Let Go and Let God

by Angela Lambert

let-god

January 31st, 2016; Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Luke 4:21-30

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Meditation Reflection:

Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of Christ in this passage. All too often so-called friends or groups of admirers show their fickle nature by turning on us at the first instance we upset them, let them down, don’t meet all of their expectations, or they simply become distracted by something else. The home-town crowd listening to Jesus turn from amazement at His gracious words to anger which impels them to hurl Him down a cliff it what seems like a moment.

The daily Gospel readings from this week shed some useful light on this situation that can help sooth our disillusionment. Jesus responded to both praise and rejection with the same calm demeanor. He knows human nature and refrains from getting worked up about the opinion of the masses. His mission is to do the will of the Father not to poll focus groups. Moreover, Jesus teaches that all any of us can do is the will of the Father, the results are in God’s hands not our own. This works both ways – when we seemingly do great works and when we seemingly fail. In Thursday’s Gospel reading from Mark 4:1-20 Jesus told the parable of the Sower and the Seed. As a teacher and mother this is one of my favorite passages. Jesus, and His servants, have the responsibility to sow the seeds of the Gospel wherever God sends. How those seeds grow depends on the soil, or the disposition, of the receiver. Jesus’ words quite often fell on hearts that were hardened toward Him or too distracted by greed or anxiety. Why should we be surprised if we experience the same thing? Sometimes Jesus’ words fell on generous hearts and the Holy Spirit was able to work wonders through His followers. Again, can we really take all the credit when our work bears rich fruit? Some of the credit belongs to the person of faith willing to “hear the word of God and obey it” (Lk 11:28). Thus, Jesus places higher honor on two foreigners over God’s own children the Israelites because they were willing to do something in response to God’s word. Finally, credit ultimately belongs to God. In Friday’s Gospel from Mark 4:26-32 Jesus reflects on how a farmer plants seeds and harvests the crops but the entire process of growth in between is due to the mystery of God’s work in nature.

This Gospel should give us peace that God is in control. He opens people’s ears to hear and eyes to see if He chooses. He decides what persecution He will allow toward His servants and what He won’t allow. In this Gospel Jesus calmly and effortlessly passed through the angry crowd, demonstrating God’s total control over the situation. During His Passion however, God allows His Son to be taken by the angry crowd in the Garden of Gethsemane and eventually crucified. Yet, by the power of God Jesus also rises from the dead. Disciples of Christ can take comfort in Jesus’ words He so often speaks: “Peace be with you” and “Be not afraid”. We can let go and let God because our only task is to do the will of the Father and let Him bring our work to fruition. We have the joy of being His instrument, but the music played through us belongs to Him.

Consider:

  • Have you ever had an experience like Christ’s where a friend or an acquaintance turned on you? What did it teach you about relying on the opinion of others?
  • How much do you worry about what other people think of you?
  • Do you trust your children to God or do you put all the pressure for their good on yourself?
  • In John 15:1-5 Jesus asserts that our fruitfulness depends upon our connection to Him.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
  • How often do you begin your work with prayer?
  • Do you pray for the people in your life?
  • Do you pray for God to guide little decisions and everyday tasks in addition to the larger ones?
  • How has bringing things to prayer enrichened your experience or the outcome?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Whatever your work may be, take time in prayer to surrender it to Christ each day. Ask for Him to guide the process as well as the outcome.
  • Choose a time in the middle of your day to connect with Christ. Decide on when, where, and how – even if it’s as simple as 5 minutes of silent prayer or reading Scripture at your desk during lunch.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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Do You Have Skin In The Game?

jesus-in-the-synagogue

January 24th, 2016; Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all. He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.

