The Ascension of Christ & the Surprising Nature of the Kingdom of God

by Angela Lambert

May 28th, 2017; The Ascension of the Lord

 Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Meditation Reflection:

Christ is so humble in His Incarnation that we, like the apostles in today’s passage, can forget the awesome reality of His divinity.  For most of His earthly life, Jesus chose to veil His divinity.   He humbly lived among us as one of us, choosing a life of poverty and sacrifice.  Even when condemned to crucifixion, He told Pilate that He was not powerless in the situation (John 18:36).  Jesus chose to be sacrificed to save us.  He could have saved Himself, as those taunting Him urged, or defended Himself as Pilate suggested, but love kept Him on the Cross.

Christ came down from heaven to be a ransom for our sins.  At the completion of His mission however, He ascended back to heaven to reign in glory as the Son of God. Because of His humility during His earthly life, we overlook at times His divine dignity and His rightful place in Heaven.  Beyond anything we could have imagined, He promised to prepare a place for us there as well!

Jesus kept surprising His apostles and He continues to surprise us.  They imagined the savior as someone who would overpower their persecutors and restore things to how they used to be during the best time in Jewish history.  It took a while for them to accept that He would die and rise again.  Confused and scattered at His crucifixion, they rejoiced in awe at His resurrection.  Overwhelmed with joy that Christ was alive, and excited by His show of power they still imagined that they would enjoy the booty of His victory in an earthly kingdom.  Finally, they thought, now He will bring to fruition all our hopes and desires.  Thus, they ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Jesus did not come to stay on earth however, but to bring us back to Heaven.  He does not put new wine into old wine skins (Matthew 9:14-17).  His kingdom exceeds our imagination.  The experience the Jews had under King David provided a foretaste and glimpse of the kingdom of God.  Jesus reveals that God has much more in store for us.

In order for them to receive the Holy Spirit and to begin their new life in Christ, they had to let go of their previous hopes and plans.  To rule in the Kingdom of God meant to surrender worldly power for the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit which transforms lives with saving grace, Truth, peace, and love.    No other nation or religion has had the same universal, enduring, transformative effect, of the Christian faith.    The only explanation for this miracle is the Holy Spirit.

Jesus makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).  As we celebrate the Ascension of Christ into heaven, we let go of our desires for Jesus to make things how they used to be, or how we wish them to be.  Christ’s physical absence grieved the apostles and we too can be grieved by the absence of tangible comfort and security.  However, by letting Jesus ascend to Heaven, they received Him back even more intimately and powerfully in their very souls on Pentecost when they received the Holy Spirit.

Christian discipleship means sharing in Christ’s death that we might also share in His resurrection.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Discipleship means accepting the unanticipated, unimaginable “new” that Jesus has for us.  He wants so much more for us than we can plan and blesses us with so much more than we deserve.  By surrendering our grip on control in our Christian walk, we get to live in the freedom of gift.  There are no words to describe this freedom and joy other than surprise; or as John puts it: “From His fullness have we all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

Consider:

  • When has God surprised you?  How have His plans for your life exceeded your own expectations?
  • In what areas of your life do you struggle to surrender control?  Consider what underlies your resistance.  Is it fear of the unknown or of change, distrust, lack of faith, perfectionism, pride and the desire to accomplish things yourself, or vanity and concern for what others will think?
  • Reflect on your life from the point of view of the kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of earth.  Re-value wealth and status from this perspective.  What is truly valuable?  What is true greatness?
  • Consider God’s love for you.  He has prepared a place for you, provided the Way, opened the gates, and given you the Holy Spirit and the Church to guide you and empower you.  He has done everything in His mighty power to be with you and shower His love upon you.   What can you do to be with Him and love Him in return?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, be open to God’s surprises.  In the morning, offer your day to God and surrender control to Him.  In the evening, reflect back on the day and recount when you were resistant or when He surprised you.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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

Related Posts:

Longing for Nearness to the One We Love…Scripture Meditation for the Solemnity of the Ascension

Behold, I Make All Things New

The Spiritual Merry-Go-Round

 

Finding True Love

by Angela Lambert

May 21st, 2017; 6th Sunday Easter

Gospel of John 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Meditation Reflection:

Every human person yearns for love, intimacy, and understanding.  We may not need to be loved or understood by everyone, but we desire that connection with at least one person and preferably a whole community.  Without it, we suffer an oppressive loneliness leading to depression, anxiety, and confusion.

Given the rapid advances in communication, it would seem we should feel more connected than ever and therefore happier than ever.  Yet, consider the high rate of depression and suicide in our culture, despite the unprecedented wealth and physical well-being compared to any other time in history.  So, if we are relatively wealthy, healthy, and connected, why aren’t we happy?

