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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 Freedom

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

July 15th,2018 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 6:7-13 NAB

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick— no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus conquered Satan, and just as He healed persons afflicted by demons, He also gave His authority to His apostles to drive them out as well. Jesus personally extends this opportunity for freedom to you and I through the ministry of His Church and His grace. The question is only if we will invite Christ and His followers in and accept healing, or refuse to listen and force them out.

Satan and his demons, even if they do not take total possession of a person, can and do take control of pieces of us whenever we allow ourselves to be bound by their lies and their allurements.

Whereas Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).  How can we discern between the two?  Truth builds up and encourages. Even if it’s not what we want to hear, it always leads to our true good and real happiness. In contrast, Satan’s lies derail us from happiness and discourage us, even to the point of despair.

His common tactics include whispers that you are not worthy, that you cannot be loved, that you will never find happiness, that you are a failure, that God is a tyrant and faith is an illusion. Broken with despair, Satan offers false hope through sin.  He promises that happiness can only be found in pleasure so seek it without restraint or any moral boundaries.  He urges you to look out only for yourself and seek total independence – from any need of others and from God, and from anyone relying on you either.  The fruit of these lies however only reveal that the truth is true – that these do not bring happiness but intense sorrow, loneliness, and a degradation of your true dignity.  We need only to look at our secular hedonistic culture to see evidence of this.  In its pursuit of pleasure and freedom without God or morality, it has produced widespread depression, high suicide rates, slavery to addiction, and callousness toward the dignity of human life.

Contrary to Satan’s lies, the truth is in fact liberating.  You CAN find joy and happiness living a moral life in relationship with Christ.  Where do we find evidence of people who experience real freedom of soul, peace of spirit, and radiate joy?  In the lives of the Saints and in the lives of everyday Christians who strive to live a life of holiness with the help of grace.

Christ came to conquer sin and death that we might experience freedom and the fullness of joy (see John 15:11).  In today’s passage we see that He does this by giving His own authority to those He had chosen and sending them out to us.  Christ gave His saving Truth to His Church, not because of the apostles’ perfect character but simply because He willed it and wanted to personally extend His Gospel throughout the whole world.  He continues to do this through the apostles’ successors today, the bishops, who are also flawed human beings, and yet still messengers of the authoritative and saving word of God.  He also does this through every baptized Christian, whom He calls to be witnesses of the truth of the Gospel.

We need witnesses of this reality to give us hope and the strength to choose Christ – who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Consider the battle with addiction. At first it offered relief from pain and promised feelings of happiness for the person.  Instead it brought loss and self-destruction.  Still, the idea of giving up that addiction may feel like facing a life of misery.  The testimony of those who have conquered it and now experience freedom can strengthen the addict to reach for the hope of happiness in sobriety instead of reaching for their drug.

Similarly, in a culture obsessed with lust, chaste love may appear like misery.  The joy and freedom testified by chaste singles and faithful married couples prove the lie to be wrong.  Especially impressive today, are those who struggle with homosexual desires who choose chaste love.  Their witness directly contradicts the current propaganda that they won’t be happy unless they have homosexually physical relationships.  (For examples of their testimonies, see the website couragerc.org).

Satan tempted Jesus to be king without the Cross, and he tempts us the same way.  Nevertheless, Jesus proved that suffering and death brings resurrection and grace.  Following Christ will not be pleasurable all the time, but it will be joyful and meaningful.  The days of my children’s births were not pleasurable, but they were the most joyful and meaningful days of my life.  Any noble and worthwhile pursuit will require sacrifice, but there’s a kind of pleasure in the sacrifice when you know you are working toward something great.  What greater work can we do than taking Christ’s yoke upon us and building up the Kingdom of God?!

Jesus confronts the lies we cling to and our sin.  We must say yes to Him to be free of them, thus the call for repentance before being able to receive healing.  Oftentimes our response to being convicted of sin is to become defensive, attack the messenger, or walk away.  To this response Jesus tells the apostles to “shake the dust from their feet” and move on to those who are open to His Word.  Yet, sin is precisely where the demons have a foothold in our heart and deprive us of true joy.  You may not feel strong enough to overcome a sin, but by acknowledging your sin and inviting Christ in, and His Body the Church, He can drive the demons out and fill you with His peace; and one day you might get to be the hand of Christ to help someone else in your situation.  The choice is up to you.

Consider:

  • Think of one sin you struggle with the most.
    • What are the lies and rationalizations that keep you tied to this sin?
  • People were free to accept or reject the apostles.  Consider how receptive or defensive you are toward those Christ sends to you.  Who specifically are those persons in your life?
  • Invite Christ to free you with the help of His grace, to accept His Truth and to detach from the lie or sin you are struggling against.  You don’t have to do it alone, He gives you the whole Church, infused with His own authority and grace, to strengthen and support you.
  • The Truth is true.  How might you witness to this by your words and life?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Identify one specific, practical way you will reach out to accept the support of Christ’s Church to help you overcome your sin and receive freedom and healing.
    • (Examples: talking openly with a spiritual friend or your priest; receiving grace through attending a daily Mass; meditating on Scriptures or spiritual books that address your particular struggles; going to the sacrament of Confession…)

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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It’s Not Magic, but it is Supernatural

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

July 1st, 2018 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 5:21-43 NAB

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?'” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,”which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Meditation Reflection:

The Scriptures today confront our anger at God for death and suffering.  Wisdom 1:13-14 (RSV) however reminds us however that neither of these came from Him:

“God did not make death, and He does not delight in the death of the living.  For He created all things that they might exist.” 

When we read the Creation account in Genesis 1 and 2, nowhere do we find disease, suffering, or death.  Rather, God’s creation reflected His glory and so He commanded all the living things that He made to “be fruitful and multiply.”

