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Here you can find informative and inspirational posts centered on the Christian spiritual life.  We are professional speakers on topics regarding growing in your spiritual life, practice of your faith, and developing a deeper relationship with God in your everyday life.  If you have attended one of our speaking engagements or workshops you are already familiar with our down to earth, practical examples.  If not, see the links for attending a workshop or hosting us at your organization or parish.

~ Michelle Steele and Angela (Lambert) Jendro

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God’s Treasure – Knowing Your Value

image by aint_he_faithful

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

October 21st, 2017 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 22:15-21 NAB

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Meditation Reflection:

Consider the value and meaning we place on money.

First, there’s the cultural pressure to value ourselves based on our bank account.  We call name brand clothes, luxury vehicles, the size and elegance of a home, or exotic vacations “status symbols” because they reflect our monetary power and therefore our personal value.  Consider how many people struggle with low self-esteem, whether in grade school or retired, because they lack the apparent wealth of others.

Our perception of the value of our work can also be tied to the numbers.  How many decisions do we make based on how much money it pays rather than based on whether it’s God’s will? How many opportunities do we miss because we are afraid of having less and worry that we will thereby be less.

Currency further identifies our national ties.  Each country has its own currency with images of its leaders and heroes.  To buy or sell in another nation requires exchanging your local money for the proper foreign coins.

These habits of mind might belong in the kingdom of fallen man, but not in the Kingdom of God.  God created everything from nothing, and continues to govern it and hold it in existence.  He imprinted His image on man and woman, and placed a value of infinite worth on each.  The only way to devalue this currency is to distort God’s image within us, which we all do through sin (except Jesus and Mary) since Adam and Eve.  Nevertheless, Jesus came to restore God’s image within us, and to elevate it to an even higher union and dignity by uniting our human nature with His divine nature through His Incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection.

Jesus doesn’t condemn Caesar’s image on Roman coins because it’s an earthly currency for an earthly political system.  Rather, Jesus reminds us that our citizenship in His kingdom transcends our human institutions.

God desires that we revere Him as the King of kings, worship Him as Creator, and love Him as Father and Redeemer.   He has bestowed His royal dignity upon us and urges us to return back to Him His image.  We don’t earn heavenly currency, we become it and we receive it.

Jesus reveals that we are God’s treasure.  If we want to chase the dollar, we should chase God’s dollar.  Through deeper union with the Lord, His grace transforms us more and more into His likeness.  We also begin to see God’s image in others and their corresponding value and beauty.

Thus one person, no matter how broken, is worth more than as many images of Ben Franklin you could stack.

I was reminded again of this truth just a couple of weeks ago when my sister and brother-in-law welcomed my baby nephew into the world.  Our whole family rejoiced at such a precious gift and my heart aches until I can visit and hold him in my arms. The only addition possible to this joy, was the preciousness of the love which my sister’s children showed toward their baby brother, and the sweet love my children expressed over him too.

Love sees the whole person.  When a family member or loved one becomes ensnared in a serious sin, addiction, or suffers under mental illness, we feel sorrow because we see how these things distort the image of the true person we know, and all they could be.  We want the ones we love to flourish.  We value them for simply them, not anything they have accomplished or not.  I love family reunions just because I enjoy being around those I love.  I have grown up with my brother, sister, and cousins for many years now.  I have seen us all go through ups and downs, great strides and tough struggles.  I love them all when they are doing well, and just as much when they are struggling.  I hate anything that would hold them back from the fullness of Christ’s joy, and yet I also know that God can work all things together for good.

Money can buy temporary pleasures and momentary experiences.  However, the more we image the Lord, the deeper we experience a well-spring of joy, and far richer experiences than we can find anywhere else.  It can hardly be described in words so I won’t even try.  Christ doesn’t explain it either.  He simply says, “Come and see” (John 1:39).

Come and see Jesus, and see your true worth in His eyes.

Consider:

  •  Think of the people you His vision.  Ask Him to enable you to see yourself and others as God does.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Each morning, “give to God what is God’s” – His image in you.  Pray for trust that “the One who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)
Prayer by St. Cardinal John Henry Newman

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.

  • This week, try to see yourself and others as God does.  Pray for their freedom and yours from sin, fear, or addiction, and the gift of Christ-filled joy.

Related Posts:

Becoming Rich: Investment Strategies From Christ

Preparing the Soil…Spiritual Receptivity

Finding Fulfillment in Self-Gift

Authentic Love

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.

 

 

Love Beats the Deadline

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

wedding of the lamb

October 15th, 2017  28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 22:1-14 NAB

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus often compares Heaven to a wedding feast. Weddings celebrate a sacred union in love of two persons.  It means total gift of self and lifelong commitment.   Marriage best represents God’s invitation to relationship with us and His desire for total self-gift.  Though He made numerous covenants with the Hebrew people, He also made clear that He desired their hearts in addition to outward obedience, and authentic respect to mere lip service.

God is both transcendent and immanent.  He is both God almighty who existed before creation and exceeds our understanding, and the God Who sent His Son to become incarnate, walk the earth with us, and suffer and die for us. Even now His Holy Spirit guides us and Christ is present to us in the sacraments and His Mystical Body the Church.

The book of Revelation beautifully prophecies the wedding of the Lamb to which we have each received an invitation.  Christ – the Lamb, has come and His bride – the Church, has prepared her heart for him:

Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.  It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, birth and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  Then He said to me, ‘Write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ Revelation 19:7-9

Christ loves each and every person passionately.  He pursues them, woos them, fights for them, and offers eternal union with Him in Heaven.  In today’s Gospel however, He laments that not everyone says yes.  They come up with excuses, put Him off, or avoid Him altogether.  Eventually the door is shut.  Harsh, you might say?

Jesus strikes at our complacency.  We all too easily forget the gift of salvation, of our eternal destination, and our higher calling.  The frenetic pace of life, the constant stream of tasks, or the allure of diversions become a dangerous siren call, singing that we are made for earth and we have all the time in the world.

However, every day we are one day closer to eternity.  If we didn’t grow our love for the Lord then we weakened it.  Love needs ongoing nurturing.  Relationships are work!  Even a relationship with God.

Moreover, sometimes indecision is a decision.  Deadlines are part of reality.  If I stay undecided about my son playing basketball, eventually the registration closes. If I hem and haw about planning a family trip, eventually a year passes without travel and I have essentially said no.  Lastly, if a couple is in a serious relationship of several years and one person drags his/her feet about marriage, eventually the other will need to move on from the relationship to find someone else to build a life with.

Thankfully Jesus waits patiently our entire life.  He reminds us today however, that death is the deadline.  By that point we have said yes or no to the Lord and even our indecision reveals itself as a rejection of Christ.

