Love and Work – The Good Shepherd Who Loves His Job

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

good-shepherd.jpg

 January 27th, 2018 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of John 20:19-31 NAB

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”

Meditation Reflection:

Consider the common exchange at first introduction.  After sharing our name, the usual question to follow is “what do you do?”  Why?  Since our work occupies most of our day it reveals something of our values, our unique personality and talents, and it shapes us over time.

I’m a wife, mom, and teacher.  In consequence, I value family and the development of persons.   I also have a knack for explaining things and a zany side that works well with kids.  My roles have shaped me too.  After teaching for so many years, I catch myself conversing in a Socratic way in every day conversation.  Before sharing something, I ask if the person happens to know the answer.  As they talk, I ask more questions.  By the end, I might recommend a book or article to read.  At the grocery checkout or fast food restaurant, I can’t help but see teen employees as students (of course, sometimes they are!).  I catch myself gently guiding them as they navigate taking my order.  Even when I try to just relax, the teacher comes out in me.  At the beach with my children, some teens started arguing and inappropriate words rose above the hum of swimmers.  Without even thinking I marched over to these young men much taller than me and, in my loud authoritative teacher voice, told them their behavior was inappropriate and needed to be taken elsewhere.  The other teens who had circled around to see the altercation looked at me with wide eyes expressing the warning “you are crazy lady!”.  The mom in me is here to stay too.  I was at a Master’s class and one of my classmates had a runny nose and cough, and no Kleenex.  As I took notes and listened to the lecture I grabbed Kleenex out of my purse and passed it down.  She laughed and afterward said, “I should have known you’d have Kleenex with you.  You’re such a mom.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd.  It reveals that He values the care of His flock with nurturing and protective love.  He lives with them, guides them, feeds them, and protects them at all costs.  Moreover, His Sheep belong to Him.  The hired hand works transitionally – for the day and for income.  He may be providing for a family or saving for a pasture of sheep of his own, but the flock he watches temporarily is not his love.  In consequence he won’t risk anything for it.

Like a shepherd compared to sheep, Jesus’ dignity and nature is far above ours.  Yet He loves us intimately and personally.  He lives with us and cares for even the smallest details of our lives.

Pope Francis emphasizes this as well in his Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate:

the Lord is ever mindful of you; he never forgets you. So it makes sense to ask him to shed light on the smallest details of your life, for he sees them all.” par. 153

Jesus’ love is also total which is why He lays down His very life for us.

I lay down my life and take it up again.  No one takes it from Me.  I lay it down on my own.”

Before His Ascension into Heaven, Jesus entrusted His flock to Peter.

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’  He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’  A second time He said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do  you love Me?’ He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’  He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’”  John 21:15-16

Each Christian at baptism receives a mission from God, a flock to tend – the persons Christ has placed in your life and your care.  It includes your family, co-workers, and the particular ministry to which God has called you.  The flock remains the Lord’s so we must first unite our heart to His in prayer.  In doing so, He pours out His love into us, from which we receive the generosity and joy to serve.  He opens our eyes to see others with the love in which He sees them, and to see their needs as He does, down to the smallest detail.

Pope Francis writes:

The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts…We are called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness.” (Gaudete et Exsultate par. 11)

Each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel.” (par. 19)

Holiness is about loving our Good shepherd and in turn loving the sheep whose care He shares with us.  Wherever God has placed us, we can witness Him to others through our sacrificial love.  After learning to trust Jesus’ little shepherd, they may take a leap of faith and trust the Good Shepherd Himself.

Consider:

  • Reflect on Christ’s love for you, down to the smallest detail of your life.  Take a moment to lay your worries and your hopes before Him and to rest in His care.
  • Pray for your little flocks.  Who has Christ placed in your life?  How might you serve them in love and joy?
  • Meditate on the love of Mary, who cares for everyone who belongs to her Son and consecrated her whole life to His mission.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray Psalm 23 each day this week.
  • Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for an increase of Trust in Christ’s Merciful Love.
  • Read the Biography of Blessed Stanly Rother – an American priest who returned to his mission in Guatamela to die with his people so they wouldn’t die without him. https://relevantradio.com/2018/04/homegrown-holiness-american-priest-on-the-path-to-sainthood/

How do you love your flock?  Share in the comments!

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~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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“You Are Witnesses of These Things”

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

April 15th, 2018 3rd Sunday of Easter

Gospel of Luke 24:35-48

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.  He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Meditation Reflection:

Christ’s parting words summon every disciple to be a witness of their encounter with Him and of God’s merciful love.

In our frenzied culture many people vacillate from anxious stress to temporary escape through superficial pleasures.  In contrast, disciples of Christ rest in His Peace and rejoice in all circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:18).

When others wonder if anything can be true or lasting, Christians make decisions with confidence knowing that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that He has a plan for their lives.  Although choices may not be easy, Christ’s disciples can look to His teachings, His Church, and to the Holy Spirit to guide them and “open their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

Worried about the future or how to find meaning in life, many turn to psychics, gurus, ideologies, pop culture, or other general spiritualties.  In contrast, Christians encounter Jesus – who is alive and real, and therefore has the power to truly act in their lives on their behalf. They know that everything will be okay, because Jesus has conquered death and made them adopted children of the Father.  They experience the deepest kind of meaning in their lives because they believe that every act of love and kindness will reverberate into eternity.  Wealth, status, beauty, health, fame, and honor can all be taken away in a moment against one’s will.  Faith, hope, love, goodness, joy, and peace cannot – as so many martyrs have witnessed in the past and continue to today.

Our witness requires speaking about our faith.  We need to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” as St. Peter instructed (I Peter 3:15).  This means immersing ourselves in Scriptures and prayer and making an effort to keep learning more about our faith.  In this way, we can then pass on our faith to our children and stand up for the truth in society.

Our encounter with Christ is also witnessed in our silence.  I once had the opportunity to attend a private Mass at the Vatican with Pope St. John Paul II in 2001 along with about 20 other people.  When we entered the chapel, Pope John Paul was kneeling in prayer.  His silent conversation with the Lord was so real it was palpable.  When Moses returned from Mount Sinai the people knew he had encountered God because “his face had become radiant while he spoke with the Lord” (Exodus 34:29).  People often say of new mothers or new couples, that they are “glowing”.  Love has a way of doing that. When we encounter Christ in prayer daily, when we walk with him throughout the day, we too glow with His love.  Imaginary myths or wishful thinking cannot produce this kind of radiance.

Finally, Christ becomes visible to others through His work from within us.  If I came home and the house were a mess, I wouldn’t believe my husband if he said that he had hired a maid.  If, however, I returned home, and all the dishes were clean, the floors vacuumed, laundry washed, and surfaces dusted, I would believe his word without having met the person because their work would be evidence of their existence.  In the same way, if we tell others of Christ’s redeeming grace but remain the same mess of sin and confusion, it may be hard for them to believe.  However, when we tell them of how Christ transformed us, and they see our anger replaced with love, envy replaced with gratitude and contentment, and selfishness replaced with loving relationship, His grace will be evident to them in a real way.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).  God is here.  He is real.  We struggle to see because we are blinded by things – pleasure, over-ambition, anxiety, fear, anger, greed, and other distractions.  The more we cooperate with Christ to remove these obstacles the more easily we will see God, and the more easily others will see Him in us.

Consider:

  • Who do you know that seems to “glow” with love for Christ?  Who seems to radiate His Peace?
  • When have you experienced the peace of Christ?
  • When have you found Jesus’ words to be true?
  • How might you become more pure of heart?  What obstacles blur your vision?  How might you grow your love for the Lord?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Try to keep Christ present in your heart throughout the day.  Spend 10 minutes in prayer every morning, pause for a prayer midday, and close with 5 minutes of prayer in the evening.
  • Learn more about the faith by joining a bible study, attending Faith Formation at your parish, or reading a book about the faith with a group of Christian friends.

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~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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The Trap of Stubborn Self-Reliance

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

April 8th, 2018 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday

Gospel of John 20:19-31 NAB

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Meditation Reflection:

The Christian faith is neither a well-crafted myth nor a brilliant philosophy.  Rather, the Christian religion is based on eye witness testimony of the resurrected Lord.

It began with the testimony of Mary Magdalene, who encountered the risen Christ in the morning when she went to His tomb and was subsequently sent by Him to tell the apostles.  They felt excited and a bit confused “for they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9).   In the evening, Jesus appeared to them as well except for Thomas who wasn’t there.  Upon seeing Him with their own eyes they believed and rejoiced.

When they shared their Good News with Thomas he refused belief until he could see it for himself.  Thomas had been willing to die with Christ (John 11:7-8, 16) but he couldn’t envision rising with Him. In consequence, his faith – though fiercely loyal – remained limited to his own personal experience.

One week later however, Jesus had mercy on Thomas’ obstinate self-reliance and appeared to him in the flesh and so enabled Thomas to believe.

We too can fall into the trap of self-reliance in matters of faith – limiting our belief to personal experience and rejecting the witness of Jesus’ apostles and His Church.  Our present culture tends toward “cafeteria Christianity”, meaning we pick and choose what we like and leave what we don’t.  We view doctrine as a buffet of ideas that we can take or leave according to our personal preferences and reasoning.

Imagine Thomas saying to the other 10, “you have your truth and I have my truth, one is not better than the other.”  Yet, one is that Jesus is risen and the other is that Jesus is dead!  How could Jesus’ Church endure with such conflicting beliefs?  The same remains true today.  Capitulating to the attitude of an individualistic faith undermines Christ’s work.

Jesus chose to share His Truth and Grace through the apostles’ witness (and their successors – the pope and bishops).  Their interpretation of Scripture and the power of their miracles came from the Holy Spirit bestowed on them by the Lord.

At the final moment of Jesus’ death, He breathed His last and surrendered His Spirit to the Father.  On the evening of His resurrection, He breathed upon the Apostles, and gave them His Spirit and His authority:

“‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

Christianity is an encounter with the incarnate God who dwells within the very souls of His baptized disciples and makes them one Body.  Jesus is not a restaurateur who offers the world’s greatest buffet.  He is the Son of God who desires all persons to be united as a family in the Lord and therefore established a visible Church endowed with His invisible presence to guide and govern its members to His eternal kingdom.

Today, one week after Easter, we celebrate the inexhaustible, generous, mercy of Christ which He lavishes on all who will accept it. As He did for Thomas on this same day, Christ reaches down into the darkest parts of our souls, to our most acute failures and sins, to apply the healing balm of His Merciful Love poured out on the Cross for our salvation. Our Lord is a crucified Lord.  When He appeared to the apostles “He showed them His hands and His side” (John 20:20).  He did not choose, as Satan tempted Him to be in the desert, king without the Cross.  Similarly, true disciples are crucified disciples.  They have died to self, and self-reliance, and live by the Holy Spirit in communion with the Church.

There’s no sin too great for Jesus to forgive. He only requires a repentant heart which chooses to trust in His love.

There’s also no weakness of faith He can’t strengthen, no doubt He can’t dispel, and no question of doctrine He can’t explain to you – if you let Him.  And remember, He has given us the fellowship of the Apostles through both the Scriptures and the living voice of authority in His Church.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  Today’s Gospel passage concludes with John offering the same witness to us that was offered to Thomas. Today is the day to surrender to Christ in prayer every doubt you harbor and every limitation you place on faith.  Then, receive His mercy in daily prayer, immersion in the Scriptures, the Eucharist at Mass, and trying to learn the Church’s reasons for her doctrines.  In consequence, you too will become an eye-witness of the resurrected Christ to others.

