Pushing the Limits

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

March 25th, 2018 Palm Sunday

Gospel of Mark 14-15 NAB

The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to take place in two days’ time. So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to arrest him by treachery and put him to death. They said, “Not during the festival, for fear that there may be a riot among the people.”

When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages and the money given to the poor.” They were infuriated with her. Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me. She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial. Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.
When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money. Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his 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.

When it was evening, he came with the Twelve. And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one, “Surely it is not I?” He said to them, “One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish. For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”  While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and 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. Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed. But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him,
“Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.” Then Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.”
But he vehemently replied, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all spoke similarly. Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” When he returned he found them asleep.
He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing. Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him. He returned a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

Then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely.” He came and immediately went over to him and said, “Rabbi.” And he kissed him. At this they laid hands on him and arrested him. One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me? Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled. Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.

They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. Peter followed him at a distance into the high priest’s courtyard and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire. The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none. Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. Some took the stand and testified falsely against him, alleging, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands.'”  Even so their testimony did not agree. The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus, saying, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?” But he was silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him and said to him, “Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?” Then Jesus answered, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.'” At that the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further need have we of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as deserving to die. Some began to spit on him.
They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards greeted him with blows.

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s maids came along. Seeing Peter warming himself, she looked intently at him and said, “You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”
But he denied it saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” So he went out into the outer court. Then the cock crowed. The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” Once again he denied it. A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, “Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean.” He began to curse and to swear, “I do not know this man about whom you are talking.” And immediately a cock crowed a second time. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.” He broke down and wept.

As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” The chief priests accused him of many things. Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of.” Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested. A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion. The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed. Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what do you want me to do with the man you call the king of the Jews?” They shouted again, “Crucify him. “Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort. They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him. They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him. They knelt before him in homage. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him. They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. They brought him to the place of Golgotha — which is translated Place of the Skull — They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.
Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” With him they crucified two revolutionaries,
one on his right and one on his left. Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel,
come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.

At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.” One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink saying, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.” Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome. These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was amazed that he was already dead. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died. And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth,
and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.

Meditation Reflection:

Palm Sunday we recall the Passion of Christ.  We remember His entry into Jerusalem received by adoring crowds which quickly turned to Crucifixion and mocking crowds.  In this account we see ourselves and the fickleness of our own faith.  Peter’s exchange with Jesus at the Last Supper depicts the Christian struggle well:

Peter said to him, “Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.”

But he vehemently replied, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.”

And they all spoke similarly.

When has Peter’s attitude been our own?  Complete confidence in our loyalty to Christ – our faith in Who He is, our Hope in Him alone, our perception of undivided Love.  Yet, Christ knows the truth in our hearts.  He knows the real limit of our faith, the weakness of our hope, and the dissipation of our love when confronted with suffering and disappointment.  As long as God’s plan corresponds with our plan, we feel ready to follow Him with magnanimous discipleship.  Yet, when His will deviates from ours, especially if it’s inexplicable to our natural understanding, we often falter.

The Passion of Christ’s love reveals our own tepidity.  (Just consider how we complain at reading or standing at Mass for the length of this Gospel passage.  Yet, how much longer it was for Christ to actually endure!)  However, He also redeems it by taking on our weak human failings Himself, and through the power of His victory, bestowing that grace on our souls so that we may have in truth the magnanimous friendship with Christ we desire in intention.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in his reflections for the third station on the Way of the Cross, reflected:

Three times Our Savior was tempted on the mountain, and three times He fell on the way to Mount Calvary.  Thus did He atone for our three falls – to the temptation of the flesh, the world, and the devil.”   (The Way of the Cross, originally written 1932; currently published by Society of St. Paul 2006)

“He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.””

How we have all prayed the first part of this prayer!  Begging our Heavenly Father, “all things are possible to You, take this cup away from me”.  The agony of the deepest human suffering pleads in these very words.  The proverbial question “if You are all Good and all Powerful God, why am I suffering?”