But let’s not wait until the last moment.  I have heard persons who put off kids, when they finally held their first in their arms say, “why did we wait so long?”   Couples in love when they finally meet say “I wish I had met you sooner.”  The more we love, the more we see how much greater it is than anything else we had previously thought to be more important.  We will say the same of Christ – I wish I had let you in sooner.

We can ask ourselves, what holds us back from the wedding?  What keeps me from union with the Lord?  What do I need to do to prepare myself for this marriage?  The King of Heaven and Earth has personally invited you.  Drop everything, get dressed, and go!

Consider:

  • The Mass is actually a mystical participation in the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven.
    • What things or habits undermine getting to Mass or distract you during Mass?
      • Is it sleeping in, kids’ activities, running errands, going into work, exercising instead, watching news, or just relaxing?
    •  What helps you enter more deeply into the Mass?
      • Getting to know the priest and parishioners so you feel more a part of the community, reading the Gospel ahead of time, learning about the Mass, participating as a musician, greeter, usher, or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, writing down key points from the homily?
  • Imagine you were to enter Heaven today.  What aspects of your heart and character would Jesus praise you for, as clothing you in garments for the king?  What vices or attitudes would He ask you to change in order to be properly dressed?
  • The lives of the saints illustrate the transformation possible with the grace of God.  Each began like you and me, but through relationship with Christ they were made perfectly ready for heaven by the end of their life.  If you were to appear in a book of the Lives of the Saints, what would it say?  Where would it begin, and how would you like it to end?
  • We cannot perfect ourselves, but we can cooperate with the grace of Christ and let Him purify our hearts.  Take a moment to offer a prayer of surrender the Lord.  Offer to Him all your struggles, worries, imperfections, and desires.
“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Do one thing each day this week to prepare for the eternal wedding feast of heaven.  Change out of one garment of vice or unforgiveness, and put on a garment of virtue and love.  As St. Peter says, “Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8)
  • Resolve to attend Mass every Sunday and make the necessary arrangements for that to happen.
  • Spend five minutes with Christ when you first wake up, midday, and in the evening.  Invite Him into your life right where you are at that moment.
  • Read about the life of a saint.  You could research a saint whose personality, experiences, or work is similar to yours.  You could also just read about the saint of the day.  Catholicculture.org gives a nice summary. Click on the tab “liturgical year” then select “today”.
  • Learn more about the Mass.  Attend a “teaching Mass” where the priest explains each of the parts as he celebrates it.  Read a book about the Mass.  Read “The Lamb’s Supper” by Scott Hahn which is about the relationship between the Mass and Heaven based on the book of Revelation.

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.

 

 

Choosing between Adolescent Illusions or Adult Freedom

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro
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In the top left, Adam and Eve leaving the Garden after pridefully rejecting God for false illusions of freedom. In contrast, Mary humbly receives God at the Annunciation, finding true freedom in service.

October 8th,2017 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 21:33-43 NAB

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

Meditation Reflection:

Spiritual growth, like physical and emotional development, must move from childhood and adolescence to reach mature adulthood. As our Heavenly Father, the Lord patiently endures our annoying behaviors of immaturity and lovingly guides us into adulthood.  Unfortunately, just as some grown adults seem stuck in adolescent thinking and habits, so too many of us hold on to immature spiritual attitudes and resist the leadership of our Father, thus stunting our growth.

Weighed down by the effects of original sin, tempted by the Enemy and bolstered by our own pride, most often we substitute a false sense of entitlement and independence for rightful gratitude and obedience to God.  Like the teen who begins to think his parents owe him everything he desires, or defies their rules with a sense of superiority, we can get stuck in the trap of demanding God’s goodness while denying His Lordship.

Pope Benedict XVI relates this struggle to the original temptation of Adam and Eve, which he describes as a denial of their “creatureliness.”  Having grown accustomed to the paradisiacal gift of their existence and the beautiful Garden, the Enemy introduced the idea of entitlement and ingratitude.  Satan himself had refused to live in gratitude, preferring his own self-centered pride.

Called “the father of lies,” Satan lives in eternal anger at God who is reality itself (as revealed to Moses when He shared His Name – YHWH – “I AM”).  The Enemy prefers his Illusions of entitled independence to a life of gift.  However, illusions cannot satisfy but only leave us empty.

Angry at God, he tries to recruit others to his side.  He hates to see persons living in the joy of God’s love, therefore he proposed an alternative, distorted view of the Lord to Adam and Eve.    He suggested that their experience was not in fact paradisiacal, but rather quite impoverished.  To depend on God or obey His laws, he proposed, would be to accept slavery to a selfish and manipulative deity.  In truth Satan was the selfish, manipulative one with a god-complex, whereas the Lord had been nothing but generous and truthful with Adam and Eve.  Satan argued that contrary to their experience, freedom and happiness lay in rebellion rather than rightful relationship with the Lord.  Rather than rebuking the serpent for such hateful lies, they thought about the serpent’s words and chose to reject what they knew about God from experience for the false hope of a better life without God.

This same temptation infects each of us, their children, both from within our own rebellious hearts and the sly lies of the Enemy.  Jesus’ parable tells of God’s care for us, providing everything we need.  He rightly expects only His due, and yet we resist Him.

God blesses us with every good thing, but envy looks outward and turns back to God in complaint that we don’t have more. Every week that God blesses us with life, He asks only for one day in return.  Moreover, as our loving Father, He doesn’t even ask that the day be spent in chores but rather that we rest and spend time with Him and our family. Yet, how often do we complain that setting aside work to worship the Lord is burdensome!

Consider also our prayers of entreaty for God to provide – a job, a home, possibly a spouse and children.  We praise God for a short while when He bestows these gifts, but soon begin to complain about them.  Even worse, we easily forget that they were even gifts and delude ourselves that we have achieved them single-handedly.  Confident now in our own abilities we fall into the destructive cycle of always grasping for more, never satisfied and never at rest, spiritually alone; producing the hell-ish existence that Satan hoped for us.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.  James 1:16

Today’s Gospel reiterates the theme from each of the readings this past week, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Luke 10:11).  Christ has come and He invites every human person to relationship with Him.  We must make a choice and take responsibility for the consequences like adults.

Moreover, we must examine or attitude toward those whom Jesus has sent with His authority to bring God’s truth to us. Jesus told His apostles that “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me(Luke 10:16). Jesus established the Church to preserve, protect, and promulgate His Word.  When we feel like characterizing the moral law or Church teaching as oppressive rather than freeing, we can remember from whom that lie comes.  We must decide if we trust God or tempting illusions.