Consider:

  • When buying a product online or hiring someone for a house project, how much credence to you give to people’s reviews?  How much credence to you give to the testimony about Jesus from the Apostles, the saints and martyrs, the Christians you know who testify to the Lords’ work in their lives?
  • It’s hard to trust someone you can’t see.  Do you make Christ visible to others in your life?  How might you witness the reality of His truth and mercy even more?
  • Reflect on the choice presented today: whether to sand stubbornly in self-reliance or enter the communion of the Body of Christ – His Church – and lean on one another.
  • Jesus told St. Faustina that His greatest pain is distrust on the part of souls in His mercy.  Pope Francis, observed that we fail to believe in Christ’s mercy because we have no experience of mercy in our lives and therefore believe no one – not even Christ – will help us. To what extent has this been your experience?  What makes it difficult to trust Christ?  How might you extend mercy to the people in your daily life so that they might be strengthened to trust in Christ’s mercy?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Begin each day this week with a prayer of surrender to Christ.
  • Every time you feel helpless, turn to Christ in prayer and throw yourself at His mercy. Repeat the prayer He gave to St. Faustina to have written under His image: “Jesus, I Trust In You.
  • Do at least one corporal or spiritual Work of Mercy every day.

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~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Rising with Christ

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 See the source image

April 1st, 2018 Easter Sunday

Gospel of Mark 16:1-7 NAB

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter,  ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.'”

Meditation Reflection:

Christ’s resurrection initiated resurrection to new life for every human person who accepts it.  In the Church’s liturgy every Sunday is an Easter. The first day of the new week is now the first day of our new life.

As we worship our Lord and celebrate His victory, we ought to share in His Easter joy.  He invites us to rise with Him.  As hard as suffering and sacrifice may be, rising can also be a challenge.  It means the courage to step forward into a new life, to accept change, and to embrace the unknown new.  It also means forgiveness and letting go of the past.  As painful as cycles of sin or anger may be, we sometimes hold on to them simply because of their familiarity.

Easter joy promises lasting life, not a passing phase.  Christ’s victory over sin and Satan is permanent. When we step forward in faith and hope, we entrust ourselves to the Lord Who has already won.  His grace can sustain us because He has merited it for us and He has proven it. Jesus promised the apostles,

Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19)

Through the blood and water that poured out from His side on the Cross, Jesus has dispensed His grace through Baptism and the sacraments.  He pours out upon us both the forgiveness of sins and the supernatural grace to sin less and love as He loves more.

This Easter, step out in hope.  Allow Christ to roll away the stone and give you the courage and the humility to begin again in the life He has won for you.

Consider:

  • Reflect on the victory of Christ.  Imagine His reign from Heaven as our Eternal High Priest and King who intercedes for us and fights for our salvation.
  • Consider the areas of your life that have been renewed in Christ.  Reflect on the light and the joy that infuses them.
  • Consider the areas of your life where you still hold on to self-will, fear, pride, or anger.  Pray for Christ to raise you from that tomb as well.
  • Spend 5 minutes in prayers of gratitude for Christ’s blessings to you this past year.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Begin forming a new (good) habit that reflects y our faith in Christ.  For example – one work of mercy a day, 10 minutes of prayer a day, refraining from gossip or crude language, learning about the Bible, listening to Christian music, driving with generosity rather than impatience…
  • Next Sunday is the Feast of Divine Mercy.  Pray the Chaplet of Mercy or read about the devotion given to St. Faustina and commemorated by Pope St. John Paul II. (See my past post Divine Mercy…Can you believe it?)

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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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

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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

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I Can’t Believe My Eyes!

 

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

February 25th, 2018 2nd Sunday of Lent

Gospel of Mark 9:2-10 NAB

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice,  “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

Meditation Reflection:

I can’t believe my eyes!  Peter, James, and John must surely have thought this at the Transfiguration. They would again – though for a different reason – at the Cross; and again at the sight of the risen Lord (their disbelief so great Jesus urged them to touch Him and feel for themselves). There, at the Transfiguration, Jesus’ divinity and Messianic promise radiated unveiled in glory.  Despite the awe inspired by this divine theophany, they struggled to understand what Jesus meant by rising from the dead.

