Have You Found What You’re Looking For?

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

Peter and andrew

January 14th, 2018 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of John 1:35-42 NAB

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

 Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything had changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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

 

 

Advertisements

Soaking up the Sun of God

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 Epiphany 2.png

 

January 7, 2018 The Epiphany of the Lord

Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12 NAB

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

Related Posts:

Setting goals for the New Year – Lessons from the Magi

The Universal Search For God

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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

 

 

Keeping Christ in Christmas and John the Baptist in Advent

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

December 16th, 2017 3rd Sunday in Advent

Gospel of Matthew 22:15-21 NAB

A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.

And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,'” as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Meditation Reflection:

For the second week in a row, we have another Gospel passage about John the Baptist.  John is considered the last, and greatest, of the prophets of the Old Covenant.  Jesus even said of him, “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).   However, both John and Jesus proclaim that even the most magnificent of what has been so far, pales in comparison to the coming of the incarnate God and to His indwelling in the souls of the baptized. Thus, Jesus finishes his sentence with: “yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

John the Baptist’s message of repentance and spiritual preparation for our salvation is at the heart of Advent.  The weeks leading up to Christmas we evaluate how well we have been living as children of God, gifted with the grace of God dwelling in our midst and within our very souls.  It’s also a time to open ourselves to new possibilities and new challenges as disciples of Christ.  Thus, the message of John for repentance produces the necessary disposition for conversion.

Last year I wrote about the challenge of keeping John the Baptist in Advent.  I’d like to repost that below.  John prepared the way of the Lord, and he can help us do the same.

*********************************************************************************************

The image of John the Baptist, dressed in camel hair and eating locusts, preaching the message of repentance and authentic sorrow for sins, provides a stark contrast to the marketing images flooding us of jolly Santas, piles of presents, and delicious foods. I can understand why marketers find Santas and reindeer more appealing for sales than a desert ascetic speaking about sin.  People also feel increased pressures to prepare for Christmas by finding the perfect gifts within the time constraints of frantic schedules and limited budgets.  Nevertheless, the Gospel writers remind us that preparation for Christmas is ultimately preparation for the Incarnation of God our Savior.  He brings the gift of heaven, but we must prepare ourselves to receive that gift through repentance.

The push to start Christmas sales has lamentably encroached on Thanksgiving and even cast a shadow over Halloween.  However, it has completely replaced Advent in our culture.  It has become increasingly difficult to make the weeks leading up to Christmas a time of introspection, increased prayer, and sacrifice.  By the time Catholics celebrate Christmas on the Eve of Christmas day and for the two weeks following it, the rest of the culture has already moved on.

So how can we balance living in the culture that we do and still honor the important process of conversion Advent is meant to procure?  We can no longer wait to buy a Christmas tree until December 23rd because there won’t be any left.  We can’t leave them up for the duration of the Liturgical Christmas season because the tree will be a fire hazard at that point, plus we will have missed our road side tree pick up provided by our garbage companies.  I have surrendered this battle and get a tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.  I also have to admit that I look forward to the Hallmark Christmas movies and, if possible, make a weekend of it with my mother and my daughter.  Black Friday deals make Christmas gifts more affordable although I am too exhausted on Cyber Mondays to get online after work.  However, I reserve some Christmas feasting for Christmas.  I play Christmas music during the liturgical Christmas season and keep my Christmas decorations out (with the exception of the live tree).  In my classroom at school I leave Christmas lights up in my room until Lent, reminding the kids that Jesus is the Light of the World.

Spiritual sacrifice, examination of conscience, and remorse for sins is harder to find time for.  When the kids were little we would do Bible crafts and the kids had fun placing a felt ornament on our Jesse tree corresponding to a daily Scripture passage we would read.  Now that my kids are older, it’s harder to find a time we are all home to pray together.

As a busy mom, I appreciate that the Church offers practical advice regarding spiritual preparation during Advent, and oftentimes opportunities organized by the parish to help us.  Scripturally, spiritual preparation consists of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Parishes often offer Advent reflections, retreats, and youth ministry events to facilitate more introspective prayer during this time.  We can add one of these events to our calendar just as we would any Christmas party invitation.  Fasting is especially difficult, with so many Christmas parties and cookie exchanges taking place, but consider fasting from something simple and achievable, so that even in those moments you are connected to Christ and honoring the preparation for His coming that He deserves.  I wouldn’t suggest giving up sweets altogether, but maybe you set a  limit for yourself or give up something else that’s meaningful to you.  Almsgiving may be the one aspect of Advent that lingers in our culture as generosity during the Christmas season seems to be a sentiment that still resonates in people’s hearts.  Parishes, schools, offices, and neighborhoods band together for charitable causes and provide opportunities for us to give.  We can participate with a spirit of giving to Christ who says, “Whatever you do for the least of these you do unto Me.”  Let’s not forget that Christmas also provides less visible opportunities for giving, like keeping our eyes open for family members, neighbors, or colleagues who are lonely and inviting them to our homes.

