January 1st: Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

theotokos

by Angela Jendro

Gospel Luke 2:16-21 NAB

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.  When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Meditation Reflection:

“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”  When it comes to their children, mothers are contemplatives; they treasure and reflect on every little thing and never tire of gazing at their children in love.  I will never forget the first night I spent with my son in the hospital. The nurse urged me to sleep after an exhausting birth, but I couldn’t stop holding him and staring at him.  I was overcome with a love there is no vocabulary to describe, and in awe of this mystery beyond comprehension.  With each subsequent child, I experienced the same awe.  Moreover, rather than dividing my love, each child multiplied it by expanding my heart with love for each of them individually.

As Mary gazed with love on her child, she gazed not only on her son, but the Son of God.  Mary was the first person to contemplate the mystery that Jesus is both God and man, creator and savior, born to die that we might live.  She is the first to love Him with her whole heart and the only to have the privilege of loving Him with a mother’s heart.

When God the Son took on a human nature, He allowed Himself to become weak and vulnerable.  He experienced human development and the daily process of growth and maturation we all go through.  Mary and Joseph were not merely day care providers for Jesus.  They were the first disciples of Christ and lived their vocation as His family to the fullest.  As God, Jesus had all the divine attributes.  As man, He shared DNA with Mary, He adopted Mary and Joseph’s mannerisms, He received a formation within the context of His family.

Though He is both God and Man, Jesus is one Person.  As a result, since Mary is the mother of Jesus she is rightly called Mother of God.  This does not mean she is the origin of the Trinity.  However, we must remember that mothers are mothers of people, not merely bodies.  It would be strange to say that I am the mother of my son’s body but not the mother of my son the person.  In the same way, to bifurcate Mary’s motherhood as merely that of part of Jesus would be to bifurcate Jesus Himself.  Jesus is one Person, the Second Person of the Trinity, who, since the moment of His incarnation, is forever simultaneously both God and Man.

Mary revered our Lord as both.  She nurtured His human needs and she worshipped His divinity.  She, like Him, obeyed the Father in all things.  She was the first human to live fully God’s plan for all mankind – union with God of heart, mind, and will.  Moreover, she is the only human to love Him as her Son and to be loved by Him as His mother.

This deep, pure, motherly love of Mary extends to each one of us as well.  From the Cross, as Christ suffered and died for our redemption and rebirth, He entrusted Mary as mother to St. John.  In doing so, He gave all of us to her as her children.  In baptism, we are united to Christ as His Mystical Body.  In consequence, we are also united to Mary as our mystical Mother.  Rather than dividing her love, each person who accepts her as mother, multiplies her love and experiences the same tender attention she gives to each of her children.  Christ shares our nature, and He has also shared His Heavenly Father and His earthly Mother with us.  Through Christ we become adopted sons and daughters of God and cherished children of Mary.  Through Christ’s humble love to become our brother, He has invited us into His own family.

Mary is the mother of God because God became man.  Mothers never tire telling anyone who will listen about their children.  Moreover, mothers love their children simply for who they are, not merely what they do.  If we ask Mary, she will share with us about her Son and teach us how to love and follow Him for Who He is, and not merely what He can do for us.

“She is so full of love that no one who asks for her intercession is rejected, no matter how sinful he may be. The saints say that it has never been known since the world began that anyone had recourse to our Blessed Lady, with trust and perseverance, and was rejected.”