Jesus invites us into mature relationship with the Lord.  He offers the freedom and dignity of spiritual adulthood through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and the Church.  He even provides the grace to transform our hearts from weakness to strength, from selfishness to self-gift, and from illusions to Truth.

He asks each and every one of us today, “which do you choose”?

Consider:

  • Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you in a prayer of gratitude.   Ask Him to open your heart and mind, as you reflect on every good thing that comes from God.
  • Consider where envy, greed, or pride distorts your perception and causes discontentment to fester.   Reflect on the situation(s) from the perspective of Christ’s example.
    • Greed or Envy: The newest gadget is only an illusory pleasure, whereas union with Christ in prayer and sacraments yields deep abiding joy.
    • Pride: In the Kingdom of God, service and sacrifice rank highest rather than lowest.
  • Consider how an adult views freedom in contrast with an adolescent.  Do you trust God’s guidance to be freeing, or do your own judgment or worldly wisdom?
  • How is the Lord visiting you today?  What fruits is He asking for as produce of the gifts He has bestowed upon you?  How might you put your gifts more at the service of God and others?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Make a list of each of God’s gifts in your life.
  • For each gift, offer one fruit a day for each back to God. For example:
    • Your Job:  Offer the fruit of Christian witness by refraining from vulgar language or joining in crude jokes.  Be truthful where you are tempted to lie or exaggerate.  Do one act of service for a co-worker.  Be joyful for the day and refrain from complaint.  Refuse to begin or join gossip.
    • Your Family:  Do one act of humble service for your spouse, children, or parents.  Combat taking your spouse or parents for granted by recognizing them with a word of thanks or deed of kindness, out of gratitude their contributions.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.

 

 

Love Shows Up

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

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October 1st, 2017  26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 21:28-32 NAB

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘ but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus knows us so well!  How often do we pay lip service to God?  How many spiritual goals and good intentions fall quickly by the wayside left undone?  In the morning, the first words on our mind and lips should be an expression of gratitude to the Lord, entrusting the day to His care.  Instead, we hit the snooze button and possibly let less godly words be the first on our lips.  As the day progresses, opportunities arise at every moment to be at the service of the Lord.  Do we embrace the tasks at hand and the duties before us, or de we try to avoid work and get by on minimal effort?

At the same time, if we hear God’s call, often it may seem outrageous at first, especially His insistence on forgiving others.  God challenges us to live beyond our natural limits, to participate in His divine love.  Our first response may be no, but upon further reflection and with the softening effect of grace, we may rise to the challenge after all.

Inauthentic love disappoints.  It makes big promises and grand plans only to fail to follow through on them.  Real love acts.  It proves itself by keeping promises, showing up, and responding to the needs of the beloved.

When St. Mother Teresa began her ministry to the poorest of the poor, she simply went out into the streets and showed up to comfort and aid those she met.  For the children she found aimless and alone, she began to teach them by gathering them together and writing with a stick in the dirt. For the sick, she begged the pharmacist for medicine.  For the dying, she offered what comforts she could along with loving companionship. God grew the ministry, Mother Teresa simply went out into the vineyard each day to work.

Practical goals and intentional habits form a framework of love that infuses our day with charity. However, when we don’t know where to begin, Jesus reminds us to start by jut showing up when asked.   It’s amazing how deep of an impression it can make.

When I consider who has touched my life, it has been those who laughed with me, shouldered burdens with me, encouraged me, or reached out in ordinary ways when I needed it. I remember when my mom chose to leave a law firm she enjoyed so she could open her own and have more time available for her kids.  It meant that despite the many responsibilities she had at her job every day, I could count on her to listen when I needed some advice, to cheer for me at school events, and to be there when I had a tough time.  Even now as a grown adult, I can still count on my mom to show up no matter what.

Above all, the Lord shows up.  He created our souls at the moment of our conception.   He became man, suffered and died on the Cross, and rose again for our salvation.  His angels guide and protect us.  His Mother intercedes for us. His very Spirit dwells within us as His Temple (1Cor 6:19). He is united to us as a Head to a body (Col 1:18), and as a vine to its branches (Jn 15:5).  God is always faithful.

But so great is Your faithful love, I may come into Your house, and before Your holy temple bow down in reverence of You.”  (Psalm 5:7)

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1)

I will delight and rejoice in your faithful love. Be brave, take heart, all who put your hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31: 7, 24)

Better one day in Your courts than a thousand at my own devices.”  (Psalm 84:10)

Blessed are those who observe His instruction, who seek Him with all their hearts” (Psalm 119:2)

Love is about showing up and being there for someone. Love for Christ answers yes to His call and shows up for prayer. Love has the strength and perseverance to do the right thing even when it’s hard.  It may not be glamorous, but following through on our daily duties, even if we resist at first, makes an eternal impression on God.

Consider:

  •  How can you make yourself more available to God?  How can you hear His call more acutely and act more faithfully?
    • In times of prayer – when, where, and how do you pray.  How much do you listen in prayer?
    • In the duties of family life – what does your spouse, children, or parents need from you?
    • In the duties of your work life – how might your work become more of an offering to God?  Ask God what He desires from you and spend a few minutes listening to Him. Is He asking you for greater diligence, or do you need better boundaries on your work?  Is He asking you to reign in some of your conversations with co-workers, or is He asking you to make a greater effort at reaching out to them?
  • How do you respond to the work God asks of you each day?  What often derails you from following through with your commitments?  Is it distractions, sloth, fear…?
  • Reflect on the times God has shown up for you.  When has He proven His faithfulness in a time of need?  What blessings has He showered upon you?
  • Offer prayers of thanksgiving and blessing for those who have loved you over the years and those who continue to be there for you today.  Consider especially the persons you may be taking for granted.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  The Psalms sing God’s praises, especially of His faithful love.  Pray one Psalm in the morning, one midday at lunch, and one at night.
  • Identify one thing you have said “no” to God about, and do it today.

*A great resource for learning to hear God’s voice is St. Ignatius’ Rules of Discernment.  Fr. Timothy Gallagher has an excellent podcast series explaining each one and giving practical examples.  You can listen to them for free online at this link:  Fr. Timothy Gallagher “Discernment of Spirits”

I also recommend the spiritual classic, “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence.  It’s a small, thin book but a little goes a long way.

Related Posts: 

Authentic Love

Stepping Outside Our Comfort Zone & Walking On Water

Preparing the Soil…Spiritual Receptivity

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.

 

 

How To Be Happy For Others and Like It

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

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September 24th, 2017  25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 20:1-16a NAB

 Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Meditation Reflection:

The kingdom of Heaven, from which Jesus came, far exceeds any social construct we observe on earth.  Here our relationships, all the way from the inter-national to the personal, become skewed due to our two greatest weaknesses – pride and envy.

