Moments to Remember…A Reflection on the Transfiguration

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

August 6th, 2017; Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Gospel of Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Meditation Reflection:

For most of Jesus’ earthly life, He veiled His greatness.  Nevertheless, He remained God, with all of His divine attributes.  At the Transfiguration, Jesus unveiled a glimpse of His divinity to Peter, James, and John.  It was a sight they would never forget; and one Jesus needed them to see so they could be strengthened when their faith would be put to the ultimate test at the sight of His crucifixion and death.  Imagine John there below the Cross with Mary, Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled as “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance” (Isaiah 52:14).  When all seemed to be lost, John must have clung in faith to the preview of Jesus’ resurrected glory.

Though divine, Jesus was also human.  The Transfiguration served to strengthen His human will as well.  Moses and Elijah appeared to Christ, conversing with Him, as all of the Law and prophecies God revealed through them were about to be fulfilled in Jesus’ suffering.  When “His Hour” finally came, agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane as His fate approached, Jesus could be strengthened by the meaning of His sacrifice and the redemption it would bring upon all those He loved.

We too sometimes experience these Transfiguration moments – both as a disciple of Christ, and in our own personal lives.  Some people describe them as “conversion moments” which may occur through a major life event, the witness of another person’s life, unexpected mercy received, or a deep encounter with God in prayer.  While they aren’t the sum of a person’s faith, they do strengthen one’s loyalty to God and conviction of His truth and love.  They help a person persevere through those times when faith can be tested – either dryness in prayer, personal suffering, or persecution.  When tempted to abandon what we can’t see for what we can, we can think back to those Transfiguration moments and choose to stay with Christ at the Cross, convinced that He will conquer and we will one day see His resurrected form again.

These Transfiguration moments can occur in our vocations and jobs as well.  We need to treasure those moments of confirmation and joy to push through normal frustration and tedium.  The first time I held each of my children after they were born is etched forever in my mind and heart.  This got me through days where they all had the flu and I felt like all I did in one day was change diapers.  When my oldest picked me up from the airport, I marveled the whole time at how grown up he had become.  A week later, when he lost his keys and I had to invest multiple hours into looking for them, then rearrange my plans for the day to be with him while it got towed to a dealership and re-keyed, I reflected back on those two moments I just mentioned. My frustration was changed to peace as I thought, “My growing up, sweet baby, still needs me.  It might be a tedious day, but it’s worth it.”

Two weeks ago I was blessed to marry a dear friend of mine (thus the absence of posts these last two Sundays, and the new last name!).  We have a blended family and hesitated to leave for a honeymoon.  In the end, we decided to go.  We knew we needed to make memories that would last through tough times.  We also foresaw that after the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding and moving in, we would need to take time to remember our love and appreciate one another without distractions.

We forget so easily.  Today, let us remember the Transfiguration moments in our faith, our relationships, and our work, so we might deepen our appreciation for God’s active love in our lives.

Consider:

  • Reflect back on times you have encountered God in a powerful or meaningful way.
    • Can you recall a special time in prayer, at Mass, or when receiving a sacrament?
    • Was there a time God helped you out of a tough situation?
    • Did you experience His mercy through one of His followers?
    • Is there someone whose life inspired you?
  • Reflect on your vocation (single, married, nun/monk, or priest).
    • When/how did you know God was calling you to this vocation?
    • When have you felt deep joy and peace in your calling?
    • When has your vocation been particularly challenging?
  • Consider how you have been transfigured in Christ.  How has Christ and His grace changed you?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each morning, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to God’s presence and activity throughout the day.  Each evening, reflect back on God’s blessings.
  • Encourage someone who is struggling – through words, actions, prayer, or all three.

 

~ Written by Angela (Lambert) Jendro © 2017

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Because of Your Name….

by Angela Lambert

person in prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 25th 2017; 12th Sunday Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 10:26-33

Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

Meditation Reflection:

Because of Christ’ Name, we suffer.  But by His Holy Name, we are saved.

As long as you remain lukewarm in your faith, keep it private, and compartmentalize it from the rest of your life, you will likely enjoy peace with the world.  If you proclaim Jesus to be a great teacher like Buddha, but refrain from calling Him God, people will respect you and your “spirituality.”  If you acknowledge Christ as one way and not The Way, most people will put up with your belief, since they afford everyone a little bit of foolishness.

One problem…to proclaim a nice moral teacher who isn’t God and isn’t the Way, the Truth, and the Life, is not to proclaim Jesus Christ.  Jesus promises that “Everyone who acknowledges Me before others I will acknowledge before My heavenly Father.”  To do that however, we must  proclaim the God Who became Man, that He is the fullness of Revelation – Divine Truth, the Savior of all mankind, and Love incarnate.  To proclaim a myth of our own making, and worse to belittle Christ by using a weakened, distorted, version of Him as our inspiration, is to deny Christ.  Jesus warns “But whoever denies Me before others, I will deny before My heavenly Father.”

To proclaim Christ takes serious guts, and I don’t’ just mean speaking about Christ.  Simply living your faith in everyday life will incite criticism and even personal attacks by others.

If you go to Church every Sunday despite competing demands for your time, you may be accused of being too rigid or too zealous.  Those who would prefer you prioritize them over God will accuse you of being uncharitable or having an unhealthy scrupulosity.  Those whose own church attendance looks lackluster in comparison will more likely try to find fault with your devotion rather than to imitate it.