Fasting and almsgiving can further be applied in our interactions with one another.  The increased social contact brings with it both joy and discord; providing many more opportunities for spiritual works of mercy.  Christmas get-togethers bring out the best and worst in people.  It provides opportunities to fast from gossip and to give encouragement; to fast from pettiness and to bear wrongs patiently, to fast from competitiveness and to give comfort.  When we encounter persons we find annoying, frustrating, or difficult to be around, we can reflect on the compassion of the Lord, who became man, for love of that same person.  When we are moved by the generosity and love of others towards ourselves, we can praise Christ as we tangibly experience His love in our own lives.

Advent has become an uphill battle, but the view from the top makes climbing it worth all the effort.    This Advent I hope we can find a way to prepare our hearts and our lives for Christ a little more in some small way.  I hope we acknowledge and surrender to Him sins we need Him to heal.  Let’s demonstrate our authentic gratitude for his grace through prayer and acts of love.  Finally, let’s try to keep Christ in Christmas, and John the Baptist in Advent.

Consider:

  • “Emmanuel” means God-with-us.  Consider the gift of the Incarnation, that God became man, and dwelt among us.
  •  How has your heart and life opened to Christ over the years?  How has He dwelt more and more in your life?
  • Are there any areas of your life from which you keep Christ closed off?  Are there any places, people, or activities you wouldn’t feel comfortable having Christ present?
  • Reflect on the people you will encounter this season.  Consider them from Christ’s point of view.  How might you be the hands and heart of Christ to them in your interactions?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Choose one way this Advent to pray, fast, and give.
  • Put a church sponsored Advent or Christmas event on your calendar, then attend it.
  •  Fast from gossip and critical remarks.
  • Intentionally give to Christ, above your regular tithing.  Choose a charity or a particular person, and be generous to Jesus by being generous to them.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* 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.

 

 

Making Room for Christ

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 making room for christ to come

December 10th, 2017 2nd Sunday of Advent

Gospel of Mark 1:1-8 NAB

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Meditation Reflection:

It’s the time of year for making room – in our closets, our homes, our schedules, and our lives.

We live in a culture so in love with stuff that we need storage units just to hold the overflow of possessions. Additionally, the rampant competitiveness in the culture adds pressure to our schedule, forcing our waking hours to overflow into the late night and early mornings.

When I was single I could handle quite a bit of buildup in things and reduction in sleep.  A few weeks into motherhood however it became clear we would all drown if I didn’t take regular action.   When my kids were younger we had a tradition every year of cleaning out their rooms and closets a couple of weeks before Christmas and a couple of weeks before their birthdays.  I would give them two bags – one for garbage and one for giveaway.  Anything broken, grown out of, or no longer used had to go to make room for the new gifts.  I too would clean out my things and reassess our calendar.

Advent provides an opportunity for us to do the same thing in our spiritual lives a few weeks before Christmas.  In anticipation of the greatest gift – Jesus Christ, the Son of God – we must make room in our souls, our schedules, and our lives.  It’s a time to step back and make an honest examination of what occupies our hearts.  Much like when I hold up an old sweater and debate whether I will really wear it again or not, I must examine the things I spend time and energy on and ask if they are still worth it, or just taking up valuable space.

If it’s so difficult to let go of an old ratty sweater overrun with pills, how much more difficult to let go of old bad habits or frames of mind.  We hold on to useless or worn out things simply because we hate change and we love nostalgia.  We may rationalize that we will “use that someday” but we don’t even know all the “thats” we have anymore.  We just don’t want to let go of something that’s been with us so long.

Similarly, we resist honestly evaluating our priorities, bad habits and sins.  In some ways they can begin to feel a part of our identity.  However, the process of decluttering our soul can be marvelously freeing and enable us to move forward in our lives.  The questions we must ask will vary as much as the clutter in our homes.  You may have to consider, “Am I a hard worker, or have I become a workaholic? Or the opposite: “Do I have a healthy amount of down time in my life, or have I just become lazy?”  About attitudes one might ask “Am I someone who doesn’t get riled up about much, or am I just complacent?” or the opposite: “Am I someone who cares passionately about things, or do I make an idol out of causes or get too involved in other people’s business?”

Outside perspective can help.  If you share a closet, garage, or home with someone, they will quickly tell you which items have been hogging space for no reason.   Loving family and friends can also offer valuable insight.  They can more easily identify the ways you have grown as a person and the things that hold you back.  The Holy Spirit can also guide you if you ask.  He can enlighten your mind to see things from God’s perspective and soothe you with grace to let the lesser goods go.

After decluttering, the final preparations for Christmas celebrations involve cleaning.  Mineral build up on the faucet, sticky fingerprints and globs of ketchup on the refrigerator, half-finished projects that have become an eyesore or safety hazard, and dusty surfaces dull the beauty of our homes.  It takes time and sweat, but the shiny glean in every room renews our appreciation of the gifts God has bestowed upon us and the joy of home.