Meditation Reflection:

Fables and epic stories begin with something along the lines of “Once upon a time” or “A long long time ago, in a galaxy far away…” Biographies on the other hand begin with concrete dates, places, and people. The Christian faith differs from other religions because it is not the accumulation of man’s wisdom in his search for God, rather it rests on the testimony of men’s experience encountering God in His search for us. St. Luke begins his Gospel as a biography not a story. He underscores his intent to present the research he has compiled through his investigations in an orderly way. The historical reality of Jesus, His place of origin, death under Pontius Pilate, the respect He gained from multitudes of people, and the numerous witnesses of His miracles are written of not only by the Gospel writers but secular historians of the time as well such as the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

The apostles believed in Jesus because of what they saw as did many of the first followers of Christ. Their faith centered on the climatic event of the Resurrection and seeing Jesus for the 40 days leading up to His ascension into heaven. When choosing someone to replace Judas for instance, the apostles required that the candidates be men who had followed Jesus from His Baptism through His Ascension and that the person had been a witness of the Resurrected Christ. The early Christians did not preach a “spirituality” or self-help plan and Christ is not our universal imaginary friend. The early Christians died for their belief in the reality of Christ and His promise of resurrection. Their willingness to sacrifice everything this life has to offer proved their belief in the promises of Christ in Heaven. The apostles and martyrs had nothing worldly to gain from their belief and their supernatural deeds of heroism, courage, sacrifice, and love served as a potent witness of the authenticity of their testimony.

Jesus brings “glad tidings to the poor” because He freed captives, healed the blind and lame, comforted the sorrowful, and gave eternal life to those willing to accept His love. He then gave this same power to His followers through His Holy Spirit. Read Acts of the Apostles, also authored by Luke, to see the evident power of God at work through the apostles.

The mission of Christ to free and heal continues in His Church today. St. Paul writes in his first letter the Corinthians:

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. (I Corinthians 12:28)

Every Christian is called to witness to Christ. The early Christians demonstrated their belief by how much they were willing to risk for their faith. The same applies for us as Christians today. Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) challenged in his sermon Venture of Faith that we consider how “Christian” we really are by reflecting on our commitment:

Consider for an instant. Let every one who hears me ask himself the question, what stake has he in the truth of Christ’s promise? How would he be a whit the worse off, supposing (which is impossible), but, supposing it to fail? We know what it is to have a stake in any venture of this world. We venture our property in plans which promise a return; in plans which we trust, which we have faith in. What have we ventured for Christ? What have we given to Him on a belief of His promise? The Apostle said, that he and his brethren would be of all men most miserable, if the dead were not raised. Can we in any degree apply this to ourselves? We think, perhaps, at present, we have some hope of heaven; well, this we should lose of course; but after all, how should we be worse off as to our present condition? A trader, who has embarked some property in a speculation which fails, not only loses his prospect of gain, but somewhat of his own, which he ventured with the hope of the gain. This is the question, What have we ventured? I really fear, when we come to examine, it will be found that there is nothing we resolve, nothing we do, nothing we do not do, nothing we avoid, nothing we choose, nothing we give up, nothing we pursue, which we should not resolve, and do, and not do, and avoid, and choose, and give up, and pursue, if Christ had not died, and heaven were not promised us. I really fear that most men called Christians, whatever they may profess, whatever they may think they feel, whatever warmth and illumination and love they may claim as their own, yet would go on almost as they do, neither much better nor much worse, if they believed Christianity to be a fable.

 Every Christian risks something because Christ transforms us which requires breaking things down as well as building things up.   That risk may be something material or it may be immaterial. It may mean putting family before career or taking a risk in your career to reach for greatness. It may mean taking the risk of emotional vulnerability, making connections with people, surrendering fear, or accepting the truth of your worth in God’s eyes. When united to Christ, He will do great things through you. Each person has gifts from the Spirit and they vary. Today’s Gospel reminds us of the mighty deeds of Christ, witnessed by many, and continued today. Let us pray for the courage to take a leap of faith and trust in the power and love of Christ.