If you believe that Jesus is the Truth – the Word of God, prepare to be accused of intolerance, close-mindedness, and archaic thinking.  Even if you do not “push your beliefs on others”, your simple rejection of the religion of Relativism will offend its many followers (note: Relativism states that there is no objective truth, except, paradoxically, Relativism).  Moreover, no matter how hard persons try to rationalize sins, their God-given consciences sense the truth and can’t help but react at reminders.  People who want to live in darkness hate the light. It happens at every age.  Teens who don’t drink or engage in pre-marital sex, get left out of parties and certain social groups. Adults who put God and family first, get left out of some events or opportunities at work, or in neighborhood gatherings.

It’s hard to follow Christ, especially when it means staying up at night with a newborn, while colleagues or friends fly off to sunny vacations.  It takes humility to make time for Mass and soccer games, knowing others will “get ahead” in their career because of their willingness to work all hours and days.  And what do you get for your sacrifice and virtue? Consider, how did Cain react toward Abel? How did Joseph’s brothers treat his piety? You will be honored by God and those who are Godly, but you will be scorned by those of the world.

Jesus is the Truth, and Satan is the father of lies.  Those who live by Truth will threaten those lies.  In retaliation, just as Satan spread lies to Adam and Eve about God, and just as he continues to spread lies about Jesus, Satan will spread lies about Jesus’ followers too.  We can feel helpless in these situations because it’s hard to defend ourselves when the other person fights dirty.  Jesus knows our struggle and has experienced our pain.  Thus, He assures us beforehand to “Fear no one.  Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed.”  Jesus promises that the Truth will conquer in the end.  It requires more patience, a lot of faith, and Holy Spirit courage though.

It’s hard to suffer unjust treatment and unwarranted animosity, especially when you are simply trying to live your own quiet Christian life.  Take heart however, people don’t get bothered by the lukewarm or the mediocre; whereas greatness is always challenged.  The more you are treated like Christ (the real Christ, not the mythical nice guy in sandals), the more it means you are becoming Christ-like.  So, as Pope St. John Paul II repeated again and again, “Be not afraid.”  Let Christ’s love in you soften hearts, even if they scream at you first.  Let the light of Christ radiate in you and cut through the darkness.  As the prophet Jeremiah witnessed in today’s first reading (Jer 20:10-13), “the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.”

Consider:

  • When did Jesus experience the most criticism and rejection?  Consider how His mighty works of healing and love, were met with envy and anger by some of the Jews.
  • Consider the mystery of the Cross.  Christ suffered out of love for us and was rejected.  Yet He rose again to new life and brought about our salvation.  How might we offer our pain and suffering from others’ rejections for their salvation, like Christ has done for us?
  • Reflect on a time when you “preferred darkness to light.”  How did you rationalize your sin or your way of thinking?  How did you react toward someone whose life shined a light on it?
  • Reflect on a time when you preferred light to darkness.  When have you experienced joy and freedom when the Truth in someone else’s life, freed you from a lie in your own?

 Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, pray an Our Father or a Hail Mary for someone who is persecuting you.
  • Each day this week, pray Psalm 69.
  • Offer this prayer each day:
Lord, I don’t want my light to be so dim as to not make a difference.

I beg You to make Your Divine Light shine through me with such radiance,

That it frees with Your Truth, those held captive by lies,

Guides those who are lost, back to You,

And lifts up lonely, discouraged souls with Your Love.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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The Easter Triduum…Entering the Mystery

Reflection on the Easter Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil

Take Time For Him

by Angela Lambert

Burial_of_Jesus_-_Carl_Heinrich_Bloch

During Holy Week we celebrate and reverence Christ’s Paschal Mystery – His Suffering, Death, and Resurrection.  To enter more deeply into this mystery the Church walks in the footsteps of Christ and the Apostles through special liturgies rich with extraordinary practices that recall and connect us in a unique way to the events beginning at the Last Supper and culminating in finding the empty tomb.  These liturgies are called the “Easter Triduum.”  The USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) describe it in this way:

The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum—from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday.  Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end of the Lenten season, and leads to the Mass of the Resurrection of the…

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Hope…When Least Expected

by Angela Lambert

woman at well

March 19th, 2017; 3rd Sunday of Lent

Gospel of John 4:5-42

 Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.— Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.  Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?” They went out of the town and came to him. Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

Meditation Reflection:

What a long passage.  Why?  Why does John give this much space in his Gospel to one woman’s conversion?  Jesus encountered multitudes of people during His brief public ministry.  John even gives a disclaimer at the end of his Gospel, apologizing that he could only include a handful of Jesus’ miracles, enough to make the point that He is the Son of God, because they were too innumerable to recount in written form.

The woman at the well’s encounter with Christ, models the process of conversion.  Jesus approached her when she least expected it.  She went to the well at noon, the worst time of the day, to avoid the other women.  Sin has a way of isolating us from others as we try to cover up our sins or rationalize our choices.

Jesus initiated the conversation.  He sought her.  He began with a request, but in fact desired to offer her healing and salvation.  Every Christian’s conversion begins with an encounter with Christ, and the experience of Him having sought us before we sought Him.  Discipleship is not a project, club, or philosophy.  It’s a response.  It’s a realization that what Christ asks of us, is in fact His invitation to receive from Him.

