Expressions of Feminine Self-Gift Part III: Setting the World on Fire (Highlights and quotations from my talk at “Devoted” at St. John the Baptist.)

What a gift to speak at St. John the Baptist tonight with the women of “Devoted”!  I was privileged to spend the evening with such remarkable ladies at such a beautiful event. Below are some highlights and the quotations I referenced.   

Red heart shaped tree

St. Catherine of Siena “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire”

God can and DOES do INCREDIBLE things through His children. The life of every saint testifies to God’s mighty work through their little “yes”.

 Who does God mean for your to be? – First: a Woman

Women have particular gifts from God to set the world ablaze with His transformative Truth and Love.

Examples of Women in the Gospels:

  • Mothers: Mary, Elizabeth
  • Prophetess: Anna
  • Some accompanied him on His journey Some provided for them out of their means (Luke 8:1-3) Joanna, Susanna
  • Mary, Martha – friends of Jesus
  • Jesus holds up the poor widow as a model of generosity “This poor widow has put in more than all of them”
  • Most profound teachings given to women
    • Woman at the well
    • Martha about resurrection from the dead
      • “This conversation with Martha is one of the most important in the Gospel” John Paul II On the Dignity of Women 15
    • Mary Magdalene – the first to see the risen Christ; Thomas Aquinas calls her the “apostle to the apostles”

 The Feminine Genius is needed now more than ever

The Second Vatican Council proclaimed:

“The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved.   That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling.”

The Council’s Message to Women as quoted in John Paul II’s On the Dignity and Vocation of Women

Special Genius of Women 

  • Theological insights from feminine perspective
    • Pope Francis remarked that we need more women theologians
    • Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)  English anchorite; Her work is based on a series of 16 visions she received in 1373
      • Meditates on Jesus’ motherly care for us
        • Compares His passion to pregnancy and birth
        • The Eucharist to nursing a baby (“He feeds us with Himself”)
        • The tenderness of a mother holding her child to Christ bringing us close to Him through His Church
      • 4 women doctors of the Church
        • Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, mystic;
        • Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)
        • Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
        • Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897)
      • Contemporary Catholic theologian – Edith Stein, a.k.a. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891-1942)
  • Gift for Acknowledging the Person
“Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural maternal yearning.” Edith SteinWoman
  • Building relationships and society – humanizing vs. technocratic and efficiency only
“Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.” John Paul II Letter to Women 1995
  • Antidote to individualism – motherhood as a white martyrdom
Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism. “Individual” means “what cannot be divided”. Mothers, instead, “divide” themselves, from the moment they bear a child to give him to the world and help him grow… Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero said that mothers experience a “maternal martyrdom”. In the homily for the funeral of a priest assassinated by death squads, he said, recalling the Second Vatican Council: “We must be ready to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honor…. Giving one’s life does not only mean being killed; giving one’s life, having the spirit of a martyr, it is in giving in duty, in silence, in prayer, in honest fulfilment of his duty; in that silence of daily life; giving one’s life little by little. Yes, like it is given by a mother, who without fear and with the simplicity of the maternal martyrdom, conceives a child in her womb, gives birth to him, nurses him, helps them grow and cares for them with affection. She gives her life. That’s martyrdom”.

Pope Francis Wednesday Audience January 2015

Obstacles

 Edith Stein noted that our gifts can also become distorted by sin.

  • Concern for the person can get out of control and turn into meddling and gossip
  • The desire to integrate everything can also lead to getting spread too thin and dabbling in too many things
  • A heart of service that sees the needs of others can turn into a dominating or controlling “help” – the “nagging wife” or “helicopter mom”

There is hope in our struggles!

  • Romans 8:28
    • “God works all things together for good for those that love Him”
  • Philippians 1:6
    • “I am sure that He Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

 Your expression of self gift will also include your PERSONAL circumstances, vocation, temperament, talents, opportunities

Family Life

  • Innate wisdom to guide the family – including the husband and wife
    • “She craves for an unhampered development of her personality just as much as she does to help another toward that same goal.   And thus the husband will find that she can give him invaluable advice in guiding the lives of the children as well as of themselves.” Edith Stein Woman

Making a house a home

  • “Part of her natural feminine concern for the right development of the beings surrounding her involves the creation of an ambience, of order and beauty conducive to their development.” Edith Stein Woman

Spiritual Motherhood 

  • Example of Elisabeth LeSeur 1866-1914
    • Her husband Felix remarking on the days approaching her death (after which he converted to Catholicism and later became a priest!):
“She did indeed uplift all who surrounded or approached her, and it was a strange thing to see this woman, so modest, so humble of heart, condemned to practical immobility, shedding around her far and wide the light of her great influence.”

