Update on “NOT IN INK”: I will be traveling for work the rest of the week, but I did want to continue posting to the blog. I should be back in time to post a meditation/musing for this Sunday’s Gospel! But, in the meantime, I am posting parts of a talk I gave at a retreat in 2011 on “Signs and Sacraments.” The words should be pretty self-explanatory, but if they’re not, feel free to ask questions in the comment box, and I will answer them when I get back. Thanks for your patience, and enjoy!
Author’s Note: This the first part of a resource talk that I gave on a retreat in 2011; the topic for the talk, which is a combination of my personal testimony and Church teachings, was on “Signs and Sacraments.” The talk will be posted in four consecutive parts. The retreat that I gave the talk at focuses on “Community” and strengthening our community as a Church through our shared love and service of Christ.
There are all kinds of ‘signs’ in our life. There are stop signs, street signs, billboards, posters, flyers… the sign of peace, the sign of the cross, a sign of friendship, a sign of faith, a SIGN-ature (or a signature). But, ultimately, what are signs? I would like to say that signs are a representation of a person, place, thing, idea, or entity of some kind.
For instance, this is my signature, but it’s not me. It’s just a sign. There’s something beyond it—something bigger, something more important. What is this? Just a piece of paper with some scribbles on it. But what does it represent? Me.
What is the sign of the cross but some hand motions, right? I taught little kids this summer, and we would always have to correct them, because they all loved doing it either the wrong way, or with their left hand or something. But, what does it matter? It’s just some arm movements. No, it represents something more… our Faith!
SIGNS OF GOD
Well, up till now, I haven’t told you much about myself. I grew up in a great Christian atmosphere, thanks mostly to my maternal grandmother.
She passed away a few years ago, and it was really hard on my family. She was the anchor of the Christian faith in my family. She was always praying for us, and she had so many rosaries. And, for whatever reason, she loved cardinal birds. One Christmas, she gave me an ornament shaped like a red bird. She also gave me a jewelry box with a cardinal on it for my First Communion.
When she passed away, it was tough, but it really strengthened my Faith. But, now, every time I see cardinals, I can’t help but think of her. I feel like she’s sending me a sign, of a sort; like she’s just reminding me that she loves me, and that she’s always with me. So, now, whenever I see cardinals, I see a sign and it really strengthens my faith and love in God. So, that’s just an example of a sign from God in my life.
There are a lot of signs in the Bible. There’s the rainbow that God sends to Noah in Genesis; there’s the burning bush that Moses encounters in Exodus; and there’s also the Ten Commandments, and the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ Baptism.
One of my favorite scenes from The Passion of the Christ is when Jesus is in the Praetorium, and the chief priests are talking with Pontius Pilate. And all of a sudden, Jesus looks up and sees this dove hover over the Praetorium. It’s really quick, and if you weren’t paying attention, you would probably miss it. But, it’s always stood out to me, and I think it’s a sign to give Christ hope, comfort, and strength for what is to come.
But, I want to tell you guys another quick story. Almost a year ago, I had been trying to figure out what I was going to do for the summer. And I’m one of those indecisive people. I’m always saying, “God, if you want me to do this, send me a sign.”
And one Sunday night, I was sitting in a class at my church; and I forget what the teacher was saying; it was something like, “We need to do what God wants us to do. Follow God’s will”… something of that nature. Well, as the teacher was saying it, I looked down on the floor, just randomly, and there was a pamphlet for Totus Tuus. (A program that sends out college students to teach and evangelize grade school and high school students during the summer.)
And then it hit me—“There’s your sign.”
And I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I thought about it all through class, all through Mass. I called up one of my best friends, who had told me all her amazing Totus Tuus stories, and I talked to her about it the entire way home.
But, there were so many obstacles to overcome, just practically and with my own reluctance. I struggled with this call to teach Totus Tuus for several weeks. I applied, but I was reluctant, and I just wasn’t sure. I got another job offer, and I really wanted to take it because it wanted to get enough money to buy a car. And whenever I told my dad about Totus Tuus, he said that I’d be better off getting a real job for the summer and doing some intern work. His disapproval only added to my reasoning against it.
So, one rainy, Saturday afternoon, I was walking to the Campus Center—and, how fortuitous, but here comes my pastor. He was just the one I wanted to talk to. So, I told him the situation, and I said, “What do I do?”
And, in a very cliché and Disney way, he said, “Follow your heart.”
I had no idea how right he was. The more I thought and prayed about it, the clearer it became to me. I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced anything like this. I’m sure some of you have. It’s not really a feeling, but it’s just this sort of knowledge in your heart where you know what to do—you know what the right thing is.
And I just want to emphasize that signs, yes, they are physical. Sometimes things just jump out at you for no particular reason, and it just makes sense to you. But, other times, it’s a little more subtle. And the sign is right here, in your heart.
When I was preparing for this talk, I looked up the “Bread of Life Discourse” in John 6; and as I was reading it, verse 26 jumped out at me.
Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.’”
So, his followers saw the physical signs, but they were even more captivated with the Truth, with the bread he had given them. They knew in their hearts that this guy was special, more than just a prophet, and that’s why they were following him. “Not because you saw signs, but because you… were filled.”
A Totus Tuus tradition: Sundae-ing a teacher at the end of the week
Sometimes signs are physical; other times they’re interior; but no matter what, we should never be afraid to act on them! That’s why God gives us grace—to act on those signs, those impulses, those movements of the Spirit. And the greatest and the best way to receive grace is through the sacraments.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2! (Side note: I did teach for Totus Tuus that summer, and it was an incredible experience! A lot of prayer, work, and sacrifice; but also a lot of joy teaching those kids and teens about the Faith.)