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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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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

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Moments to Remember…A Reflection on the Transfiguration

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

August 6th, 2017; Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Gospel of Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Meditation Reflection:

For most of Jesus’ earthly life, He veiled His greatness.  Nevertheless, He remained God, with all of His divine attributes.  At the Transfiguration, Jesus unveiled a glimpse of His divinity to Peter, James, and John.  It was a sight they would never forget; and one Jesus needed them to see so they could be strengthened when their faith would be put to the ultimate test at the sight of His crucifixion and death.  Imagine John there below the Cross with Mary, Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled as “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance” (Isaiah 52:14).  When all seemed to be lost, John must have clung in faith to the preview of Jesus’ resurrected glory.

Though divine, Jesus was also human.  The Transfiguration served to strengthen His human will as well.  Moses and Elijah appeared to Christ, conversing with Him, as all of the Law and prophecies God revealed through them were about to be fulfilled in Jesus’ suffering.  When “His Hour” finally came, agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane as His fate approached, Jesus could be strengthened by the meaning of His sacrifice and the redemption it would bring upon all those He loved.

We too sometimes experience these Transfiguration moments – both as a disciple of Christ, and in our own personal lives.  Some people describe them as “conversion moments” which may occur through a major life event, the witness of another person’s life, unexpected mercy received, or a deep encounter with God in prayer.  While they aren’t the sum of a person’s faith, they do strengthen one’s loyalty to God and conviction of His truth and love.  They help a person persevere through those times when faith can be tested – either dryness in prayer, personal suffering, or persecution.  When tempted to abandon what we can’t see for what we can, we can think back to those Transfiguration moments and choose to stay with Christ at the Cross, convinced that He will conquer and we will one day see His resurrected form again.

These Transfiguration moments can occur in our vocations and jobs as well.  We need to treasure those moments of confirmation and joy to push through normal frustration and tedium.  The first time I held each of my children after they were born is etched forever in my mind and heart.  This got me through days where they all had the flu and I felt like all I did in one day was change diapers.  When my oldest picked me up from the airport, I marveled the whole time at how grown up he had become.  A week later, when he lost his keys and I had to invest multiple hours into looking for them, then rearrange my plans for the day to be with him while it got towed to a dealership and re-keyed, I reflected back on those two moments I just mentioned. My frustration was changed to peace as I thought, “My growing up, sweet baby, still needs me.  It might be a tedious day, but it’s worth it.”

Two weeks ago I was blessed to marry a dear friend of mine (thus the absence of posts these last two Sundays, and the new last name!).  We have a blended family and hesitated to leave for a honeymoon.  In the end, we decided to go.  We knew we needed to make memories that would last through tough times.  We also foresaw that after the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding and moving in, we would need to take time to remember our love and appreciate one another without distractions.

We forget so easily.  Today, let us remember the Transfiguration moments in our faith, our relationships, and our work, so we might deepen our appreciation for God’s active love in our lives.

Consider:

  • Reflect back on times you have encountered God in a powerful or meaningful way.
    • Can you recall a special time in prayer, at Mass, or when receiving a sacrament?
    • Was there a time God helped you out of a tough situation?
    • Did you experience His mercy through one of His followers?
    • Is there someone whose life inspired you?
  • Reflect on your vocation (single, married, nun/monk, or priest).
    • When/how did you know God was calling you to this vocation?
    • When have you felt deep joy and peace in your calling?
    • When has your vocation been particularly challenging?
  • Consider how you have been transfigured in Christ.  How has Christ and His grace changed you?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each morning, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to God’s presence and activity throughout the day.  Each evening, reflect back on God’s blessings.
  • Encourage someone who is struggling – through words, actions, prayer, or all three.

 

~ Written by Angela (Lambert) Jendro © 2017

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Preparing the Soil…Spiritual Receptivity

by Angela Lambert

July 16th, 2017; 15th Sunday Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 13:1-23

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:

 “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them. “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. “

Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

Meditation Reflection:

St. Paul tells us that “Jesus is the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  So why does the Word of Christ set some people’s hearts on fire while others pass it by with apathy or disdain?  Does Jesus play favorites with who He invites to understand His message and who He lets go?  How does He choose to whom “knowledge of the mysteries of heaven is granted”?

Jesus’ answers in a surprising way – He is the sower who offers Himself to everyone; whether it takes root depends on us. We are responsible for the extent to which we receive His Word.