An atheist friend after her passing:

“Some beings are a light toward which all turn who need light to live by!”

Work Life

Edith Stein notes that some jobs naturally align with feminine genius more than others.  However, women have something unique to offer every kind of work and in every case they bring their interpersonal gifts to the culture of the workplace.

“Thus the participation of women in the most diverse professional disciplines could be a blessing for the entire society, private or public, precisely if the specifically feminine ethos would be preserved.” Edith Stein Woman

Work-life balance

“Her professional activity counterbalances the risk of submerging herself all too intimately in another’s life and thereby sacrificing her own; however, an exclusive preoccupation with her professional activity would bring the opposite danger of infidelity toward her feminine vocation. Only those who surrender themselves completely into the Lord’s hand can trust that they will avoid disaster between Scylla and Charybdis.   Whatever is surrendered to Him is not lost but saved, chastened, exalted and proportioned out in true measure.”

Edith Stein Woman

Public Life

“In our own time, the successes of science and technology make it possible to attain material well being to a degree hitherto unknown. While this favors some, it pushes others to the margines of society. In this way, unilateral progress can also lead to a gradual loss of sensitivity for man, that is, for what is essentially human.   In this sense, our time in particular awaits the manifestation of that ‘genius’ which belongs to women, and which can ensure sensititivty for human beings in every circumstance: because they are human! – and because ‘the greatest of these is love’ (cf. 1 Cor 13:13)”

John Paul II On the Dignity and Vocation of Woman

 

Progress usually tends to be measured according to the criteria of science and technology. Nor from this point of view has the contribution of women been negligible. Even so, this is not the only measure of progress, nor in fact is it the principal one. Much more important is the social and ethical dimension, which deals with human relations and spiritual values. In this area, which often develops in an inconspicuous way beginning with the daily relationships between people, especially within the family, society certainly owes much to the “genius of women”.

John Paul II Letter to Women 1995

Closing:

Jeremiah 29:11

“Yes, I know what plans I have in mind for you, the LORD declares, plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

MUSTARD SEED

Matthew 13:31-32

“He put another parable before them, ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air can come and shelter in its branches”

The greatest example of feminine genius is Mary. Her yes brought about the incarnation of God and our salvation!

Mary models perfect discipleship. Each of us are being called by God.  We need only be our true selves to set the world on fire with His love!

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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Finding Beatitude: Part II of Expressions of Feminine Self-Gift

by Angela M Jendro

A summary from my talk last night with the amazing women of Devoted at St. John the Baptist Church. These women are so impressive and their prayerful, thoughtful ministry shows it! What a privilege to spend the evening with them!

Expressions of Feminine Self-Gift: Part II – Finding BeatitudeBeatitude

Paradoxically, we find self-fulfillment and happiness through self-gift (a theme often taught by Pope St. John Paul II)

The culture frames the questions of happiness around self assertion and individualism in pursuit of pleasure and status. Possessions and positions are limited so we must compete for them – against men and even against each other.

In contrast, when we open the Bible we find that God frames the questions completely differently. Creation began with self-gift: God’s gift of self – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to one another, and out of that love came creation. God made man and woman in relationship to one another and to God – one of free gift of self, in which they found fulfillment and joy.

Men and Women together image God. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Although equal in dignity and sharing a human nature, men and women are also different and each has unique gifts that complement one another. Therefore, their self-gift will proceed from their masculinity or femininity.

“The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity: they are merely different.   Hence a woman, as well as a man, must understand her ‘fulfillment’ as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she inherits as an expression of the ‘image and likeness of God’ that is specifically hers”

John Paul II.   On the Dignity and Vocation of Women Art.10

 

“In the Spirit of Christ, in fact, women can discover the entire meaning of their femininity and thus be disposed to making a ‘sincere gift of self’ to others, thereby finding themselves.”

John Paul II. On the Dignity and Vocation of Women Art.31

So how do we find happiness? Real happiness – the lasting kind, the beatitude kind. The kind that goes deep, is rich with meaning and honor, the legacy kind that makes you proud of who you are and who God made you to be?

happiness.jpg

The Beatitudes. In these we find the way of happiness.