Death entered not through God, but through sin.  Satan and the fallen angels sinned against God and chose an eternity of suffering for the sake of prideful rebellion over an eternity of joy at the cost of humble obedience.  Adam and Eve did not experience suffering or death until they joined Satan in sin and disobeyed God as well.  In consequence, Genesis 3-9 relay the sad story of the proliferation of sin and suffering beginning with this first Original Sin.  Toil, pain in childbirth, marital struggles, sibling rivalry, murder, polygamy, sickness, and death each begin with the decision to sin by the free will of individuals.  As much as we want to blame God, the truth is most of our suffering stems from our own poor choices or the choices of others.

Sure, you might say, we’re at fault but can’t God do anything about it?  Why does He sit back in silence?  Doesn’t He care?

YES!  From the beginning, God offered a merciful helping hand to sinful humanity.  When Adam and Eve realized they were naked, He gave them clothes.  When He confronted them about the consequences of their sins He also promised to one day send a Savior (Genesis 3:15).  He made covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and so on.  Finally, His only begotten Son left the glory of Heaven to take on a lowly human nature, freely divesting Himself of His divine power to live the life of a creature so as to carry our Cross and personally meet us in our need.   St. Paul describes it well in 2 Corinthians 8:9 (RSV):

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.”

God literally has some skin in the game.  Not only does He offer healing, in today’s Gospel we see how much He cares when He heals.  He accompanies the grief-stricken father to attend to the dying little girl.  When He enters the room He doesn’t want people gawking or treating it like magic.  Instead Jesus sends everyone out but the parents and a few of His apostles.  When Jesus heals it’s a personal encounter.  Jesus understands our pain and our needs because He lived it.  Being man, He has shared our experience.  Being God, He has the power to re-create us and restore us with a Word.  By His divine power, Jesus commanded the girl to get up, thereby empowering her to do so. “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” From His human experience, He commands the little group with Him to give her something to eat.  What a great little detail!  I imagine her family and the apostles were just standing there in shock when she came back to life.  Jesus moves on to the practical need at hand – after getting well from a long sickness a person is ravishingly hungry.  Therefore He instructed them not to talk about it but instead to give her something to eat.

This encounter with the grieving father and dying girl has all the drama of a great script.  Except, a fiction writer would not have interrupted the momentum with the seemingly tangential account of the woman with a hemorrhage – an encounter with competing drama that would be a distraction to a story.  But, this is not a fictional story, this is real life.    I learned early on as a mom that once you have kids you can say goodbye to uninterrupted focus on any task.  Nothing, not even dishes, can be completed without interruption.  Even now, although my kids are teens, I was interrupted yesterday by all three texting and calling and needing something even though I had said I was travelling for a few hours and would have spotty cell service.  I recall one time in particular that illustrates the mulit-tasking of relational living.  At the time my kids were little.  I was driving home from visiting my dad and my brother caught a ride with me.  As we were talking in the front seat kids asked for snacks, water, help with the dvd, and so on.  I just kept talking, driving, and handing things back or fixing the dvd player with one hand, all while keeping my eyes on the road.  My brother just stopped and laughed and said, “how are you doing this?”.  With my first child I was a rookie for sure, but by three I had practice.

Jesus lived real life and cared for real people.  While helping one family, a woman reached out in faith and needed His help too.  People’s needs are rarely convenient, but love always makes time.  As God, Jesus could easily heal her as He walked along, somewhat like my brother’s astonishment as I tended to needs of three children while we travelled without taking my eyes off the road for even a second.  Here again however, Jesus underscores the relationship between faith, healing, and personal encounter with Him.  He’s not a magic wand or a machine. She was healed because of His power and her faith.  At the same time, He stopped what He was doing to pause and encounter her personally. In asking who touched Him, He invites her to not only receive His healing power, but to be received by Him personally.  He doesn’t want her to feel like a desperate beggar.  He gives her the opportunity to bravely step forward, and then affirms her for her faith and gives her His peace.  How many people must have avoided her for so many years due to her bleeding?  And here Jesus receives her and invites her back into communion with God and with society.

We live in a culture that wants a quick fix with a pill to remedy any ailment.  Thankfully, we live in a time when medicine has produced a pill to fix a myriad of things.  However, some things cannot be alleviated so simply.  Christianity is not a pill that will make you instantly happy and take away all of your problems.  It is however a personal encounter with Christ, Who is both God and man and cares for you.  Suffering and death come from sin.  Life and joy come from God.  Faith does heal.  Sometimes He heals in a moment, other times it takes years of relationship with Him to allow His work to fully take root in our souls.  The Gospel affirms that no matter how dire the situation, Jesus will answer.  We only need to ask in prayer or to reach out to Him and touch Him.   Be prepared though.  After suffering for so long, health can seem foreign.  When Jesus commands you to arise and be at peace, you must leave your sickness behind and live as a new creation.

Consider:

  • Spend some time in silence, reaching out to Christ like the father of the little girl or the woman with the hemorrhage. Bring your troubles and worries to God…be humble like the woman to admit you need help.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Set a reminder on your phone or with sticky notes to pause throughout the day and encounter Christ.  Bring your needs of the moment before Him, no matter how small, and offer Him thanks for His presence and help.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Patience

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

June 24th, 2018 Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist

Gospel of Luke 1:57-66, 80 NAB

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Meditation Reflection:

Gazing upon a newborn baby, we encounter the mystery of life as we wonder as St. John’s family did, “What then will this child be?”.  Babies are full of potential, their lives completely ahead of them.  Teens and adults grapple with the question again, “What will I do with my life?”  Many of the joys and sorrows of parents correspond to what unfolds as the answer.