The Apostles believed Jesus to be the Messiah and remained with Him through the entire three-year tenure of His public ministry.  Nevertheless, they often underestimated Christ, and despite the innumerable miracles they witnessed firsthand, regularly regressed to earthly problem solving without calculating the supernatural aid of their divine Master.  Consider the storm on the sea in which they were sure they would drown while Jesus lay asleep (Mark 4:35-41), or their concern over forgetting to bring bread on their voyage even though Jesus had just multiplied loaves and fishes on two different occasions for the multitudes (Mark 8:14-21).  Despite the pervasive modern attitude that “I’ll believe it when I see it,” we like the disciples, tend to ignore the very rule we place on God.  Miracle after miracle He works in our lives, and yet we continue to worry.  Jesus could very well say to many of us, “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:18 RSV).

How could there be so much intimacy with the incarnate Lord – so much love, and so much loyalty – and yet so little trust?  They lacked the gift of the Holy Spirit and sanctifying grace won for us by Christ’s Paschal Mystery.  The bridge from human weakness and anxiety to the strength of Christian peace is the beams of the Cross.

Everyone’s spiritual journey is unique.  At the same time, we are all human and so the stages of our spiritual development share some commonality just like our physical development.  We begin more easily trusting that which is familiar to us in the natural, visible world, and distrusting that which is possible only to God who transcends our understanding.  Discipleship requires the movement of grace and receptivity to the invitation of Christ. We need the Holy Spirit to enable us to follow the Lord where He leads, even though it may mystify and surprise us.  As God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” RSV

Every disciple of Christ struggles to move from the immediacy of visible world, to consistent sight of the even deeper reality of the invisible world.  The two are not mutually exclusive, but rather intimately related to one another.  As Catholics we call it the “sacramental principle.” God knows our struggle, which is why “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1: 14 RSV).

During Lent we take a step back to evaluate just how deep our faith really goes and to examine what “safety nets” of ours we keep erected in case God doesn’t come through for us.  These attachments hold us back from full freedom in the Lord.  Like the apostles, we worry about things like bread and tents (financial and physical security), when Christ has provided everything we need and more…including life itself and a room in His Father’s house.

During Lent, as we contemplate the awesome, sacrificial love of Christ, we are challenged to invite Him more fully into every aspect of our lives.  Certainly He has proven that we can trust Him – the man that died and rose again for us, the man who is also God!

So, consider: What limits do you place on God? Where’s the boundary of your faith? Do you trust God to secure your eternal home, but doubt with matters related to your earthly one?  Sometimes the visible world can seem more real than the invisible.  The immediacy and demands of each day’s tasks can beguile our imagination into feeling as if God is remote and unrelated to the day’s needs, at least in any concrete or practical way.   But, God is Lord of Heaven and Earth.  His power and His love know no bounds.

Abraham believed this to his very core.  He trusted God to be Who He claimed to be.  His faith was so confident that he didn’t even hesitate when he raised the knife to sacrifice his only beloved son and his only hope of a legacy.  St. Paul described Abraham’s magnanimous faith in his letter to the Hebrews saying:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.’  He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence he did receive him back, and this was a symbol.” (Hebrews 11:17-19 RSV).