They proceed one after another as the steps of conversion so we may, as St. Therese put it, ascend the mountain of God by descending the valley of humility. Which Jesus confirmed when He said that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humble himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12)

Let’s not be afraid of words like self-gift and humility. In Christ we can be assured of the protection of our dignity, to never be taken advantage of, and only to be lifted up to the fullness of our individual personalities and calling.

Christ’s way of acting, the Gospel of His words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women. Consequently, the women who are close to Christ discover themselves in the truth which he ‘teaches’ and ‘does,’ even when this truth concerns their ‘sinfulness.’ They felt ‘liberated’ by this truth, restored to themselves they feel loved with ‘eternal love,’ with a love which finds direct expression in Christ himself.”

John Paul II. On the Dignity and Vocation of Women Art.15

St. Edith Stein asserted that women’s gifts include concern for the person and their development. This applies to every sphere and vocation.

So, to better guide and nurture others’ development, we need to first give some attention to our own by examining the steps of the beatitudes as they apply to us.

She craves for an unhampered development of her personality just as much as she does to help another toward that same goal.

St. Edith Stein. Woman.

The Beatitudes Step by Step     

  1. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
  • Poverty includes dependence and vulnerability: Awareness of our need for God as His creatures and as His Children
  • Acknowledging our limitations: physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. Asking for God’s help and asking for the help of others
  • Allowing God to work in His own time according to His Wisdom as our Father
“God’s response is certain, but it can’t be foreseen or programmed. Patience and sorrow have their place, but in the end even they are positive in that they perform a hidden work, create a desire, prepare an interior space for embracing the compensatory reward when it finally comes… God’s response will be so much more beautiful and rich when the wait has been long and trying. Among other things, interior poverty leads us to consent to the experience of not being masters of our time, unable to manipulate God or oblige Him to enter into our expectations or plans. His intervention remains free and sovereign, unforeseen. Having mastery of a time frame carries with it enormous human security and makes waiting easier. But there is no time frame into which God can be forced…The poverty of not being masters of our own time is hard to bear, but it calls us to a purer hope, one without human support. Little by little it engenders patience, humility, meekness, creating the desire that one day will bring fulfillment beyond all expectations.”

Jacques Philippe The Eight Doors of the Kingdom: Meditations on the Beatitudes

  • Instead of trying to be super-women, allowing ourselves to be daughters of God. This will then free us to become the best version of ourselves.
  1. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted
  • Realizing our limitations and gaining self-knowledge through poverty of spirit, we mourn over our own sinfulness but in a way that motivates change
  • Example: Friend telling me about how she hated family trips because her mom was so stressed out packing up – realizing that was me!

(go back to poverty of spirit – needed to acknowledge my limitations and ask for grace)

  • Seeing more of God’s blessings in my life, and mourning my sins as foolish or ungrateful
  1. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land
    • Trust in God during difficulties and trials
    • The more we surrender our weakness to God, the more He conquers in us and it grows loyalty and Holy Confidence.
    • Meekness is not weakness. It’s a brave, fierce, strength founded on the proven character of God. Confident that Christ will walk with you and His grace will transform you.
St. Paul: But [the Lord] said to Me,My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
  1. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfiedlittle flower.JPG
  • It gets exciting! Here’s the joy of the Gospel, the zeal to witness Christ’s deeds, to battle for His kingdom
  • Begin with prayer because you want to. Going to Mass because it’s a source of strength and peace. Reading the lives of saints because they inspire you and you want to be the best version of yourself.
  • Choose to be silent when tempted to detract; refrain from gossip
  • St Therese, “though I am little, I can still hope to be a saint”
  1. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.
  • Having received mercy, you want to pay it forward
  • Forgiving others and bearing wrongs patiently – because God has done the same for you
  • Works of mercy because you realize your own dependence on God’s blessings and the help of others.
  • Examples:
    • I know what it’s like to be a perfectionist, so I want to help students overcome that slavery too
    • I know how easy it is to be overwhelmed as a mom, so I want to encourage other moms too
    • I appreciate the spiritual authors who have encouraged me, so I want to write what I can as well
    • My parents and teachers were patient with me while I was maturing, so I want to be patient with my kids and students as they mature
    • My husband is compassionate with my faults and quirks, so I want to cut him slack when I have the opportunity
  1. Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God
  • Love God above all things
  • The pure of heart aren’t distracted by illusions, they have come to recognize God in His works and they begin to see Him everywhere and in everything and every situation.
  • Purity of Heart à Sight of God à essence of Heaven’s joy
  1. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.
  • Deep peace from union with God
  • Extend that peace to others
  • How to be Peacemakers: Insights from St. Edith Stein
“Many of the best women are almost overwhelmed by the double burden of family duties and professional life – or often simply of only gainful employment. Always on the go, they are harassed, nervous, and irritable. Where are they to get the needed inner peace and cheerfulness in order to offer stability, support, and guidance to others?”