It’s childish really. Parents and elementary school teachers tire from the petty cases brought to them over and again throughout the day by children seeking “justice.” Moreover, in family life it can spiral out of control as one act of pride or envy against another is fought with counter measures of pride and envy and so on.  Rather than accept their own guilt for their personal bad reaction, kids try to pass on blame and push parents to the classic question, “Who started it?”  As everyone points fingers and clamor for justice, the poor mom and dad beg the kids to settle down and just be merciful with one another.

St. Paul tells us, “Love is patient, love is kind…”  In other words, love tries to be understanding instead of over-reacting.  Love shows compassion toward weakness, even weakness of character. Love is generous rather than miserly.  Love doesn’t look out for #1, it looks out for the beloved.

Jesus’ parable of the landowner and day laborers illustrates the striking difference between our natural inclination and experience and the kingdom of Heaven. When I hear this parable I know that I shouldn’t agree with the laborers who were upset, but I can’t help feeling their disappointment with them.  I hate to admit that even thoughts of, “why weren’t the guys the landowner found in the afternoon not there in the morning?”  Even worse, my imagination considers multiple reasons they were late, all being their own fault or the product of vice.

However, Jesus knows our fallen thoughts so He includes important details in the parable to counter such accusations.  Thus, prior to hiring the last crew at 5:00, he asks them why they have been standing there idle all day.  They respond with an innocent explanation – no one had hired them.   “Exposed!”, as my kids would say.  My thoughts reveal a childish attitude of rivalry rather than a mature disposition of love.

But what about the unfair pay?  And why did the landowner pay the last men first in front of everyone else?  Every parent knows if you plan to treat one kid and not the others on a particular day, at least keep it on the down-low.  You spontaneously stop for DQ with one of your sons on the way home from a baseball game?  Only a rookie parent would fail to have the ice cream finished being eaten and all evidence thrown away in an inconspicuous garbage before entering the house.  Never mind that you make a point treat the other kids individually  too at various times.  If one kid walks in the house with a half-eaten blizzard, mutinous anarchy erupts.  One stray DQ napkin, and the moment the door to the van opens the other kids point and yell “What?!  You went without us?  Unfair!!!”  Their envious rivalry takes all spontaneity out of love.

On the surface, the laborers’ disappointment seems fair, however Jesus reveals that it stems from envy.  Next to pride, envy is the most cited root of the many social and personal ills discussed in the Catechism.

Jesus invites us to consider a different way of thinking, living, and being. To imagine a kingdom free of pride, envy, ambition, lust, and selfishness we have to think of it in terms of love.  Not the fluffy, emotional kind of love.  Rather, courageous and deep love which wills the good of the other and finds joy in sacrifice if it means enriching or healing the beloved.

Jesus compares His relationship with us to the love a groom has for his bride, willing to give everything even at a sacrifice, and with great joy.  He compares our interconnection with one another to a body united to Him as its head.  Thus, one person’s pain is shared by everyone, and one person’s gain is rejoiced in by everyone.

Consider the parable again from Christ’s perspective.  The men the landowner found late in the day were aimless, anxious, and in danger of starvation.  If they did not work that day, they would not have a day’s wage and would be unable to provide for themselves and their families.  They owned no land to provide them with some kind of security.  They had no annual salary, health insurance, or any kind of future protection.  They lived day to day, always uncertain about tomorrow.

The first men hired physically toiled longer, but they also had the peace of mind that at least for that day they would have a wage and therefore food. Moreover, there’s a certain dignity related to putting in a hard day’s work.

If those without work were strangers, it would be easier to rationalize competitiveness.  Imagine however that the ones hired later are your sons or daughters, or close friends.  It would be hard to truly enjoy your wage knowing how worried you might be that they only worked a few hours that day and would earn too little to eat enough on.  Upon seeing your beloved child or friend provided a full day’s wage, you would rejoice with them as well as enjoy your own wage more because your friend received the same.  You would also rejoice that they had the opportunity to be productive and their work valued.

Jesus invites us all into His Kingdom.  He finds us standing idle, looking for meaning and purpose, waiting for Truth and Mercy.  He promises a just wage for working for Him – the gift of enduring love, authentic meaning, and eternal happiness with Him.  If we love our neighbor, we will feel pained seeing them still standing idle, wasting the day, impoverished and anxious.  We would want the same reward for them that we received from Christ no matter when they joined His crew.  In fact, to have labored with the Lord, is a gift in and of itself.  When it comes to serving our beloved, we don’t ask how little can I do for them but rather how much?

Consider:

  • Consider how quickly we tend to assume the worst about a person.  When have you misjudged someone’s intentions or situation?  How might you see others through the lens of love rather than rivalry?
  • Consider the dignity of work.  When have you put in a hard day’s work and loved it?  Why does it feel good to be productive?
  • Consider the joy connected to laboring out of love.  Which tasks would seem ridiculous to take pleasure in if you didn’t love the person?
  • Consider the contrast between envy and love.  Envy becomes angry at another’s blessings, love rejoices when another is blessed.  Envy competes for what it believes to be limited resources or opportunities.  Love understands that God can bless everyone.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Combat envy with the opposite virtues of contentedness and gratitude.  Do one thing each day this week to nurture contentedness and express gratitude.

Related Posts:

How can God be both Justice and Mercy?

Prepare for the Coming of Christ’s Mercy by Giving Mercy

The Beatitudes: Climbing the Mountain of God by Way of the Valley of Humility

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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Christian Conflict Resolution

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

September 10, 2017; 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 18:15-20 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”

Meditation Reflection:

Incorporation into the Christian community means being adopted into a family.  This in turn means we have a greater responsibility toward our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jesus knows families can struggle with dysfunctional ways of dealing with things – from gossip, to triangulating, to manipulation or passive aggressive tactics, and more.  As the head of the Christian family however, He provides us with clear instructions about the best way to love our brother or sister in difficult situations.

First, Jesus tells us to confront our loved one directly if they have hurt us in some way.  This means we cannot play the martyr, hope they read our mind, let it build up, or sweep it under the rug.  Jesus knows healthy relationships require honest communication and ongoing reconciliation.  We all sin and we all inevitably treat our loved ones unfairly or unkindly.  To move forward reconciliation is essential.  In our pride however, we sometimes don’t even realize we are hurting the one we love unless they tell us.  Jesus instructs, therefore, that Christian love should make the person aware of their sin.  The Church actually lists this as a Spiritual Work of Mercy called “admonish the sinner.”  It’s not meant to be mean or judgmental, but to help a person grow into Christian maturity.

If the person won’t listen, likely claiming that you are being unfair, then Jesus proposes you bring another witness or two.  The goal would be to open the person’s eyes to their sin so they can be healed and reconciliation can be restored.  Sometimes the perspective of a couple of people can help to establish with objectivity the truth of the situation.