In the same way, our virtues and gifts can dull from the challenges of everyday life.   Stepping back for a little introspection can help us reclaim those pieces of ourselves we love and let them shine again.

Some things may need to go and some things may be reasonable to keep, or some things may need a deep clean, but at the end of the process our souls shine with the beauty God has given us, and Christ has more room to fill with His divine presence and peace.

Consider:

  • Prayerfully list your priorities.  Where do God, work, family, friends, hobbies, and self-care rank?
  • Consider your schedule: How well do you balance time for God, time for taking care of yourself, time for helping others, and time to accomplish your work well?
  • Consider your possessions:  How well do your things represent your priorities?  Are there ways your possessions could better reflect what matters to you?
  • Consider your heart:  What occupies your desires most?  Be honest.  Then relate them back to your priority list.  Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to increase your desire for the Lord and for loving relationship with others, and to decrease your desire for what competes with them.
  • Consider your mind:  What occupies your thoughts?  What do you spend time learning about?  How well are you making time for introspection and spiritual growth?  Do you take the time to think of others or to identify your own needs?  What tends to distract you or consume your mind? How might you detach somewhat?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Make room for Christ in your home, your schedule, and your heart.  Declutter your biggest horde, simplify your time commitments, and increase your prayer and spiritual reading by 10 minutes.
  • Do an examination of conscience and encounter Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Related Posts:

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* 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.

 

 

The Joy of Loving Watch

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

December 3rd, 2017 1st Sunday of Advent

Gospel of Mark 13:33-37 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

Meditation Reflection:

It’s the season of watching.  Watching for sales and gifts, watching beautiful Christmas lights, watching school Christmas programs, watching Hallmark movies, watching the mail for Christmas cards and watching for our loved ones to visit.  It can also become watching the calendar fill with a myriad of commitments, and watching our to-do list lengthen like the unfurling of a scroll that tumbles across the floor to the end of the room.

The excitement of the season can also be draining.  We endeavor to conserve our energy and find balance between the work to prepare for Christmas, and actually relaxing enough to enjoy it.  The thrill of finding the perfect gift on Black Friday a few weeks later devolves into frantic stress over the hard-to-buy-for person.  The hours in the day seem to disappear as fast as the shrinking sunlight.  Upon lighting the first advent candle as a child, I would groan at the long wait ahead of four interminable weeks.  Now, as I pull the advent wreath from my tub of Christmas decorations, I groan that there are only four short weeks left to get everything done.

If we let the activity distract our aim, we may miss the target and lose the wonderful opportunity for reconnection and generous love Christmas offers.   However, if we keep our sight on the purpose of each of our activities, we will hit the mark.  The cleaning, decorating, cooking, shopping, travelling, and planning can either leave us exhausted and cranky toward those we love, or they can invigorate us with energy and joy as we revel in lavishing our love on them and treasuring precious time together.

This time is also rich in opportunities to lavish our love upon Christ.  During Advent, parishes often offer a spiritual retreat or host an evening with a speaker.  The liturgy of the mass includes special prayers and Scriptures, and many people add advent traditions of prayer in their home such as lighting advent candles, reading Scriptures alongside a Jesse Tree with children, or another devotion.  Community outreach is everywhere you turn from winter wear drives at work or school, to food donations, and toy drives.

Today, the first Sunday of Advent, our Gospel reading serves to focus our sight on the right target – the Good News that Christ has come and will come again.  He has saved us, freed us from sin, and heals our souls.  During the present age we have been entrusted by Him, “each with [our] own work,” but we must always remember that He is the Lord and ultimately we watch and await His return.

How do we keep watch?  Daily in prayer, weekly at Mass, and at every moment with love in our hearts to lavish love upon Christ in those around us.  Mother Teresa served each day with this verse as her aim: “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did it for Me.”

May this season of Advent and Christmas invigorate rather than drain, as we keep our aim on love and on Christ.

Consider:

  • What do you enjoy most about the weeks leading up to Christmas?
  • How might you enjoy them more, and prioritize your time better?
  • Reflect on the gift of the Incarnation.  Consider the humility of Christ to become man.  Contemplate His love for you, that He desired to be so close.  Reflect on the gift of His grace and redemption.
  • What gifts has Christ given to you over the years?  What gifts has He blessed you with this year?  Are there any spiritual gifts you might put on your Christmas list to Him presently?
  • What might you offer to Christ as a gift?  What do you need to do to prepare it?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • As we spend more time with family, friends, and coworkers this season, spend more time with Christ as well.  Decide on how you will do this – go on a retreat, attend a speaker at your church, read an advent devotional each day, spend time with Scripture…

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* 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.

 

 

Where Truth & Love Reign

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 love one another

November 26th, 2017 Solemnity of Christ the King

Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Meditation Reflection:

At first glance, this passage can seem a little harsh.  We like to imagine a more sentimental Jesus, gently escorting every person to eternal pleasure, not a rigid judge calculating our deeds and sending some to eternal suffering.

