Shining a Light into The Darkness

 

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

January 27th, 2018 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 1:21-28 NAB

Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus casts out demons with the power and authority of God Himself.  He frees us from their lies and from the darkness of sin.  This is truly a gift and a great relief.

Our present secular culture needs this gift.  Marked by the highest levels of anxiety and depression, the darkness from which these symptoms often proceed need to be cast out with the authority and light of Christ.

The great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), explored the relationship between darkness, sin, and anxiety in his work The Christian and Anxiety (Ignatius Press).  He notes,

The main effect of darkness is that it separates, isolates, makes lonely.”

Similarly, the darkness of sin separates the sinner from others, isolates him from God whose light he evades to continue in sin, resulting in dark loneliness.  In Exodus, the penultimate plague aptly describes the culmination of Pharaoh’s obstinate evasion of God, who had made Himself visibly manifest.  A darkness came over the Egyptians for three days, “a darkness to be felt” (Exodus 10:21) The dense, suffocating, darkness effected a social paralysis, symptomatic of their spiritual sickness.

and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; they did not see one another, nor did any rise from his place for three days; but all the people of Israel had light where they dwelt.”

Von Balthasar further wrote that the loss of light signifies the loss of reality.  Without light we cannot see and therefore remain trapped by our imagination. Reflecting on Wisdom chapter 17, he writes, “The wicked are afraid of Nothing, of nothing real.”  God is Reality.  His divine Name, Yahweh, which means “I Am”, revealed Him to be existence itself.  Therefore, to hide from His Light, to duck His Truth, means to retreat into an imaginary world of one’s own creation.  In addition, it deprives us of the answers we need most of all – Who am I?  What is my purpose?  What’s the meaning of life? How do I find happiness?

Like living in denial of a physical illness,  one can only self-soothe by justifying sin for so long before the underlying dread and pain of spiritual illness becomes too intense to leave untreated.

Sin can become paralyzing.  Moreover Satan, the “Accuser” as Jesus calls him, whispers fearful lies into the darkness so as to keep a person from reentering the light.  The demons of shame, despair, and distrust bind the sinner to his dark loneliness.

And into this darkness, Christ the Light came.  He “spoke with authority” because he spoke Truth, thereby dispelling lies.  His Light cast out the demons of darkness, His Truth cast out the Father of Lies, and His merciful love strengthened and healed so that the sinner might become whole again.  How many miracles of Jesus demonstrate this!  The paralyzed man who could walk again.  The lepers, cast out from society, healed and able to rejoin their families.  The demoniacs freed and restored to their loved ones.  Christ’s light shone on prostitutes, tax collectors, and pagans.  He liberated them from a kingdom of degradation and made them citizens and children of His Kingdom of God.

Christ continues to bring His light into the darkness through His Mystical Body the Church.  He invites us into His healing love, then His light begins to shine in us.  Wherever we are, that light shines simply by union with Him.

Elizabeth Leseur (1866-1914), a devout Catholic living in an upper-class, atheistic, French society provides a concrete example of how to be a light in darkness.  Elisabeth and her husband Felix loved one another intensely and shared an inspiring intimacy of marital friendship. As a result, it pained her severely that he was an ardent atheist.  Her love for God and her love for Felix were both so deep, and yet she couldn’t share that deepest part of herself with the man she loved the most, nor see him receive the joys and graces she enjoyed as a Christian.

She made it her apostolate to pray and sacrifice for his conversion and for their friends.  Most everyone in their society of friendship were intellectuals and anti-Catholic.  Her diary reveals how she prayerfully navigated ministering to them, bringing light to the darkness through her hidden interior life, her faithful exterior practices, her patient silence, and her readiness to speak boldly and intelligently for Christ if the moment necessitated it.  After her death, her husband discovered her secret diary.  The insights into her interior life, together with his experience of her daily love during their married life, softened his heart and converted his soul.  He went from being a hardened atheist to late becoming a Catholic priest!

Elisabeth brought her light into the darkness and it freed the one she loved the most.  One of her resolutions in her diary, can be instructive for us in the same effort.  In today’s Gospel Jesus spoke with authority and it struck people.  Elisabeth discovered the same thing in her own interactions.  She found that somehow her personal conviction of faith, was itself a strong testimony, strengthened more by authenticity and simple truth than by long explanations trying to persuade.  She writes,

“Each time the conversation leads me to speak of faith, I will do so simply, but in a direct and firm way that will leave no doubt as to my convictions.  Cleverness is nothing in such things; I am struck with the fact that unbelievers have more sympathy with people of deep faith than with those of variable and utilitarian views.  These dear unbelievers attend more to those who are ‘intransigent’ regarding the Faith than to those who by subtlety and compromise hope to bring them to accept the Faith. And yet the bold statement must be made with the most intelligent sympathy and the liveliest and most delicate charity.” The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur; Sophia Institute Press

Our culture suffers under “a darkness that can be felt,” but Christ’s light shines into that darkness to cast it out and replace it with freedom.

