Appreciating the Advent of Christ…Gospel meditation for Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

by Angela Lambert

angels-announcing-the-birth-of-christ

November 29th, 2015; 1st Sunday in Advent

Gospel Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Meditation Reflection:

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent, a word which means “coming” and marks a time of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. As quaint and humble as Christ’s appearance on earth as a baby in a manger is, it has had world-changing and life-changing effects. The incarnation of Christ stands as the axis of history. When God became man, He raised the dignity of human nature higher than that of the angels. No other creature shares such intimacy with God. Moreover, when the Second Person of the Trinity united our human nature with His divine nature (also called the hypostatic union) He transformed and renewed humanity.

The Western value of the intrinsic dignity of the human person stems from this Christian principle. The early Christians sensed the significance of this and translated it into their view of the human person even in the womb. In the Didache, one of the first “catechisms” or statements of faith possibly dating before A.D. 100, it is written: “you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.” Contrary to the Roman practice of infanticide, Christians believed that every stage of human life was sacred, including that of the child in the womb, because it experienced union with Christ who took up our humanity at the moment of conception in Mary’s womb. Because of this, human value does not have to be subject to utilitarianism or how useful one is to society. Rather, every human has inherent and inalienable value because it enjoys the dignity of union with God. The catechism summarizes the Christian belief in this way:

The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”:78 “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.”79 “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”80 “The only–begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”81

online link

Despite secular attempts to downplay the impact of Christ, our calendar retains the mark of His coming. Modern attempts to replace B.C. (before Christ) with B.C.E. (before the common era) and A.D. (Anno Domini – in the year of our Lord) with C.E. (common era) still doesn’t change the fact that the “common era” is counted from before and after the coming of Christ. In fact, the coming of Christ has changed history universally to an extent unmatched by any other person, empire, or movement.

Jesus tells us to “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.” During Advent we take a step back to readjust our perspective. Unfortunately, the craze leading up to Christmas tempts us to step backward rather than forward. We can too easily become either stressed by the anxieties of Christmas celebrations or distracted by feasting and consumerism that we forget the impact and gift of Christ in our lives. God became man, that we might become God. Advent is a time to reflect on this mystery and invite Christ to bring to perfection this good work that He has begun in us.

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NAB

Consider:

  • Reflect on the inestimable dignity you have in Christ. How might you align your view of yourself with God’s view of you?
  • Consider the gift of God becoming man. How does this deepen your feeling of confidence and security knowing that God has united Himself with our very nature?
  • God’s intimacy through Christ is startling and should have a startling effect on your life. Thank God for how He has transformed your heart and your life. Invite Him to transform it even more.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, thank Christ for His closeness to you. Keep it present to your mind by wearing a cross or carrying a scripture verse in your pocket.
  • Identify one way that you don’t live up to the dignity Christ has given you. Resolve to act or be treated in the way you ought as a son or daughter of God.
    • CCC 1691 “Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.”
  • Pray for the unborn and for greater appreciation for the sacredness of life from conception to natural death.
  • Read and reflect on the Incarnation of Christ in the catechism (paragraphs 422-483) CCC 422-483

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015

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The Glorious Reign of Christ our King

by Angela Lambert

 Jesus and Pilate

November 22nd, 2015; Feast of Christ the King

Gospel John 18:33b-37

Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Meditation Reflection:

Christ’s humble form in the Eucharist and His life of material poverty can sometimes cause us to forget the magnitude of His greatness and the awe-inspiring power and glory of His kingship. Advent marks the beginning of the New Year for the liturgy. As a result, the week prior marks the end of the year and so we reflect on the end of time when Christ will come again to reign in glory. Scripture attests to the fact that His Second Coming will be very different than His first. In the latter His glory was veiled so that we might have the freedom to accept or reject Him. In the former, everyone will see and know that He is God. The Truth will be revealed and we will no longer be able to live in unreality.

Pontius Pilate articulates this confusion well. He simply asks Jesus if He is the king of the Jews but Jesus describes His kingdom in terms foreign to Pilate’s political experience. Jesus’ kingdom includes those who love and live by Truth. Christ’s kingdom conquers hearts not lands and its members become citizens of this monarchy freely. Pilate asks the famous question “What is truth?” as Truth stands directly before him. At Christ’s Second Coming, no one will ask this question. Reality will be so bright that we cannot hide in blindness or denial.