Jesus reveals the answer in today’s Gospel passage.  The world offers superficial connection, defining love as self-gratification rather than self-gift. Self-centered love uses others to make oneself feel good or to advance one toward a personal goal.  It might demonstrate a modicum of virtue, but only insofar as it provides personal reward.  Intimate married love has been replaced with casual sex and pornography.  Intimate family love through the gift of children has been replaced with pets (not that pets are bad, just that they are not kids).  Intimacy of friendship or shared work carry some comradery, but disillusionment ensues when they are quickly exchanged for a personal advancement.  All of these experiences leave people feeling used and alone, rather than loved.

Pope Francis sheds light on our pain by identifying the source of our wounds.  He connects our pain with our disconnect from Truth and the experience of mercy.  In his book, The Name of God is Mercy, he writes,

“…humanity is wounded, deeply wounded.  Either it does not know how to cure its wounds or it believes that it’s not possible to cure them.  And it’s not just a question of social ills or people wounded by poverty, social exclusion, or one of the many slaveries of the third millennium.  Relativism wounds people too:  all things seem equal, all things appear the same…  Pius XII, more than half a century ago, said that the tragedy of our age was that it had lost its sense of sin, the awareness of sin.  Today we add further to the tragedy by considering our illness, our sins, to be incurable, things that cannot be healed or forgiven.  We lack the actual concrete experience of mercy. The fragility of our era is this, too:  we don’t believe that there is a chance for redemption; for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save you, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with infinite, patient, indulgent love; to put you back on your feet.  We need mercy.”

Pope Francis calls relativism a wound because it disables our ability to determine right from wrong and truth from error.  Christ forbids us from judging other people because only He knows what is in their hearts.  However, we must be able to make moral judgements about actions and choices.  It’s just as important to know the dangers of sin to the spiritual life, as it is to know the dangers of gravity when leaping from high places.   I tell my boys all the time, especially in the summer when they are careening down the hill on their bikes or scooters, “Force = Mass times Acceleration –  think about how fast you are going, because you could get hurt badly!”  The same truth becomes even more important as they get older.  Now that my oldest has his driving permit and is nearing his license, I try to curb the teenage boy’s “need for speed” with the same physics lesson.  I’m not being judgmental, I’m being loving by teaching him the truth.  The same applies to the spiritual life.  Sin wounds, hurts, and can even kill.  The Truth of Christ is a saving gift.

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches that Truth, Goodness, and Love are inseparable.  Without truth and without virtue, we will miss out on love.  Jesus said that He is the Truth (Jn 14:6), and those who love Him follow His commands.  God is a relationship of three distinct Persons in one divine nature.  The three Persons of the Trinity share a unity that exceeds our understanding, but Jesus unveiled a glimpse of its experience.  He speaks on numerous occasions of the unity of He and the Father. That unity comes from a relationship of love and obedience through an eternal self-gift.  The Holy Spirit is described as the Love between the Father and the Son. For us to share in the intimate relationship of the Trinity, we must share in God’s love through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

When we place our faith in Christ, He sends the Holy Spirit that we may live by His Truth, following His commands, and thereby grow in intimate love.  Jesus told the apostles,

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Christians must not only love, but love like Christ – sacrificial, unconditional, and merciful.  Merciful love means speaking the Truth instead of enabling someone in their self-deception or rationalization.  It means never helping someone sin, but always helping them when they try to leave their sin.

To love in this way, we need supernatural grace which flows from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  St. Cyril of Alexandria, a bishop and Doctor of the Church, describes the Spirit’s transformative power in a beautiful way in a commentary he wrote on the Gospel of John:

 “After Christ had completed his mission on earth, it still remained necessary for us to become sharers in the divine nature of the Word. We had to give up our own life and be so transformed that we would begin to live an entirely new kind of life that would be pleasing to God. This was something we could do only by sharing in the Holy Spirit…

Only by his own presence within us in this way could he give us confidence to cry out, Abba, Father, make it easy for us to grow in holiness and, through our possession of the all-powerful Spirit, fortify us invincibly against the wiles of the devil and the assaults of men.

 It can easily be shown from examples both in the Old Testament and the New that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell; he so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life…

Does this not show that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives? With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage.”

The Holy Spirit infuses us with Divine Love which bears fruit in our lives.  This love is so exceptional, that Jesus tells His disciples it will be evident to the world that they are His followers.  The fruit of worldly love is loneliness, anxiety, and depression.  The fruit of Christian love is intimacy with God and His followers, peace, and joy.  Worldly wisdom wounds, but Christian wisdom heals.  The great paradox of happiness, which Pope St. John Paul II re-iterated time and again, is that self-fulfillment can only be found in self-gift.  Christians experience the intimacy of friendship in their shared vision of the Truth, the intimacy of true love in living their vocational call to sacramental married love, Holy Orders, vows of religious life, or the single vocation, and above all – the deepest, most intimate, abiding love of our Trinitarian God dwelling in our soul as His very own Temple.    Happiness is loving and being loved, Truly.