Jesus is king and judge, but as He often reminded His followers – His kingdom is not of this world. When pressed by Pilate to explain further, Jesus answered “I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice” (John 18:37).

We, like Pilate, may ask “Truth? What is that?” (John 18:38).

Truth is Reality.  As Pope Benedict XVI often said in his writings, it means acknowledging that God is the Creator and we are creatures.  The laws of nature that govern the health of our soul are as real and concrete as the laws that govern the health our body.

The truth is also that God is love and we are made in His image.  Though weakened by sin, we have been re-made by Christ and transformed by His grace to image God’s love again.  Thus, St. John can say,

My dear friends, let us love one another, since love is from God and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love…as long as we love one another God remains in us and His love comes to its perfection in us.” 1John 4:7-8,12

So if the Truth is that God is love and we are love, what does that mean on an everyday level?  How does that look?  How does it translate to our schedules?

Pope St. John Paul II defined love clearly and simply: it is self-gift.  Thus the paradox of human happiness he concluded, is that we find fulfillment for ourselves in giving of ourselves.

This means fighting the pull of self-centeredness and mere consumerism.  We have to turn our attention from acquiring things, to giving of ourselves.  Should we try to over-complicate the matter or pay mere lip service, Jesus states clearly the fruits of authentic love: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick or imprisoned…

Jesus is Truth and Love.  No one can pretend to be something they are not when standing before Him.  Those who love will rejoice to be fully united with the King of Love.  Confident in His mercy, they will say yes to His transforming grace which will free them from any remaining pulls of worldliness or selfishness so they can be free to fully enter the Communion of Saints and Angels in union with God.  Those who prefer the Kingdom of Self will refuse to enter the Kingdom of Self-Gift, preferring to be alone.

We see this in an analogous way during the holidays.  Time with family requires a sacrifice of time, generosity of food and travel, hospitality, patience, and attentiveness toward others.  The more we love our family, the easier those things become, so much so we may even look forward to those opportunities as a gift of service that brings us joy.  The less we love, the more burdensome they seem, so much so a person may choose to remain alone on the holiday rather than deal with it all.

It’s not so much that Jesus will come to decide who “gets” to go to Heaven and who doesn’t, since He came to offer Redemption to all.  It’s more the case that He will come as Judge of the Truth about our decision to accept or reject His saving grace in our hearts.  The world might say, “show me the money,” but Jesus will say, “Show me your love.”

Life is short, eternity is long.  We must begin EVERY day with prayer – even just 5-10 minutes and go to Mass EVERY Sunday, to unite ourselves to the source of Love and Grace.  From this union with Christ, fruits of His Spirit of love will permeate the actions and decisions of our day (see Galatians 5:22-23). If we first love God above all things, we will then love our neighbor as ourselves because we will see God’s image in them and desire as Christ does to mend its wounds of sin that their God-given dignity and glory might shine more gloriously.

Sound too simplistic?  Give it a try.  Compare a day began with 10 minutes of prayer and a day without.  I can attest that I am a far more loving person with prayer and a far more frazzled impatient person without it.  See how your week goes after attending Sunday Mass.  Try going to one daily Mass in addition and notice the fruits that follow in your interactions with others that day.

Consider:

  • Consider how love makes work or service less burdensome.
  • Consider how selfishness undermines relationship and causes discord in your family, friendships, and work.
  • Consider how Christ’s love and grace has transformed you.  How has He changed you for the better over the years?  How has His Spirit changed the way you think and act? What are areas of your life that still need transformation?
  • When have you experienced self-fulfillment/happiness through self-gift?  How might you continue to give of yourself to those in your daily life?
  • Take a moment for gratitude, to thank Christ for the sins that He has conquered so far in you.  Then take a moment for petition, asking Christ to conquer those sins that still remain.  Finally, take a moment for intercession, praying for those in need of healing that Christ might conquer the sins burdening them.
  • Close your eyes and imagine the joy of Heaven.  Imagine Christ coming in all His glory, shining brighter than the sun, smiling, and holding out His hand for you to join Him.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Begin every day this week with 5-10 minutes of prayer.  Read the Scriptures, thank God, surrender your day to Christ, spend a couple of minutes in silence.
  • Intentionally practice one corporal and one spiritual Works of Mercy a day.
  • Read about the life of a saint who is similar to you in some way to learn from his or her example.  You can research “patron saint of__________” to find someone with an affinity to your work or your struggle.  You could also try researching someone with your same vocation such as married, single, or religious. You can find saints who were young or old, men or women, from small towns or big cities, were well educated and travelled or simple and hidden.  You may also like to research a saint who shares your name.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* 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.

 

 

The Vocation To Love

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

November 19th, 2017 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 25:14-30 NAB

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

Meditation Reflection:

Fair doesn’t always mean equal. Most often it requires a sliding scale.  Chores and responsibilities in the home depend on age and ability.  In the same way, privileges correspond to the level of responsibility and trustworthiness.  The workplace organizes in roles determined by qualification and experience, thus each is expected to contribute in the manner expected of their specific job.

Jesus reveals that in the kingdom of God there’s a sliding scale as well.  Each person has a job which is suited to his or her abilities and expectations for outcome that correspond to them.  Thanks be to God!

It seems reasonable so what’s the problem?  Sin.  I’d like to consider specifically Envy and Sloth.  Envy stirs discontent within us.  It looks around at others and desires their gifts and goods, and rejoices at their misfortunes.  It makes us want others’ privileges without necessarily their responsibilities.  It convinces us the grass is greener on the other side and blinds us to the Cross present in every state and place in life.

Envy can even distort spiritual aspirations.  The Lord has a plan for each one of us (Jeremiah 29:11). He has poured out His redemptive love for all mankind and invites everyone to Heaven.  He calls us each to love where He has placed us, not where He has placed someone else.

Sometimes love includes warm feelings and gratitude, other times it tries our patience and drains us.  At all times however, love is faithful.  I love my kids when receiving their hugs and when disciplining them during a tantrum, when being met with appreciation or the attitude that I can’t do anything right.   I love my students when engaging in an inspiring conversation with them, and when having to track down their missing homework or correct a bad behavior.

During the difficult tasks of love however, it’s tempting to think that we are in the wrong place.  We look around us and consider if we would be happier doing something else for the Lord.  And yet, precisely in faithfully loving during good times and bad, we most resemble our Lord and act as His disciples.

The second obstacle to faithful love is sloth.  Sloth is physical and/or spiritual laziness.  It especially undermines our strength of perseverance in the unappealing aspects of relational love such as the daily routine of chores, conflict resolution, work deadlines, bearing wrongs patiently, praying when we don’t feel like it, or going to Mass even though we’d rather sleep in.  It’s then that we want to just bury the talent God gave us and click the next episode of Netflix.

But God has made us with a purpose and has entrusted us with a noble task.  He calls us to greatness through great love.  Jesus called St. Mother Teresa to greatness through “small acts done with great love.” Before her, St. Therese of Lisieux the Little Flower, from whom Mother Teresa chose her name, learned the “Little Way” from Jesus and Mary.  Though a cloistered Carmelite nun who died at a young age, Jesus inspired millions through the love He poured into her and through her, so much so that Pope St. John Paull II proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church on October 19th, 1997.

In his homily, he described her missionary aspirations, which Christ asked her to fulfill not by travel (as she wished)  but through contemplative prayer and sacrifice.  Though not the martyr’s glorious death she desired, she came to understand that each is called to a different service, but all are called to the same purpose – love.  In fact, she concluded and exclaimed, “O Jesus, my Love … at last I have found my vocation; my vocation is Love!'” (Ms B, 3vº).  She understood that Christ simply wanted us to love with faithfulness wherever we were and that fidelity contributed to Christ’s larger mission (she is in fact the patron saint of missions).  Pope St. John Paul II described her insight in his homily saying,

 “Thérèse of Lisieux did not only grasp and describe the profound truth of Love as the centre and heart of the Church, but in her short life she lived it intensely. It is precisely this convergence of doctrine and concrete experience, of truth and life, of teaching and practice, which shines with particular brightness in this saint, and which makes her an attractive model especially for young people and for those who are seeking true meaning for their life.”

John Paul II followed the Little Way and Christ called him to love in astounding and public ways, travelling around the world, encountering millions of people, and fighting deathly philosophies becoming a saint through love too.  At the same time, St. Therese’s parents, who lived a simple Catholic family life, were canonized saints by Pope Francis in October of 2015.  Whether a pope or a parent, all are called to love and through that love be saints.  It’s love that God gives to us, and love that He wants returned – not buried and barren, but fruitfully multiplied.  Love gives love, and in giving it receives.  As St. John exclaimed in his first letter:

“We love because he first loved us.I John 4:19

Consider:

  • Who is someone who loves you faithfully in both times of crisis and the ordinary, yet repetitive, needs of everyday?
  • What makes you feel the most loved?
  • Where has God placed you to love?  Who are the people in your family, neighborhood, friendships, and work?  How might you show them love?  What practical help might they need?  What encouragement, time, or conversation may they need?  How might you brighten their day or help carry their burden?
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will enable you to see opportunities to love, even in the difficult ways like disciplining or meeting deadlines.
  • Consider if envy or sloth ever undermine your vocation to love.  To you ever undervalue your vocation or your work?  Does it ever feel like it’s not enough?  Do you feel overwhelmed or tempted by distraction?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Choose one person each day to love – with intention, patience, perseverance, and generosity.
  • Read John Paul II’s homily about St. Therese of Lisieux when he proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church.
  • Read about Mother Teresa or some of her writings.
  • Spend time with someone loving and learn from their example.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* 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.