“Only by the power of grace… Whoever wants to preserve [divine]life continually within herself must nourish it constantly from the source whence it flows without end – from the holy sacraments, above all from the sacrament of love.”

“When we entrust all the troubles of our earthly existence confidently to the divine heart, we are relieved of them. Then our souls if free to participate in the divine life…it has a liberating power in itself; it lessens the weight of our earthly concerns and grants us a bit of eternity even in this finitude, a reflection of beatitude, a transformation into light.”

  1. Blessed are you when you are persecuted on my account, your reward is great in heaven.
  • Enduring criticism or exclusion because of living out your faith
  • Making sacrifices for your faith
  • It’s verification that you are living an authentically Christian life! You are a true disciple! Congrats!!!

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own.” (Jn 15: 18)

  • Examples/Sounds like this:
    • “Mom, you are the ONLY parent that…
    • C’mon, we’re just socializing. If you don’t participate in these jokes and gossip you’ll seem antisocial and won’t get ahead at work
  • G.K. Chesterton: “The Catholic Church hasn’t been tried and found wanting, it’s been found hard and left untried.” Living in Christ, He shines through you. You become a witness of the reality of grace. No one can say that the Church’s teachings are unrealistic, because you show that they can be done with grace. The lies of the world are exposed in your joy contrasted with their sadness.

Jesus steps for conversion lead to an experience of beatitude: the child-like freedom that comes from depending on God our loving Father, mourning our sins and surrendering them to His Son for redemption, the strength of conviction in our trust that the Holy Spirit will enable us to fulfill our mission, the mercy and peace we extend in our homes and workplaces which spur us on with zeal. Then we will be free for the total self-gift that results in self-fulfillment.

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©Angela M Jendro 2019

 

 

Love Beats the Deadline

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

wedding of the lamb

October 15th, 2017  28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 22:1-14 NAB

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus often compares Heaven to a wedding feast. Weddings celebrate a sacred union in love of two persons.  It means total gift of self and lifelong commitment.   Marriage best represents God’s invitation to relationship with us and His desire for total self-gift.  Though He made numerous covenants with the Hebrew people, He also made clear that He desired their hearts in addition to outward obedience, and authentic respect to mere lip service.

God is both transcendent and immanent.  He is both God almighty who existed before creation and exceeds our understanding, and the God Who sent His Son to become incarnate, walk the earth with us, and suffer and die for us. Even now His Holy Spirit guides us and Christ is present to us in the sacraments and His Mystical Body the Church.

The book of Revelation beautifully prophecies the wedding of the Lamb to which we have each received an invitation.  Christ – the Lamb, has come and His bride – the Church, has prepared her heart for him:

Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.  It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, birth and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  Then He said to me, ‘Write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ Revelation 19:7-9

Christ loves each and every person passionately.  He pursues them, woos them, fights for them, and offers eternal union with Him in Heaven.  In today’s Gospel however, He laments that not everyone says yes.  They come up with excuses, put Him off, or avoid Him altogether.  Eventually the door is shut.  Harsh, you might say?

Jesus strikes at our complacency.  We all too easily forget the gift of salvation, of our eternal destination, and our higher calling.  The frenetic pace of life, the constant stream of tasks, or the allure of diversions become a dangerous siren call, singing that we are made for earth and we have all the time in the world.

However, every day we are one day closer to eternity.  If we didn’t grow our love for the Lord then we weakened it.  Love needs ongoing nurturing.  Relationships are work!  Even a relationship with God.

Moreover, sometimes indecision is a decision.  Deadlines are part of reality.  If I stay undecided about my son playing basketball, eventually the registration closes. If I hem and haw about planning a family trip, eventually a year passes without travel and I have essentially said no.  Lastly, if a couple is in a serious relationship of several years and one person drags his/her feet about marriage, eventually the other will need to move on from the relationship to find someone else to build a life with.

Thankfully Jesus waits patiently our entire life.  He reminds us today however, that death is the deadline.  By that point we have said yes or no to the Lord and even our indecision reveals itself as a rejection of Christ.