Next, He addressed her sins.  She skirted the issue, and even when confronted directly, she tried to distract Him with a theological debate.  By the end however, she felt relief and joy. From her encounter, she learned that the Christ, the anointed one of God, had come.  Moreover, He had come to her – despite her personal unfaithfulness, as well as the unfaithfulness of her people the Samaritans. Jesus revealed Himself as the Savior, come through the promise of the Jews, and at the same time for the salvation of all.

Imagine her hopelessness as she approached the well in the heat of the day.  Women of her time would view success as a good marriage and large family.  She had already had five husbands and given up on marriage altogether with the man she was living with. She had no friends and was excluded from the community of women.  There was no way back for her, and no opportunity going forward.

God gives surprisingly and super-abundantly.  Met with physical thirst, Jesus offered her the living waters of eternal life.  It took awhile for her to wrap her mind around what He was saying.  Eventually however, she recognized the work of God and ran to the people of her town to tell them.  She left her water jug, despite her physical thirst and needs.  She boldly told everyone of her experience, despite the shame of her reputation among them.

Her witness was so moving that they went to Jesus to see for themselves.  They too encountered Christ in an unexpected and surprising way – through the seemingly least religious woman in town.  By the end of their encounter however, they too were converted.

During Lent, Jesus comes to meet us in our shame and our thirst.  As a Church, we endeavor to hear Him through increased prayer and introspection.  We recall that He came to save us, while we were still sinners.  We remember that He first sought us, but we must respond.  Thankfully, He is patient.  Our transformation in Christ will become our witness, and our witness will bring Christ to others.  But first, we must set aside our tactics for avoiding our sins, and allow Christ to lead us through them.

Consider:

  • The woman went to the well at noon instead of morning because of shame:
    • What are you ashamed of? What do you hide from others?
  • Imagine meeting Jesus there.
    • Would you feel surprised? What excuses might you make?
  • Imagine Jesus calling you out on your sins.
    • What are your competing loves? Be honest.
  • How is Jesus the living water compared to these other “spouses”?
  • How are the other pleasures you seek temporary and always needing replenishing, whereas Christ’s joy is abiding?
  • Jesus offers her life, and commands her to sin no more.  Let Jesus confront your sin.  You too must choose. You cannot have both.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • When God confronted King David about his sin through the prophet Nathan, David responded by composing Psalm 51.  He acknowledged his sin, asked for forgiveness, and trusted God to transform his heart.
  • Do an examination of conscience this week.  If possible, meet Christ in the sacrament of Confession.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Being a Worrier, or a Wildflower…

by Angela Lambert

daisy20160722_162121729_ios

February 26th, 2017; 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

Gospel of Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink? ‘or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus is asking, “Do I want to be a Worrier or a Wildflower?”  Wildflower please!

But, you may say, it’s the worriers who get things done.  They’re so responsible.  Wildflowers are pretty, but just passive and weak.  I have found, however, in observation of both myself and others, that worrying gives all the appearance of work but very little actual productivity.  Worrying tends to trigger stress reactions and slow a person down, if not paralyze them with anxiety altogether.  Wildflowers, on the other hand, look pretty and effortless, but retain a genetic hardiness that manages to survive the severest attempts at eradication – from fire, to flood, to weed killer – they just keep coming back…and spreading!

The fuller life becomes, the more we try to juggle.  The temptation to be super-mom or dad, super-boss, super-coach, super-spouse, super-friend, and more, can be difficult enough; add to that attempting to be them all simultaneously, and we can push ourselves over the edge!

Good motivations often drive us, and love energizes us.  Nevertheless, too much of any good thing can become a bad thing.  In our effort to be the best at everything, and for everyone, stress builds and our human limitations frustrate us.

Even just two loves can divide us – competing for space in our thoughts, ideas, time, passion, and energies.  The limits of reality force us to prioritize.  Saying no to one thing however, means getting to say yes to another.  If we don’t prioritize, and say yes to whatever calls loudest or appears first, will result in saying no to something else, which might be far more important.

Jesus asks us to do a reality check.  Only one thing can be at the top of the priority list, and thereby direct all the choices below it.  If we choose God, everything else will fall into place.  If we choose anything else – self, pleasing others, ambition, beauty, fame, wealth – God will be edged out.

When we rely on anything but God for security and happiness, worry always ensues.  A classical philboethius-wheel-of-fortuneosopher and theologian, Boethius (480A.D.-525 A.D.), wrote a famous work which examined this truth called The Consolation of Philosophy.  In it he portrays a “wheel of fortune” (not like the tv show!), which as it spins brings a man from depths to heights to depths again.  He reflects on how all people desire to secure happiness but they mistakenly look to wealth, power, fame, honor, or pleasure.  None of these, however, can deliver on the false hope we place in them, because each relies on external factors outside one’s control.  If we cling to this illusion, he asserts, we spin round and round on the wheel in endless restlessness.

Where can we find security?  Where can we find refuge from worry and from the innumerable things outside of our control?  In the Lord.  God is not in our control, and that makes us vulnerable.  But God IS trustworthy, all-powerful, and Merciful Love.  Let’s face it, we feel in control when we rely on ourselves first, but it’s not actually true.  We can’t control other people, and sometimes we can’t even control ourselves very well.  We blurt out, when we wanted to stay quiet.  We stay quiet, when we wanted to speak up.  And so on.  We don’t even work in our best interest all the time – whether from our inevitably limited knowledge or experience, or from financial or emotional pressures.  God, on the other hand, works with perfect knowledge, moved by infinite love, and almighty power to “bring to completion the good work He began” (Philippians 1:6). In truth, He’s the only one we can rely on for secure happiness unimpeded by outside forces.