St. Louis de Montfort

Consider:

  • How has meeting someone’s mother taught you something new about a person?
  • What do you cherish about your mother’s love?
  • If you are a parent, consider the mystery of your love for your children.  Imagine Mary’s love for Jesus at each of the stages of growth your kids have experienced.
  • Adoptive parents repeatedly report that they love their adoptive kids as if they were theirs biologically.  Consider Mary’s motherly love for you as her adoptive child, whom she loves as her very own.
  • Reflect on Christ’s love for Mary as His mother.
    • Consider the deep feelings of admiration and appreciation He has for her.
    • Reflect on their relationship and connection as mother and son.
    • Consider the comfort and strength He drew from her during His public ministry, knowing He had one person who understood His mission and supported Him no matter what.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • This week, read and reflect on the words of Mary in Scripture.
  • Ask Mary to be your mother and go to her each day with your needs. Ask her to tell you about Jesus and teach you how to follow Him.
  • Pray a decade of the rosary each day.  Consider using the Scriptural rosary if you can.
    • (I have never prayed the rosary without experiencing some kind of grace.  Mary always brings us to Jesus.)
    • Pope St. John Paul II said, “To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and His mother.”

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro© 2018

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Making Straight the Path to Joy

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

john the baptist

Gospel reflection for the 2nd week of Advent

Gospel of Luke 3:1-6 NAB

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

 Meditation Reflection:

 John the Baptist, the last and greatest of the prophets, gave us the final message from God regarding preparation for the promised Savior – Repent.  If we remain blind to our sins, we also fail to see our need for a savior.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his book In the Beginning, made the observation that our culture has replaced the word “sin” with more palatable (and less personal) terms like “non-standard” behavior.  By doing so, it removes personal responsibility for immoral behavior, often excusing it away by blaming anything other than the person.  As a result, the task for evangelization today he concludes, is to be brave enough to talk about sin.

Don’t worry, this won’t be a throwback to fire and brimstone preaching.  Recall the reason God asked for repentance – so we could receive healing and mercy.  You probably know of someone who did not want to go to the doctor so he or she kept insisting they weren’t sick.  Pretending to be healthy only caused their illness to worsen.  Similarly, if we do not face our spiritual illnesses they grow in strength and deadliness.

In The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, she relates this advice from Christ regarding examining our souls:

I do not wish the soul to consider her sins, either in general or in particular, without also remembering the Blood and the broadness of my Mercy.”

Christ also revealed to St. Faustina that His greatest pain is when a soul refuses His mercy due to a lack of faith in His love and forgiveness.

The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins so that we may turn to Christ for forgiveness and transformation.  It would be false modesty and possibly even the sin of pride or despair to willfully believe that Christ cannot or will not forgive you.  In the first reading for today from Baruch 5:1, God commands: “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever.”  We must mourn our sins sincerely, then we must also accept the forgiveness and joy of God.

The Catechism defines sin in this way:

Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.” Paragraph 1849

Sin usually means putting a lower good above a higher good – the order being God, Humans, Animals, Plants, Inanimate objects.  When we put objects before people, people before God, animals before people, or things before animals, we act in a “disordered” way.  In modern terms, our priorities are mixed up.  When examining your life consider your priorities not merely as standard or non-standard, but as faithful to God or sinful.

The Church identifies seven capital sins, or those sins that encompass most of the sins or vices we commit.  They include Pride, Avarice (Greed), Gluttony (Overindulgence), Envy, Wrath (Anger), Lust, and Sloth. Reading about each of these sins can be eye-opening.  Every time I teach on this subject, I find more ways they apply to me and have to go to Confession.  Self-knowledge however is the first step in the spiritual life.  Jesus begins the beatitudes with “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, meaning those who recognize their poverty before God and need for Him.  Then He says, “Blessed are those who mourn” meaning those who, in seeing their sinful state, grieve over their sins.  This is followed up by the promise that one day they will rejoice (just as God prophesied through Baruch). The beatitudes continue to build from there to purity of heart wherein one may see God and finally a state of peace wherein one enjoys living as God’s child.

Christ urges us to have the courage and humility to examine our consciences and our lives, to endure the unpleasant feelings so as to make it to the other side where we will have joy and peace.

Consider:

  •  Reflect on Christ’s mercy and His mercy toward you in particular.
  • Read about and reflect on the seven capital sins.
  • Read and reflect on the Beatitudes.  (Matthew 5:3-12)

 

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Actively try to overcome a sin through prayer and practicing the opposite virtue.
    • (for example, to oppose gluttony intentionally fast from something you like; or to oppose sloth, get up 30 minutes earlier than usual)
  • Reflect on one beatitude a day.
  • Extend mercy to someone in gratitude for Christ’s mercy toward you.

