Sunday Food For Thought: God’s Concern for Our Real, Everyday Problems

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

*excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love

Praise God for His mercy in our everyday lives!  The Wedding at Cana unveils His compassion evident in the watchful heart of Mary and generous intervention by her Son.  As Pope Francis described during the Jubilee of Mercy,

 

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.”[i]

The visceral, or deep inward feelings, of a mother for her children cannot be matched.  It moves her to sacrifice everything, even joyfully.  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 as Mary did in today’s passage. 

Like His compassionate mother and merciful Father, Jesus protects us as a brother concerned for even the smallest of our struggles and rejoicing with us when we thrive. He demonstrated His selflessness and His commitment to family from the very beginning. Despite His long-awaited public ministry, He bent His plans around a wedding in Cana and performed His first miracle to meet the need that occurred there. 

Consider Christ’s experience from a human perspective.  Prior to His public ministry, Jesus had spent thirty years living a humble and seemingly ordinary Jewish life.  After His baptism by John Jesus spent forty days in the desert praying and fasting.  He returned from this preparation and began calling the apostles.  Imagine Jesus’ excitement to begin after such patient waiting (remember His eagerness at age twelve in the temple?). Instead, He paused to travel back home and attend a wedding in nearby Cana, likely for a relative or family friends. The humanity of Jesus – the reality of His human relationships, real family, the limits of time and space – stand out. Like you and I, Jesus had to respond to various interruptions to His work. Yet, precisely by embracing those interruptions He sanctified them for you and me. 

As usually happens at weddings there occurred a snag, and in this case an acutely embarrassing one which would shift the focus of the celebration to their poverty. Mary’s motherly love was watching out for them however, and she noticed they were nearly out of wine.  Rather than worry the bride and bridegroom, she pleaded to Her Son for help. Like most children in response to parent requests, Jesus vocalized the inconvenience of the situation.  He did not plan for His first miracle to be helping His mom at a wedding.  Yet, in God’s divine providence, it revealed 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 said, “For God is great and powerful, and this greatness and power are used to love us, who are so small, so incompetent.”

What seemed like an interruption to His great messianic work however, precisely exemplified the paradoxical nature of the Kingdom of God and the way of discipleship.  Greatness in God’s kingdom is expressed in littleness.  Even if we love Christ with all our hearts, we can still be misled by worldly assumptions that we project onto our spiritual work.  Consider the apostles and in particular the mother of James and John.  They all expected to reign with Christ over an earthly glorious kingdom and kept being taken aback by the poor and sacrificial nature of Jesus’ kingship.  We too can overlook the poor and sacrificial ministry right in front of us in the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of our family, neighbors, colleagues, and friends while we look to “more important work” for Christ.  Yet it’s precisely these little things He wishes us to do with great love, as He impressed on the hearts of St. Therese and St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

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 father, mother, and brother.   We can have confidence 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 in our lives matter to God.

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.”[ii]

We too are called to be the instruments of God’s mercy.  May we act compassionately and promptly with Christ as Mary alerts us to the ordinary needs of those around us.

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 run 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?

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.

[i] Pope Francis Wednesday Audience January 13, 2016 http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2016/documents/papa-francesco_20160113_udienza-generale.html

[ii] Ibid

For some practical examples of how you can practice these in your everyday life, read the full reflection in Take Time For Him: Remain in His Love ebook or paperback

 

Order the new set of guided meditations for this year’s Sunday Gospels!

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Sunday Food For Thought: Jesus Christ – God’s Son and Our Warrior

The Baptism of the Lord:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

*excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love

The Baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of His public ministry.  Up to this point He had spent His life quietly as a carpenter in a small town as the son of Mary and Joseph. Now at thirty years old, He began His work as the Son of God ushering in the eternal Kingdom.

When John baptized Jesus, the Spirit of God descended upon Him as a dove and God affirmed His Sonship audibly to those present. After so many long years of suffering under the weight of sin and death, God had finally come to fulfill all His promises to save everyone 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 many, 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 urged that his baptism was only a precursor for the one to come who would 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 that has taken its full course in a soul 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.  In respect to Jesus’ descent into the water, taking on our sins and putting them to death on the Cross, He writes:

Now God speaks intimately, as one man to another.  Now He descends into the depth of their human sufferings.[i]

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 describes it in this way:

“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.[ii]

 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 our 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 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.

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!)[iii]

 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.

[i] Pope Benedict XVI. Jesus of Nazareth, translated by Adrian Walker, New York: Doubleday, 2007)

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

 

Consider:

+ 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 your 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.

Application:

+ Show compassion toward someone struggling with a sin that impacts you.

For some practical examples of how you can practice these in your everyday life, read the full reflection in Take Time For Him: Remain in His Love ebook or paperback

 

Order the new set of guided meditations for this year’s Sunday Gospels!

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro