk with Christ. You get it, I get it, great.
But here’s the catch: (I can only speak for myself, but I’m sure I’m not alone in this.) There’s a big gap between knowing something with your mind and knowing it with your heart.
It took me to be in a very much not-so-fun situation to finally connect the two dots: knowing that God was with me and feeling and acting upon the knowledge that He was with me. My hope is that by recounting this little portion of my experience I am in some way helping you connect your dots too.
By: Dolores Hinckley, RHC Print Cooordinator
Right now, you might be thinking: Starting college is the best thing that’s happened to me — or the worst. I did not like my first few months at UF. I felt like a rat dropped into a big maze, and everything and everyone new I encountered were like sharp corners and diverging paths. On the other hand, for some of my hometown friends who also became Gators, the first semester was just open doors of possibilities with so many great things to do.
You might have one of these experiences, something in between or neither, and that’s totally OK. Now more than a few semesters on, I can tell you my friends and I feel the same about our college experience. Mostly, that this is where we need to be.
Why do we feel that way?
The incredible gift that is our Catholic faith is why. You will go nowhere in these next years of higher education that Jesus won’t be with you. He will be with you in the library, in class, in your dorm, and yes, even out late at night on the town.
As you adjust to life in the Swamp, know that at any moment, He is here for you. Momma Mary and all the angels and saints are here for you. You have a team, an army, a family with the Father, and they’ve got a home base at St. Augustine’s on University Ave. Come spend time with Him and the rest of the Catholic Gators family.
Don’t be afraid of the wonderfully outgoing guys and gals at Catholic Gators you’ll run into. They are going to be weirdly enthusiastic to have you, specifically you. Kind of like how God made you with intention, except not “kind of” but exactly. Say yes to that invitation for Newman (free dinner!) or other fun event, and see for yourself how awesome everyone at CG is.
Don’t be afraid of those moments alone during your day, either.
You might find yourself alone for the first time ever. No one to tell you when to wake up in the morning, what to eat, what to wear and where to be at almost every hour. That’s scary, freeing and the first taste of adulthood.
Take some of those moments alone to the church. When the semester comes crashing down on you, and you question every decision you’ve made so far, those moments in front of Jesus are life-giving. Growing your faith here and now will give you a stability in college you would not believe.
This probably all sounds doom and gloom like, “Wow, whoever wrote this must be one jaded college student.” I promise, I’m not! I only say this because it can get real in college, either real good or real bad. Be prepared for both.
Church might be the last thing on your mind as you start fresh. Maybe you’ll roll out of bed Sunday morning and think to yourself something’s missing to your day, something you always did with your parents. The University of Florida might be new to you, but the church isn’t.
Catholic Gators has something for everyone, especially if you like free food every Tuesday at Newman Dinner. No matter if you’re into art, sports, music, if you want a bible study, or you’re just looking for friends, we have a community of people here that is genuine in both prayer and friendship.
Come to St. Augustine’s, come home to Him and come meet us all. We all can’t wait to meet you.
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[For the first post in our FOCUS series, click here.]
By: Kassandra Leal, UF FOCUS Missionary
Move out of apartment, check.
Five weeks of FOCUS New Staff Training (NST), check.
Three weeks serving on mission in Brazil, check.
All moved into my new house, check.
Processing the last two months…not checked.
This summer has been chaotic. I have been on adrenaline since the end of May, and now that I’m getting ready to fly home to visit my family, I have found myself at “the wall “that my teammate, Drew, touched on.
Fall is coming, and I am tired.
We live in a culture of busyness, nonstop, “go-go-go” mentality. We forget to rest and to reflect on the ways that God has worked throughout the days, weeks, or months. And I am ALL about self-care and doing things that bring you life, but here I am again finding myself at the end of the busyness, tired.
One of my favorite prayers is a Daily Examen. I pray my Examen at the end of the day to reflect on the blessings God has given me throughout the day, and ways I have failed to love Him and ask Him to give me the graces to love and serve Him the next day. This prayer has changed my life, because I have allowed the Holy Spirit to make me more aware of what happens in my day, from the little blessings like no traffic, to the little annoyances that trigger my impatience.
This is a simple and easy way to process.
We often live in the next moment versus the present moment. So processing not only our day, but also our entire summer, will help us see the many ways that God has been present with us.
Fall is coming, and I am getting ready.
You may not have had the same exact summer I have had. Maybe you have been living in a different state for an internship, traveling with friends and family, working from home, or enjoying your summer doing the hobbies that you give you life. Praise God for any and all pastimes this summer! All of that said, I know I want to love and serve when we hit the ground in the Fall, so that means that I will be processing the remainder of this summer.
I want to pray with all the opportunities that I had to grow. I want to thank Jesus for all the people whom He put in my life to love. I want to be in awe of the marvels that He did through the mission trip, and how He worked through my heart at training.
All of this, of course, takes time. I want to give God the time and the praise. Work glorifies God, but so does the stillness.
Join me in being still for these last couple of weeks before the school year starts, and ask God to show you how He has been working in you this summer. Thank Him for the hard and growing moments and for the joyful ones.
I am praying for you all as you get ready to come back to Florida or are coming for the first time. Please pray for all of us back at Catholic Gators!
No one wants to admit how much time is left of Summer 2k17 but the truth of the matter is that, it’s not a lot. In less than a month we’ll be moving back into the dorms or our apartments, and embracing our vocations as students. Some days I have a countdown to reunite with my amazing Catholic Gators community (and Gator football!), and other days I’m overwhelmed when realize how much I have left on my to-do list for this summer. However you’re feeling, the final countdown for the next school year has begun. [It’s 22 days, by the way.]
While most of us are excited to reunite with all our friends and live according to our own schedule, in reality, we just want to get to a place where we’re comfortable and known. Being at home for the summer has countless challenges. You might be living under your parent’s roof again, have to check in with them about your day-to-day plans, get asked questions by the entire family about your major and post-graduation plans, or other personal questions you’re not comfortable sharing. Living at home can be hard and uncomfortable, but it’s what God is calling us to do right now, at this moment. It is His will for us.
In life, there’s a lesson in everything, even if the lesson is to learn what not to do. Life is about the choices we make and the actions that follow. When we’re at school, it’s easy to choose our friends because they often bring us great joy. At home, it’s often much more difficult because not everyone gets along all the time. But we must choose to love them because it’s God’s will for us, our vocation. Friends may be temporary but family is for a lifetime. That’s why it’s worth building these relationships with our loved ones because they’ve invested in us and will be there for the rest of our lives.
Love is a verb and to love is a choice. I’m sure growing up, your parents did not always want to get up in the middle of the night to a fussy baby. But they chose to. They loved the best way they could or knew how to. This summer, I encourage you to be active in loving them back. Do the dishes without being asked, take out the trash, clean up your room, maybe buy them a meal or their favorite candy when you’re at the store. You can walk the dogs, drive your siblings around, or volunteer to babysit. You can even just ask them how their day was and be intentional about listening like you’re intentional with your friends. I recommend putting the phone in another room altogether so it won’t even be a distraction. Love through the simple actions, and use that to pray for your family and other friends and families who may be going through a hard time.
Summer is a time great time to grow and become a better version of yourself. I encourage you to pray about the lessons learned so far this summer or challenges you may face in this last month. Make small commitments to love your family through specific actions and, who knows? You might even learn something new about your family members or their past, and be able to pray for them better. We’re called to be saints, and to be saints we can’t be comfortable. Pope Benedict XVI said, “You weren’t made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”
Choose to love, especially when it’s hard, and your reward will be great in heaven.
FOCUS ( Fellowship of Catholic University Students) changed my life in college. It introduced me to the person of Jesus Christ and gave me tangible ways of living a friendship with Him. That led me to want to share that friendship with others, and invite them into their very own friendship with Him. It changed the way I viewed life and love and the pursuit of happiness, which I realized was best found living close to the heart of Jesus. This proximity lead me to do some crazy things, including becoming a FOCUS missionary myself. My life in The Swamp started as I was placed at the University of Florida my first year on staff. I never could have dreamt up all the amazing things that came along with giving my “yes” to God. Each day came with another opportunity to give my “yes,” from giving my days to Him, with great devotion to prayer and the mission, to growing to be a Gator fan even in 100 degree weather.
I saw myself come alive in an environment where I was free to embrace the gift of who I am as a daughter of God, and to use the gifts I have been given to serve the King of the Universe. I came to understand and maintain interior freedom of heart. I dedicated myself to praying daily, and going to daily Mass to receive the Eucharist, my life source, every single day. The grace received in this time and in time of Adoration, on retreats or at other Catholic Gator events, allowed me to see and experience the magnificent and all-encompassing love of God. I began to not only meet Christ in the Mass and in prayer but also in the people I worked with, the missionaries and staff that I served alongside, and the students I got to journey with on a daily basis, as they too saw their lives transformed through their own “yes.” Collectively we grew strong in a community of shared faith; desire to be holy and live virtue; and resist the temptations that flood the lives of college students.
We committed to living chastity, sobriety, and excellence and strived to hold one another accountable and live above reproach. We committed to leading bible studies and discipling others, which lead to spiritually multiplying and having the greatest impact possible.
I personally served sorority women and watched FOCUS Greek grow before my eyes as more and more women gave their “yes.” By God’s grace we lived each day with great joy, which was contagious and drew people into want to know more and discover for themselves the gift that Christ can be in one’s life. Living this way, structuring my life around God and surrounding myself with people who loved me by willing the good for me, changed me. The gift of FOCUS, the relationships, memories, and experiences made these past three years the best of my life thus far.
They set a new standard for how to live life to the fullest, and how to live in the world but not of the world by loving and encountering the people of the world like Jesus would. I am moving onto a new chapter, and am excited to incorporate all that I learned and take these lessons with me into all aspects of my life. I know that I have many reasons to be considered “biased,” but if my bias leads someone, including you, to give Jesus a shot and make Him a part of your college experience, or even the center of it, then go, bias, go!!!
Take my advice: Let God love you and show you who you really are, and ALL that he has in store for you, and you too will experience what it means to be fully alive.