It’s amazing how blind we are to our sinful attitudes and habits, especially toward our family!  Even when confronted, we hold on so tightly, and refuse to change.  We often rationalize, “This is how I am. My family should just love me unconditionally.”  However, because our family loves us unconditionally, we should try even harder to change because we want to give them the best version of ourselves not the worst.

In general, Jesus wants us to avoid the tornadic plague of gossip or the festering sore of passive aggressive retaliation.  He wants His family to be happy, healthy, and loving.  Direct communication and the ally of one or two close friends is usually enough for most problems.  However, there are some injustices which require wider assistance and, if not changed, are too destructive to let go on.  For instance, if a family member refuses to change his or her abusive behavior or treat an addiction, it needs to be brought to light for the whole community.  If the person still refuses to change, family members are sometimes forced to separate themselves from the person in order to protect themselves and others, and to, in love, withdraw from enabling the abuser or addict. It may seem extreme and even un-Christian, however Jesus came to conquer sin not to support it.  Paradoxically, separating from addicts or abusers can motivate change.  At the very least, it is a way of evangelizing.  It shows by your actions that the behavior is wrong.  Lastly, Jesus is teaching us that although we have a serious responsibility toward the souls of our Christian brothers and sisters, after we have gone through the process He laid out, we may feel sorrow for their situation but we are not responsible for their behavior.  At that point, we can have peace that we have done everything we could.  We must work tirelessly for the salvation of souls, but we must also know the limits placed on us by free will.

Thankfully, we can always be a blessing to others through prayer and sacrifice.  Even if we must separate from someone physically, financially, or even in communication, we can still pray for them.   Moreover, just as Jesus exhorted us to confront a person together, He also exhorts us to pray for others together.  As children of God, and heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), our prayers come before Him with all the force and influence a son or daughter can have on their father, especially when they plead with him as a family.

In conclusion, the vocation of marriage plays an important role in the formation of this mindset and the practice of applying Christian love to all different kinds of situations.  In his encyclical Familaris Consortio, Pope St. John Paull II called the family the first “school” of Christian love, from which persons develop the Christian self-giving necessary for mature interaction with the world as adults.  He writes:

The family is the first and fundamental school of social living: as a community of love, it finds in self-giving the law that guides it and makes it grow. The self- giving that inspires the love of husband and wife for each other is the model and norm for the self-giving that must be practiced in the relationships between brothers and sisters and the different generations living together in the family. And the communion and sharing that are part of everyday life in the home at times of joy and at times of difficulty are the most concrete and effective pedagogy for the active, responsible and fruitful inclusion of the children in the wider horizon of society.

Familiaris Consortio par. 37

True love is more than an emotion.  It’s a decision to choose the good for one’s beloved.  The best course of action isn’t always easy and it isn’t always clear.  Thankfully, we are not alone in this.  We can look to Jesus and to our Christian family to show us the way.

Consider:

  •  Consider the gift of being God’s daughter or son.  Reflect on Jesus’ love for you as your Brother.
  • Consider how you handle conflict. What do you do well? What could you improve?
  • How might you apply Jesus’ instructions for resolving problems to a situation in your life?
  • When has someone shown “tough love” toward you? How did their loving honesty help you grow?
  • St. Padre Pio said, “Prayer is the best weapon we possess. It is the key that opens the heart of God.”   Consider the power of prayer.  Reflect on the gift of being able to actively fight for our brothers and sisters by praying for them to a God who loves us and will listen to us.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Apply Jesus’ process to a conflict in your life this week.
  • Resolve not to gossip this week.
  • Say a prayer every day for someone who bothers you.

Related Posts:

Finding Peace Amidst Division

Authentic Love

Getting the Last Word…But Making it a Blessing

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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Authentic Love

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

August 19th, 2017; 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 16:21-27 NAB

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

Meditation Reflection:

Peter loved Jesus.  He left everything to follow Him. Peter put his whole heart into the mission and his courage and zeal expressed themselves in extraordinary ways.  Moved by faith, Peter walked on water.  With his heart open to the Holy Spirit, he boldly answered Jesus’ questions to the disciples “Who do you say that I am?” by proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God.

Love inspires, emboldens, strengthens, and provides unique insights into the beloved.  Like the love between a husband and wife, a mother or father and their children, a beloved brother or sister, or a dearest friend, love wells up inside and can’t help but express itself exclamations of affection, physical closeness, and fierce protectiveness.

Due to our wounded, fallen nature however, our love can also be misdirected.  In this Gospel passage, Peter’s love mixed with his pride and with his worldly understanding to embolden him in a way that undermined, rather than supported, Jesus.

Our love needs conversion to be authentic and to be true to our beloved.  It requires ongoing formation in what is True and Good as God has revealed it, rather than as our emotions direct us or the culture.  It requires practice as well, to break bad habits and form good ones, or to overcome personal weaknesses that hurt the relationship.

Peter loved Jesus and was honored to be given the keys to the kingdom just one chapter prior to this.  However, his pride and ambition, together with his cultural assumptions about what that kingdom would look like, misdirected his love to preserving an earthly kingdom by preserving Jesus’ earthly life.  Just when Jesus needed the support of His disciples the most, as His “Hour” of Redemptive suffering for all mankind approached, Peter pulled Him aside and tried to dissuade Him.

Similar to Peter, our love needs Christ’s grace and truth to be authentic.  Consider the sentiment “I just want you to be happy.”  It can motivate noble sacrifice, but it can also rationalize weakness.  If we define happiness as merely earthly comfort, ease, security, and pleasure, we risk encouraging our beloved to turn from their cross rather than helping them carry it.  Yet, in trying to save their life, we could actually cripple them.

Consider the paradox inherent in parenting.  Kids need protection, nurturing, and comfort.  At the same time, to mature into adulthood, they also need to work through difficulties, setbacks, and pain.  The temptation to remove everything hard undermines the maturation process, whereas supporting them through the struggle without removing it for them can aid their maturation.  To know when to intervene and when to stand back is NOT easy!  It requires the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the grace of fortitude.  When Jesus’ life was threatened by King Herod, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to protect Him.  When Jesus was scourged and crucified however, Mary stood by Him, feeling every pain with Him, but knew it was necessary for His mission.