Waiting to see requires patience.  Children grow year by year, one stage at a time.  Their personality and character develop and blossom organically.  Discovering God’s plan means patiently waiting, hoping, and praying.

God too is patient.  He cares for us always, at every moment.  From the creation of Adam and Eve, to the Incarnation of His Son, to the end of time – God patiently guides the unfolding of human history in the lives of each individual, each of which are His sons and daughters. Moreover, He guides Salvation history, by which He redeems and heals mankind from the original sin of the Fall and every personal sin committed by individuals thereafter.

Every day since Adam and Eve first turned away from Him by sin, God has faithfully and steadfastly lead us toward salvation.  In His mercy He pours out His grace upon us.  Even when we rebel, and turn away, He waits patiently for our return.  Of course, God is everywhere so we can’t leave Him physically, but we can leave Him spiritually.  Thus, returning to God means a turning of heart – repentance.  God is far more patient than we are. We want everything immediately, at the least by two days or less with free shipping!  God’s work however can take days, weeks, years, decades, and even a lifetime.

St. John the Baptist was the last of the prophets and the precursor to Christ.  His birth was indeed special.  His family waited years to see his role in God’s plan, but the Jewish people had waited hundreds of years for his day, and humanity thousands of years.  John the Baptist proclaimed with fervor God’s faithfulness.  He announced the coming of the Lamb of God Who would take away our sin.  Thus, God kept His promise to save mankind by sending His only Son.  We need only do our part to receive that salvation, as John the Baptist zealously repeated and Jesus exhorted – repent and believe.

Consider:

  • God has a plan for you and for your life.  Pray for patience and openness to the Holy Spirit as it unfolds daily.
  • Is there anything for which you are impatient right now?  Have you complained to God, demanding your prayer to be answered in two days or less like Amazon?
  • Consider God’s faithfulness in your life.  Take a moment to recall His blessings today, this week, this year, and over your lifetime.
  • Imagine your family asking in amazement after your birth “What, then, will this child be?”.  Consider the wonderful things, with God’s help, that you have done with your life so far.  Consider what you might do with the Lord in your life today and into the future also.  How might you become more loving and Christ-like toward others and make an impact in their lives?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Intentionally offer each day to the Lord in prayer.  At the close of the day, reflect back on the good you were able to do with God’s grace, and for the moments you failed pray that you might be more receptive to His guidance tomorrow.

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Blood Relatives

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

June 3rd, 2018 4th Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Gospel of Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 NAB

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘ Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.” The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Meditation Reflection:

At the Mount of Olives, on the night before His death, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.  His final prayer to the Father begged for us to be one in Jesus, as Jesus is one with the Father. Considering the sublime and mysterious unity of the Blessed Trinity, what a profound request!   Christ invites us into their eternal bond of love and union of mind and will, and He asks the Father to make it possible.

“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. John 17:20-23 NAB

 Jesus asserts that He gave us His glory that we might be one with Him, and therefore also one with the Father.  How did He do this?  What does He mean?

The Eucharist.  Jesus had just given His apostles His Eucharistic Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.  Every time we receive Christ in the Eucharist, we become one in Him, sharers in His glory.

When we eat regular bread and wine our bodies digest them into smaller component parts so that the nutrients within can be absorbed by the cells for energy, growth, repair, etc.  Thus, after an hour or so, the toast you ate for breakfast is no longer toast but simply part of you.

In the Eucharist, the opposite process takes place.  Rather than being incorporated into our body, we become incorporated into Christ’s Body.  We become constituent parts which build up, energize, and repair and the Mystical Body of Christ – the Church.  Thus, our nutritional value (love of God and neighbor) edifies the whole body, and our toxins (sin) harm it.

In addition, think about our inherent investment in “blood relatives.”  We take pride in their accomplishments and feel shame in their failures, even if our physical ancestral connection is our only tie. Christ has made the family of the Church blood relatives through His own Body and Blood.  We take pride in the virtue of the Saints and feel deeply hurt and saddened when a Christian falls into a terrible sin like we’ve seen with the recent clergy abuse scandal.

In addition, knowing the genetic history of our blood relatives can be enlightening since their strengths are our strengths and their weaknesses our weaknesses.   Jesus became our blood relative at the Incarnation and willingly accepted the weakness of our human nature.  In return however, He bestowed on us something of the strength and glory of His divine nature.  When we receive Him in the Eucharist, we are strengthened by His Real Presence, by deeper union with His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, we become grafted onto Him and elevated by His relation to us.

“But how can this be?” you might ask.  It’s a mystery.  We know it’s true because Jesus said “This is My Body, this is My Blood…”  and He promised, and warned, in John 6:51-53:

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.

Although certainly a sublime mystery, on what grounds can a Christian believer doubt that God Who created everything out of nothing couldn’t change bread and wine into His Real Presence?  Recall in Genesis that God created by speaking: “Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light. Genesis 1:3.  God created with a Word, and that Word of God is the Son – Jesus Christ.  In addition, if God could daily provide miraculous bread to feed the Israelites during their journey through the desert to the Promised Land, why wouldn’t He provide bread from Heaven for our even more difficult journey through the desert of temptations and suffering in this life on our journey to Heaven?

Today, on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we meditate on the unimaginable gift of love bestowed on us in the Eucharist by which we become one with Jesus, and through Him one with God and neighbor.