Consider:

  • Consider the great things Christ has done in and through you.
  • Consider the great things Christ could do in and through you if you let Him. Reflect on what holds you back and prayerfully surrender it to Christ.
  • Reflect on how Christ has set you free, opened your eyes, and brought you glad tidings.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray each day for God to work in you.
  • Pray each day for God to work through When given the opportunity, take the risk to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
  • Read Acts of the Apostles.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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Praying for the Unborn and Mothers in Crisis…Meditations on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

Rosary for Life

 praying for unborn

Sign of the Cross

Lord we offer this rosary in prayer for the protection of every unborn child. We pray that You will renew in our hearts a deep love and appreciation for every precious child that You so generously and tenderly create to share in Your life and happiness.

Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead; on the third day He rose again; He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.

For an increase in Faith:

Lord, grant us the gift of faith, to believe all that You have revealed about the sanctity of life and our duty to protect and nurture life.

Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

For an increase in Hope:

Lord, give mothers the gift of hope that they may be enabled to trust in You and Your divine providence.

Hail Mary…

For an increase in Charity:

Lord, each human person is called to friendship with You. May we love and protect the unborn because they belong to You and may every mother and father care for the children You have given them in gratitude for Your generosity and mercy toward each one of us.

Hail Mary…

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.

The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden

agony in the garden

Lord, You suffered tremendous anguish as the weight of mankind’s sin was placed upon Your innocent shoulders. One of those sins was the sin of abortion and we can only imagine the pain You must have felt at seeing the lives of Your precious little ones taken when they are most vulnerable and the suffering of the mother in that difficult choice. Forgive us for the times when we were too weak or apathetic to stand up for what is right and did nothing. Forgive those who have chosen to abort an unborn child or have pressured or assisted a mother into aborting her child. May Your mercy open their eyes to the truth and Your love, and grant them the humility and courage to turn to You for healing and forgiveness.
  • Our Father…
  • Hail Mary…(10x)
  • Glory be…

Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

scourging of Jesus

Lord, when You embraced the pillar to be scourged again and again, You held us in Your embrace and suffered the blows for us due to our sin. Out of love and gratitude for Your sacrifice, may we follow Your example and protect Your most vulnerable loved ones despite the cost. Pour out a special grace upon pregnant mothers who suffer physical and emotional pain to nurture new life as they imitate Your love for us.
  • Our Father…
  • Hail Mary…(10x)
  •  Glory be…

Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning of Thorns

Jesus and Pilate

Lord You were given a crown of thorns as the soldiers mocked You and spat upon Your kingdom in disbelief. Give courage to all pregnant mothers, especially those tempted to have an abortion, and those fighting for an end to abortion as they suffer from mockery and discouragement. Strengthen their faith and hope that the crown of thorns they receive in this life may blossom into a crown of jewels in the next.
  • Our Father…
  • Hail Mary… (10x)
  • Glory be…

 Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross

titian-christ-carrying-the-cross

Lord, by the time You carried the Cross to Calvary, You had already been beaten to near death and were exhausted. On the journey to Your crucifixion You fell three times and Simon of Cyrene had to help You carry the cross. Be especially near to mothers exhausted by the many pressures to abort their unborn child and the anxieties they feel in their conscience. Encourage them to carry their cross even if they fall and give us the opportunity to help them carry their burden as Simon helped You. May Your Holy Spirit fill them with the consolation of Your love, strength, and peace and may they know that they are not alone.
  • Our Father…
  • Hail Mary…(10x)
  • Glory be…

 Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion

pieta

Lord, You humbled Yourself to come down from heaven so as to suffer and die for us. Yet, through Your suffering and death You also brought resurrection to new life. Give mothers and fathers the faith, hope, charity, and courage to sacrifice for their unborn child. In a culture that values self-gratification, open their eyes to the beauty and joy of self-gift. May we too reflect that joy and belief that “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend.”
  • Our Father…
  • Hail Mary…(10x)
  • Glory be…

 Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life our sweetness and our hope. To you do we cry poor banished children of Eve. To you do we send up our sighs, mourning, and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Pray for us O holy Mother of God,

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Amen.

jesus with baby

 