The Simple Truth – Love

Love alone counts

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 November 3rd, 2018 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 12:28B-34 NAB

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Meditation Reflection:

A couple of weeks into the school year, a new student of mine stopped by my room after the bell and asked, “How does a person become a saint?”.  As a religion teacher, my first thought went to if she was asking about the process of being canonized, but I stopped, thinking maybe she means on a more spiritual level – like the process of detachment from the world or the three stages of the spiritual life, then I stopped again as my mind jumped to other possibilities for the source of her question until I quit guessing in my mind altogether and simply said, “Why do you ask?  What is it you want to know?”

The Holy Spirit must have prompted me to ask instead of assume, because I never could have anticipated the beauty and simplicity of her answer.  In all sincerity, and with a beaming sweet smile on her face, she replied “because I want to be one!” “Ah” I said, “then it’s simple, love God with all your heart.”  “Really?!” she asked.  “Yep,” I said, that’s it.”

God, the Blessed Trinity, is a union of 3 Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He created human persons in His image as a union of persons in relationship of love with Him and with each other.  When we love God, we can’t help but love our neighbor whom we see as God’s image on earth and our brother or sister in Christ.

The answer is simple.  Jesus’ answer was simple.  It was the same command God had given in Deuteronomy over a thousand years before, and the mission He had given Adam and Eve at their creation.

We are the ones who make sainthood difficult.  We turn our eyes from the Beauty of God and prefer baser pleasures instead.  Because of our wounded nature, we worry that obedience to God will somehow restrict our freedom and deter us from our full potential.  This same self-assertion applies to our neighbor whom we view in light of our own pleasure or gain.  If he or she will add happiness or pleasure, we love them.  Otherwise, we tend to suspect them, like jealous siblings, worried that they will steal something from us, compete for the same resources and attention, or annoy us.

Thankfully, as we mature spiritually, we grow out of these childish concerns.  We understand that our Heavenly Father sets us high upon the rock in safety (Ps 27:5) fills our cup to overflowing (Ps 23), corrects the ones He loves as a Father does for His child (Proverbs3:12), and offers true freedom (John 8:32).  We also grow into a more adult relationship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord, realizing they are not a burden but a blessing. Moreover, filled with God’s love it necessarily overflows to others (cf 1 John 4:7)

Loving God means taking time for Him, in prayer and Scripture.  It means learning more about Him and deepening our understanding of His self-revelation.  It’s also the “simple raising of the heart and mind toward God” (CCC par. 2559) and the desires of love from deep within the soul.

As St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, put it:

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy”

The Christian disciple follows the example of Christ, who modelled and taught the way of Love – prayer and sacrificial works of mercy. His prayer life was so deep, His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, upon which He gave them the Our Father.  His merciful actions were so numerous John states at the end of His Gospel that if everything He did was written down, the whole world could not contain it (John 21:25).

Everyone searches for the key to happiness.  It’s simple, Love the Lord with all your heart:

“Find your delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire” (Psalm 37:4)

 Consider:

  • Ask God for the grace to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as Christ as loved you.
  • Reflect on Psalm 27:4 “One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek: To dwell in the LORD’s house all the days of my life, To gaze on the LORD’s beauty, to visit his temple.”
  •  Imagine the people in your life – at work, in your neighborhood, driving on the highway, etc. – as your brother and sister.  What prayer might you have for them if they were family?  How might you see them more personally and with more compassion?
  • Consider this passage from St. Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue which describes how our hearts can be taken up, and on fire, with love for God. It is written from the perspective of God the Father speaking to her:
     No virtue can have life in it except from charity (love), and charity is nursed and mothered by humility.  You will find humility in the knowledge of yourself when you see that even your own existence comes not from yourself but from Me, for I loved you before you came into being.  And in My unspeakable love for you I willed to create you anew in grace.  So I washed you and made you a new creation in the blood that My only-begotten Son poured out with such burning love.

     This blood gives you knowledge of the truth when knowledge of yourself leads you to shed the cloud of selfish love.  There is no other way to know the truth.  In so knowing Me the soul catches fire with unspeakable love…”

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • What sets your heart on fire with love for God?  Do that every day this week.
  • Pray one psalm a day, one chapter of a Gospel, or one chapter of Acts of the Apostles each day.
  • Choose someone from your daily life and imagine them as your brother or sister.  Pray for them by name and do something kind for them.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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A Meal and An Encounter

Last Supper

August 19th, 2018 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel of John 6:51-58 NAB

Jesus said to the crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Meditation Reflection:

When I have old friends over for dinner, it is never merely a meal.  It’s always a highly anticipated event, an encounter with people I dearly love at a deep level.  It’s an exchange of conversation flavored by our shared history, values, and mutual respect.  When I have new friends over for dinner, it’s never merely a meal either.  It too is an encounter, a sharing of ourselves and opening up to discover common values as well as the excitement of hearing a person’s different perspective or experiences.

The great modern theologian, Fr. Romano Guardini (1885-1968), made the beautiful insight that the Mass too is both a meal and an encounter (from his book Meditations before Mass).  He reflected that Christ made this connection when He referred to Himself in the passage above as both “bread” (meal) and as “come down from heaven” (encounter).  In the Mass Christ invites us to a dinner He has prepared that we might both be nourished by the food and refreshed in spirit by the personal encounter with Him either as a new or old friend.

Deep friendship is one of the greatest pleasures one can experience in life. Even the philosopher Aristotle considered it one of the highest virtues.  To find someone who shares the same “vision of the Truth” as C.S. Lewis put it, is a real joy.  Scripture reminds us that “Faithful friends are beyond price” (Sirach 6:15) and we all know that for something to be expensive it must be rare.  To spend time with that friend in person is even more delightful.  To have that kind of friendship in marriage can result in an exchange of love and unity at the very depths of our humanness.

Christ desires this kind of friendship and union with each of us.  That is why the image of a wedding feast is used to represent the culmination of the Christian life.  Christ the bridegroom and the Church His bride are united body and soul in the Eucharist.  Celebrating the Lord’s Supper presents the opportunity to encounter Christ at every level, from the surprises of a new friendship to the deepest and most intimate of long relationships.  The more dinners, the more the friendship can develop.

Consider:

  • Who is your closest friend?  How did the friendship develop?
  • How would you describe your friendship with Christ?  How has it developed?
  • Consider the role of meals in developing friendships.  Whether it is as simple as coffee, drinks, lemonade, cookies, grilling, eating out, or cooking a full meal, or family dinners.  How does food somehow enrich the experience and open people up to each other?
  • Consider why Christ would desire to be present to you in Person, in the flesh, in the context of a meal.  Consider how personal it is and bonding.  Also consider the addition of other people – how does eating with others add to the experience?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Next Mass, approach the Lord’s Supper the way you would a dinner with a close friend.  Prepare yourself for the encounter and treat it with the same attention and respect you would give your dinner guest or host.
  • On the way up the aisle to receive the Eucharist try to push away any distracting thoughts.  Reflect on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  After receiving Christ, try to remain silent and focus on Him for a few minutes before talking, singing, or thinking of anything else.
  • Offer hospitality to someone.  Make them dinner and treat them as if they were Christ Himself visiting your home.

*revised edition; first posted 8/16/15

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Risk and Reward

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

miracle of loaves and fish

[reposted and updated from July 26, 2015]

July 28th, 2018; 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of John 6:1-15 NAB

“Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.”