 

 

Fueling the Fire of Love

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

20170217_010616065_iOS 

November 12th, 2017 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 25:1-13 NAB

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Meditation Reflection:

What do we need to be ready for Christ?  At Baptism we received a lighted candle, and the call to be the light of Christ in the world.  Sometimes we may feel that zeal and live our faith in a powerful way.  Other times the routine and busyness of every day drains our energy and we become drowsy or complacent.  Work projects or sports tournaments begin to overshadow weekly Sunday Mass and after rationalizing missing one Sunday we easily slip into missing most.  Seeing our bible collect dust we might open it up and resolve to read it every day until we’ve completed it cover to cover.  Half-way through Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we give up.  Maybe we are going through a tough time and it renews our zeal to pray daily.  After it passes we continue a little longer in thanksgiving.  A few weeks into the hum drum of life without much drama we begin to forget that time with the Lord.

So how do we keep our candles lit during the long wait? Heaven is union with God and so we need to burn with the fire of His love.  Authentic love perseveres because it’s rooted deeper than the emotions.  It requires conviction, consistent nurturing, and Christ’s grace.

Every relationship requires effort and ongoing time and attention to be sustained.  In the same way, we can fuel our love for Christ by developing our convictions through ongoing study of Scripture, the teachings of our Faith, and the lives of the saints.  We can nurture our relationship by setting aside time with the Lord daily in prayer and weekly at Mass.  Lastly, we can ask Christ for His grace to sustain us and transform us.  Most importantly, when we come to the banquet of His love in the Eucharist, He fills us with His divine love which burns away anything that comes between us and Him.

We can also root out things that undermine our relationship with Christ by rooting them out in our human relationships as well.  Being attentive to our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers will require many of the same virtues we need to be attentive to the Lord.  To listen to our loved one when they need to talk will mean saying no to whatever else was occupying our attention at that moment.  To visit someone will mean scheduling time and moving other things around to make it happen.

Christ wants to visit us today.  Where can He find an open door and a lighted lamp?  Hopefully He can find us at prayer, speak to us in Scripture, and be received by us in the Eucharist at Mass.  Then, when He comes again for the final time, we will be ready and our joy will be complete.  During our lives we will have said, “Come Lord, enter my heart and be welcomed by my love.”  And at the end of our lives, He will stretch His hand out to us, where we will find the door open and He will say to us, “Come my child, enter my heart and be welcomed eternally by my love.”

Consider:

  • When has your faith been most on fire for the Lord?  Was it after a retreat, an experience in prayer, a profound event in your life, a speaker or book you read, sacred music that lifted your heart?
  • What competes with your devotion to Christ?  Distractions from pleasures, anxiety from stress, a busy schedule, a pull toward laziness, numbness from emotional pain, an addiction?
  • How do you prepare for guests, especially at the holidays?  Consider the extra thoughtfulness you put into preparing food they will like or attentiveness to the little details that will add warmth to the experience.
  • Consider Christ visiting.  How might you be attentive to Him? Schedule time for conversation.  Welcome Him through others by works of mercy.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Resolve on one thing this week to detach you from something that competes with love for Christ, and one thing to keep the fire of love lit for Him.
    •  Ideas for detachment:  Identify an attachment (click here for how to: identifying attachments), then practice the opposite virtue.  If you don’t pray because you sleep through your morning alarm, resolve to get up at the right time or 10 minutes earlier.  If you have work or sports on Sundays, look ahead to find a Mass time that will work, even if you have to visit a different parish to do so.  If possible, change your work schedule.
    • Ideas for feeding the fire:  10 minutes of prayer, spiritual reading, learning about your faith through books, podcasts, or a class at church, reading about the life of a saint, spending time with a faith-filled Christian friend.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* 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.

 

 

Keeping it Simple and Keeping it Real

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

October 29th, 2017 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 22:32-40 NAB

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Meditation Reflection:

St. John tells us that “God is Love” (I John 4:8).  He actively loves you and I at every moment.  He created the world out of nothing to be a home for humankind and continues to hold all things in existence and guide them by His divine providence. He created each of our souls at the moment of our conception.  The Second Person of the Trinity even became man, suffered, and died for our Redemption after we sinned so we could become new creations by grace.  Even before creation however, He was Love.  In His very essence God is a union of three divine Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  His very nature is an eternal relationship of love.

Moreover, Genesis reveals that God’s love is so great He made humankind in His image to participate in His love. Thus the God who is love, created us to also be love. In the first creation account He created man and woman at the same time, that they too might be a union of persons, capable of love and creativity like God.

“God created mankind in His image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply.” Genesis 1:27-28

In the second Genesis account God created man first but he felt alone and unfulfilled.  There was no suitable partner for him among all of God’s animals.  Why?  Aren’t dogs and cats adorable?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to enjoy God-given reign over all of creation without having to share it with anyone? Adam had water front property, lush gardens, and plenty of food.  He had everything a single person could desire – power, pleasure, abundance, security, and was surrounded by affectionate pets.  Why was he unhappy?