Consider:

  • Consider the special union of love in families which is both a physical and spiritual union.  Reflect on the union of love between Christ and His disciples physically and spiritually in the Eucharist.
  • Consider how you feel when you eat healthy foods and get enough rest.  How might receiving the Eucharist more often boost your spiritual energy and health as well?
  • Reflect on the humility and intimacy of Christ’s love for you.  He became man – sharing in your human nature, lived an earthly life for 33 years – sharing your experiences, and continues to be physically present to you in the Eucharist today where you can be near to Him in prayer and one with Him when you receive Him at Mass.
  • Consider how spending time with family can keep you grounded and more who you really are.  Reflect on how time with Christ purifies your perspective and grounds you as well.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Arrive at Mass 5 minutes early to prepare your heart and mind for receiving Christ in the Eucharist, and/or stay for 5 minutes after Mass to pray and thank Christ for receiving Him in the Eucharist.
  • Spend 30 minutes with Christ in prayer at Eucharistic Adoration.

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Living in the Mystery of Divine Love

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

May 27th, 2018 The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Gospel of Matthew 28:16-20 NAB

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Meditation Reflection:

The mystery of the Trinity is so sublime, any words of reflection feel like an injustice to so majestic and beautiful a reality.  The revelation of the inmost reality of God, His very essence, so far exceeds the scope of our limited human experience any attempt to imagine or explain Gods’ Triune nature feels inadequate and even irreverent.

Nevertheless, Christ revealed this ineffable mystery to us and commanded the apostles to preach this Truth to the whole world. In consequence, with the utmost humility, we ought to contemplate this essential mystery of the Christian faith.  Even though we can never understand it fully, we must revere that which Christ desired us to know and imitate.

The perfect union of mind, will, and love exists only in the union of the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity.  Remarkably, Christ invites us into that divine relationship and makes it possible through His example and grace.

At the Incarnation, in an act of supreme humility, the Son, sent by the Father, became one with humankind by taking on our nature.  In doing so, He demonstrated for us concretely how to align our will with God’s and how to exercise divine love toward God and neighbor.  At every turn, Jesus remarked that He had come to do the Father’s will.  Even in His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, His human will resisted the impending Cross, but resigned “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).  During the first thirty years of His life, Jesus even obeyed the will of Mary and Joseph and followed all the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law (Luke 2:51).

This flies in stark contrast to our highly individualistic culture, fixated on self-assertion.  The fruits of the opposing ideologies bear the same contrast.  Despite all the attempts to do away with any limits – personal and relational, definitions, and even the laws of human nature, our secular culture seems to only sink deeper into depression, anxiety, loneliness, and slavery to addictions.  Rather than creating unity in freedom, violence and vitriol dominate public discourse.

Jesus illuminated the freedom and supreme joy that springs from self-giving love. He began by modelling it for us.  St. Paul exhorts us to follow Christ’s example, Who, instead of asserting His rights as the divine Son, instead:

did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name”  Philippians 2: 5-9

Rather than usurp the authority of Mary and Joseph (the only teen who really was smarter than His parents), He obeyed them and respected God’s ordering in the family.  Jesus didn’t have to offer sacrifice in the Temple because He had never sinned, but He chose to because He wanted to share in our suffering.  Jesus didn’t have to die, but He wanted to walk every dark corner of human existence so that He might shine His eternal light there and conquer even the most evil oppressors of His beloved.

He challenges us to do the same.

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

 

unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat;  but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” John 12:24

 

“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.” Matthew 16:24-25

First, we must seek union of mind, will, and heart with God.  It means surrendering our adolescent pride which thinks we know better than our Heavenly Father, and our foolish rebellions against His guidance and “rules”.  When we allow ourselves to be taught by God and developed under His authority, we mature and blossom like a child who assents to his parents loving care through the turbulent periods of growth into adulthood.  No adult looks back and says, “I wish my parents had been more weak and let me raise myself.” Often, the opposite is true.

Aided by divine grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the maturing soul increasingly appreciates the depth of God’s love and comes to see His Wisdom.  At 15 many kids consider their parents’ rules overbearing and their views outmoded.  At 25 they begin to thank their parents for those rules and see the wisdom in their advice.

As God’s love fills the soul more and more, His fruits also begin to run over.  St. Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit as, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  These enable one to work for unity of love with others.  If trying to align our mind and heart with God, who is Perfect, is so hard, how much more difficult to accomplish mutual respect with imperfect humans! Impossible.  Thankfully, Christ assures us that what is impossible for man is possible for God (Matthew 19:26).

Union of mind and will can only be achieved in mutual love.  Forced submission through violence or manipulation is not union, only domination. Union is a coming together of the two into one whereas domination is assertion of one to the disappearance of the other.

Authentic union can only be achieved through divine grace.  No political system, media blast, educational model, or diet can produce the mysterious reality found in the Christian union of mind, will, and heart, in freedom, joy, and love. The only place we can experience the peace we long for is in the Mystical Body of Christ, of which Christ is the Head.   United in Christ, however, we exercise all the diversity of personality given to us by our marvelously creative Father while at the same time working toward the same end in perfect harmony and mutual respect.

There’s no greater happiness than true love, and no greater love than that between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The Lord invites us into that love and into His blessed happiness.  The Father sent the Son, the Son redeemed us and sent the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and fills us with the love of God, and we are then sent to share that saving love with others.  What an incredible mystery!

Consider:

  • Take a few minutes to simply rest in the presence of the Triune God.
    • Consider in awe the immensity of love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Consider how you are a fruit of God’s love.
    • Consider how the closer you have become with the Lord, the more purified your love has become for your neighbor.
  • Consider how the fruits of the Spirit produce loving union in human relationships as well.
    • What often undermines developing a mutual understanding or working in alignment? (pride, anxiety, fear, stubbornness, hate, selfishness, over-ambition, self-assertion, etc.)
    • Contrast these with the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  • Christ is the Head of the Mystical Body, and we are its members (I Corinthians 12). Consider times or ways in which you try to be the head and lead Christ, rather than the other way around.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Make the sign of the Cross slowly and thoughtfully as a prayer to the Triune God at the beginning and end of the day.
  • Exercise the fruits of the Spirit to bring greater unity in your family.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Being Lifted Up With Christ By Serving With Christ

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

May 13th, 2018 Ascension of the Lord and 7th Sunday of Easter

Gospel of Mark 16:15-20 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So, then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

Meditation Reflection:

Today as a Church we remember Christ’s Ascension into Heaven when He returned to His rightful glory.  Jesus our king had left the comfort and majesty of His throne, to battle sin and death for His subjects, which could only be accomplished as one of us.  He entered the war zone at the Incarnation. The Son of God Who is infinite in His divinity accepted the burden of the limitations our human nature.  In addition, as if human kingship wouldn’t already be a far cry from His experience as Divine king, He chose instead the most difficult circumstances in human society – poverty and social rejection.