The mystery is revealed in Jesus Christ alone.  “But not what I will but what You will.”  God wills our eternal salvation.  He wills it in conformity with respect for human free will.  Human choices cause suffering, but God’s will directs all things, even the events of His Son’s suffering and death, to the triumph of love.  Most of the time we won’t know the particulars of how everything will play out, but we do know the final ending.  Christ conquers – sin, human weakness, even death.  Those who exalt themselves in sin will be humbled, and those who persevere in humility will be exalted.  In Him we find healing, wholeness, strength, and eternal joy.  St. Paul promises that God works all things for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), not just some things.   Christ promises the Cross to His followers, but He also promises Resurrection. And the two are inseparable.

Fallen human nature resists faith in the power of the Cross.  Instead it often mocks it like the passersby at Jesus’ crucifixion.

In the account of Jesus’ Passion, individuals respond to His impending Cross in ways that we may relate.  Progress in our spiritual journey corresponds to how far we are willing to follow Christ.  Hopefully each year, we walk a step closer to the Cross and abide with Him a little longer.  Many things can trip us up however as we see in today’s Gospel.

I’ll follow until:

  • Jesus isn’t Who I want Him to be.  He won’t make me materially rich:  Judas
  • I’m tired or bored: Apostles asleep during Jesus’ Agony in the Garden
  • I’m threatened: disciples fleeing the crowd with swords; Peter recognized by the maid
  • I’m caught: young man in linen cloth
  • I’ll cause a rift or make waves: Pilate
  • Even still, Jesus invites His betrayers into His mercy.
“But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

This Holy Week, let us remain with Him.  Let us stay close to Him in prayer without falling asleep or rushing off to distractions.  Let us enter into the mystery of His suffering, death, and resurrection by accepting the griefs within our own situations and dying to what we cannot change, so that we may rise with Him who can redeem every sin and every situation.

Consider:

  • First and foremost, consider Christ’s love for you.  Reflect on how He has shared in your suffering.  Have you ever felt alone, betrayed, anxious, mocked, lied about, physically hurting, or exhausted?  Remember that Christ walks with you through the pain to resurrection in Him.
  • How can your love for Christ be strengthened?
    • Jesus observes in us that “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Consider times when you have experienced this.  (Sleeping when you should be praying, resting instead of the effort to show up for someone hurting…)
    • Have you ever sold out Christ for a worldly gain? Consider when you have prioritized money, status, or worldly acknowledgement over doing God’s will for you.
    • Pilate’s betrayal sprang from “wishing to satisfy the crowd.” Sometimes we deny Christ by failing to speak up out of fear of being persecuted on His account. When asked “Are you a Christian?” or “Are you Catholic?”, how do you respond?  Do you hesitate or qualify it?  Or do you respond confidently, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope as St. Peter tells us (I Peter 3:15).
    • What fears can the devil use to tempt you away from following the Lord? How does he stir up your anxiety, and worry you into hiding, away from the Cross, like the other apostles?

 Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray the Stations of the Cross or the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary this week.
  • Reflect on one section of this Gospel passage a day this week.

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.

 

 

Advertisements

Lent – That Others May See More of Jesus In Us

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

March 18th, 2018 5th Sunday of Lent

Gospel of John12:20-33 NAB

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, 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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

Meditation Reflection:

Someone may say to you, “[Your Name], I would like to see Jesus.”  Imagine that for a moment and take it in.  A person looking to you with a hopeful and somewhat anxious expression, addressing you by name, and depending on you to connect them to Christ.

“Why me?” you might say.  Yet, in a secular culture void of God, searching souls see Christ from a distance and feel more at a loss to find their way to Him than you may think.  Thus, your relationship with Jesus, and their relationship with you, provides the bridge they need.

Yet, to be Christ’s light and love in the world, to be a bridge, demands a serious choice which will decide the trajectory of your whole life.  Jesus made this choice, and so must each of His followers.

The choice – to live for yourself or to live for the Lord, to build a life of your own making or to build the kingdom of God.

A grain of wheat, in and of itself, is small and insignificant – enough to feed only a bird. Yet, within it lies tremendous potential – enough to feed human persons.  The movement from potential to actuality however begins with death.