© Angela M. Lambert 2016

God’s Concern for Our Real, Everyday Problems

by Angela Lambert

wedding at Cana

January 17th, 2016; 2nd Sunday in Ordinary time

Gospel of John 2:1-11 NAB

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from — although the servers who had drawn the water knew —, the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

Meditation Reflection:

In his weekly Wednesday audience (from January 13, 2016), Pope Francis continued his reflections on God’s mercy by examining the Scriptures. God revealed that He is mercy, so much so that it could accurately be stated as part of His very nature or essence. Pope Francis continued on to assert that the image which best represents this particular kind of mercy is that of a mother. With these poignant words, he said:

The Lord is “merciful”: this word evokes a tender approach like that of a mother toward her child. Indeed, the Hebrew term used in the Bible evokes the viscera or even the maternal womb. Therefore, the image it suggests is that of a God who is moved and who softens for us like a mother when she takes her child in her arms, wanting only to love, protect, help, ready to give everything, even herself. This is the image that this term evokes. A love, therefore, which can be defined in the best sense as “visceral”.

The visceral, or deep inward feelings, of a mother for her child cannot be matched. It moves her to sacrifice everything, even joyfully, for her little ones. She is their best advocate, always working for their good and looking to their future. She offers the most sympathetic comfort and the fiercest protection.

Fathers can also offer an image of God’s love and mercy. Pope Francis goes on to compare God’s revelation that He is gracious to Christ’s parable about the prodigal son (originally titled the merciful father).

Then it is written that the Lord is “gracious”, in the sense of having grace, he has compassion and, in his greatness, he bends down to those who are weak and poor, ever ready to welcome, to understand, to forgive. He is like the father in the parable recounted in the Gospel of Luke (cf. Lk 15:11-32): a father who does not withdraw in resentment at the younger son for having forsaken him, but on the contrary, he continues to await him — he begot him — and then he runs to meet him and embraces him.

At the wedding at Cana, Jesus had just begun His public ministry. He had spent thirty years living a humble and seemingly ordinary Jewish life. He begins His public ministry by being baptized by John and then spending 40 days in the desert praying and fasting. He returns from this preparation and begins calling the apostles. Next He attends a wedding with His mother and brings His apostles along. The humanity of Jesus – the reality of His human relationships, real family, the limits of time and space – become apparent in this account. As Jesus transitions from private to public life, His plans bend around a wedding. Before He begins preaching and healing and casting out demons, He goes to Cana and celebrates the wedding of a couple he must have known or likely been related to. As usually happens at weddings, there occurs a snag. Moreover, this snag could embarrass the couple in a very humiliating way.

Mary’s motherly love advocates for the couple. She looks ahead and sees they are nearly out of wine. Rather than worry the bride and bridegroom, she goes to her Son and pleads for His help. She doesn’t demand He tell her His plan but rather trusts that He will take care of the problem. I imagine this is both because she knows Jesus’ compassionate heart and because she’s His mother and mothers expect their sons to do what they ask.

Jesus vocalizes the inconvenience of the situation. He did not plan that His first miracle would be to fix a snag at a wedding. Yet, in God’s divine providence, it reveals precisely the kind of love God’s miracles were intended for.   God became man to enter our misery and the embarrassing limitations we experience. As Pope Francis teaches, “For God is great and powerful, and this greatness and power are used to love us, who are so small, so incompetent.”

Together Mary and Jesus image the love of God for humankind in today’s Gospel. Mary sees the need and advocates for the couple, Jesus bends in compassion. God operates in the real, everyday of individuals. He did not come to offer propaganda for the masses. He came to care for His beloved children with the self-gift of a deeply loving mother and father.

Prompted by Mary’s presentation of the problem, Jesus is moved and softened. We can have confidence and take comfort in the truth that He will have the same response toward our needs, no matter how seemingly insignificant they may seem to the world. The everyday difficulties and humiliations our lives matter to God and He desires to care for us in our need.