One of my kids is a worrier.  He thinks ahead about all the possible problems and preparations and can become overwhelmed.  When he was smaller it was particularly difficult for him since his ability to help was so small.  I would comfort him by insisting that he let me be the mom and that he just take care of his responsibilities as a kid.  Christ says the same thing to us in this passage.  Yes, there are many things to fear and far too many things outside our control that can harm us.  But there is nothing too difficult for God, who acts at every moment as our Loving Father and whose Son shares our burden. As Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:29-30)

So, be a wildflower.  Root where God plants you, soak up His sunshine, drink in His rain. He will provide every necessary strength for you to endure anything, and to be beautiful while you do.

Consider:

  • What is your favorite wildflower?  What do you admire about it?
  • Consider how strong and resistant wildflowers are. How can trusting in God strengthen you?
  • How does worry undermine your work? How does it interfere with your relationships with others? How does it affect your relationship with God?
  • Reflect on all the good things God has provided for you, in difficult times as well as in your everyday. Consider His consistent care.
  • Reflect on Christ’s promise, that if we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, everything else will be provided. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what this means for you in your life.
  • Prayerfully make a priority list. Include God, family, work, hobbies, etc. Ask Christ for the grace to evaluate the list and to keep things in the right order.  Consider what changes may need to take place.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray a psalm of trust each day this week. Recommended: Psalms 23, 46, 62, and 119.
  • Make a list, and keep an ongoing journal, of God’s daily blessings.
    • Look back on it when tempted to worry.
    • Glance at it each morning, and remember that you are God’s wildflower.
  • Review your priority list periodically to make sure you are saying yes to the things that matter most.

Related Posts:

Let Go and Let God

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Getting the Last Word…but Making it a Blessing

by Angela Lambert

 

February 18th, 2017; 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Matthew 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow. “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Meditation Reflection:

In 1981, Pope St. John Paul II was shot by a Turkish assassin Ali Agca.  The attempt occurred on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima and JPII credits Mary for “guiding the bullet” which just barely missed a major artery.  Even while in the ambulance, JPII voiced his forgiveness of the assassin.  Later after he had recovered, he visited Agca in prison and offered his forgiveness in person.  Agca had not offered an apology and only inquired as to why he wasn’t dead.  This encounter however had an impact and later when he was released from prison, Agca travelled to St. Peter’s to place roses on John Paul II’s tomb.

Forgiveness and love is the mark of Christ, and therefore the signifier of His followers.  John tells us that “God is Love.”  The term “perfect” means “full, or complete.” When Jesus refers to His Heavenly Father’s perfection therefore, He means that God’s love lacks nothing and is total.  By contrast, “even tax collectors” love their friends, but their love is imperfect because it is incomplete.  Total love includes those who love us and those who do not.

But how we can love someone who hates us or hurts us?  Does Jesus mean we must be friends with people who wish us harm or take advantage of us?  No.  Love is defined as “willing another person’s good.”  Thankfully, this does not require feelings of love, or even reciprocal friendship.  It doesn’t even mean trusting the person. It simply means choosing not to act in revenge or anger, and instead doing that which promotes the good of the other.  Thus, we can pray for our enemies, in which we petition God on their behalf for graces to be bestowed upon them.  We can speak kindly, act respectfully, and do the right thing toward others, not because they necessarily deserve it, but because it’s the kind of person we want to be.

Authentic love sometimes means tough love.  It can require choices that appear unloving but are in fact healthy boundaries.  Loving an addict for instance or someone with mental illness will require tough love, but will be more effective toward their health than enabling them in their sickness.  Disciplining children is tough love, but it helps the child grow in goodness.

Christ calls His followers to imitate His mercy.  This demand goes above and beyond natural strength and even natural wisdom or common sense.  It only makes sense considering the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection for our salvation, and it can only be accomplished with the aid of His divine grace.

Christ loved us while we were yet sinners.  He willed our good and worked for our salvation even when we were mired in sin and rejected Him.  As His disciples, we can work for the salvation of others, even when they too are mired in sin and working against us.

This can be tricky, but my mother offered me advice about these situations that I have found to be a guiding principle. When tempted to react vengefully when faced with difficult people and situations, she would say, “don’t let their behavior change who you are.”  Her wisdom strengthened my resolve and shed light on how to decide what to do.  No matter what others are doing or how low they sink, the truth is, if we just fire back we sink to their level too.  Jesus wants us to rise above, with the help of His grace and the light of His example.  Whether it transforms the other person or not, it will definitely transform us.

Loving our enemy is necessary to stop the cycle of violence, and our only hope for human unity.  When we are the ones caught up in it, we want to get the last word in or throw the last punch.  When we are the observer however, we just want it to stop.  As a mom, I get tired of hearing my kids bicker. Both claim it’s the other’s fault and point the finger at who started it.  Both go on and on and on, despite my attempts to break it up because they are obsessed with having the last word.  I wonder if God views our bickering in the same way.  Maybe the other person did start it, so what?  Why can’t we just stop?  No one can move on unless we do and everyone is miserable.