In marriage, family life, and friendship, authentic love needs conversion.  When we say “I just want you to be happy,” we have to be honest about which kind of happiness we desire for them.  Jesus is clear,

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” 

 

Those we love will struggle with sin.  It’s the battle of this life.  Authentic love won’t condone the sin or escaping it.  Rather, it will strengthen a person to speak the truth in love and support the beloved through the pain of conversion because true life and true freedom is found in the Lord. In the first reading for today (Jeremiah 20:7-9), the prophet Jeremiah expresses authentic love.  His human nature desired comfort and to simply be liked.  Nevertheless, his people had succumbed to habits of sin and needed to be corrected lest they die eternally from their destructive behavior and attitudes.  He didn’t want to speak out anymore because every time he did they met him with anger.  However, when he tried to remain silent, the truth welled up in him and he couldn’t hold it in any longer without suffering even greater pain.

True love can’t stand to see sin hurting it’s beloved.  Our friends and family need us to battle for their souls with the strength of prayer, God’s Truth, and the cross, not sentimentality.  And we need those who love us to battle for our souls in the same way.

To do this, we need to actively cooperate with the Holy Spirit that our love can be fully converted.  St. Paul states it well when he says,

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

It will take time, effort, and support.  However, we can be encouraged by Peter’s example.  Peter’s conversion took time as well, but by the end of his life his love had become so perfect, that he accepted the cross and crucifixion for himself that he had once tried to dissuade Jesus from.

I’ll end with two quotes that I read often which give me hope:

Pope Francis   January 19, 2016

“there is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future

 

St. Josemaria Escriva

“A saint is a sinner that keeps trying.”

Consider:

  • Reflect on Mary’s love for Jesus.  Consider her fierce protection when He was young.  Consider her fierce loyalty to His mission on the Cross, despite both of their suffering.
  • Consider the words “I just want you to be happy.”  Pray about what true happiness is, where it can be found, and how it can be attained.
  • When has Christian love required you to carry a cross?  Who supported you?  Who tried to dissuade you?
  • When have you had to stand by someone while they carried a cross?  In what ways were you tempted to encourage them to leave the cross?  How were you able to support them in their pain or struggle and make the burden easier?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Do one thing each day for “the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
    • Spend 5 minutes with Scripture
    • Read a good Christian book
    • Listen to Christian podcasts
    • Visit with a Christian friend
  • Support a friend on their spiritual journey who is struggling with a sin or with a cross.
    • Pray and sacrifice for them; Speak truth in love; Visit them; encourage them with Scriptures of hope and resurrection after the Cross.

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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Following the Leader…Christian Discipleship and Leadership

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

August 27th, 2017; 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 16:13-20 NAB

 Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Meditation Reflection:

Generally speaking, our culture loathes the word “authority.”  It appears to undermine our values of autonomy, self-expression, independence, and freedom.  Moreover, the idea of monarch-rule seems archaic and undemocratic.  In consequence, our cultural norms and assumptions can hinder our understanding and appreciation of the Kingdom of God.

God’s Chosen People became a kingdom under Saul, then famously David.  David’s authority however came from God.  He was chosen by God and anointed king by God’s prophet Samuel.  Moreover, David’s success as a leader corresponded with his fidelity to the Lord.

The Kingdom of Israel served as a glimpse, or foreshadowing of the Kingdom Jesus would establish.  Thus, Jesus acted as the New David.  However, instead of assigning authority to protect the physical security of His people, lands, and finances, He assigned authority to leaders He wished to protect the souls of His people, the Truth He came to reveal, and the path He opened for our salvation.

The Pope, like David, is a human being.  This means he will falter at times, sin, and struggle with human limitations.  We must be careful however, not to project our cultural norm on our understanding of his role.  Our leaders our voted upon to represent our views.  They operate at a natural human level, with the responsibility to protect our physical security, rights, lands, and commerce.  The Pope’s position, begun with Peter, has a different role.  Christ chose Peter.  Christ bestowed His authority upon Peter to be Christ’s representative, not the representative of popular opinion.  Lastly, the Holy Spirit empowered Peter supernaturally to identify correctly the truth about Christ, which could only be known by a supernatural grace.  The Pope is called to shepherd people on the way to salvation.  This resembles a family structure more so than a political one.

I am grateful to God to live in our democracy.  In my opinion, despite its flaws, it’s still the best, and most free, country in the world.  Nevertheless, I don’t run my family like a democracy.  If decisions were made by vote we would eat doughnuts every morning, live way outside our means, and discipline would devolve to mob rule.  Much to my children’s chagrin, our family is run as a monarchy.  Though they push against the rules, we have much more peace, justice, and love as a result.  In this monarchy, God is our king, and my husband and I are His stewards.

At times, my kids have accused me of being either overly strict or overly protective when I said no to something they wanted to do.  To encourage me to soften, they would make life difficult for me, then add “no one really cares Mom, it’s not that big of a deal.”  Even though I felt for them, and in a secular culture what they said was true, I also knew I had to hold the line because, at the end of the day, I would be held responsible before God.  So, I often respond to them, “I have to do what’s right for you, because it’s my responsibility and I will have to face God one day.” And when I fail to hold the line, and am a weak parent, I ask God for forgiveness and the grace to be stronger.

So, contrary to our cultural norms and assumptions, I have seemingly Medieval parenting methods to my children.  Yet, as parents we all know that raising kids to be mature adults is different than running a nation-state.  Kids need us to exercise our authority, especially in decisions that they are too young to make. We are in a better position to discern what is safe from what is too risky, truth from lie, and wisdom from folly.  Of course, unlike Christ we are not all-knowing, so oftentimes we need the Holy Spirit to guide us in our position and enable us by His grace to make the right choices.

Discipleship means that Christ is our king.  We can embrace this monarchy because our king is also our loving, self-sacrificing, and divine Savior.  As king, He chose to bestow His authority upon some of His subjects to govern for Him on earth and promised to safeguard it until the end of the world.

Upon Peter, and every pope thereafter, He bestowed the authority to say who Christ is, and gave them the supernatural ability to be correct.  The role of pope is to preserve, protect, and promulgate the Deposit of Faith given by Christ.  In addition, when confusion over Christ’s revelation occurs, for the sake of unity someone must be the authority that determines which response is correct and which is false.  During the first councils of the early church the question of whether Jesus is God, Man, or both was a long, heated, argument.  If determined as a vote, our doctrine would be that of Arius’ interpretation – Jesus was only a man but the highest possible one.  The pope recognized Athanasius’ response as the true one – that Jesus is both God and man.