In light of this mystery, Pope Francis offered these encouraging words:

Faithfulness in mercy is the very being of God. For this reason God is totally and always trustworthy. A solid and steadfast presence. This is the assurance of our faith. Thus, in this Jubilee of Mercy, let us entrust ourselves to him totally, and experience the joy of being loved by this “God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness”.

Consider:

  • Consider the mystery of God’s immanence. The transcendent God, other from His creation, immune from suffering became man that He might share in our experience of pain so He could give us comfort.
  • How long do you wait to ask God for help? Do you reserve only your biggest problems for Him when you have ran out of solutions? Consider bringing to Him every concern as it occurs and sharing the burden with Him.
  • Consider how motherhood or fatherhood has made you more compassionate, merciful, and aware of the needs of others. How has it opened you to spiritual motherhood or fatherhood toward those who aren’t even your biological children?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Intentionally entrust to God your difficulties each day this week – even the simple embarrassments.
  • Extend mercy and compassion toward your children or spiritual children this week. Bend toward someone’s need, save someone from humiliation, advocate for someone in need of help.
  • Pray for a tender heart like that of Christ’s.
  • Read Pope Francis’ Wednesday Audience address from this past week: Pope Francis 1/14/16 audience

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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Jesus Christ – God’s Son and Our Warrior

OXYGEN VOLUME 13

by Angela Lambert

January 10th, 2016; The Baptism of the Lord

Gospel of Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Meditation Reflection:

The Baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of His public ministry. Up to this point He had spent His life as a carpenter and the son of Mary. Now at thirty years old, He begins His work as the Son of God ushering in the Kingdom. The Spirit of God descends upon Him as a dove and God affirms His Sonship audibly to those present. After so many long years of suffering under the weight of sin and death, God has finally come to fulfill all of His promises to save us from those things we cannot overcome on our own.

He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4: 16-20

 John had been baptizing as well but his was only a sign of repentance and preparation, it did not have the power to confer the forgiveness of sins or divine grace. John himself admits that his baptism is only a precursor for the one to come who will baptize with “the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16).   Jesus alone has the power to forgive our debt to God, to heal our wounded souls, and to release us from those sins that we cannot conquer on our own.

Sin which takes its full course can be aptly compared to addiction. Persons may or may not be aware that they have a problem. Their addiction slowly takes greater and greater hold of their life, consumes their thoughts, directs their choices, and begins to undermine their relationships, their health, and their joy. Having a glass of wine with dinner will not do harm to a temperate person. However, someone with an alcohol addiction cannot limit themselves to one glass. Every human person has one or more weakness that they cannot seem to keep in balance on their own. It may be pride, vanity, lust, greed, anger, envy, laziness, or gluttony. Book stores have rows of shelves with self-help books to help you deal with any one of these addictions. Books, therapists, goals, and gritty resolve can all be helpful and they can have a real impact in your life. But their power is limited. They could be compared to the Baptism of John – they provide awareness of the problem, contrition of heart, and desire for change but they cannot transform us from within or release us from the power our sin has over us.

God sees us suffering and has come in an intimate way to help each of us personally. Pope Benedict XVI, in his book Jesus of Nazareth, offers moving insights into the meaning of Jesus’ baptism for you and I. He writes,

“Now God speaks intimately, as one man to another.   Now He descends into the depth of their human sufferings.” Jesus of Nazareth, translated by Adrian Walker, Doubleday:New York, 2007. (p.67)

God does not point His finger and say “I told you so.” He has compassion for our suffering which is always the consequence of sin. Jesus did not need to be baptized. He had no sin to repent. Rather, at His baptism, Jesus took on our sin. Pope Benedict XVI reflects:

“Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon His shoulders; He bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated His public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross.”

 The primary mission of Christ is to free us from sin. This will require dying to pay our debt, and providing the transformative grace needed to heal our minds clouded by lies and faulty reasoning, strengthen our wills which can be too weak to make the right choice, and inflame our tepid hearts with divine love. The magnanimous lives of the saints are not beyond reach. They were the result of receptivity to the ordinary working of grace in the soul to the person open to Christ’s transformative fire within.