“The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him. Genesis 2:18

Made in the image of God, Adam could only find fulfillment through being a union of persons.  Together Adam and Eve could unite both body and soul.  They could know one another, choose one another, and love one another, both spiritually and physically.

In the Beginning, living in God’s image was simple and joy-filled.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden.  Their work was without toil and they rested each Sabbath to worship God and rejoice in gratitude.  As Pope Benedict XVI explains:

In the creation account the sabbath is depicted as the day when the human being, in the freedom of worship, participates in God’s freedom, in God’s rest, and thus in God’s peace.” (In the Beginning…A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, 1990)

Things only get complicated after the Fall, that first dreadful sin.  God is a realist.  He made everything according to a rational order and taught Adam and Eve those laws so they might be safe and flourish.  In their moment of temptation however, they rebelled in pride, chasing the illusion that they could be the creators of reality rather than creatures already a part of reality.  Yet, the truth is always true.  God said their choice would bring death, the serpent said it wouldn’t, and Adam and Eve chose based on their senses – “it seemed good and looked delightful.”  They chose against God and they found He was right – death entered the world.

It’s easy to point the finger at their foolishness, but consider our own common teenage rebellions.  Despite the love and trustworthy guidance of good parents, how often do teens think to themselves, “I know more than mom and dad.  I’m going to do this my way and ignore their rules,” only to find themselves suffering the results their parents had warned them of?

When have you thought the same thing about God’s guidance?  God guides us through the natural law, Scriptures, and the Church.  Yet, we still struggle with the tempting thought that what we feel like doing is better than what we ought to do.  Again and again, we suffer when our feelings prove illusory and God’s guidance true.

People will often say, “The Church isn’t realistic.  It needs to get with the times.”  Abstinence for unmarried persons instead of birth control? Fantasy.  Truthfulness at work?  You’ll never get ahead.  Children instead of pets?  Maybe one or two, but beyond that will be misery.  Church every Sunday?  That’s excessive.  Resting on Sunday?  Who will get all the work done?

Yet, the truth remains the truth.  Our illusions do not change reality.  We chase where our impulses lead only to find ourselves depressed and unhappy.

Happiness is simple.  It means being a real realist. It means living as a human person not something else you or the culture imagines.  It may not be easy, but God gives us grace to live in His truth.

God’s laws only become complicated inasmuch as we make them complicated.  In my classroom I have a mini basketball and hoop for kids to play during passing time.  I begin the year with two rules: when the bell rings the ball gets put away, and no blood (I don’t want kids getting hurt and there’s a reason I’m a teacher and not a doctor or nurse).  Some classes get it and those are the only two rules that I ever need.  They have a little fun and our class begins on a positive note.  Others overcomplicate things.  They start fighting over the ball, becoming overly rough or competitive, launching it over people’s heads, or they keep trying to shoot the ball into its rightful place despite missing many times.  In consequence, they force me to make more rules to ensure that my basic two are met and what began as simple fun becomes a frustration.

Jesus teaches that God really only has two rules as well.  If we simply love God with our whole self – heart, mind, and soul, everything else falls into place.  Living in union with God we find our true selves and the source of all happiness.  From our free relationship of love with God, we then seek to love others, His image among us.  Through self-gift and loving relationship, we find self-fulfillment and deep joy because we are living in reality, feeding on real food and journeying toward our real end.

All the other rules are in response to the myriad of ways we violate the basic two.  If we loved God first then our neighbor, we would have the common sense to do the other things as well.  If I love God, I’m going to spend Sunday with Him.  If I love my neighbor, I’m not going to lie or cheat him, and if I see him in need I will want to help.

Developing Christian common sense may take time, depending on your past formation or experiences.  Jesus knows our brokenness, blindness, and weakness.  He came to be our Healer, the true Light to guide us, and the source of Strength to transform us.  Love has a mysterious and beautiful power to melt away sadness and hurt, and fill us with joy.  You might begin by needing a rule to go to Mass on Sunday, but once you experience the touch of Christ’s love, you will find it a gift instead.