In the vocation of marriage, Jesus bestows His authority on mothers and fathers over their children.  Thus, as children we have an obligation to obey our parents.  And as parents, we have the responsibility of exercising our authority in a Christian manner.  It’s not always easy.  When kids are fighting I would rather just yell “stop bickering” (which is never really effective), than get up, intervene, and if necessary impose consequences for bad behavior.  Crafting Christian rules takes time and effort, both of which are in short supply.  Enforcing the rules with appropriate consequences means suffering the rebuffs and anger of resistant kids.  As kids get older, knowing what decision to make in given circumstances becomes even more difficult.  They require even more prayer and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Nevertheless, we can find peace and confidence in our divine monarch, Jesus Christ.  He reigns in our souls with supernatural power and grace.  Despite our natural limitations, He transforms us into one Body, one family in God. His Holy Spirit guides us – enlightening our minds, strengthening our wills, and inflaming our hearts with love.  Our unity in Christ can be seen visibly in the family and in the Church. Our trust is not in ourselves, but in Him who enables us to complete the mission He entrusted to us.

Consider:                                                      

  • To what extent does Jesus reign in your heart and in your life?  When do you let Him lead, and when do you resist His commands?
  • Our culture tends to value being a leader over a follower.  How does this influence our discipleship?  Do we value being followers or wish only to lead?
  • In what ways has Christ appointed you His steward?  In your vocation – who has He entrusted to your care?  In your occupation – who or what has He entrusted to you and what fruit do you think He expects to see from it?  In His Creation – what does He ask of you for its care?
  • How do you respond to the authority of Christ’s vicar on earth, the pope?  Do you accept his guidance on matters of faith and morals or do you resist?  Is your faith strong enough to see not just the human, visible reality of the Church, but the divine, invisible reality as well? What has made this either easier or harder for you?
  • Consider the relationship between authority and unity.  How are the two related and necessary?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Each morning, look ahead at the day.  Invite Christ to lead you in each aspect, and for the grace to follow.  Even if you are called to lead others, let Christ lead you first.
    • Examples:
    • If you make a to-do list at work or home, prayerfully consider first how Christ would prioritize the items rather than how you want to prioritize them.
    • What expectations would Christ want to see in your family? Are there any that need greater implementation?
    • What expectations does Christ have for you at work? Do you honor Him by respectful, honest, and edifying language, free from vulgarity or slander?  Do you honor Him in action through diligence in your work and mercy towards your co-workers?
  • Pray the Suscipe prayer by St. Ignatius or the Serenity Prayer.  Click here for a copy of both: serenity-and-suscipe-prayers

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.

 

Finding Peace Amidst Division…Reaching out to Christ

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

August 19th, 2017; 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 15:21-28 NAB

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Meditation Reflection:

The evil of division, prejudice, and animosity between peoples entered the world with original sin.  When Adam and Eve introduced a rift between themselves and God, a rift began between the two of them as well.  It soon spread to their children Cain and Abel.  At the Tower of Babel the rift became complete with the separation of languages.

Some rifts begin with legitimate reasons.  A person, family, or community, treats another unjustly and fails to make amends.  The victim(s) retaliate to achieve justice for themselves or they separate themselves from the dangerous, unrepentant threat.

Other rifts arise from illegitimate reasons.  Prejudice based on sex, race, nationality, disability, religion, or even political positions can cause rifts and violence such as we have seen in the recent news.  Whether motivated by envy, greed, or lust for power, the perpetrators have two things in common – they blame someone or some group for their problems and do not value the dignity of every human life.

ISIS’ lust for power at the cost of genocidal murder, human trafficking, abuse of women, and indiscriminate terrorist attacks illustrates the evil of this sin at its worst.  They de-humanize groups of people in order to assert their own greedy, and lustful agenda.

In our own country, the bastion for human rights and equality, we too have struggled to maintain our value for all human life.  Abortion has been legal for over forty years, marginalizing all persons in the womb.  The child will be protected if he or she is wanted, but eliminated if blame can put on the child for any reason, even simple inconvenience.  Moreover, the pressure to abort children who may have disabilities dangerously erodes the protection of any person with a disability.  The definition of “life support” has become a topic of debate, not just about breathing tubes but even food and water.  In the last election, the problem of violent and visceral division between people of differing political views, as well as the ongoing division caused by sexism, surfaced for the world to see.  Lastly, the evil of racism reared its ugly head in Charlottesville, Virginia with messages of white supremacy and even deadly violence.

In today’s Gospel Jesus ignored the Canaanite woman in a seemingly cold manner.  On the surface it seems prejudiced or at the least nationalistic.  The Jews and Canaanites had been at odds for centuries.  She cries to him for help and He says nothing!  He only speaks to her when the apostles beg Him to quiet her down, not for any reason of compassion, but because her persistence had grown annoying.  Why would Jesus, who should be above such ethnic and religious animosity, have done this?

Jesus reveals that peace and reconciliation requires repentance and mercy by contrasting the hypocritical faith of some Pharisees, with the repentant faith of the Canaanite woman. The Jews had been entrusted with the supreme gift of God’s divine Revelation.  They had the burden and privilege of protecting this gift that they might be a light to rest of the world.  In consequence, they had the privilege of receiving the Messiah as children of God, but they also had greater fault whenever they rejected God.  In the passage just prior to this one, Jesus rebukes some Pharisees for their hypocritical practice of denying support for their parents by donating the money to the Temple.  Their false charity was exposed as actual injustice and a failure to follow the fourth commandment.  Jesus goes on to explain that what makes a person defiled is what comes from their heart, not what goes in to their mouth.  Thus, religious practices without heartfelt faith do not aid a person.

In contrast, Jesus’ very next encounter is with the Canaanite woman.  Whereas she does not belong to the heritage of the Jews, she demonstrates the heartfelt faith that Jesus describes.  God had instructed the Jews to remain separate from the Canaanites so as to protect them from being influenced by their evil practices.  In Deuteronomy 20:15-18 God warns them to destroy the Canaanites “that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices which they have done in the service of their gods, and so to sin against the Lord your God.”  The Canaanite woman in this passage, acknowledged the pitifulness of her dignity which had been degraded by the immoral acts of her people and likely herself.  Nevertheless, her good heart recognized the Savior and pleaded in faith for His mercy.  In humility, and absolute trust in Him, she laid before Him her need.  She persisted despite being ignored, confident His compassion would win out.  When He compared her people to dogs she agreed with Him.  She acknowledged the truth of their sins. Sin not only offends God, but it degrades the sinner.    Nevertheless, she persisted that His mercy had the power to conquer the evil which plagued her daughter and the suffering that plagued her.

Jesus responds to the authenticity of her heart, exclaiming “O woman, great is your faith!”  Her honesty, repentance, and humility opened the door for Christ to shower His mercy upon her and usher in peace and reconciliation.

Sins of division and prejudice need healing.  God’s divine laws provide the structure for justice needed for peace.  Because of sin however, we can twist those laws to rationalize our sin.  Thus, conversion of heart is needed in addition to the conversion of actions.  This requires the saving grace of Christ.