Loving our enemy is a supernatural virtue.  To cultivate charity, we need to connect to God and His stream of grace in prayer and the sacraments.  We must meditate on the Gospels to develop our sense of what Jesus would do.  We need to make time for fellowship with Christians walking the walk and learn from their insights and examples.  In this way, we can grow in love until it fills every gap in our heart and reaches the fullness of perfection like that of our Father in heaven.

Consider:

  • Who do you find easy to love and why?
  • Who do you find difficult to love? Who could you identify as your enemy?
    • In what way do they provoke you to strike back?
    • How might you react with love instead? How could you “will their good”?
  • Consider how we love our children even when they disobey, say hurtful things, or work against us. Do you ever feel anger toward your kids, but choose/will what’s good for them?
  • Consider God’s perspective as our Father and us as His children. How does He view our bickering, feuds, back-biting, and competitiveness?  What would He say to you about how you treat your brother or sister in Christ?
  • We can pick our friends but we can’t pick our family. Consider how loving our natural siblings can cultivate the virtues needed to love our spiritual siblings.
  • Read the story of St. Maria Goretti and reflect on her example of tough love, forgiveness, and the transformation it caused in her assailant.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pick one person who makes your life difficult.
    • 1) Begin each day with a sincere prayer for them. (not a list of all their flaws that God should fix, but rather for God’s blessing upon them!)
    • 2) Resolve each day this week to refrain from snide remarks to them or about them, gossip, or any kind of action that would anger or hurt them.
    • 3) Do one kind thing for them.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

mother-teresa-and-abortion

Each year on the anniversary of the legalization of abortion in the United States, the Catholic Church unites in prayer and fasting for the legal protection of unborn children.  As Christians, we value every human life because we are all children of God – not matter our race, gender, age, size, abilities, or health.

God became man at Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb.  As a result we all share a special connection to our Lord, even from conception.

In addition, abortion wounds women as it treats her unique and incredible gift to give life as somehow decreasing her value in certain situations rather than elevating it. Women in crisis need our support and encouragement.  We need to work as a society to appreciate and protect women’s irreplaceable role of giving life to all persons.

This means we need to change how we look at pregnancy in the workplace and the career track.  It means facing the responsibility that is inherent in sex and its power to generate new human life.  It means remembering that crisis pregnancies were the result of a choice made by BOTH the mother AND the father.  Moreover, showing young women that they can rise to challenges in life and that others will be there to help them.  We need to demonstrate that, with God’s grace, good things can come out of mistakes and if we face our failures we can find a way forward.  We need to encourage women in crisis pregnancies that they can give their child life both physically through the pregnancy, but also by choosing a loving adoptive family if she isn’t able to raise the child.  Adoption is a loving choice and a sacrifice by the birth mother we need to honor more.

Abortion supports sexism as it not only kills the woman in the womb, but it degrades the value of motherhood as merely biological.  In addition, if abortion is promoted as a “remedy” or as “healthcare”, it implies that pregnancy is not a sacrificial and sacred gift to be honored, but rather a cancer if unwanted, or a consumer choice if desired.  Most importantly, abortion causes life-long emotional, and sometimes physical, wounds to mothers.  To treat abortion as a simple, non-emotional procedure, is sexist callousness and a failure to authentically work for the protection and flourishing of women.

I have seen the pain of women who have suffered the choice of abortion, and the pressures they encountered by boyfriends, family, and the culture since they supposedly had a “choice.”  I have also seen the healing and freedom of women who made it through the crisis and chose life.

May we pray today, and every day, for greater love and support for mothers and unborn children and the conversion of our own hearts in this matter.

Below is a link for rosary meditations specifically for these intentions:

Praying for the Unborn and Mothers in Crisis…Meditations on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

 

We Have Seen His Glory! Awe of God and Christmas Witness…

by Angela Lambert

nativity

December 25th, 2016; Christmas Liturgy

Gospel John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.

Meditation Reflection:

Why, on Christmas, do we read John’s lofty, deep, theological reflection on Jesus as the Word, or Logos, rather than a quaint story of Mary and Joseph in the stable? Let’s consider.  For the past four weeks, we have contemplated the coming of Christ.  We examined the spirit of repentance necessary to receive Him, which John the Baptist so boldly and faithfully proclaimed.  We reflected on Mary’s fiat, her “yes” that made the Incarnation and our redemption possible, and Joseph’s “yes” which provided the incarnate Lord with a family.  Hopefully we have developed a deep appreciation for the Lord’s covenantal relationship with humankind, His desire for relationship, and His gracious condescension to include us in some small way in His work of our redemption.

Now, on Christmas Day, the Church invites us to stand in awe together, as God the Son, the Logos, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, who took a human nature at the moment of His conception, makes the invisible God visible at His holy birth.  Jesus Christ, God and man, born to die, once and for all debunked any misconceptions we may have formerly held; whether that of the distant god of the desists, or the hedonist, narcissistic gods of the pagan mythologies.

I love so very many verses in the Scriptures, but John 1:14 is my absolute favorite.  John the beloved disciple, passionately gives witness to his ineffable gift of seeing God: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory.” John identifies Jesus as the Word, or Logos in Greek.  In doing so, he affirms Jesus’ eternal divinity.  Lest we be deceived into thinking Jesus existed merely as an exceptional human person in history, John makes clear that the Son of God, through Whom all things were created, has taken on a human nature to redeem His creation.