Meditation Reflection:

A friend of mine has a gift for including others and making them feel a part of things. In observing him these past few years I realized that he does this by asking whoever is around for help with whatever project or task he is doing. If he is working in the garage or the yard and you happen by, be assured that a tool will be handed to you or a job assigned. His talent is most evident in the way he even includes his kids and their friends. The result is not the feeling of slave labor however, but rather the experience of being important, included, and an integrated part of what’s going on. It forms bonds and knits everyone together. The truth is, he doesn’t always need help, but he does enjoy people and being together.

Christ’s miracle in this passage reveals what I find to be one of the most remarkable mysteries of our faith: that God includes us in His work of salvation. It wouldn’t surprise me that Christ did something amazing. It does surprise me when He does something amazing with a small contribution from me.

When we look at the needs of the world, we can be overwhelmed like Philip. Like Andrew, we may consider what small resources are available to us but in contrast to the need they seem pointless. The critical question for you and I is whether we will make the contribution anyway, with faith that Christ can work wonders even today.

If the contribution is small it can seem worth the gamble and it makes us feel like good people. However, in the case of the child in this passage, it required all the food he had. Our faith is most tested when our contribution requires real sacrifice and real risk.   The boy could have reasoned that it would be imprudent to offer so much when so little could seemingly be achieved.  Children usually have more hope than prudence however, and in this case it turned out to be a blessing.  The boy didn’t know how his small contribution would help, but he trusted Who he gave it to.

In his spiritual classic, Abandonment to Divine Providence, Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade exhorts us to continue to make these acts of faith with confidence because Christ still works miracles today. He writes,

It is this same Jesus Christ, always alive and active, who continues to live and work fresh wonders in the souls of those who love Him.

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman also urged that our faith is in some ways measured by our risk.  He challenges us to consider how much we have “ventured,” or bet, on Jesus being Who He says He is; much like the boy who trusted the person of Jesus more than the mathematical ratio of loaves to people who needed to be fed.

As regards individuals, then, it is quite true, that all of us must for certain make ventures for heaven, yet without the certainty of success through them. This, indeed, is the very meaning of the word “venture;” for that is a strange venture which has nothing in it of fear, risk, danger, anxiety, uncertainty. Yes; so it certainly is; and in this consists the excellence and nobleness of faith; this is the very reason why faith is singled out from other graces, and honoured as the especial means of our justification, because its presence implies that we have the heart to make a venture.” (Sermon 20)

Faith requires a risk for a reward that can only be calculated supernaturally. According to Christ’s math, five loaves and two fish can feed five thousand people with leftovers to boot. Like my friend, Christ does not necessarily need our particular contribution, but He does desire us and working with Him results in an experience of being bonded, knit together, and the satisfaction of being a part of something amazing.

Consider:

  • Do you believe Christ still works miracles today? Have you experienced one in your own life?
  • What sacrifice is Christ asking you to make for His work?
  • Is there a need that keeps tugging at your heart? Is there anything you can do to help, no matter how small the effect might be?
  • Consider Christ’s love and friendship for you; that He desires to work with you and to include you in His mission.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, offer to Christ the work of your day and entrust Him with the results.
  • Identify one thing about your life or work that you know is Christ’s will but you often get discouraged about because it’s seemingly so small in the world’s eyes. Ask Christ for faith and encouragement.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

It’s Not Magic, but it is Supernatural

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

July 1st, 2018 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 5:21-43 NAB

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?'” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,”which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Meditation Reflection:

The Scriptures today confront our anger at God for death and suffering.  Wisdom 1:13-14 (RSV) however reminds us however that neither of these came from Him:

“God did not make death, and He does not delight in the death of the living.  For He created all things that they might exist.” 

When we read the Creation account in Genesis 1 and 2, nowhere do we find disease, suffering, or death.  Rather, God’s creation reflected His glory and so He commanded all the living things that He made to “be fruitful and multiply.”