“Called to beatitude but wounded by sin, man stands in need of salvation from God. Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law that guides him and the grace that sustains him” Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 1949

Christ came to restore the unity of the human family, making us sons and daughters of God by adoption through grace.  The Pharisees and the Canaanite woman illustrate our part in His work.  We must acknowledge our sin (MUCH easier said than done!), realize our need for Christ, and ask for His mercy.  Thankfully, He assures us His answer will always be yes.

Our country and our world need prayer more than ever.  This week, let us pray for reconciliation within broken relationships in our own lives and work toward peace within our families and communities, that God might bring reconciliation between peoples opposed to one another throughout the world.   May we all recognize the inherent dignity of every human person, called by God to live eternally as His son or daughter.

Consider:

  • Who do you find easy to value?  Who is it easy to love and why?
  • Who do you struggle to appreciate?  Who is most difficult to see as a child of God? Have you experienced or seen prejudice firsthand?
  • Consider how sin degrades a person, similar to the way sickness deteriorates a body.
  • How does healing and grace resemble medicinal healing?  Does it sometimes require distasteful medicine, or even amputation?
  • Consider why we must acknowledge sin and the need for help to begin healing.  Have you ever known someone who refused to acknowledge they were sick, even though it was apparent to their loved ones?  Or, knowing they were sick, refused to see a doctor?
  • Imagine yourself as the woman crying out to Jesus.  You know you have no right for Him to listen to you because you have rejected God for so many years.  Would you be tempted to say nothing out of fear of rejection?  Consider the courage it takes for you beg Him for mercy.  Imagine His eyes and His voice as He says to you with undeserved graciousness: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray for, and work toward, peace with someone.  It could be by cultivating more peace in your encounters with your spouse and kids, apologizing and making amends with someone you have hurt or been unjust toward, removing slander or critical personal attacks from your social media and replacing them with positive acknowledgments, removing yourself from contentious and prejudiced conversations among coworkers or neighbors, or making peace with God by going to the Sacrament of Confession.

Related Posts:

Finding Fulfillment in Self-Gift

Getting the Last Word…but Making it a Blessing

How Can God be Both Justice and Mercy?

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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Stepping Outside Our Comfort Zone & Walking On Water

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

lake superior pic

 

August 13th, 2017; 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 14:22-33

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

Meditation Reflection:

Exhilaration, adventure, a leap of faith – we get brave and step out onto the water…outside our comfort zone.   For a brief moment, his eyes fixed on Jesus, Peter did just that.  Then, a gust of wind distracted him, and Peter’s gaze turned to the strength of the wind rather than the strength of the Lord.  His faith sank and so did he.  Yet, as quick as he had turned from the Lord, he turned right back.  He immediately reached out to Christ for help.  Jesus did not delay, He caught Peter as soon as he asked. Jesus didn’t let Peter flounder in the water gasping for air as He lectured him.  He cast no words of spite, no “I told you so”, or “that’s what you get for not believing more in Me.”   Jesus came to reveal the Father’s love, and on this night He demonstrated the Lord’s compassionate mercy for our weak nature.

Discipleship calls us beyond our comfort zone, and even beyond our natural limits.  Yoked to Christ, He enables us to walk on water.  Like Peter, we might step out of the boat in total confidence in our Lord.  Once on the water however, we become fearful as we realize our total dependence on His supernatural help.  It’s much easier to have faith floating on the water in a boat, than walking on water barefooted.

I remember the excitement of getting my first teaching job, and the enthusiasm of teaching students about God.  Then, the first day of class arrived, and panic struck.  “Yikes!” I thought, “How I am I going to get through the day? What I am I going to say for a whole class period?! What if a student misbehaves? What if I’m a terrible teacher?…”  I also remember the joy of holding my first child in my arms the day he was born.  It was absolutely surreal.  Two days later the nurse walked us out to the car and waved goodbye.  As we put my son in the car seat and drove away anxiety erupted, “They’re just letting us take him?!  We don’t know anything!  What if I’m a terrible mother? What if I say or do something that scars him for life?!…”  Lastly, when I do speaking engagements or workshops, I’m exhilarated at the opportunity to share the joy of God’s saving love with others.  A half hour before the talk however, worried thoughts begin to percolate up, “Why did I agree to do this?  It would be far more comfortable to be at home watching Netflix.  What if I fail? What if everyone is bored? Who am I to do this, I’m a sinner like everyone else?”  Like Peter, I begin to sink but then I cry out to the Jesus.  He reminds me that I teach, mother, and speak because He has called me to.  He assures me that though I am not worthy, He is, and He is with me.  He also pushes me by filling my heart with so much gratitude for His love in my life that I can’t resist sharing it with others.

The challenge of discipleship is living at a level only sustainable if Christ is real, and if He’s someone ready to help.  It requires taking a risk, so much so that if Christ is not real, you would be at a loss.  Consider how many times God tells us in Scripture to be not afraid.  Pope St. John Paul II chose these words for his first statement as Pope, knowing how much we fear as we look around at the dangers that surround us.

When I begin to sink in fear a few verses come to mind that strengthen me.  First, I think of 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

“Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”

St. Paul felt too weak to face a challenge on his own.  Rather than remove the difficulty, Jesus promised to provide the strength.  St. Paul realized therefore, that the weaker he is, the more God’s power must be at work in him to accomplish God’s will.  He moved from anxiety to total confidence, and writes in his letter to the Philippians,

“I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (4:13)

We can trust Jesus to come through for us.  We can answer His call, even if it means going beyond our natural limits.   When we struggle to take that leap of faith beyond our comfort zone, Christ urges us to simply reach out and He will be there for us as He was for Peter.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:7

Ask, seek, knock, and you just might walk on water.

Consider:

  • How has following Christ stretched you beyond what you expected?
  • When has Christ made an endeavor more fruitful than it would have been by your own merits?
  • Have you ever felt like Peter, walking on water, in awe of Christ’s divine power?
  • Have you ever faltered because of fear, worry, or anxiety?
  • What Scripture verses or memories reassure you of Christ’s aid?
  • Is Christ calling you to something outside your comfort zone right now?  What holds you back?  What inspires you forward?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Take one risk each day for your faith.
    • Ideas: Inviting your spouse to pray together, praying as a family, saying “God bless” to someone on the phone or a at work, speaking up when someone is criticizing the Church or using God’s name in vain, sharing your faith with someone in need of comfort, going to the Sacrament of Confession, responding to God’s call in your vocation or job…

Related Posts:

On Taking Risks…Gospel Meditation John 6:1-15 for Sunday July 26th

Do You Have Skin In The Game?

Being a Worrier or a Wildflower

Do Not Let Your Hearts be Troubled… Peace and Surrender in Christ

~ Written by Angela M. Jendro © 2017

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.