The eyes of faith see the visible and the invisible.  They “understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (Hebrews 11: 3).  Faith trusts that God is who He says He is, and who He has shown Himself to be time and again.  Yes, it exceeds our understanding, because “with God, nothing is impossible.”  So, as we journey through Lent, may we spend more time with the Lord and develop greater awareness of His daily presence.  Hopefully by the end, we will be somewhat closer to the confidence of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans:

“Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” Romans 8:31-32 NAB

Consider:

  • Sarah conceived Isaac despite being barren and past the natural age.  St. Paul writes that God did this because of her faith saying, “she considered Him faithful Who had promised” (Hebrews 11: 11 RSV).
    • Consider God’s faithfulness.  How has God been there for you when it counted?  How has He answered prayers in a way you didn’t expect?  How has He brought good out of a bad situation?
    • Consider God’s generosity. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you look back on the day, week, year, and course of your life and see God’s blessings.  Then spend a few minutes in prayers of gratitude.
    • Entrust to God your cares.  Make a list of your worries or of what’s weighing on your heart, and place them in the care of Christ in prayer.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Desert Decisions

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

February 18th, 2018 1st Sunday of Lent

Gospel of Mark 1:12-15 NAB

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Meditation Reflection:

The transition from Christ’s hidden life to His public ministry began with His Baptism and then the temptation in the desert.  There,  He had to decide whether to work for self-gain in this world, or self-sacrifice for the next.

At the Incarnation Christ, though the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, took on a human nature and humbly chose to live the human experience.

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. Philippians 2:7

In consequence, Jesus grew “in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52 RSV), obedient to His parents, embracing the temporal condition of human development.  He did not begin His public ministry until the age of 30, which marked full manhood at the time and the transition to leadership roles.  It was also the age Levitical priests would enter the full service of the Lord (see Numbers 4:3, 30).

The commencement of His mission was preceded by temptation and trial.  He, like us, had to choose which trajectory His life would take.  In the desert, Satan enticed the Lord to direct His divine gifts to pampering His human nature.  Matthew (4:1-11) details the temptations specifically: bodily pleasure (bread), tremendous fame (leap from temple pinnacle), and worldly power (all the kingdoms of the earth).  Satan forced the choice before the Lord: the immediacy of the visible world and self-gain without the Cross, or the work of establishing the invisible kingdom of God which would require self-immolation and suffering Crucifixion before rising again.

Each of us faces the same temptations and the same choice.  We can either use our God-given gifts to promote ourselves and worldly achievements, or direct them to the Father’s will and the building up of His kingdom.

Lent provides a time to step into the desert with the Lord, to pray and fast, and to re-orient the trajectory of our lives.  As a Church, the People of God, we take 40 days each year to shed the illusion that we can live for both worlds or that we can have the kingdom without the Cross.

Through fasting, with the help of grace, we deny ourselves tempting pleasures to strengthen our will and remember that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (MT 4:4).  Furthermore, it reveals the truth of just how attached we may be and loosens the hold that habit may have over us.  Fasting also unites us to the redemptive value Christ has placed on suffering through His own suffering and death.  In fact, on one occasion Jesus even says to His disciples that some demons “cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).  Thus, through our Lenten fasting, we join our sacrifices to His, to cast out the demons in our lives with His help, so that we might share in His mission and thus share in the hope of His Resurrection.

Through prayer we draw closer to the Lord, that the invisible might become more visible and His grace might transform us.  Encountering Christ in the Scriptures, the Mass, the Rosary, the lives of the saints, Eucharistic Adoration, the Stations of the Cross, and other prayerful devotions, our love for Him is enkindled and our discipleship strengthened.

Finally, the Lenten practice of almsgiving takes us outside of ourselves through service of the needs of others.  This can range from sharing your money with the poor to sharing a blanket with your child.  It also includes sharing your time with someone sorrowing, lonely, or sick. It begins with meeting the needs of your family then your co-workers or neighbors and friends, your local parish and community, and finally the world-wide needs of the Church.  Catholic Relief Service’s “Operation Rice Bowl” provides an opportunity as a family to make simpler meals during Lent and to donate the money saved to feed the hungry in poor areas of the world (https://www.crsricebowl.org/about)

Together as Christians, we join Christ in the desert during Lent.  We draw away from the immediate and tempting pleasures of the moment and of this world, and draw nearer to Christ and the eternal, even more real, pleasures of the Heaven.  At the end of this purification we share in the joy of His resurrection at Easter.  Easter is the beginning of a new creation, and we hope to be a new, or renewed, creation Easter Sunday as well. Lent is a time to “repent and believe in the gospel” so that, transformed by grace, we may live in the Kingdom of God which is now at hand in Jesus Christ.