It reminds me of my kids’ proverbial complaint that I’m not fair.  Each one is certain that they have more chores than the others, and that they receive less than the others.  I remind them that it only appears that way because they see their work but don’t see the work their siblings do.  Either, because sometimes it occurs when they are not around, or because they just refuse to acknowledge it.  Similarly, the appearance of others receiving more stems from ingratitude and envy rather than a material difference.  It’s easy to fall into the same trap spiritually as God’s children.  God treats us all fairly, it’s our perception that tends to need adjustment.

Jesus’ parable illustrates the affect that attitude has on our faith.  For God’s Word to be sown in our hearts and transformative, we must be receptive.  Receptivity requires an attitude of gratitude, humility, and love. Resistance undermines the work God can do within us, and the fruit it can bear in our lives.

The seed that falls on the path has no effect because it’s met with apathy or hostility.  Consider the things that deaden our hearts or fuel them with anger towards God.  Certainly secular culture, infused with hedonistic consumerism, dulls our desire for God by distracting us with instant gratifications and claiming that God is irrelevant to society.  When things go wrong or we suffer however, our faith in God’s existence suddenly appears but only to blame Him.  Anger and apathy make relationship impossible with anyone.  Relationships require investment, interest, and openness.  Much like the futility of reasoning with someone who’s already discounted you, if we don’t care about God except to shake our fist at Him, nothing He says or does will be convincing.

The rocky soil illustrates faith rooted only in sentimentality and emotions.  It resembles the infatuation stage of a relationship.  During that time, the couple is enamored with one another and experience strong feelings that say their love will last forever.  Those feelings however, do not, as C.S. Lewis puts it, deliver on their promises.  Feelings, by nature, come and go.  Lasting love is a decision not an emotion.  The infatuation stage in our relationship with God may include powerful feelings of love for the Lord and the desire for holiness.   When a person encounters suffering or confusion, that love will either wither from shallowness, or go deeper to root down further in the soil.   Fair weather friends make for rocky relationships, and the same goes for our relationship with God.

For those who make it past luke-warmness, and deeper than mere emotions, thorns still threaten to choke out faith with worldly anxiety and desires.  To live in the world but not of the world, is no easy task.  Worry about our comfort, security, and what others think about us can quickly turn our gaze from God back to earth, crowding out room for His grace. We sit down to pray but our phone buzzes with a notification.  Worry or desire pulls us away from Scripture and back into our technology.  Social events fill up the calendar and we think we are too busy to go to Church.  We might tell ourselves that we just have to prioritize these worldly things for a time, and then we will be able to relax and give God our whole selves.  It tends to only be a trick we play on ourselves, like the carrot at the end of the stick – the donkey keeps walking but the carrot keeps moving at the same time he does.

A person who has found Christ, realizes that in Him they have everything.  A humble heart, open to the Lord, fills with gratitude as it receives grace upon grace.  Apathy turns to zeal, sentimentality to conviction, and the constant grasping after the next thing is replaced with spiritual fulfillment and peace.  In this rich soil, the soul begins to bear fruits of faith, hope, and love, along with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23).

When we find ourselves saying, “Why doesn’t God speak to me?  I pray but don’t hear anything?,” or “I just don’t feel like praying or going to Church, I don’t get anything out of it,” or “My life always feels so out of control no matter what I do, why can’t I ever just find peace?”; we can take a step back and evaluate the soil in our souls.  The Word of God has come to us in the flesh and remains with us, what can we do to better receive Him?  Begin with asking for His help.

Consider:

  • When do you struggle with feelings of not caring about God or your faith?  What or who fuels that hardening of heart, and what/who softens your heart toward God?
  • Despite my love for flowers and home-grown vegetables, I’m a terrible gardener because I’m not attentive enough about keeping things watered or clearing away weeds.  How can you be more attentive to the garden of your soul?  What does it need to be watered, and what weeds need clearing away?
  • Pray about how deeply your faith is rooted.  Is it guided primarily by emotions or by principle?  Consider how your relationship with God is similar to, or different than, your relationships with others.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the thorns in your spiritual life.  Prayerfully consider what competes with your prayer time, Mass, your generosity with the Lord, or your openness to His teachings.  Ask for Christ to remove the thorns and replace them with greater love.
  • Mary exemplifies perfect receptivity to the Lord, rooted in deep love and enduring the hardest tribulations.  Ask for her intercession to soften your heart and to “open your eyes to see and your ears to hear” as she did.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

Work on preparing the soil for Christ:

  • If you need more gratitude: each night list 10 things you are thankful for from the day.
  • If you need more humility and detachment: Pray the Humility Prayer each day.
  • If you need more openness:  Read Scripture for 5 minutes each day.  It could be the daily readings (which can be found at http://usccb.org), a devotional, or simply opening up one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John).

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Sharing the Burden, Lightening the Load

by Angela Lambert

July 9th, 2017; 14th Sunday Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 11:25-30
At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Meditation Reflection:
If many hands make light work, how much lighter if one of those hands belongs to Jesus!

Being yoked together assumes a commitment and a partnership. Both can’t pull in opposite directions or at different times. They must work together. Being yoked to Christ means we must surrender our self-determined ways for a Christ-determined way. Jesus assures us, however, that He won’t be a tyrant or arrogant about it. Instead, He is meek and humble of heart. We can trust Him. We can be vulnerable with Christ and lean on Him in our weakness without being afraid of being betrayed or taken advantage of.

Christ strengthens us to act with greater courage and perseverance than we can on our own. He counsels us, enabling us to make wise decisions. He opens our understanding, especially through meditating on His divine words in Scripture. He comforts us in our sorrow, drawing near when His loving presence is the only balm for grief. He rejoices in our happiness, elevating our joy.

We all try to carry our burdens alone too often, and for too long.  Today is the day to lay them down.  So, today’s reflection is short, and the Consider singular – Lay your burdens before the Lord. Name each one, surrender it to Him, and let Him carry it with you.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each morning, offer the day to the Lord and ask to be yoked to Him in each thing ahead. At the end of each day, reflect back, give thanks for His help, and ask for grace where you were resistant.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017
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Finding Yourself…

by Angela Lambert

July 2nd, 2017; 13th Sunday Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 10:37-42

Jesus said to his apostles: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

Meditation Reflection:

I would think of this passage often when my kids were little.  After finally getting them tucked into bed, just as I would sit down to finally relax, I would hear a little voice call out “Mooooooooom.   I’m thirsty.” Fighting the frustration in my thoughts and body, I would remind myself, “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink…”

Following Christ means loving Him above all things, including all people, and most importantly above ourselves.  If He were only a man this directive would be ridiculous and arrogant.  Jesus gives this command because He is God.  St. Augustine famously wrote:

“There can only be two basic loves… the love of God unto the forgetfulness of self, or the love of self unto the forgetfulness and denial of God.”

As much as we may try to avoid this decision, the limits imposed on us by time and space force a choice.  Sometimes it means a clear fork in the road, while at other times it may mean small daily sacrifices.

Discipleship applies to every vocation – priest, religious, married, and single. Priests and religious give a clear witness of total gift of self to God.  Their remarkable vows and their counter-cultural lives attest to their faith in eternal life as they sacrifice worldly goods for heavenly.  Just this week, a friend of mine who’s a nun, came by with three sisters to take some furniture I was giving away.  That same day two workmen were at the house working on taping and mudding the basement that’s being finished.  As they came upstairs to take a break, they saw three nuns in full habit and me carrying a large bookshelf out of the house.  Imagine their surprise!  One offered to help when he saw us struggle to lift it to the truck.  Later one of the sisters asked him to help us tie down the furniture and he generously assisted. I have no doubts that will be a sight they remember forever, and a story they will tell for at least the next week.

Married and single persons blend in to society more as even secular persons marry or remain single.  However, it doesn’t take long for Christians to stand out even in these vocations.  The disciple of Christ remains faithful to marriage vows even when the culture dismisses them.  Catholic families notoriously stand out as they tend to (though are not required to) exceed the usual one girl and one boy trend.  Every mother I know who has more than three kids, has recounted to me comments made to them about the number of children they have.  These comments come from family members as well as complete strangers in places as random as the grocery store.  Openness to life necessitates losing your “life” to receive it back from Christ.  It affects your body, your sleep, your emotions, your free time, your career choices, your travel, your finances, and so on. Once when I was congratulating a couple I know who were pregnant with their sixth child, the father conveyed his struggle that now they would have to get a full size van.  Many of lamented the min-van transition, but the large 12 passenger van step is even harder.  That is sacrifice.  However, any mother or father will tell you, when you hold that baby in your arms you realize it’s completely worth it.

Finally, single persons stand out in their discipleship too.  the Christian who lives chastely and temperately, puts others before themselves, and makes decisions prayerfully, shines a bright light in a culture that glamorizes promiscuity, partying, and self-advancement. They use their freedom to give of their time generously rather than selfishly.  A single woman I know put it this way to me – she said that she was totally free for the Lord to call at any moment.  Whereas others served God through their obligations to their family or religious order, she said, God needs some people who can be available any time anywhere.  I hadn’t thought of that before she shared that insight with me.  Of course she had to go to work and take care of her home, but she recognized that she had tremendously more “free” time and flexibility than the other vocations and intentionally chose to consecrate that time and freedom to God.

Discipleship comes at a cost, but Jesus promises it to be an investment.  Things of this world will always be insecure.  Jobs can be lost, stock markets dive, beauty and health get marred by illness, and so on.  Every investment we make in the Lord however will merit glory in heaven forever.  When I drag my tired body off the couch to give my thirsty daughter a cup of water at night, it remains treasured by God forever along with every sacrifice of love that we make.

We can’t be in two places at once and there will always be only 24 hours in a day.  We have to make choices.  Jesus encourages us to be strong against temptations no matter where, or from whom, they come. He also sent the Holy Spirit to provide the gifts of fortitude and counsel we will need to make those decisions prayerfully and follow through on them courageously.  He also gave us the gift of the Church to guide us and inspire us.

Jesus pointed out that you can tell a tree by it’s fruits.  Even though self-love appears prudent, in our culture it has produced the highest levels of depression, “anger issues”, and suicide in history.  Love of God above all things is only prudent from an eternal perspective, it requires faith. However it has produced thousands upon thousands of saints, the first mark of which is Joy.

Consider:

  • When have you chosen yourself over God?  How did you rationalize it?  How did you feel afterward?
  • When have you chosen God over yourself?  How did God provide for you in that decision and bless you afterward?
  • Reflect on Jesus’ paradoxical words that we find ourselves in losing ourselves.  Pope St. John Paul II expressed the same idea saying that we find self-fulfillment through self-gift.  Others have expressed this phenomenon by saying that when they volunteered somewhere, they received more than they gave.
  • Who has been a witness to you by their Christian discipleship?  What stuck out to you about them?
  • In what ways do you witness to Christ in your life?  What makes it difficult?  What makes it rewarding?
  • How can you practice Works of Mercy in your everyday life and your vocation.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray for an increase in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety, and Fear of the Lord), and the grace needed to follow Christ.
  • Intentionally practice one Works of Mercy each day this week.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Because of Your Name….

by Angela Lambert

person in prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 25th 2017; 12th Sunday Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 10:26-33

Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

Meditation Reflection:

Because of Christ’ Name, we suffer.  But by His Holy Name, we are saved.

As long as you remain lukewarm in your faith, keep it private, and compartmentalize it from the rest of your life, you will likely enjoy peace with the world.  If you proclaim Jesus to be a great teacher like Buddha, but refrain from calling Him God, people will respect you and your “spirituality.”  If you acknowledge Christ as one way and not The Way, most people will put up with your belief, since they afford everyone a little bit of foolishness.

One problem…to proclaim a nice moral teacher who isn’t God and isn’t the Way, the Truth, and the Life, is not to proclaim Jesus Christ.  Jesus promises that “Everyone who acknowledges Me before others I will acknowledge before My heavenly Father.”  To do that however, we must  proclaim the God Who became Man, that He is the fullness of Revelation – Divine Truth, the Savior of all mankind, and Love incarnate.  To proclaim a myth of our own making, and worse to belittle Christ by using a weakened, distorted, version of Him as our inspiration, is to deny Christ.  Jesus warns “But whoever denies Me before others, I will deny before My heavenly Father.”

To proclaim Christ takes serious guts, and I don’t’ just mean speaking about Christ.  Simply living your faith in everyday life will incite criticism and even personal attacks by others.

If you go to Church every Sunday despite competing demands for your time, you may be accused of being too rigid or too zealous.  Those who would prefer you prioritize them over God will accuse you of being uncharitable or having an unhealthy scrupulosity.  Those whose own church attendance looks lackluster in comparison will more likely try to find fault with your devotion rather than to imitate it.