Consider:

  •  Consider the relationship between Truth and Love.  Why is honesty necessary for relationship?  How does honesty deepen intimacy?
  • Have you ever had to make a decision that required you to choose between worldly wisdom and Christian wisdom?  Which did you follow and why?  What were the results?
  • Consider the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us.  Have you experienced spiritual healing, transformation, or love through the Holy Spirit?  Have you witnessed it at work in another person?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Grow in your relationship with Christ who is the Truth, by studying Scripture or studying the faith.  Read a spiritual book, join a bible study, listen to Christian talk radio or podcasts, or visit with someone advanced in the faith who can teach you.
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to bear more fruits of love within you by connecting with Him in prayer and/or the sacraments.  Add just 5-10 minutes of prayer to your day (or if possible, I highly recommend adding a daily Mass), and note the change in your reactions to others and to situations, or to the level of peace you feel amidst whatever is happening around you.

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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

 

 

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled…Peace and Surrender in Christ

by Angela Lambert

May 14th, 2017; 5th Sunday of Easter

 Gospel of John 14:1-12

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Meditation Reflection:

Do not let my heart be troubled? Jesus knows what it’s like to work, to have family, to experience crises.  He should know the stress we encounter.  How can He order such a thing?

Then I remember, I say the same thing to my loved ones.  I remind them that everything will be okay.  We can get through anything together and that I am here for them.  Jesus assures us that He is near and that He cares.  When we cry out to God, “where are you?!”, “how can you let this happen?!”, “do you see or care?!”.  He answers, yes.  Jesus tells us, that He and the Father are one. If we wrestle with whether God cares about our struggles, we need look no further than Jesus.  Christ witnesses the Father’s love.  A love that isn’t remote or detached.  Rather, an immanent, incarnate, self-sacrificing, and eternal love.

When Christ says, “everything will be okay,” we can trust Him.  Many of the apostles doubted as Jesus hung on the Cross and died.  His mission appeared extinguished and their hopes dashed.  They reeled in confusion and fear.  We too can experience times like this.  When God allows suffering without revealing His reason, our faith gets tested – we either succumb to the confusion and fear like most of the apostles, or we remain with Him at the Cross like Mary and John.  Mary and John remained because they loved Jesus unconditionally.  They trusted Him when all visible signs were removed.  The more we draw near to Christ and develop our relationship with Him, the stronger our trust will be in times of darkness.  The saints experienced unshakable peace because they cooperated with grace and reached a state of total surrender to the Lord.

St. Teresa of Avila, declared a doctor of the Church, composed this beautiful prayer which describes this union:

Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices. — St. Teresa of Avila

In His Father’s house there are many rooms, and one especially prepared for you by Christ.  Trust in His love, Trust His Wisdom, Trust His Goodness…and let nothing trouble your hearts, that His Peace may be with you always.

Consider:

  • When have you experienced the peace of Christ?  After Mass, in praying with Scripture, in nature, through other Christians?
  • Consider the fears and anxieties you carry.  Lay them before the Lord in prayer and surrender them.  Consider the power of Christ to provide, the love of Christ which motivates Him, and the faithfulness of Christ who remains near us in every trial.
  • In what areas of your life do you trust God completely?  In what areas do you rely on yourself or conventional wisdom rather than Him?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Choose your biggest worry.  Begin and end each day surrendering it to God in prayer.
  • Pray the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila each day this week.
  • We make an act of trust in God when we tithe.  If you do not tithe already, begin this week.  If you tithe already but feel called to tithe more (10% is the commonly suggested amount), prayerfully make a financial act of trust in the Lord.
  • Pray Psalm 23 each day this week.
Why do you trust Jesus Christ?  Post in the comments section below!

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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

 

We All Need a Loving Gate-Keeper and Filter…Christ the Good Shepherd

by Angela Lambert

May 7th, 2017 4th Sunday of Easter

 

Gospel of John 10:1-19

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Meditation Reflection:

Quite often as a mom, I feel like a gate-keeper.  Before my kids go somewhere I need to know with whom, who the parents are, and approve.  Technology plagues me even more, with parent controls, ratings evaluations, and restrictions. The ever-multiplying accounts, passwords, devices, programs, and updates can feel like an interminable game of whack-a-mole.  Christmas and birthdays used to be fun, now they feel like a migraine-inducing tidal wave of gate-keeping duties, with impatient children complaining as I set the perimeter that I am being too slow, and of course, too controlling.  I’ve at least developed a one-line response to save my overtaxed brain from responding to the myriad of “logical” arguments and pleas of trust from my young teens. “It’s as simple as this,” I say, “You will not have unfiltered access to the internet.”  The Church could consider adding that as the 11th Commandment for the modern era.