Consider:

  • Consider in prayer the deeper, truer, reality of the spiritual world.  Reflect on the illusory promises of pleasure, fame, and status compared with the enduring graces of Christian love, strength, and joy.
  • Ask Christ in prayer to reveal an attachment you may have, that up until now you have been blind to such as subtle forms of pride, vanity, greed, or pleasures.
  • Take time for gratitude.
  • Ask Mary to help you see the needs around you as she did at the Wedding at Cana.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Swap out 15 minutes of media time for 15 minutes of prayer or silence.

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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The Peace of Christ

By Angela (Lambert) Jendro

February 4th, 2018 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 1:29-39 NAB

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Meditation Reflection:

Everyone encounters suffering in some form.  Whether physical sickness, the sickness of a loved one, spiritual or emotional sickness from Satan’s lies and those of the secular culture, the pain of divorce or the loss of a job, or just the “drudgery” of life Job complained of in the first reading (Job 7:1).  Even worse, underlying every difficulty is the grating anxiety to find an escape, and the fearful suspicion there may not be one.

Science, medicine, psychology, exercise, achievements, and vacations can only provide a partial remedy.  Escapes into addiction only worsen the problem.

It has always stuck me how many times Jesus says, “Peace be with you” together with His admonition to “Be not afraid.”  Jesus, both man and God, has experienced our suffering and even our anxiety.  He has compassion for our weakness and reaches out with His divine power to save us.  As David proclaimed in today’s Psalm,

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3

Jesus, the Word of God, through whom all things came to be (John 1:3), came to heal the wounds of sin and restore us to wholeness.  Moreover, because God always gives in abundance, Jesus imparted gifts upon us even greater than those lost by Adam and Eve (CCC, par. 420).

Jesus Christ not only heals the brokenhearted, He embraces them in His own Divine Love.  The lonely He makes children of God and their souls His dwelling place.  A Christian can never be truly lonely, since they only need to look interiorly to find their Lord.  In addition, each Christian is incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body the Church, and shares in the stream of grace that runs through it, and connects us one to another.  Any suffering you endure can be offered up as a grace and blessing for someone else, and vice versa.   Christ therefore transforms the “drudgery” of daily work by making even the smallest task, if done in love, a noble and efficacious participation in His work of redemption.

Even death no longer hangs over us as a futile end.  In Christ it has become the consummation of our earthly service, and the commencement of our heavenly reward.  The longing for God which begins here, finds it’s fulfillment and joy in eternity; much like a wedding marks the transition from the growing love of engagement, to the total union of marriage.  Thus, heaven is described by God as a wedding feast in the book of Revelation:

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory.

For the wedding day of the Lamb has come,

his bride has made herself ready.

She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment.” – The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

Revelation 19:7-9

No wonder “the whole town was gathered at the door” in today’s Gospel.  Jesus is the savior every human person longs for and needs.  He gives freely and abundantly.   May we seek Him out for ourselves, and also bring Him to others in need of His healing.

Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Everyone is looking for you.”  His words remain true today and in every age.

Consider:

  • Take a few minutes to lay your burdens and anxieties before Christ in prayer.  Approach Him with trusting faith to help you.
  • Take a few minutes to bring the burdens and anxieties of those you love before Christ.
  • Consider the difference between the temporary or partial relief you find in natural comforts, compared to the fullness of the peace of Christ found in prayer.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

Like the people in Simon Peter’s town, seek out Christ.   Choose one concrete way to encounter Him each day this week.

  • Ideas: Take 5 minutes for silent prayer, visit Christ in Eucharistic Adoration, spend 10 minutes with Christ in Scripture, attend a daily Mass, read about the life of a saint or one of their writings, make time to visit a Christian friend who always seems to make Christ visible to you.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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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.

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~ 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.