Consider:

  • When have you experienced God’s love – through another person, in prayer, or at Mass?
  • When has God’s truth been a sure guide for you during a confusing time?
  • Which laws of God, either through Scripture or the Church, do you find most difficult to accept or to live out?
  • How has God’s grace enabled you to live virtuously or love at a level you couldn’t have imagined before?
  • How might you love God more?  What areas of your heart, mind, soul, or strength do you still withhold from him?  Is there a teaching of Christ you struggle to accept?  Is there someone you find difficult to give generously of your heart to? Do you spend Sunday with the Lord and family or use your strength for more work instead? Do you spend time thanking God and being in His presence, or do you love something else more?
  • Reflect on Mary’s perfect love exemplified by her simple Yes at every moment.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week give God more of your heart, mind, or strength.  Ask Him to increase your love for Him in each of these areas then do one concrete thing a day to act on that love.
  •               Ideas:
    • To love God more with your mind spend 5 more minutes a day with Scripture, listen to Christian podcasts or radio, learn about the faith at your parish or by reading a spiritual book.
    • To love God more with your heart, increase your affection for Him by making a gratitude list, praying a Psalm  (especially 23, 27, 119, or 139), meditating on the rosary, or attending a daily Mass.
    • To love God more with your strength, do something of service for someone in need.  Care for someone who is sick, help out a co-worker who is swamped, volunteer to help at your church by taking care of the building or grounds or by helping with the service as a greeter or usher.   Most importantly, resolve to avoid servile work on Sunday and instead play with your kids or go visit a friend.

Related Posts

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* 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.

 

 

God’s Treasure – Knowing Your Value

image by aint_he_faithful

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

October 21st, 2017 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 22:15-21 NAB

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Meditation Reflection:

Consider the value and meaning we place on money.

First, there’s the cultural pressure to value ourselves based on our bank account.  We call name brand clothes, luxury vehicles, the size and elegance of a home, or exotic vacations “status symbols” because they reflect our monetary power and therefore our personal value.  Consider how many people struggle with low self-esteem, whether in grade school or retired, because they lack the apparent wealth of others.

Our perception of the value of our work can also be tied to the numbers.  How many decisions do we make based on how much money it pays rather than based on whether it’s God’s will? How many opportunities do we miss because we are afraid of having less and worry that we will thereby be less.

Currency further identifies our national ties.  Each country has its own currency with images of its leaders and heroes.  To buy or sell in another nation requires exchanging your local money for the proper foreign coins.

These habits of mind might belong in the kingdom of fallen man, but not in the Kingdom of God.  God created everything from nothing, and continues to govern it and hold it in existence.  He imprinted His image on man and woman, and placed a value of infinite worth on each.  The only way to devalue this currency is to distort God’s image within us, which we all do through sin (except Jesus and Mary) since Adam and Eve.  Nevertheless, Jesus came to restore God’s image within us, and to elevate it to an even higher union and dignity by uniting our human nature with His divine nature through His Incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection.

Jesus doesn’t condemn Caesar’s image on Roman coins because it’s an earthly currency for an earthly political system.  Rather, Jesus reminds us that our citizenship in His kingdom transcends our human institutions.

God desires that we revere Him as the King of kings, worship Him as Creator, and love Him as Father and Redeemer.   He has bestowed His royal dignity upon us and urges us to return back to Him His image.  We don’t earn heavenly currency, we become it and we receive it.

Jesus reveals that we are God’s treasure.  If we want to chase the dollar, we should chase God’s dollar.  Through deeper union with the Lord, His grace transforms us more and more into His likeness.  We also begin to see God’s image in others and their corresponding value and beauty.

Thus one person, no matter how broken, is worth more than as many images of Ben Franklin you could stack.

I was reminded again of this truth just a couple of weeks ago when my sister and brother-in-law welcomed my baby nephew into the world.  Our whole family rejoiced at such a precious gift and my heart aches until I can visit and hold him in my arms. The only addition possible to this joy, was the preciousness of the love which my sister’s children showed toward their baby brother, and the sweet love my children expressed over him too.

Love sees the whole person.  When a family member or loved one becomes ensnared in a serious sin, addiction, or suffers under mental illness, we feel sorrow because we see how these things distort the image of the true person we know, and all they could be.  We want the ones we love to flourish.  We value them for simply them, not anything they have accomplished or not.  I love family reunions just because I enjoy being around those I love.  I have grown up with my brother, sister, and cousins for many years now.  I have seen us all go through ups and downs, great strides and tough struggles.  I love them all when they are doing well, and just as much when they are struggling.  I hate anything that would hold them back from the fullness of Christ’s joy, and yet I also know that God can work all things together for good.

Money can buy temporary pleasures and momentary experiences.  However, the more we image the Lord, the deeper we experience a well-spring of joy, and far richer experiences than we can find anywhere else.  It can hardly be described in words so I won’t even try.  Christ doesn’t explain it either.  He simply says, “Come and see” (John 1:39).

Come and see Jesus, and see your true worth in His eyes.

Consider:

  •  Think of the people you His vision.  Ask Him to enable you to see yourself and others as God does.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Each morning, “give to God what is God’s” – His image in you.  Pray for trust that “the One who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)
Prayer by St. Cardinal John Henry Newman

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.

  • This week, try to see yourself and others as God does.  Pray for their freedom and yours from sin, fear, or addiction, and the gift of Christ-filled joy.

Related Posts:

Becoming Rich: Investment Strategies From Christ

Preparing the Soil…Spiritual Receptivity

Finding Fulfillment in Self-Gift

Authentic Love

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

* 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.