For those who love Christ, who have been desiring to see in fullness the Lord they can only see by faith, it will be a glorious moment. When our king comes we will truly rejoice and feel both honored and unworthy to be His servants. We will sing songs of praise like those in the book of Revelation, grateful to be in His courts. For those who rely on lies or a self-created image they will cringe when the truth of their emptiness is exposed. The feast of Christ the King should encourage us and strengthen our hope to persevere in aligning ourselves with God who is Truth, Goodness, and Love. It seems unreal to the worldly but the reality check will come and Christ will reward those who know the Truth. In response to the culture of relativism the Christian can respond: You have your truth and I have mine…His name is Jesus.

Consider:

  • Reflect on Jesus’ words to Pilate: “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
    • Who do you listen to when discerning the answers to important questions?
      • Do you consult Scripture, Christian spiritual writers, your priest, etc.?
      • Is there someone you know that loves you enough to speak Christ’s Truth to you despite whether it is something you want to hear or not?
      • Do you ask Christ in prayer?
      • Do you rely on cultural norms to determine your perspective?
      • Do media or secular friends play a role in your decision making?
    • Our culture is permeated by relativism – the belief that there is no objective truth. Do you believe that Truth is objective – the Person of Christ – or do you adhere to the cultural mantra “you have your truth and I have my truth”?
    • Imagine Jesus coming in all of His glory with His hosts of angels. Consider what it would feel like to be in His Kingdom.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray for Christ’s kingdom to come in your own heart each day this week.
  • Start each day imagining the Second Coming of Christ. Walk through the rest of the day with joy and pride of being a member of His true, everlasting kingdom.
  • If you are blessed with a Truth-speaker in your life, take the time to thank him or her. They could probably use your encouragement. We know how Truth was treated while He was on earth.
  • If you struggle to understand or align yourself with one of Christ’s teachings in Scripture or through His Church, actively seek understanding by learning more through reading, talking with someone educated on the topic, praying about it, etc.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015

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Real Realism… Gospel Meditation for Mark 13:24-32

by Angela Lambert

Jesus-Second-Coming

November 15th, 2015; 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Mark 13:24-32

Jesus said to his disciples: “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. “And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Meditation Reflection:

A deeply spiritual friend of mine, made a comment once that has stuck with me – she said we must work to keep the invisible world visible. As a busy wife, homeschooling mother of eight, and one who practices charity toward anyone in need, she of all people knows how easy it is to be consumed by the tasks in front of us and forget about the invisible reality of God and the angels. Even in our work for God we can miss the forest for the trees. Moreover, our wounded human nature all too easily loses the spiritual perspective and succumbs to fear in times of distress, pride in hopes of honor, and avarice in the pursuit of making a living. Making time to meet with her always makes the invisible world more visible for me. I am left feeling energized and filled with joy and hope.   Jesus promises that if we seek first the kingdom of God, all things shall be added (Matthew 6:33). I truly believe this to be the case and have experienced it in my own life.

God revealed His name to Moses as YHWH, which means “I AM” or “I AM WHO AM” (Exodus 3:13-15). The Church Fathers explain that God revealed that He is existence. He is reality. All that is real has its existence in God. If therefore, we center our lives on doing God’s will, we can be confident about our decisions.   At some point, what seems real will come to an end. The sun, moon, stars, and earth only exist as long as God holds them in existence. God has revealed that at an hour only known to Him, they will pass away. This should only strike fear in our hearts if we were depending on the sun to rise tomorrow for our happiness. If Christ is our happiness, this will be a magnificent moment. Imagine being one of the “elect,” one of Christ’s lambs whom He promises to send out the angels to gather. The laws of science are temporary. The author of those laws is eternal. The sun may or may not rise tomorrow, but Christ is certain to gather those He loves who love Him in return. Let’s be intentional about keeping the invisible world visible and develop into true realists.

Consider:

  • Reflect on this quote by Pope Benedict XVI. What is the true definition of realism?
Even more, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our notion that matter, solid things, things we can touch, is the most solid, the most certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one’s life: sand and rock. He who builds on sand only builds on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will vanish. We can see this now with the fall of two large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. Who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is he who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is he who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life. (Synod on the Word of God, October 2008)
  • What or who do you depend on to feel secure? Why?
  • How might you keep the invisible world visible?
  • Imagine what it would be like to see Christ or His angel coming to bring you to heaven, gathered together with all those who praise God’s name.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Schedule time with a friend who inspires you in the spiritual life.
  • Listen to religious podcasts that raises your mind (and perspective) to God.
    • Suggestions: Bishop Barron wordonfire.org; Fr. Gallagher discerninghearts.com; see if your parish has podcasts of your priest’s homilies (more and more do)
  • Spend 5-10 minutes reading Scripture or a spiritual book.
  • Hang religious art or sayings in your home. This can be as simple as writing inspiring Scripture passages down and placing them where you might see them everyday.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015