Recall in Genesis chapter 1, the way in which God created.  “And God said, ‘let there be light’, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).  God created out of nothing, by speaking.  To speak, we employ words.  Thus, Church Fathers have described the Trinitarian work of creation as God the Father speaking, God the Son as the Word spoken, and God the Holy Spirit as the goodness by which everything was declared good.  On Christmas day, therefore, we contemplate this beautiful and gracious mystery, that the Word through whom we received our existence, also became man to restore our fallen nature to its original end – union with God.

God’s love however. always exceeds our expectations and knows no other possibility than generosity.  Thus, John describes Jesus’ mission from the Father as establishing “grace upon grace”.  By this he means that instead of merely restoring us to our original manufacturer settings, Christ elevated our nature to an even higher order.  Through Baptism, God dwells in our very soul.  Through the Incarnation, our human nature became forever united to the divine nature in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Not even the angels can boast of this.

People first encountered Jesus as a man who then demonstrated He was God.  John invites us today to contemplate that Jesus is the eternal God, who became man.  Moreover, the God made man, Who opened for us entirely new horizons of living through the power of His grace and the gift of being children of God.

God literally dwelt among us, and He continues to literally dwell among us in His Eucharistic presence.  He united Himself with our human nature, and He unites with our soul personally at Baptism and ever more deeply the more times we give Him our own “yes.”  When we do this, we, like John, “see His glory.”  Christianity, at its foundation, is not a religion of “the book”, it is a religion of “witness to the risen Lord.”  Yes, this is expressed infallibly and inspired by the Holy Spirit through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  However, contrary to secular assumptions about our faith, we do not believe because we have found a convincing philosophy in a book we read by a great guru (similar to say Buddhism), but because we have encountered the risen Christ – real, alive, and active in our lives.  We have proof because we have seen the transformation that He has accomplished in our souls, which we know is not false modesty but a true miracle.  Like the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter 4, overcome with joy and astonishment, we witness to this encounter and invite others to “come and see.”  Eventually they can say, as her fellow villages exclaimed, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

God has made His dwelling with us – Halleluiah! His light has cut through the darkness and given us hope. The Word has become man and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory!

Consider:

  • Consider Christ’s divinity.
    • Reflect on His divine attributes – eternal, perfect, infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving.
    • Reflect on His eternal Sonship to the Father.
    • Contemplate His work in Creation. Re-read Genesis chapter 1 and consider Christ, the Word, at work in our original beginning.
  • Consider Christ’s Incarnation and Redemptive work.
    • Reflect on how the Son became man, to suffer and die for our salvation.
    • Human persons are made in the image and likeness of God. Because of Original Sin and the Fall, we distorted that image.  Consider how Christ is at work in a new creation, restoring and elevating human kind to an even higher level of union with God.
  • Consider your witness of seeing Christ’s glory.
    • How has Christ transformed you. How has He freed you, strengthened you, enlightened you, and loved you?
    • In what ways do you experience Christ’s nearness?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • If you, like John or the Samaritan woman, were to give witness to meeting the Christ and seeing His glory, what would you say?  Write a testimony of your own eye witness of Christ’s true presence and saving action in your own life.
    • You don’t have to share it with anyone. You can simply take it to prayer and offer it as a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.
    • At the same time, as St. Peter advises, “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1Peter 3:15). If an opportunity arises to share your testimony, pray for the grace and courage to give loving witness.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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The Man Who Changed the World, And Can Change Me

by Angela Lambert

baptism-of-christ-1483-jpghd

December 11th, 2016; 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Matthew 11:2-11

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you. Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Meditation Reflection:

John the Baptist and Jesus confirm in this passage that Jesus is the Christ, and the very climax and axis of history; everything prior had been leading up to this moment, and everything after would be different as a result.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in his book Life of Christ, observes:

“What separates Christ from all men is that first He was expected…A second distinguishing fact is that once He appeared, He struck history with such impact that He split it in two, dividing it into two periods: one before His coming, the other after it.  Buddha did not do this, nor any of the great Indian philosophers.  Even those who deny God must date their attacks upon Him, A.D. so and so, or so many years after His coming.”

Jesus was expected.  In addition to the hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament (all of which Jesus fulfilled, a statistical near impossibility), Archbishop Sheen cites prophecies can be found pointing to Christ from the Romans, Greeks, and even Chinese.  Sheen explains the logic behind this universal prescience:

Automobile manufacturers tell their customers when to expect a new model.  If God sent anyone from Himself, or if He came Himself with a vitally important message for all men, it would seem reasonable that He would first let men know when His messenger was coming, where He would be born, where He would live, the doctrine He would teach…

In consequence, when John the Baptist sends his followers to inquire if Jesus is the Christ, Jesus responds by citing His works, which even at the beginning of His public ministry, already fulfill a host of long awaited prophecies.

John the Baptist is considered the last of the Old Testament prophets.  “Testament” means “Covenant” and John represents the fullness of God’s covenant with Israel, at its height and its end.  This end however is not an eradication but rather a new beginning.  Jesus makes this clear when He says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17 NAB). John’s mission to prepare the way for the messiah also prepares the way for the New Covenant, one which will fulfill and exceed the Old to such an extent that the “least in the kingdom of heaven” will exceed the “greatest” in the old.