Our king is someone Who walks among His people, rolls up His sleeves and works side by side with us in our most difficult struggles.  He doesn’t stand aloof but rather He invites us into His own glory.  When He became our Brother by human nature, He raised us to His brothers and sisters in His divinity.  Though we do not become God, we do participate in His divinity and our nature is elevated above its usual limitations.  How?  After His Ascension Jesus sent His Spirit Who dwells in the souls of all the baptized and enables them to share in the work of Christ and become His Mystical Body.

In addition to opening the gates of Heaven for us, Jesus modelled the way.  His glory began with His self-emptying (the fancy theological word for it is kenosis) and so our final glory requires this same emptying of self, service of others, and humble obedience to the Father’s will. St. Paul describes it beautifully in his letter to the Philippians:

“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.

 Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Philippians 2:1-11 NAB

Jesus took on the hardest and lowest jobs.  He was born in a barn, lived as a refugee in Egypt for the first years of His life, grew up with manual labor as His “career”, and walked wherever He travelled.  During the three years of His public ministry He faced rejection by His own townspeople who tried to throw Him off a cliff, the Pharisees and Sadducees plotted against Him even though He is the Word of God they supposedly protected, His own friends betrayed Him, and He died with an unjust conviction under false claims in the most humiliating and torturous way the Romans had contrived – naked on a Cross.  The night before His death, He prepared His apostles to reign in His stead by washing their feet – the most disgusting task which would traditionally be assigned to whomever was lowest on the totem pole – of the servants the slaves and of the slaves the foreign slaves.

So, who wants to reign with Christ? Doesn’t this sound fun?! If Christ’s life ended on the Cross, then NO.  Absolutely Not!  But it didn’t.  Because He humbled Himself, the Father exalted Him above every name and at His Name, every knee should bend.  Jesus rose from the dead and 40 days later He ascended to unmatched glory in Heaven.  He assures us that if we follow Him, the way will be hard, but it will culminate in unending joy.

“The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23: 11-12 NAB

Christian disciples share in the mystery of Jesus’ Royal Poverty.  Rather than looking side to side to see what everyone else is doing, we look up and down – up to Christ in glory and to His will, and down to where we might humbly serve.  If we keep our glance up and down, down and up, we will discover harmony within the tension of humble service and risen glory – the royal poverty that can only be found by abiding in the One who accomplished it – Jesus Christ.

So, let us wait in eager anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (next Sunday).  He empowers us to serve and to reign, to obey and to be glorified.  He empowers us to love.  Love puts the beloved before oneself, and experiences joy at every sacrifice.  The Holy Spirit is the love of the Father and Son, and He pours their love into our hearts with such generosity that as it overflows all selfishness and pride pours over the edges with it.  The deepest happiness is love – both given and received.  We have received the greatest of loves from Christ our Lord and Brother and His Spirit gifts us with the same love for Christ and our fellow brothers and sisters in Him.

Consider:

  • Meditate on the love of Christ who desired to become your Brother.  What does it mean to be a brother? What does it mean to be His brother or sister in return?
  • Today is Mother’s Day.  Consider the Christ-like love of motherhood: sacrifice of one’s bodily comfort, unconditional and personal love, the acceptance of humble tasks like changing diapers, the intercession for her children with relentless prayers. Consider your own mother’s love expressed in humble service toward you.  Offer a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing for her.
  • Ask Christ how you might empty yourself more.  To what are you still attached? What holds you back from following Him?  What task feels too low to take up, or what feels too good to give up?
  • Pray for greater faith and hope.  Humbling ourselves is a tremendous risk.  We live in a competitive culture of self-assertion.  If we don’t exalt ourselves, we will be overrun if God doesn’t exalt us.  Pray for the grace to step out in faith that we need only humble ourselves, and God will take care of the exalting.
  • How much do you look side to side – comparing yourself to others or the standards of the world?  How might you look up and down more in those situations?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week acknowledge someone’s humble, loving service and thank them.
  • Each day look up in prayer, then down for an opportunity to serve, then offer that service back up to the Lord as a sacrifice of praise or intercession for someone.  Try to do it in the morning, midday, and evening.  Even every hour if you can.

Related Posts:

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Remaining in the Joy of Love

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

May 6th, 2018 6th Sunday of Easter

Gospel of John 15:9-17 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.”

Meditation Reflection:

Here in this passage, Jesus tells you directly, “I love you.”

How much you might ask?  What kind of love?  The term is thrown about loosely these days and unfortunately often conditional.  The popular children’s books Guess How Much I Love You? (by Sam McBratney) and I Love You to the Moon and Back (by Amelia Hepworth) attempt to describe the greatest possible love a person could have for another, making them beloved stories for parents and children.   Jesus too attempts to describe the greatest possible love He could have for you – “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”  As the Father loves Jesus!  To the moon and back is quiet a distance, but the Father loves infinitely, totally, purely, passionately, and eternally.  Jesus has this love for you!