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Faith-filled Giving, Authentic Discipleship… Gospel Meditation for Mark 12:38-44 for Sunday November 8th, 2015

by Angela Lambert

Faith-filled Giving, Authentic Discipleship

Mother-Teresa-Giving-Quote

November 8th, 2015; 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Mark 12:38-44 NAB

In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.” He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus observes two persons and each teaches us something different about discipleship and giving. Growing up both my parents communicated their conviction about giving in word and action. They taught us about tithing and the responsibility of stewardship. Stewardship refers to how God gave human persons the responsibility and authority to care for gifts He entrusts to us. This includes Creation (see Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si), our talents, possessions, money, opportunities, and time. Scripturally and traditionally, tithing has been defined as giving God the first 10% of one’s income. My parents taught us to give 5% to our parish and 5% to charitable giving of our choice. This, they also taught, is just the beginning. One is called to be generous of heart and put all that one has been given at the service of Christ. Even if one has no income, is sick and suffering, unable to “do” anything for anyone else, that person can offer their suffering and prayers which has great power to build up the Church.

The rich people Jesus observed contributed from their “surplus.” It’s valuable to give but it doesn’t take faith to give your extra. Moreover, Jesus juxtaposes this observation with His critique of a hypocritical attitude which desires honor for oneself rather than giving honor to God. I personally know certain rich persons who give from faith not just surplus and who do so with great humility and gratitude. I have also observed other persons who only give if it will be visible to others, they will be recognized, and others will “see what a good person they are.” At times, the gift, though it looks large, is either merely the 10% they ought to give anyway or less.

Our parish should not have to “beg” for money. It’s our responsibility to give to God the honor and faith He deserves and giving the first 10% of our paycheck is a concrete way to show it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to remember to bring the check to Mass when I am trying to just get us all there on time, showered, and dressed somewhat appropriately. The longer I wait though the more burdened I feel. When my parish offered the option to have my tithing paid through automatic deduction from my checking account I signed up. I have my paycheck automatically deposited, and I have a great peace knowing my tithing is automatically given to God too. Many people say that you cannot out-give God. This is absolutely true; ask anyone who has ever tried. It’s okay to attend charitable banquets or galas, but let’s be intentional about our giving and remember that we are merely doing our duty as stewards to a God who has been so generous to us and is the source of all we have.

The widow in this passage challenges us to give God not just 10%, but everything. As a poor widow, in a time and culture where she would have no opportunity to earn a living, she was completely dependent on God. She demonstrated her faith when she gave Him the little she had. In the first reading today (1 Kgs 17:10-16) another poor widow showed similar faith by giving Elijah her last meal. He promises her that if she does this for God’s prophet, God will not let her flour or oil run out until the drought is over. She makes a leap of faith and prepares the little cake for Elijah. God keeps His promise by providing what she needs.   I wonder if the widow Jesus observed was recalling the same event when she gave her last coin. Jesus, who knows and judges hearts, holds her up as an example of profound giving.

Discipleship is not for minimalists. Jesus does not call us to mediocrity. Jesus demonstrates that love means giving one’s whole self with abandon to God, trusting in His goodness and love. Giving God 10% or more means acknowledging that He gave you 100% and it’s the least you can do. The more you love the easier it is to give. When we love God deeply, giving to Him can bring deep joy.

Consider:

  • Reflect on all of God’s gifts in your life – people, relationships, opportunities, food (especially ice cream!), clothing, housing, work, beauty in nature, His saving Truth and grace…
  • How have you benefited from the generosity of others?
  • Consider or “observe” someone authentically generous. Is there something(s) they do you could imitate?
  • Reflect on how you can’t out-give God. Consider how God always blesses you with more the more you give.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Evaluate your giving and make a plan:
    • Financially – pray about how much to give to your parish, what charities you want to support, what people in your life you might give to.
    • Time – be intentional about making time for your family, friends, neighbors, parish, and local charities.
    • Talents – pray about who you could help with your skills, knowledge, etc.
  • Add warmth to your home
    • In his homily at the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis commented on the solitude and loneliness that plagues our culture pointing to “the paradox of a globalized world filled with luxurious mansions and sky scrapers but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families.”
    • Add warmth to your home for your family and share that warmth with others in your life you could reach.
  • Pray for a heart of gratitude and the eyes to see the needs of others around you.
    • Giving can be simple: a cup of coffee, a warm smile, helping someone save face, showing patience toward someone, giving encouraging words or recognition, fixing something if you’re mechanical, helping someone with technology if you’re computer savvy…

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015

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