Up to this point, since the Fall of Adam and Eve, all of humanity suffered under the weight of sin, guilt, discord, injustice, death, and failure.  To prepare us for His coming, He patiently developed a relationship with one man, Abraham, and his family. He revealed His character – His truthfulness, fidelity, and wisdom.  As Abraham’s descendants grew in numbers, God freed them from slavery in Egypt, gave them a mighty prophet – Moses, and formed them as a people with Laws given to them from the finger of God to govern them and a promised land where they could nurture their hope for a new garden of paradise.  When God anointed David as king, He turned our sights toward a mighty kingdom, one with God’s presence at the center and the source of its strength.  Nevertheless, even the chosen people of God had to struggle along without the aid of supernatural grace.  They knew the law and yet failed to follow it.  They knew where to find happiness yet chased after futile and false pleasures.

With the advent of Christ, the painful wait had finally come to an end.  The angels could sing at His birth “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to people of good will” (Luke 2:14).  As Isaiah prophesied: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2), Jesus, who says of Himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).  With the advent of Christ came the advent of grace and the possibility of transformation and healing.  Now every person can face the trials in life confident that, as St. Paul boldly states from his own experience, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

At my son’s basketball tournament today, the lights in the entire complex went out.  Out of habit I felt startled and a bit unnerved, then within seconds iPhone flashlights lit up the gymnasium and kids began laughing, chatting, and shooting hoops while they waited.  I realized that I grew up in a time before iPhone flashlights, when sudden darkness meant an indeterminate amount of time searching for a source of light, hoping someone had a lighter or flashlight to be found.  Kids today don’t know that feeling.  They have a light source on them and around them constantly.  I thought of the gift of Christ’s light within us, which even though it’s often taken for granted, it still provides an underlying sense of peace and security as it permeates our culture and our consciousness.

We are beyond blessed to be living “in the year of the Lord” (Anno Domini, or A.D.).  We live in an age of grace where Christ has made possible the forgiveness of our sins, peace in our souls, and the sight of God Himself, made visible in His Son.

Christ has come, and it has changed everything.  This is why belief in Christ, as the Son of God made man, our Redeemer, has pervaded for 2,000 years and persuaded peoples over the entire earth.  Jesus changes us and we are witnesses.

Consider:

  • How has Jesus changed your life? In what way(s) are you different now than before?
  • Consider the impact Christ has had on the world. Reflect on His power to transform hearts, minds, and lives in every place and in every age.
  • Reflect on Christ being the Light of the World. Consider how light provides sight, warmth, peace, and protection.
  • Jesus, the Word of God through Whom all things were made, is also man. He is related to all of us as our brother.
  • Consider how the most important moment in history hinged on the “yes” of Mary.
  • Consider the things God has done through you because of your “yes” to Him.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, share the gift of Christ’s light with another person.  It can be through word or deed.  (remember the works of mercy)
  • Pray and work for the conversion of someone you know. Pray for Christ to enter his or her life and to change it forever.

Related Posts:

Keeping Christ in Christmas, and John the Baptist in Advent

Begin Again…New Year’s Resolutions for the New Liturgical Year

Prepare for the Coming of Christ’s Mercy by Giving Mercy

Making Straight the Path to Joy

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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Begin Again…New Year’s Resolutions for the New Liturgical Year

by Angela Lambert
the_calling_of_saint_matthew-caravaggo_1599-1600

“The Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio

November 26th, 2016; 1st Sunday in Advent

Gospel Matthew 24:37-44

Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Meditation Reflection:

Advent, the beginning of a new year (liturgically speaking).  It reminds us that we made it, by the grace of God, and that we don’t know what the next year will bring.  It could bring unexpected joys and successes, it could also hold life-changing sorrows or failures.  In the spirit of new year’s resolutions, Advent provides the opportunity for Christians to step back, evaluate their lives, and make renewed goals for personal growth.  Like most resolutions, we hope to imbue the next year of our lives with deeper meaning and healthier living (physically, emotionally, and spiritually).  We don’t know when life will end or when Christ will come again, we can however, be our best selves whenever it does and try to live with as few regrets as possible.

Before making goals, however, one needs to identify the finish line.  During Advent we recall that the most meaningful and healthy goal we can achieve is deeper relationship with Christ and more devoted discipleship.  We all grow lax over time and can’t help but get overwhelmed by daily life periodically.  Nevertheless, these annual pauses can reorient us in a positive way if we use our failures as fuel for greater success.

For example, last year during faculty workshops leading up to the start of school (I’m a middle and high school teacher), a colleague and I decided to go for a walk during our lunch break each day.  We lamented that our healthy summer living would be quickly replaced by the frenetic schedule of the school year and our summer habits of regular exercise would fade away leaving us tired and depressed.    We resolved to walk together once a week after school.  Plenty of reasons presented themselves every week to cancel the walk but we resolved to prioritize that small bit of exercise (and friendship) together.  This was the baby step that kept me in the habit each week and soon I added another day of exercise on my own.  Not long after a friend told me about an opportunity for a family gym membership that was affordable and a good way for our kids to burn off energy together.   By the time school began this year I smiled as I didn’t have to complain to my colleague about the impending physical atrophy and stress.  Instead I felt terrific knowing I had been able to develop a much healthier balance in my life and knew I could take care of myself and keep up at work and home.