If you believe that Jesus is the Truth – the Word of God, prepare to be accused of intolerance, close-mindedness, and archaic thinking.  Even if you do not “push your beliefs on others”, your simple rejection of the religion of Relativism will offend its many followers (note: Relativism states that there is no objective truth, except, paradoxically, Relativism).  Moreover, no matter how hard persons try to rationalize sins, their God-given consciences sense the truth and can’t help but react at reminders.  People who want to live in darkness hate the light. It happens at every age.  Teens who don’t drink or engage in pre-marital sex, get left out of parties and certain social groups. Adults who put God and family first, get left out of some events or opportunities at work, or in neighborhood gatherings.

It’s hard to follow Christ, especially when it means staying up at night with a newborn, while colleagues or friends fly off to sunny vacations.  It takes humility to make time for Mass and soccer games, knowing others will “get ahead” in their career because of their willingness to work all hours and days.  And what do you get for your sacrifice and virtue? Consider, how did Cain react toward Abel? How did Joseph’s brothers treat his piety? You will be honored by God and those who are Godly, but you will be scorned by those of the world.

Jesus is the Truth, and Satan is the father of lies.  Those who live by Truth will threaten those lies.  In retaliation, just as Satan spread lies to Adam and Eve about God, and just as he continues to spread lies about Jesus, Satan will spread lies about Jesus’ followers too.  We can feel helpless in these situations because it’s hard to defend ourselves when the other person fights dirty.  Jesus knows our struggle and has experienced our pain.  Thus, He assures us beforehand to “Fear no one.  Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed.”  Jesus promises that the Truth will conquer in the end.  It requires more patience, a lot of faith, and Holy Spirit courage though.

It’s hard to suffer unjust treatment and unwarranted animosity, especially when you are simply trying to live your own quiet Christian life.  Take heart however, people don’t get bothered by the lukewarm or the mediocre; whereas greatness is always challenged.  The more you are treated like Christ (the real Christ, not the mythical nice guy in sandals), the more it means you are becoming Christ-like.  So, as Pope St. John Paul II repeated again and again, “Be not afraid.”  Let Christ’s love in you soften hearts, even if they scream at you first.  Let the light of Christ radiate in you and cut through the darkness.  As the prophet Jeremiah witnessed in today’s first reading (Jer 20:10-13), “the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.”

Consider:

  • When did Jesus experience the most criticism and rejection?  Consider how His mighty works of healing and love, were met with envy and anger by some of the Jews.
  • Consider the mystery of the Cross.  Christ suffered out of love for us and was rejected.  Yet He rose again to new life and brought about our salvation.  How might we offer our pain and suffering from others’ rejections for their salvation, like Christ has done for us?
  • Reflect on a time when you “preferred darkness to light.”  How did you rationalize your sin or your way of thinking?  How did you react toward someone whose life shined a light on it?
  • Reflect on a time when you preferred light to darkness.  When have you experienced joy and freedom when the Truth in someone else’s life, freed you from a lie in your own?

 Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, pray an Our Father or a Hail Mary for someone who is persecuting you.
  • Each day this week, pray Psalm 69.
  • Offer this prayer each day:
Lord, I don’t want my light to be so dim as to not make a difference.

I beg You to make Your Divine Light shine through me with such radiance,

That it frees with Your Truth, those held captive by lies,

Guides those who are lost, back to You,

And lifts up lonely, discouraged souls with Your Love.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Putting your sweat and blood into it…

by Angela Lambert

June 18th,2017;  Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

 Gospel of John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Meditation Reflection:

Today we celebrate Christ’s gift of His Body and Blood.  Consider the meaning of giving our body to another.  Husband and wife express the intimacy and totality of their love in physical unity.  Every new life enters the world through the sacrificial gift of a mother, who offers her body and blood to her child.  Fathers invest their sweat and blood in their children as well in the myriad of ways they meet their children’s needs. How many dads have went to bed after a day of working to provide for their family, playing with their kids, building out part of the house to make room for more kids, or helping to finish their adult child’s basement saying, “my whole body hurts.”  Even friendship is demonstrated in physical sacrifice.  If you’ve ever called on friends to help you move, or been the friend who said yes to that call, you know what I mean!

The Son of God became man, in every way.  He invested His mind and heart, and His body and blood.  He desires nearness to us in the most intimate of ways.  Jesus spent thirty-three years living humbly, and bringing tangible, immanent love to those He encountered.  His sacrificial suffering and death of the Cross atoned for our sins, giving us new life as children of God for eternity.

Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist for two reasons.  He established it as memorial so that His sacrifice on the Cross would be made present again every time the Mass is celebrated so that we might be nourished by its graces.  Secondly, because He wants to be as near to us as possible.  When we receive the Eucharist at Communion, Jesus offers Himself in the most intimate and loving way, like that of a husband and wife.  Through His Eucharistic presence, He continues to be with us in a tangible way.  Human beings need physical closeness, especially when we need comfort in sorrow or in expressions of love.  Jesus Christ is, and will forever continue to be, both God and man.  It’s easy to take His presence in the Eucharist for granted, especially when it requires the eyes and heart of faith.  Today we take time to reflect as a Church on the beautiful, and mysterious gift, to cherish our Lord, and to deepen our appreciation for the sweat and blood He puts into His love.

Consider:

  • Consider the many ways we express love physically.  Why is physical love so important?  How does it create intimacy in relationships?
  • Reflect on Christ’s physical expressions of love – during His hidden life, His public ministry, His sacrifice on the Cross, and His Eucharistic presence today.
  • This year the Solemnity of Christ’s Body and Blood falls on the same Sunday as Father’s day.  Consider the ways in which dad’s offer their bodies and blood for their families.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Visit Christ at Church this week.  Spend time in prayer near the tabernacle, or at Eucharistic Adoration.
  • Make a physical sacrifice of love for someone this week, in appreciation of Christ’s physical sacrifice.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Finding Fulfillment in Self-Gift

by Angela Lambert

June 11th, 2017;  Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

 

Gospel of John 3:16-18

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Meditation Reflection:

Consider for a moment this incredible fact: we are made in the image and likeness of the Trinitarian God.  Although God’s essence exceeds our understanding, He has nevertheless revealed His nature to us and even given us an experience of it imprinted on our own human nature.

God has revealed that He is Love (1 Jn 4:8) and that He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19).  From the Father, we observe that God is creative.  From the Holy Spirit, we observe His immanent might and love operative in our souls.  And from the Son, we learn that God’s creative, mighty, love, is sacrificial.

What does this mean for you and me?

We live in a culture that forms us to be autonomous, independent, and self-seeking.  Humanitarian works and acts of kindness may be valued to the extent that they make life more  pleasant in general, but not to the extent that it requires personal sacrifice – a real loss of some kind.

Human happiness does come through self-realization and self-fulfillment, but not in the way our culture defines those terms.  The Trinity is a relationship of three divine Persons in mutual self-gift and love.  This means that, as creatures made in the image of the Trinity, we achieve self-fulfillment through self-giving love.

It’s a paradox, but one that Christ emphasized over and over in both His teachings and His life.

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake, will find it.”  (MT 16:25)

Christian discipleship means living and being as Christ.  The Gospel today proclaims that Jesus came from the Father, for us.  Pope Benedict XVI concludes from this that Jesus’ whole “being itself is service” (Introduction to Christianity; Ignatius Press).  Avoid imagining Jesus as just a really nice guy however.  Pope Benedict isn’t referring to volunteering more.  He means that Jesus’ whole existence is one of relationship, and a relationship of service.  Thus, Christian discipleship transforms us from self-centered lives, to God and others-centered lives.

To be God-centered, to be from God and for others as Christ was, requires a radically different worldview than our secular culture.

Pope St. John Paul II, as he examined God’s words in Genesis (2:18) that “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him,” concludes that the human person is made for relationship.  He writes

“ ‘alone,’ man does not completely realize this essence.  He realizes it only by existing ‘with someone’ – and even more deeply and completely – by existing ‘for someone.’”

He’s not saying that we must become slaves with no individual identity.  Rather, he’s saying that men and women find self-fulfillment through self-gift.  Self-gift, by definition, means giving yourself to someone.  It means we find happiness in loving sacrifice.

St. Mother Teresa said that everyone has an opportunity to love as Christ did, and therein find happiness.  To find that someone we simply need to look around us.   As we celebrate the Blessed Trinity today, let us celebrate the gift of relational love.  Mary always perceived the needs of others around her, let us pray for her intercession to see opportunities for self-gift around us as well, even it means sacrifice.

Consider:

  • Consider the eternal relationship of love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  • Imagine the joy of heaven, where the saints share in that relationship of love.
  • Reflect in a prayer of gratitude for each experience of loving relationship God has gifted you with.
  • Pray for reconciliation in relationships that need healing.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, find one way to love another person.  Ask for Mary’s intercession.

Related Posts:

The Most Marvelous Mystery! Gospel Meditation for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Determined Discipleship

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

Finding True Love

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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