If a grain were a conscious soul with a mind and will, it would see before it a decision:

  1. Go on living as a seed for itself, unchanged and comfortable.
  2. Surrender itself to the Creator, be broken apart in death and then transformed into something new and quite different from its experience as a seed.

Although the second option sounds scary, to grow and change also entails being lifted up from the ground, becoming tall stalks of wheat, and finally, maturing to the point where it can be picked as harvest for others.  The first choice may be easier, but the second adds so much more meaning to its life.

As Jesus’ “Hour” approached, He came to the final crossroads of His decision.  He had said Yes to the Father when He agreed to become man at the incarnation, He said No to Satan in the desert when offered the kingdoms of the world without the Cross, and now as His final suffering and death approached He weighed His decision aloud for His disciples to hear and one day follow.

Jesus didn’t want to suffer but He did want to save us. So what was He really to do?  Christ’s magnanimous love refused to live for Himself, and so chose the path to the Cross.  He chose to die that He might be lifted up – on the Cross and in His Resurrection – and thereby bear fruit that gives all mankind who plucks it life eternal.

As Christ’s disciples, we first must receive life from our Lord who has become our spiritual bread.  Under the appearance of wheat bread in the host, He gives His very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to us in the Eucharist.  With this union and grace, we then are asked to allow Him to transform our souls.

He begins by breaking down sin and selfishness.  Dying to ourselves marks the first stage of development.  Thus prayer, fasting, and almsgiving facilitate this process by putting God first, denying ourselves pleasures, and opening ourselves up to the poor around us.

From this death to self however, which no doubt is painful, emerges transformation.  Sin and self at bay, Christ is more free to build virtues within us and to grow authentic Christian love.  The process snowballs positively as the greater one loves, the easier sacrifice becomes.  In full Christian development, love is so perfected that it, like Christ, can’t bear to choose pleasure or comfort over love of God and neighbor. We experience something of this in human loves between parent and child, spouses, or dear friends.  In loving relationships, giving of one’s self or possessions is felt to be an opportunity rather than a burden.

In this fifth week of Lent, you may be feeling the pain of perseverance in the commitments you made Ash Wednesday.  However, the more weak you feel on your own, the more reliant you become on Christ and His grace to support you.  Have hope, we are past the midpoint!  Just as there can be no Easter Sunday without Good Friday, we can’t truly feast until we’ve fasted.  The more we enter in to Lent, the more joy we will experience during Easter.

Like Jesus, we might pray to the Father:

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.”

We choose death to self because we desire life in Christ – which we know to be much happier, peaceful, and fulfilling than anything we could construct for ourselves.  We don’t die for its own sake but rather to receive greater life.

Jesus teaches, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.”  In consequence, as we approach Holy Week we endeavor to be with our Lord wherever He is – at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, at the Cross on Good Friday, waiting in anticipation Holy Saturday, and rejoicing in His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

If we persevere and remain near to Christ, those near to us can be blessed by His Presence too. Our lived discipleship might drive out the lies of Satan with Christ’s Truth.  You can be a witness that Christ brings true happiness to someone disillusioned by the world’s false promises.  Your unconditional love can drive out the lie that someone is only as valuable as they are useful.  Your forgiveness can drive away the temptation of despair with the truth of mercy.

Christ’s saving love draws everyone to Himself.  If we allow ourselves to be conformed to Him, we just might be that bridge to Christ for someone’s salvation, or that stalk of wheat which they pluck to receive our Lord for the first time.

Consider:

  • Meditate on the words, “we would like to see Jesus.”  Make this your prayer to the Holy Spirit and spend 5 minutes in silent prayer listening.
  • Consider Christ’s gift of self for you.  Pray about how you might give more of yourself to Him and to others.
  • In what ways does your life witness your faith to others?  In what ways do you hide your faith?
    •  Are you a joyful or a gloomy Christian? Do you greet people with a smile? (one of Mother Teresa’s common suggestions)
    • In conversations, does your speech reflect your Christian values or do you participate in gossip or vulgar jokes.
    • Do you speak about your church or priest with respect or are you overly critical?
    • Do you reach out to persons at work or in your neighborhood who seem to be friendless or having a tough time, or are you too focused on your own life?

 Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

 

~ 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.