Through Christ, God no longer remains merely a transcendent God immune from the experience of our condition. The Son has become man and as such taken upon Himself every suffering we experience so that He may accompany each of us on our journey as an understanding and intimate ally as well to defend us and conquer in His own life every obstacle in our way. Pope Benedict offers these powerful words about this mystery:

“Jesus’ Baptism, then, is understood as a repetition of the whole of history, which both recapitulates the past and anticipates the future. His entering into the sin of others is a descent into the “inferno.” But He does not descend merely as the role of a spectator, as in Dante’s Inferno. Rather, He goes down in the role of one whose suffering-with-others is a transforming suffering that turns the underworld around, knocking down and flinging open the gates of the abyss. His Baptism is a descent into the house of the evil one, combat with the “strong man” (cf. Lk 11:22) who holds men captive (and the truth is that we are all very much captive to powers that anonymously manipulate us!)” (p.20)

 God had revealed to Mary and then to Joseph that Jesus was God’s Son. Now, God reveals to all mankind that His Son has come and dwells among us, ready to free us from that which enslaves us if we will let Him. If we are smart, we will take the Father’s advice heard audibly by those present and “Listen to Him.”

Consider:

  • Spend some time reflecting on the quotations from Pope Benedict XVI.
  • Imagine Christ taking upon His shoulders your particular sins and struggles, putting them to death in the depth of the water, and emerging with you victorious.
  • Examine what drives our decisions in a negative way. What weaknesses undermine your joy and/or your relationships? Surrender them to Christ and ask for His grace to transform you.
  • If you can’t think of any sins in particular, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal them to you, He will.
  • Consider sins you used to struggle with but with the help of Christ are now freed from. Take a moment to praise Him with gratitude.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Choose one area of your life or heart that needs redeemed. Place it before Christ each day. Take concrete steps to overcome it with His help.
    • Receive grace through Confession and Communion.
    • Spend an extra 5 minutes in prayer reflecting on Scriptures that apply to the situation.
    • Pray a rosary for Mary to aid you as well.
    • Ask the Holy Spirit for help, your guardian angel, and St. Michael the Archangel.
    • Practice the opposite virtue.
  • Show compassion toward someone struggling with a sin that impacts you.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015

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Setting goals for the New Year – Lessons from the Magi

by Angela Lambert

epiphany

The Manifestation of Christ – God & Man – Savior For All Who Will Receive Him.

January 3rd, 2016; The Epiphany of the Lord

Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

Meditation Reflection:

You might be asking yourselves at this point, or at least your kids might like mine, “why do we keep having to go to all of these masses?!” Feast, after feast, after feast. For Christians, and Catholics in particular, Christmas season is not shopping season. It’s a time to reflect, ponder, and grow in our understanding and appreciation of the birth of our savior. A mystery of this grandeur naturally requires several days and weeks to digest and contemplate. Presently, our culture is celebrating the new-year which causes us to pause, reflect on our lives, and set new goals. In the liturgical calendar the new-year begins with Advent but has a similar process. We pause to reflect on our lives, but also to reflect on the great love of God who gave His only Son for our salvation. We contemplate this gift because it ought to change the way we approach our life and inform our goals for the next year.

During Advent we prepare for the coming of Christ. We repent of sins that keep us from Him and open our eyes and ears through prayer and spiritual reflection. On Christmas day we rejoice at the coming of our savior, God incarnate. We reflect on the mystery of God’s transcendence and immanence – that He is both completely other and above all, and at the same time intimately close and present. As Divine, Christ is all-powerful and as human, He comes in the weakest form possible as a vulnerable baby.

The Sunday after Christmas we celebrate the Holy Family. When God created man and woman in His image, He created them as a family. God’s work of restoring His image which had been distorted by sin begins with restoring the family. He enters humanity and spends His first thirty years simply being the son of Mary and Joseph. In this way, God bestows renewed greatness and dignity upon the call to family life.