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5

May the light of Christ shine in us!

Consider:

  • Are there shadows of darkness with which you struggle?  Bring them to prayer and expose them to the light of Christ in Scripture and the sacraments.
  • Compare who the world says that you are and what your worth is, with who Christ says that you are.  Which do you listen to more?  How might you strengthen Christ’s voice within you?
  • Spend 5 minutes of silent prayer, loving Christ and receiving His love.
  • How might you grow your relationship with Christ and let Him shine more brightly in your life?  How might you bring His warmth, love, and truth to those in your life?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Resolve to pray for and develop a deeper love for Christ and to shine Him more brightly.
  • Pray the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi daily. 
  • Pray the Rosary.  Mary always purifies and strengthens our love for Jesus.

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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

 

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Have You Found What You’re Looking For?

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

Peter and andrew

January 14th, 2018 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of John 1:35-42 NAB

John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —, “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.

 Meditation Reflection:

Imagine what it must have been like for the apostles near the end of their lives, to remember back to the very beginning when they first met Jesus – before their zealous and arduous work as the leaders of Jesus’ Church, before they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, before Jesus’ astounding Resurrection, before His shocking suffering and death, before witnessing in amazement His teaching and miracles.  Back when they lived ordinary lives, as ordinary men, waiting upon the Lord in His silence.

The Lord had spoken to His People through prophets since His first revelation to Abraham.  They had enjoyed ongoing relationship with Him, even when they experienced the pain of God’s discipline.  Eventually however, their obstinacy toward God grew so hardened that it caused God to withdraw His immanent presence from the Temple. Without God’s help the people fell captive to foreign nations and lived in exile.

Years later, King Cyrus of Persia issued an edict allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and even contributed funds to aid in the rebuilding of the Temple which had been destroyed.  Eventually some returned to Jerusalem, but God’s divine and immanent presence (which had remained upon the Ark of the Covenant from their time in the desert during the Exodus through its housing in the Temple until the Babylonian Exile), did not return to the Temple.  Although God anointed prophets to mediate His Word through this time, God then remained silent for about 400 years leading up to the Incarnation of Christ.

In consequence, the Jews endured about 400 years of divine silence.  During that time they clung to the words of God’s earlier prophets and to His Law given through Moses.  They considered God’s promises and kept hope that one day He, who is always faithful, would fulfill them.

At long last, their hope for God’s Word and for renewed relationship enlivened with anticipation when John the Baptist appeared, as “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mark 1:3; Isaiah 40:3).

The long silence finally broken and the power of John’s prophecy excited some to speculate whether John was in fact the Messiah.

Both Messiah and Christ mean “anointed one.”  In the Old Testament, those God had appointed as either priest, prophet, or king would be anointed with oil.  Each were called in some way to mediate between God and the People, and were bestowed with a measure of God’s authority.

The priesthood of the Old Covenant foreshadowed the eternal priesthood of Jesus, who would offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.  The prophets mediated God’s word, preparing us for the incarnation of the Word of God, and later the indwelling of that Word in our souls through Baptism.  Finally, the role of king was to govern the people as a steward of God who is the true king.  Jesus came as king to reign not as a steward, but with the authority of God.

“All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” Mark 1:27

 “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Mark 2:7

John the Baptist answered the Messianic speculation directly, stating, “I am not the Messiah” (John 1:20). He too was waiting patiently upon the Lord.  He faithfully preached repentance, as God had asked of him, and baptized with water as a sign of readiness.

Finally, the Holy Spirit revealed the Messiah to John – it was Jesus.  There, waiting expectantly, were St. Andrew and another disciple of John. Upon hearing his prophetic declaration, “Behold the Lamb of God,” they began following Jesus immediately, apparently without even saying a word.  When Jesus turned to ask them what they wanted, they expressed their desire to remain with Him.  They accepted Jesus’ invitation to come, and in their encounter with the Person of Jesus, determined with conviction that He was in fact the Messiah.  In consequence, Andrew hurried to his brother to share the unbelievable news.

Their day probably began like every other day.  Breakfast, work, prayer, routine.  In that moment however, they dropped everything to find Jesus.

Everything had changed.

In that first encounter, Jesus called Simon by name, and gave him a new name indicating his new role in the New Covenant. Simon would leave the normalcy of the life he knew, to be Peter, “Rock”, upon which Christ would build His Church.  Imagine the trust he must have had in the Lord to persevere in his discipleship through so many changes, so much confusion, and so much responsibility.

So much took place over the course of their lives, but it all began with dropping what they were doing when the time came, and going to find the Messiah.

We are all searching and waiting –  for meaning, for purpose, and for happiness.  We go about our everyday, on the lookout for the answer to come.  Yet, Christ has come.  He is what we have been looking for, even if we couldn’t put a name to it like the Jews.  Praise be to God!

The Anointed One has come.  He heals wounds of sin and strengthens us with grace through His sacrifice on the Cross, poured out for us in the Sacraments.