But let’s not wait until the last moment.  I have heard persons who put off kids, when they finally held their first in their arms say, “why did we wait so long?”   Couples in love when they finally meet say “I wish I had met you sooner.”  The more we love, the more we see how much greater it is than anything else we had previously thought to be more important.  We will say the same of Christ – I wish I had let you in sooner.

We can ask ourselves, what holds us back from the wedding?  What keeps me from union with the Lord?  What do I need to do to prepare myself for this marriage?  The King of Heaven and Earth has personally invited you.  Drop everything, get dressed, and go!

Consider:

  • The Mass is actually a mystical participation in the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven.
    • What things or habits undermine getting to Mass or distract you during Mass?
      • Is it sleeping in, kids’ activities, running errands, going into work, exercising instead, watching news, or just relaxing?
    •  What helps you enter more deeply into the Mass?
      • Getting to know the priest and parishioners so you feel more a part of the community, reading the Gospel ahead of time, learning about the Mass, participating as a musician, greeter, usher, or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, writing down key points from the homily?
  • Imagine you were to enter Heaven today.  What aspects of your heart and character would Jesus praise you for, as clothing you in garments for the king?  What vices or attitudes would He ask you to change in order to be properly dressed?
  • The lives of the saints illustrate the transformation possible with the grace of God.  Each began like you and me, but through relationship with Christ they were made perfectly ready for heaven by the end of their life.  If you were to appear in a book of the Lives of the Saints, what would it say?  Where would it begin, and how would you like it to end?
  • We cannot perfect ourselves, but we can cooperate with the grace of Christ and let Him purify our hearts.  Take a moment to offer a prayer of surrender the Lord.  Offer to Him all your struggles, worries, imperfections, and desires.
“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Do one thing each day this week to prepare for the eternal wedding feast of heaven.  Change out of one garment of vice or unforgiveness, and put on a garment of virtue and love.  As St. Peter says, “Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8)
  • Resolve to attend Mass every Sunday and make the necessary arrangements for that to happen.
  • Spend five minutes with Christ when you first wake up, midday, and in the evening.  Invite Him into your life right where you are at that moment.
  • Read about the life of a saint.  You could research a saint whose personality, experiences, or work is similar to yours.  You could also just read about the saint of the day.  Catholicculture.org gives a nice summary. Click on the tab “liturgical year” then select “today”.
  • Learn more about the Mass.  Attend a “teaching Mass” where the priest explains each of the parts as he celebrates it.  Read a book about the Mass.  Read “The Lamb’s Supper” by Scott Hahn which is about the relationship between the Mass and Heaven based on the book of Revelation.

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~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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Choosing between Adolescent Illusions or Adult Freedom

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro
fra-angelico-the-annunciation1

In the top left, Adam and Eve leaving the Garden after pridefully rejecting God for false illusions of freedom. In contrast, Mary humbly receives God at the Annunciation, finding true freedom in service.

October 8th,2017 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 21:33-43 NAB

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

Meditation Reflection:

Spiritual growth, like physical and emotional development, must move from childhood and adolescence to reach mature adulthood. As our Heavenly Father, the Lord patiently endures our annoying behaviors of immaturity and lovingly guides us into adulthood.  Unfortunately, just as some grown adults seem stuck in adolescent thinking and habits, so too many of us hold on to immature spiritual attitudes and resist the leadership of our Father, thus stunting our growth.

Weighed down by the effects of original sin, tempted by the Enemy and bolstered by our own pride, most often we substitute a false sense of entitlement and independence for rightful gratitude and obedience to God.  Like the teen who begins to think his parents owe him everything he desires, or defies their rules with a sense of superiority, we can get stuck in the trap of demanding God’s goodness while denying His Lordship.

Pope Benedict XVI relates this struggle to the original temptation of Adam and Eve, which he describes as a denial of their “creatureliness.”  Having grown accustomed to the paradisiacal gift of their existence and the beautiful Garden, the Enemy introduced the idea of entitlement and ingratitude.  Satan himself had refused to live in gratitude, preferring his own self-centered pride.

Called “the father of lies,” Satan lives in eternal anger at God who is reality itself (as revealed to Moses when He shared His Name – YHWH – “I AM”).  The Enemy prefers his Illusions of entitled independence to a life of gift.  However, illusions cannot satisfy but only leave us empty.