Like our bodies, our spiritual lives have a tremendous ability to bounce back with a little determination and perseverance.  It’s tempting to look back with nostalgia at our previous achievements and make excuses for our current atrophy.  Instead, find a friend and make a small, achievable goal to reinvigorate your spiritual life.  Over the course of the year, similar to exercise, it will begin to bear greater and greater fruit, spurring you on to take more steps toward spiritual health and endurance.  What sometimes begins as feeling laborious and painful eventually becomes something that feels so good you look forward to it and find ways to increase it.

Begin with the basics – go to Mass every Sunday.  No excuses.  (Unless you are seriously ill of course).  My kids and I have a tradition of getting doughnuts afterward to celebrate Sunday.  As they’ve gotten older doughnuts are sometimes replaced with McDonald’s breakfast or some kind of mocha latte fun coffee drink.  Whatever the treat, find a way to keep the celebration of Christ at Mass going afterward.

Pray, every day.  Start with saying thank you.  Praise God and consider His goodness and greatness.  Next, be honest with God about the day ahead and the help you will need to radiate Christ in the situations you will be in. Finally, intercede for others.  Consider the needs of those around you, especially your family and people at work.  Ask God for his help.  Decide ahead of time when this conversation with God will take place.  Know yourself and be realistic.  For instance, as much as I wish I could end my day with prayer, as soon as I remotely begin to relax I immediately fall asleep.  I’ve considered a midday prayer but I get distracted by everything in the day.  However, when my kids were infants and toddlers, midday during their nap time was the only chance I had for scheduled time with God.  Now that my kids are older and I am back at work, I choose morning to pray, when my mind is clear and I can enjoy a cup of coffee with the Lord.  Once I got into this habit it was so fruitful I wanted more time with the Lord but struggled to get up earlier.  Then, when day light savings time began I used the opportunity to get up at what my body felt was the usual time but actually afforded me an entire hour.

Next steps, read a spiritual book about the faith.  Unlike fiction or pop culture, spiritual books are best read a few pages at a time and may take a year or more to complete.  A good book about the faith should inspire a movement of love and reflection in your heart and spur contemplation.  Don’t get caught up in the progress of pages as much as the progress of personal transformation.

Praying with Scripture is always a great idea.  You could read through a book of the bible, especially the Gospels, a chapter or so at a time.  You could also read the daily readings for the Mass and reflect on the Gospel of the day.  You can go to usccb.org and click on the calendar on the right hand side of the page to see the readings for the day.  You could pray with the psalms or even pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

Finally, if possible, try to add 5 minutes of silence with the Lord into your day.  Lots of distractions will fill your mind but gently push them away and try to make 5 minutes of space for being in the presence of the Lord and listening.  Personally, I like to end prayer with 5 minutes of silence.  I set a timer on my phone so I don’t have to check the clock.  Other times, spiritual reading moves my heart and I pause then and there for 5 minutes of silence with the Lord.

Like building any new habit, you will have to make your own prudential decisions about what merits exceptions and the slippery slope of letting other things edge out your time with God.  I have experienced both.  For instance, when I would pray during my kids’ nap time I often felt pulled by the long list of things that needed to get done.  I could easily excuse skipping prayer for doing dishes or cleaning up by considering my work as prayer.  Although our work is prayerful if offered to God, actual time alone with the Lord is irreplaceable and a higher priority.  On the other hand, I have also encountered situations where I was up all night with sick kids or unavoidable extra work at my job or in works of mercy that presented themselves.  On those mornings I sometimes have to cut into my prayer time to get the necessary sleep I know I need to function for the Lord the next day.  I try to be prayerfully prudent though to make sure I’m not letting other things come before prayer and try to say no to things that would interfere.  Even on mornings I get a little extra sleep I make sure I still retain some time for prayer and not skip it altogether.

Don’t be afraid to adjust your new year’s resolutions to your current state in life.  Things change from year to year, making Advent a perfect time to consider where you are now and what your next steps should be. Some times in life are very peaceful and you can plan structured times for prayer and methodically work on building needed virtues.  Other times you may feel like you are in survival mode and leaning on the Lord takes a different form for the time being as you are in the trenches together.   Whatever you decide, make the decision with Christ and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.  Reach out to fellow Christians and accept the support of others and of grace.  In this way, whenever Christ comes, He will find you ready – reaching for him.

Consider:

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you need to grow.
    • How might you grow deeper in prayer?
    • How might you develop more virtuous habits?
    • How might you be more Christ-like toward others?
  • Consider past spiritual resolutions you have made. How have they born fruit in your life?  Reflect on the effort it took to begin them and how they are now simply a norm.
  • Where do you need more balance? What undermines higher priorities? How might you put boundaries on those things to keep your priorities better aligned?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Make one prayer resolution.  Decide when, how, and what you will do to deepen your prayer life.
  • Make one virtue resolution. Identify one way you would like to better imitate Christ and make a daily plan to grow in that virtue.
  • Make one detachment resolution. Choose one vice or sin to overcome.  Ask others to keep you accountable about it, pray daily for grace to overcome it, and practice the opposite virtue.

Related Posts:

Appreciating the Advent of Christ…Gospel meditation for Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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