On January 1st, the feast of Mary the Mother of God, we reflect on the question “who/what is Jesus?” After a few centuries of Christian reflection and worship this question began to emerge along with different answers. Some said He was merely a human, and some said He was only God and merely appeared to be human. After much debate, deliberation, prayer, and investigation into Scripture, the Church declared that Jesus is a Divine Person (the Second Person of the Trinity) with two natures – a divine nature and a human nature. If Jesus wasn’t human He couldn’t have suffered, died, and atoned for our sins. If He wasn’t God, His sacrifice would not have infinite value and therefore would not pay the debt owed to God. In both scenarios, we would not be saved! The mystery of who Jesus is hinges on His relationship to Mary. Mary has the title “Mother of God” because at the incarnation, Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb and received His human nature from her. At the same time, the person who took a human nature at conception was God the Son. Mary is the mother of a son, not a body; and that son, is God.

The next question we need to ask is who did Jesus come to save? On the Feast of the Epiphany we celebrate that the Christ came to save all people universally who seek Him. Epiphany means “the manifestation of the divine.” The angels had announced the manifestation of Christ’s coming to the shepherds and they responded by going to visit the Christ child. God announces to His people who have been looking and waiting for Him for almost two thousand years that He had come.   Moreover, the new star in the sky proclaimed to all creation that the Christ had come and the magi who were looking and searching responded by following the star to the Christ-child as well. They offered Him gifts that recognized who the baby Jesus is – Gold because He is king, Frankincense because He is God, and Myrrh which is a burial ointment that foreshadowed His death.

God reveals Himself to all who will look and listen. He might reveal Christ to you through His People, through an angel, or through Creation. All should lead you to “the child with Mary His mother.” It should lead us all to offer Christ our worship and every gift we can give. He calls us all into communion with Him and His People the Church. Christ came to save us from sin and to restore us to unity as a human family in God. The magi teach by example that seeking the Lord requires openness, effort, perseverance, investigation, and reverence. As we celebrate the coming of Christ this Christmas season it should set the course of our entire year. We must live in response to this gracious encounter with our Lord and Savior.

Consider:

  • Reflect on how you first encountered Christ and any additional times you encountered Him in a deeper way.
    • How did this encounter enrichen your life?
    • How have you responded to this encounter?
  • Reflect on the mystery of Jesus’ divinity and humanity.
    • Consider Christ’s transcendence as God – eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, perfect, Creator of all that exits….
    • Consider Christ’s immanence as man – His vulnerability as an infant and child, His union with our very nature, His lived experience of everything we too experience, His appreciation for the simple things in life such as family and work, friendships, meals together…
  • Reflect on Mary’s motherhood.
    • Consider the faith and courage it required to believe God would work such a wonder in her.
    • Consider the hope and humility it required to trust God to enable her to mother such a son.
    • Consider her pure love for God and Jesus. Her heart must have been nearly bursting every day. A mother’s love is already hard to contain, add the contemplation of the mystery of God’s love to come as man on top and I don’t know how she managed to endure it except to “keep all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
  • The word catholic means “universal.” Take a moment to praise God for extending His saving Truth and Love to all persons world-wide. Consider how you might grow in union with God and with others.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Seek God actively in one way this week.
    • Some ideas: reading Scripture, silent prayer, service toward others, or attending a daily Mass.
  • Investigate God’s revelation.
    • Learn about Scripture and our Faith. Attend a Bible Study, join Faith Formation at your parish, read a book about the Faith or the Catechism, talk to a priest or religion teacher and ask him or her some of your questions.
  • Spend 5-10 minutes in silence reverencing the new-born king. Imagine yourself as one of the magi encountering Jesus held in His mother’s arms.
  • Offer a gift to Christ this week. Make it thoughtful, something you know He would appreciate from you.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015

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