Angry at God, he tries to recruit others to his side.  He hates to see persons living in the joy of God’s love, therefore he proposed an alternative, distorted view of the Lord to Adam and Eve.    He suggested that their experience was not in fact paradisiacal, but rather quite impoverished.  To depend on God or obey His laws, he proposed, would be to accept slavery to a selfish and manipulative deity.  In truth Satan was the selfish, manipulative one with a god-complex, whereas the Lord had been nothing but generous and truthful with Adam and Eve.  Satan argued that contrary to their experience, freedom and happiness lay in rebellion rather than rightful relationship with the Lord.  Rather than rebuking the serpent for such hateful lies, they thought about the serpent’s words and chose to reject what they knew about God from experience for the false hope of a better life without God.

This same temptation infects each of us, their children, both from within our own rebellious hearts and the sly lies of the Enemy.  Jesus’ parable tells of God’s care for us, providing everything we need.  He rightly expects only His due, and yet we resist Him.

God blesses us with every good thing, but envy looks outward and turns back to God in complaint that we don’t have more. Every week that God blesses us with life, He asks only for one day in return.  Moreover, as our loving Father, He doesn’t even ask that the day be spent in chores but rather that we rest and spend time with Him and our family. Yet, how often do we complain that setting aside work to worship the Lord is burdensome!

Consider also our prayers of entreaty for God to provide – a job, a home, possibly a spouse and children.  We praise God for a short while when He bestows these gifts, but soon begin to complain about them.  Even worse, we easily forget that they were even gifts and delude ourselves that we have achieved them single-handedly.  Confident now in our own abilities we fall into the destructive cycle of always grasping for more, never satisfied and never at rest, spiritually alone; producing the hell-ish existence that Satan hoped for us.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.  James 1:16

Today’s Gospel reiterates the theme from each of the readings this past week, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Luke 10:11).  Christ has come and He invites every human person to relationship with Him.  We must make a choice and take responsibility for the consequences like adults.

Moreover, we must examine or attitude toward those whom Jesus has sent with His authority to bring God’s truth to us. Jesus told His apostles that “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me(Luke 10:16). Jesus established the Church to preserve, protect, and promulgate His Word.  When we feel like characterizing the moral law or Church teaching as oppressive rather than freeing, we can remember from whom that lie comes.  We must decide if we trust God or tempting illusions.

Jesus invites us into mature relationship with the Lord.  He offers the freedom and dignity of spiritual adulthood through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and the Church.  He even provides the grace to transform our hearts from weakness to strength, from selfishness to self-gift, and from illusions to Truth.

He asks each and every one of us today, “which do you choose”?

Consider:

  • Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you in a prayer of gratitude.   Ask Him to open your heart and mind, as you reflect on every good thing that comes from God.
  • Consider where envy, greed, or pride distorts your perception and causes discontentment to fester.   Reflect on the situation(s) from the perspective of Christ’s example.
    • Greed or Envy: The newest gadget is only an illusory pleasure, whereas union with Christ in prayer and sacraments yields deep abiding joy.
    • Pride: In the Kingdom of God, service and sacrifice rank highest rather than lowest.
  • Consider how an adult views freedom in contrast with an adolescent.  Do you trust God’s guidance to be freeing, or do your own judgment or worldly wisdom?
  • How is the Lord visiting you today?  What fruits is He asking for as produce of the gifts He has bestowed upon you?  How might you put your gifts more at the service of God and others?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Make a list of each of God’s gifts in your life.
  • For each gift, offer one fruit a day for each back to God. For example:
    • Your Job:  Offer the fruit of Christian witness by refraining from vulgar language or joining in crude jokes.  Be truthful where you are tempted to lie or exaggerate.  Do one act of service for a co-worker.  Be joyful for the day and refrain from complaint.  Refuse to begin or join gossip.
    • Your Family:  Do one act of humble service for your spouse, children, or parents.  Combat taking your spouse or parents for granted by recognizing them with a word of thanks or deed of kindness, out of gratitude their contributions.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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Speaking Topics

I’m a professional speaker on topics regarding practical tips for growing in your spiritual life, learning more about our faith in a rich but accessible way, and developing a deeper relationship with God in your everyday life.  I also partner with Michelle Steele to offer workshops and retreats. 

If you have attended one of our speaking engagements or workshops you are already familiar with our down to earth, practical examples. Below you’ll find a list of topics from past speaking engagements with links to their fliers. We also accept requests for topics.

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Workshops and Retreats

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PRESENTATION OVERVIEW

The Journey of Prayer – Finding Happiness and Freedom in the Lord

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Because of His Name Retreat

The Journey of Prayer

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