Living in the Mystery of Divine Love

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

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

Gospel of Matthew 28:16-20 NAB

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

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He challenges us to do the same.

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

 

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

 

“Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Being Lifted Up With Christ By Serving With Christ

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

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

Gospel of Mark 16:15-20 NAB

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

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

Related Posts:

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Remaining in the Joy of Love

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

May 6th, 2018 6th Sunday of Easter

Gospel of John 15:9-17 NAB

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

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

* 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.