Jesus is the Word of God, who reveals God’s plan for our lives, our purpose, and His constant care.

Jesus is king.  We enter His kingdom through Baptism and must work to allow His rule over our lives daily.  Through our adoption as sons and daughters of God, He makes us rich as heirs of heaven.

We have found the Messiah.”  There’s no more need to search, only to follow; to say yes to Jesus’ invitation “Come, and you will see.”

Christianity is not a consumer product, a happy drug, an interesting philosophy, or a social club.  Christianity is following Christ, the Anointed One of God, and staying with Him. None of us can imagine where it will lead, only follow one step at a time, waiting during times of silence, and acting when He calls our name.  Where it leads only the Lord knows, but it will certainly be an adventure and full of surprises.

Consider:

  • Spend a few minutes in silent prayer, just being in the presence of Christ.
  • When have you felt excitement about your faith like the apostles?
  • How has encountering Christ transformed you? In what ways has it changed the way you think, guided your actions, or changed your desires and priorities?
  • Prayerfully consider what mission Christ has for you.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Take one step toward Christ every day. Follow Him in Scripture reading, works of love, or the sacraments.
  • Take 5 minutes of silence to rest in the Lord.

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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

 

 

Soaking up the Sun of God

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 Epiphany 2.png

 

January 7, 2018 The Epiphany of the Lord

Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12 NAB

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:

After the bustle and excitement of Christmas celebrations, the days following often produce mixed feelings.  On the one hand a sigh of welcomed relaxation and the comfort of settling back into normalcy.  On the other hand, a sigh of sadness as we ache from missing our loved ones, along with a moan of pain as the brutal cold and darkness depress our commute.

Although the Christmas decorations may be coming down and routine returning , the true “Spirit of Christmas” (as every Hallmark movie loves to reference), ought to remain present and illuminate our homes.  The Feast of the Epiphany witnesses that the birth of Christ has ushered in a light that radiates with the strength of mid-summer rays and remains enduringly without diminishment.

The wise men travelled an arduous distance to find this light in the darkness.  As we begin surfing the internet for discount airline tickets and the brief relief of a warm, sunny vacation, we can take a lesson from the magi and intentionally seek out the true and lasting “Sun” of God.  Rather than merely making plans for the Caribbean, make plans to seek the Lord as well, where you can soak in the warmth of His rays of grace and love.  Surf for Christ-destinations such as Eucharistic Adoration, Mass, Confession, Scripture, spiritual reading, or silent prayer. Vacations refresh us with the energy we need to keep going in our daily routine.  Breaking away to soak up quality time with Christ will do the same.  It will refresh our weary spirits, lighten our dark moods, and deepen our lives with purpose and personal connection.

So, wrap up and stack your red and green decor in totes, and without a doubt discard the once fragrant Christmas tree that has now dried up into a mess of needles and a worrisome fire hazard.  Keep the light of Christ however.  After having drawn near to Him at His birth, remain with Him.  Keep close to Him.  Lay your whole self before Him in homage as the magi did, and offer Him every gift and talent you possess.  “Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow” (Isaiah 60:5).

Christmas celebrates the appearance of our long awaited Savior which lasts eternally not just one day. His coming should be transformative and therefore change the way we think and act, and re-prioritize our hopes and desires.  The New Year doesn’t mark the end of the holidays.  Rather, it marks the beginning of our new, and renewed, life in Christ.  The Magi left Bethlehem filled with joy and hope.  Mary left Bethlehem with Jesus in her arms close to her heart.  May we leave this Christmas season in the same way.

Consider:

  • Spend a few minutes in prayer drawing near to Christ like Mary, Joseph, and the Magi.  Surrender to Him in humility, love, and homage as they did.
  • How might you keep close to Christ daily and weekly?  Where might you encounter Him?
  • What gifts might you offer to Jesus?
    • Gold (wealth) – how well are you doing at tithing? Do you give the Lord your first 10% in thanksgiving and faith? Is there some way He is asking you to be more generous with your money or with your time and service?
    • Frankincense (used in worship of God) – How can you offer Christ your worship?  What might you offer to Him as a sacrifice?  How can you apply your talents and abilities to advancing the Kingdom of God?
      • [For example: offer patience with a family member as a sacrifice, offer your daily work as a sacrifice – especially the most tedious aspects, or offer living your faith authentically in the workplace rather than joining in un-Christian jokes, conversations, or activities.]
    • Myrrh (used as ointment for burial) – How can you honor Christ’s death for you?  Do you live as one saved or persist in certain sins?  Consider how to live more intentionally as one freed by Christ.  Meditate on the sufferings of Christ and unite your own suffering to His.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Choose one “gift” to present to Jesus for this year.
  • Seek Christ this week in an intentional way.  Set aside 10-15 minutes for prayer or spiritual reading, or seek Him in the sacraments.

Related Posts:

Setting goals for the New Year – Lessons from the Magi

The Universal Search For God

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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