And He invites you to remain in His love.  How wonderful it is to remain in the sun after a long winter, to linger on the beach past sunset during a vacation, or to relax at home with your significant other or your best friend after a busy week.  Relationship with Christ means soaking up the warmth and brightness of His light, lingering on the beauty of His Word in Scriptures, His presence in the Sacraments, and His presence in your heart.  It means enjoying being with Him in activity and in the quiet of home.

Making time to rest in these things can be hard however.  Our schedules fill quickly to overflowing and the pull of work and achievement rushes us away from the joy we desire.  These same distractions work our souls into a frenzy and tempt us to set Christ to the side until we “get everything done first.”

However, experience proves that making the time to step back from activity for rest and relaxation actually increases overall productivity.  Skimping on sleep and vacation days frazzles our nerves, dulls our judgment, and kills our creativity.  Refreshing ourselves on the other hand gives us the energy to approach our work with our best selves and often provides new inspiration.

Remaining in Jesus’ love requires stepping away for time alone with Him.  Just like we need sleep and food every day, we need prayer every day.  Resting in the Lord for 30 minutes will refresh your soul and provide the spiritual energy to approach everything in your schedule with Christ’s companionship and aid.

In addition, it will grow our love and each stage of love brings out our best selves at ever deeper levels.  First, love makes us joyful, energetic, and generous. Think of newlyweds or those newly in love. They’re easy to spot by their glow, their bubbling joy, and their extra energy.  They see all the best in each other and look forward to every little opportunity to demonstrate their love.  When we abide in Christ’s love, that same excitement bubbles up and we look for ways to demonstrate our love for Him in even the smallest of details.  Moreover, just as young love relates everything back to their beloved (sometimes obnoxiously so to those around them!), Christian love sees Christ in every person they encounter and every event of their day.  This love then imbues their activity, bearing even richer fruit and produces works of charity towards those around them.

As the love grows deeper and the relationship develops history together with time, the commitment and concern for one another becomes apparent in a couple’s intimate knowledge of each other and patient forgiveness.  As relationship with Christ develops it runs deeper as well.  We get to know Him more intimately and experience His patient forgiveness with a heart of respect and gratitude.  This can’t help but extend to our neighbor as an opportunity to show Christ the love and commitment He has shown us.

Finally, perfect love sacrifices joyfully and immediately for the beloved.  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  I’ve experienced this as a mother as have most parents – I wouldn’t stop to think for even a split second if I had to lay down my life for my child.  Christ chose to become man and He chose to lay down His life on the Cross for us.  Although He suffered immensely every step of the way to Calvary and for the three hours nailed to the Cross, He didn’t consider even for a split second walking away at the expense of our salvation. How can we give Him anything less than our entire selves and our whole lives in return?

When we abide in His love, we abide in Him, His love for us, and His love for others.  In this relationship of reciprocal love, He assures us that “Whatever you ask the Father in My Name He will give you.”  If we love authentically, for what would we ask other than to increase our love for the Lord, to become better disciples, and for the things Jesus wants for us.  Moreover, we will see others with the heart of Jesus and desire the blessings He desires for them.

As the Father loves the Son, the Son loves us; and as the Son loves us, we are to love one another.  Jesus wants us to share in His ministry, to share in His love for us and others.  Therefore, when we abide in Him, whatever we ask in His Name, He will give because He wants us to bear fruit in His work.

So today, let us remain in Jesus’ love for us.  May He “lead us beside still waters and restore our souls” (Psalm 23:2-3).  Then, may that joyous love overflow into every detail of our day and every encounter with Christ in those we meet.

Consider:

  • Meditate on Jesus words “so I also love you.”  Jesus is Truth and His words are true.  He loves you as you truly are, to your very core.
  • Consider the joy inherent in love.  Even in the midst of trials or suffering, it remains and even increases when that suffering is for the person loved.
  • Pray for the gift of seeing Christ in others.  Ask for His love for them to be poured into your heart as well.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray Psalm 23 each day.
  • Do intentional acts of love toward Jesus throughout the day by acts of love toward others.  For instance, Christ is forgiving toward us, but we never have the opportunity to be forgiving toward Him back.  Be forgiving toward someone else today as an act of loving forgiveness for Jesus.  Jesus is so generous with us, but what could we give Him that wasn’t already a gift from Him?  In consequence, be generous with someone today as an act of generosity toward Christ.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Love and Work – The Good Shepherd Who Loves His Job

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

good-shepherd.jpg

 January 27th, 2018 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of John 20:19-31 NAB

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”

Meditation Reflection:

Consider the common exchange at first introduction.  After sharing our name, the usual question to follow is “what do you do?”  Why?  Since our work occupies most of our day it reveals something of our values, our unique personality and talents, and it shapes us over time.

I’m a wife, mom, and teacher.  In consequence, I value family and the development of persons.   I also have a knack for explaining things and a zany side that works well with kids.  My roles have shaped me too.  After teaching for so many years, I catch myself conversing in a Socratic way in every day conversation.  Before sharing something, I ask if the person happens to know the answer.  As they talk, I ask more questions.  By the end, I might recommend a book or article to read.  At the grocery checkout or fast food restaurant, I can’t help but see teen employees as students (of course, sometimes they are!).  I catch myself gently guiding them as they navigate taking my order.  Even when I try to just relax, the teacher comes out in me.  At the beach with my children, some teens started arguing and inappropriate words rose above the hum of swimmers.  Without even thinking I marched over to these young men much taller than me and, in my loud authoritative teacher voice, told them their behavior was inappropriate and needed to be taken elsewhere.  The other teens who had circled around to see the altercation looked at me with wide eyes expressing the warning “you are crazy lady!”.  The mom in me is here to stay too.  I was at a Master’s class and one of my classmates had a runny nose and cough, and no Kleenex.  As I took notes and listened to the lecture I grabbed Kleenex out of my purse and passed it down.  She laughed and afterward said, “I should have known you’d have Kleenex with you.  You’re such a mom.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd.  It reveals that He values the care of His flock with nurturing and protective love.  He lives with them, guides them, feeds them, and protects them at all costs.  Moreover, His Sheep belong to Him.  The hired hand works transitionally – for the day and for income.  He may be providing for a family or saving for a pasture of sheep of his own, but the flock he watches temporarily is not his love.  In consequence he won’t risk anything for it.