Death entered not through God, but through sin.  Satan and the fallen angels sinned against God and chose an eternity of suffering for the sake of prideful rebellion over an eternity of joy at the cost of humble obedience.  Adam and Eve did not experience suffering or death until they joined Satan in sin and disobeyed God as well.  In consequence, Genesis 3-9 relay the sad story of the proliferation of sin and suffering beginning with this first Original Sin.  Toil, pain in childbirth, marital struggles, sibling rivalry, murder, polygamy, sickness, and death each begin with the decision to sin by the free will of individuals.  As much as we want to blame God, the truth is most of our suffering stems from our own poor choices or the choices of others.

Sure, you might say, we’re at fault but can’t God do anything about it?  Why does He sit back in silence?  Doesn’t He care?

YES!  From the beginning, God offered a merciful helping hand to sinful humanity.  When Adam and Eve realized they were naked, He gave them clothes.  When He confronted them about the consequences of their sins He also promised to one day send a Savior (Genesis 3:15).  He made covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and so on.  Finally, His only begotten Son left the glory of Heaven to take on a lowly human nature, freely divesting Himself of His divine power to live the life of a creature so as to carry our Cross and personally meet us in our need.   St. Paul describes it well in 2 Corinthians 8:9 (RSV):

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.”

God literally has some skin in the game.  Not only does He offer healing, in today’s Gospel we see how much He cares when He heals.  He accompanies the grief-stricken father to attend to the dying little girl.  When He enters the room He doesn’t want people gawking or treating it like magic.  Instead Jesus sends everyone out but the parents and a few of His apostles.  When Jesus heals it’s a personal encounter.  Jesus understands our pain and our needs because He lived it.  Being man, He has shared our experience.  Being God, He has the power to re-create us and restore us with a Word.  By His divine power, Jesus commanded the girl to get up, thereby empowering her to do so. “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” From His human experience, He commands the little group with Him to give her something to eat.  What a great little detail!  I imagine her family and the apostles were just standing there in shock when she came back to life.  Jesus moves on to the practical need at hand – after getting well from a long sickness a person is ravishingly hungry.  Therefore He instructed them not to talk about it but instead to give her something to eat.

This encounter with the grieving father and dying girl has all the drama of a great script.  Except, a fiction writer would not have interrupted the momentum with the seemingly tangential account of the woman with a hemorrhage – an encounter with competing drama that would be a distraction to a story.  But, this is not a fictional story, this is real life.    I learned early on as a mom that once you have kids you can say goodbye to uninterrupted focus on any task.  Nothing, not even dishes, can be completed without interruption.  Even now, although my kids are teens, I was interrupted yesterday by all three texting and calling and needing something even though I had said I was travelling for a few hours and would have spotty cell service.  I recall one time in particular that illustrates the mulit-tasking of relational living.  At the time my kids were little.  I was driving home from visiting my dad and my brother caught a ride with me.  As we were talking in the front seat kids asked for snacks, water, help with the dvd, and so on.  I just kept talking, driving, and handing things back or fixing the dvd player with one hand, all while keeping my eyes on the road.  My brother just stopped and laughed and said, “how are you doing this?”.  With my first child I was a rookie for sure, but by three I had practice.

Jesus lived real life and cared for real people.  While helping one family, a woman reached out in faith and needed His help too.  People’s needs are rarely convenient, but love always makes time.  As God, Jesus could easily heal her as He walked along, somewhat like my brother’s astonishment as I tended to needs of three children while we travelled without taking my eyes off the road for even a second.  Here again however, Jesus underscores the relationship between faith, healing, and personal encounter with Him.  He’s not a magic wand or a machine. She was healed because of His power and her faith.  At the same time, He stopped what He was doing to pause and encounter her personally. In asking who touched Him, He invites her to not only receive His healing power, but to be received by Him personally.  He doesn’t want her to feel like a desperate beggar.  He gives her the opportunity to bravely step forward, and then affirms her for her faith and gives her His peace.  How many people must have avoided her for so many years due to her bleeding?  And here Jesus receives her and invites her back into communion with God and with society.