Like a shepherd compared to sheep, Jesus’ dignity and nature is far above ours.  Yet He loves us intimately and personally.  He lives with us and cares for even the smallest details of our lives.

Pope Francis emphasizes this as well in his Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate:

the Lord is ever mindful of you; he never forgets you. So it makes sense to ask him to shed light on the smallest details of your life, for he sees them all.” par. 153

Jesus’ love is also total which is why He lays down His very life for us.

I lay down my life and take it up again.  No one takes it from Me.  I lay it down on my own.”

Before His Ascension into Heaven, Jesus entrusted His flock to Peter.

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’  He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’  A second time He said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do  you love Me?’ He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’  He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’”  John 21:15-16

Each Christian at baptism receives a mission from God, a flock to tend – the persons Christ has placed in your life and your care.  It includes your family, co-workers, and the particular ministry to which God has called you.  The flock remains the Lord’s so we must first unite our heart to His in prayer.  In doing so, He pours out His love into us, from which we receive the generosity and joy to serve.  He opens our eyes to see others with the love in which He sees them, and to see their needs as He does, down to the smallest detail.

Pope Francis writes:

The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts…We are called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness.” (Gaudete et Exsultate par. 11)

Each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel.” (par. 19)

Holiness is about loving our Good shepherd and in turn loving the sheep whose care He shares with us.  Wherever God has placed us, we can witness Him to others through our sacrificial love.  After learning to trust Jesus’ little shepherd, they may take a leap of faith and trust the Good Shepherd Himself.

Consider:

  • Reflect on Christ’s love for you, down to the smallest detail of your life.  Take a moment to lay your worries and your hopes before Him and to rest in His care.
  • Pray for your little flocks.  Who has Christ placed in your life?  How might you serve them in love and joy?
  • Meditate on the love of Mary, who cares for everyone who belongs to her Son and consecrated her whole life to His mission.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray Psalm 23 each day this week.
  • Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for an increase of Trust in Christ’s Merciful Love.
  • Read the Biography of Blessed Stanly Rother – an American priest who returned to his mission in Guatamela to die with his people so they wouldn’t die without him. https://relevantradio.com/2018/04/homegrown-holiness-american-priest-on-the-path-to-sainthood/

How do you love your flock?  Share in the comments!

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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“You Are Witnesses of These Things”

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

April 15th, 2018 3rd Sunday of Easter

Gospel of Luke 24:35-48

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.  He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Meditation Reflection:

Christ’s parting words summon every disciple to be a witness of their encounter with Him and of God’s merciful love.

In our frenzied culture many people vacillate from anxious stress to temporary escape through superficial pleasures.  In contrast, disciples of Christ rest in His Peace and rejoice in all circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:18).

When others wonder if anything can be true or lasting, Christians make decisions with confidence knowing that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that He has a plan for their lives.  Although choices may not be easy, Christ’s disciples can look to His teachings, His Church, and to the Holy Spirit to guide them and “open their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

Worried about the future or how to find meaning in life, many turn to psychics, gurus, ideologies, pop culture, or other general spiritualties.  In contrast, Christians encounter Jesus – who is alive and real, and therefore has the power to truly act in their lives on their behalf. They know that everything will be okay, because Jesus has conquered death and made them adopted children of the Father.  They experience the deepest kind of meaning in their lives because they believe that every act of love and kindness will reverberate into eternity.  Wealth, status, beauty, health, fame, and honor can all be taken away in a moment against one’s will.  Faith, hope, love, goodness, joy, and peace cannot – as so many martyrs have witnessed in the past and continue to today.

Our witness requires speaking about our faith.  We need to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” as St. Peter instructed (I Peter 3:15).  This means immersing ourselves in Scriptures and prayer and making an effort to keep learning more about our faith.  In this way, we can then pass on our faith to our children and stand up for the truth in society.

Our encounter with Christ is also witnessed in our silence.  I once had the opportunity to attend a private Mass at the Vatican with Pope St. John Paul II in 2001 along with about 20 other people.  When we entered the chapel, Pope John Paul was kneeling in prayer.  His silent conversation with the Lord was so real it was palpable.  When Moses returned from Mount Sinai the people knew he had encountered God because “his face had become radiant while he spoke with the Lord” (Exodus 34:29).  People often say of new mothers or new couples, that they are “glowing”.  Love has a way of doing that. When we encounter Christ in prayer daily, when we walk with him throughout the day, we too glow with His love.  Imaginary myths or wishful thinking cannot produce this kind of radiance.

Finally, Christ becomes visible to others through His work from within us.  If I came home and the house were a mess, I wouldn’t believe my husband if he said that he had hired a maid.  If, however, I returned home, and all the dishes were clean, the floors vacuumed, laundry washed, and surfaces dusted, I would believe his word without having met the person because their work would be evidence of their existence.  In the same way, if we tell others of Christ’s redeeming grace but remain the same mess of sin and confusion, it may be hard for them to believe.  However, when we tell them of how Christ transformed us, and they see our anger replaced with love, envy replaced with gratitude and contentment, and selfishness replaced with loving relationship, His grace will be evident to them in a real way.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).  God is here.  He is real.  We struggle to see because we are blinded by things – pleasure, over-ambition, anxiety, fear, anger, greed, and other distractions.  The more we cooperate with Christ to remove these obstacles the more easily we will see God, and the more easily others will see Him in us.

Consider:

  • Who do you know that seems to “glow” with love for Christ?  Who seems to radiate His Peace?
  • When have you experienced the peace of Christ?
  • When have you found Jesus’ words to be true?
  • How might you become more pure of heart?  What obstacles blur your vision?  How might you grow your love for the Lord?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Try to keep Christ present in your heart throughout the day.  Spend 10 minutes in prayer every morning, pause for a prayer midday, and close with 5 minutes of prayer in the evening.
  • Learn more about the faith by joining a bible study, attending Faith Formation at your parish, or reading a book about the faith with a group of Christian friends.

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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The Trap of Stubborn Self-Reliance

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

April 8th, 2018 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday

Gospel of John 20:19-31 NAB

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Meditation Reflection:

The Christian faith is neither a well-crafted myth nor a brilliant philosophy.  Rather, the Christian religion is based on eye witness testimony of the resurrected Lord.

It began with the testimony of Mary Magdalene, who encountered the risen Christ in the morning when she went to His tomb and was subsequently sent by Him to tell the apostles.  They felt excited and a bit confused “for they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9).   In the evening, Jesus appeared to them as well except for Thomas who wasn’t there.  Upon seeing Him with their own eyes they believed and rejoiced.

When they shared their Good News with Thomas he refused belief until he could see it for himself.  Thomas had been willing to die with Christ (John 11:7-8, 16) but he couldn’t envision rising with Him. In consequence, his faith – though fiercely loyal – remained limited to his own personal experience.

One week later however, Jesus had mercy on Thomas’ obstinate self-reliance and appeared to him in the flesh and so enabled Thomas to believe.

We too can fall into the trap of self-reliance in matters of faith – limiting our belief to personal experience and rejecting the witness of Jesus’ apostles and His Church.  Our present culture tends toward “cafeteria Christianity”, meaning we pick and choose what we like and leave what we don’t.  We view doctrine as a buffet of ideas that we can take or leave according to our personal preferences and reasoning.

Imagine Thomas saying to the other 10, “you have your truth and I have my truth, one is not better than the other.”  Yet, one is that Jesus is risen and the other is that Jesus is dead!  How could Jesus’ Church endure with such conflicting beliefs?  The same remains true today.  Capitulating to the attitude of an individualistic faith undermines Christ’s work.

Jesus chose to share His Truth and Grace through the apostles’ witness (and their successors – the pope and bishops).  Their interpretation of Scripture and the power of their miracles came from the Holy Spirit bestowed on them by the Lord.

At the final moment of Jesus’ death, He breathed His last and surrendered His Spirit to the Father.  On the evening of His resurrection, He breathed upon the Apostles, and gave them His Spirit and His authority:

“‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

Christianity is an encounter with the incarnate God who dwells within the very souls of His baptized disciples and makes them one Body.  Jesus is not a restaurateur who offers the world’s greatest buffet.  He is the Son of God who desires all persons to be united as a family in the Lord and therefore established a visible Church endowed with His invisible presence to guide and govern its members to His eternal kingdom.

Today, one week after Easter, we celebrate the inexhaustible, generous, mercy of Christ which He lavishes on all who will accept it. As He did for Thomas on this same day, Christ reaches down into the darkest parts of our souls, to our most acute failures and sins, to apply the healing balm of His Merciful Love poured out on the Cross for our salvation. Our Lord is a crucified Lord.  When He appeared to the apostles “He showed them His hands and His side” (John 20:20).  He did not choose, as Satan tempted Him to be in the desert, king without the Cross.  Similarly, true disciples are crucified disciples.  They have died to self, and self-reliance, and live by the Holy Spirit in communion with the Church.

There’s no sin too great for Jesus to forgive. He only requires a repentant heart which chooses to trust in His love.

There’s also no weakness of faith He can’t strengthen, no doubt He can’t dispel, and no question of doctrine He can’t explain to you – if you let Him.  And remember, He has given us the fellowship of the Apostles through both the Scriptures and the living voice of authority in His Church.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  Today’s Gospel passage concludes with John offering the same witness to us that was offered to Thomas. Today is the day to surrender to Christ in prayer every doubt you harbor and every limitation you place on faith.  Then, receive His mercy in daily prayer, immersion in the Scriptures, the Eucharist at Mass, and trying to learn the Church’s reasons for her doctrines.  In consequence, you too will become an eye-witness of the resurrected Christ to others.

Consider:

  • When buying a product online or hiring someone for a house project, how much credence to you give to people’s reviews?  How much credence to you give to the testimony about Jesus from the Apostles, the saints and martyrs, the Christians you know who testify to the Lords’ work in their lives?
  • It’s hard to trust someone you can’t see.  Do you make Christ visible to others in your life?  How might you witness the reality of His truth and mercy even more?
  • Reflect on the choice presented today: whether to sand stubbornly in self-reliance or enter the communion of the Body of Christ – His Church – and lean on one another.
  • Jesus told St. Faustina that His greatest pain is distrust on the part of souls in His mercy.  Pope Francis, observed that we fail to believe in Christ’s mercy because we have no experience of mercy in our lives and therefore believe no one – not even Christ – will help us. To what extent has this been your experience?  What makes it difficult to trust Christ?  How might you extend mercy to the people in your daily life so that they might be strengthened to trust in Christ’s mercy?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Begin each day this week with a prayer of surrender to Christ.
  • Every time you feel helpless, turn to Christ in prayer and throw yourself at His mercy. Repeat the prayer He gave to St. Faustina to have written under His image: “Jesus, I Trust In You.
  • Do at least one corporal or spiritual Work of Mercy every day.

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~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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