We live in a culture that wants a quick fix with a pill to remedy any ailment.  Thankfully, we live in a time when medicine has produced a pill to fix a myriad of things.  However, some things cannot be alleviated so simply.  Christianity is not a pill that will make you instantly happy and take away all of your problems.  It is however a personal encounter with Christ, Who is both God and man and cares for you.  Suffering and death come from sin.  Life and joy come from God.  Faith does heal.  Sometimes He heals in a moment, other times it takes years of relationship with Him to allow His work to fully take root in our souls.  The Gospel affirms that no matter how dire the situation, Jesus will answer.  We only need to ask in prayer or to reach out to Him and touch Him.   Be prepared though.  After suffering for so long, health can seem foreign.  When Jesus commands you to arise and be at peace, you must leave your sickness behind and live as a new creation.

Consider:

  • Spend some time in silence, reaching out to Christ like the father of the little girl or the woman with the hemorrhage. Bring your troubles and worries to God…be humble like the woman to admit you need help.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Set a reminder on your phone or with sticky notes to pause throughout the day and encounter Christ.  Bring your needs of the moment before Him, no matter how small, and offer Him thanks for His presence and help.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Patience

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

June 24th, 2018 Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist

Gospel of Luke 1:57-66, 80 NAB

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Meditation Reflection:

Gazing upon a newborn baby, we encounter the mystery of life as we wonder as St. John’s family did, “What then will this child be?”.  Babies are full of potential, their lives completely ahead of them.  Teens and adults grapple with the question again, “What will I do with my life?”  Many of the joys and sorrows of parents correspond to what unfolds as the answer.

Waiting to see requires patience.  Children grow year by year, one stage at a time.  Their personality and character develop and blossom organically.  Discovering God’s plan means patiently waiting, hoping, and praying.

God too is patient.  He cares for us always, at every moment.  From the creation of Adam and Eve, to the Incarnation of His Son, to the end of time – God patiently guides the unfolding of human history in the lives of each individual, each of which are His sons and daughters. Moreover, He guides Salvation history, by which He redeems and heals mankind from the original sin of the Fall and every personal sin committed by individuals thereafter.

Every day since Adam and Eve first turned away from Him by sin, God has faithfully and steadfastly lead us toward salvation.  In His mercy He pours out His grace upon us.  Even when we rebel, and turn away, He waits patiently for our return.  Of course, God is everywhere so we can’t leave Him physically, but we can leave Him spiritually.  Thus, returning to God means a turning of heart – repentance.  God is far more patient than we are. We want everything immediately, at the least by two days or less with free shipping!  God’s work however can take days, weeks, years, decades, and even a lifetime.

St. John the Baptist was the last of the prophets and the precursor to Christ.  His birth was indeed special.  His family waited years to see his role in God’s plan, but the Jewish people had waited hundreds of years for his day, and humanity thousands of years.  John the Baptist proclaimed with fervor God’s faithfulness.  He announced the coming of the Lamb of God Who would take away our sin.  Thus, God kept His promise to save mankind by sending His only Son.  We need only do our part to receive that salvation, as John the Baptist zealously repeated and Jesus exhorted – repent and believe.

Consider:

  • God has a plan for you and for your life.  Pray for patience and openness to the Holy Spirit as it unfolds daily.
  • Is there anything for which you are impatient right now?  Have you complained to God, demanding your prayer to be answered in two days or less like Amazon?
  • Consider God’s faithfulness in your life.  Take a moment to recall His blessings today, this week, this year, and over your lifetime.
  • Imagine your family asking in amazement after your birth “What, then, will this child be?”.  Consider the wonderful things, with God’s help, that you have done with your life so far.  Consider what you might do with the Lord in your life today and into the future also.  How might you become more loving and Christ-like toward others and make an impact in their lives?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Intentionally offer each day to the Lord in prayer.  At the close of the day, reflect back on the good you were able to do with God’s grace, and for the moments you failed pray that you might be more receptive to His guidance tomorrow.

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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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

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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

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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

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