Let’s face it, even adults, as children of God, need filters.   We too can be easily allured by promises of pleasure, freedom, status, or adventure from false advertisers; and I don’t just mean commercially.    Despite having everything, Adam and Eve fell prey to Satan’s proposition that God’s single rule (not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) was controlling, and denying them fun out of selfish motivations.  Satan continues to deceive us through similar false promises.

Just as predators try to find ways to get around parents to manipulate children, spiritual “thieves and robbers” try to get around Christ to attack us, God’s children.  First, they try to separate us from His influence by undermining our trust in Him, His Word, or His Church.  Common attempts sound something like: “Christ’s teachings hold you back. If you want to get ahead in life you have to be willing to get your hands dirty”, or “It’s not that you are going against Christ’s teachings, you are just modernizing them.”  In regards to those difficult passages in Scripture, the ones that really strike at your conscience, you will be urged to simply pass over them or interpret them in a more relaxed way – “Forgive others, yes, but forgive my ex?, I don’t think He meant that…”  Jesus stresses that we must die to ourselves in this life and deny ourselves.  Instead we rationalize that He only meant that symbolically, or at least in a modest way – like going on a diet or not aiming too high. Finally, the Church, Christ’s living voice of authority, is the clearest voice of our Shepherd and therefore the harshest recipient of worldly criticism.

We are children of God, in need of a loving gate-keeper.  Christ’s commands, given through Scripture and the Church, can seem restrictive and controlling if we have an adolescent view.  However, as we develop in spiritual maturity, we begin to appreciate the wisdom and the love underlying them.  When I’m tempted to brush off a Church teaching or a little pull at my conscience, I stop and recall that Christ loves me more than I love myself, and He is far wiser than me.  Who am I going to trust?  Any other false shepherd – whether secular culture, another person, or my own impulses – eventually drains rather than fills and proves a destructive, rather than uplifting force.

Christ, our Good Shepherd, leads to green pasture. He refreshes our souls and leads us beside peaceful waters (Psalm 23).  Jesus lamented to St. Faustina that distrust on the part of souls causes Him the greatest pain.  As a mom of teens, I know what He means.   I want my kids to trust me too, and so I repeat the prayer He gave to St. Faustina, “Jesus I trust in You.”

Consider:

  •  When have you been steered wrong – by others, by cultural norms, or by your own impulses?  What was the reason?  What did you learn?
  • When have you been steered right by Christ?  How has His wisdom brought deeper joy and fullness of life, even amidst suffering, than these other voices?
  • Have you ever had to be the gate-keeper for loved ones?  Consider the love it takes to be strong and the need for them to trust you.
  • How can you trust Christ more and listen to His voice more often?  Could you attend Church more regularly?  Could you invest more time into Christian friendships?  Do you make time to study your Bible, read quality devotionals, or learn more about your faith?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Choose one way to listen more to the voice of Christ this week.
    • Ideas:  Add 10 minutes to your prayer time, pray the rosary in the car, listen to Christian radio, listen to Christian podcasts, read the daily Scriptures (these can be found at usccb.org), post inspirational Scripture quotes in places you will see them often, meet with a Christian friend.
  • Consider adding a filter, rating restrictions, or accountability software to your personal technology.

Related posts:

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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

 

 

Walking With the Lord

by Angela Lambert

April 30th, 2017; Third Sunday of Easter

Gospel of Luke 24:13-35

That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

Meditation Reflection:

We are an Easter people.  Christians celebrate the Lord’s day on Sunday, the first day of the Jewish week, the day of Christ’s resurrection and the beginning of our new life in Him. The first day Christ rose from the dead, He visited His people, and He continues to visit us today.

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, our journey of faith includes moments of inspiration and awe, as well as confusion and discouragement.  At times, Christ’s teachings strike our hearts with the force of truth and His deeds inspire us to marvel at the miracles He works in our daily lives.  At other times, He seems hidden; or the Church, His Mystical Body, seems defeated by the world. Like Cleopas, we struggle to understand how the promise of freedom can be accomplished through suffering rather than political strength.

As disciples, which means followers, we can become too comfortable in our relationship with the Lord.   Christ meets us in our most vulnerable state.  He makes Himself close to us, even in our humanity.  At times, He veils His divinity, that we might approach Him. Yet, we need to remember, that Christ is the Lord and that His immanence proceeds from His loving desire to relate to us, not from a shared limitation as us.  St. Paul proclaims this mystery to the Philippians when he writes,

“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8

The Christian journey, like the Road to Emmaus, requires faith in the Person of Jesus Christ.  It means trusting Him who is both man and God.  This means that we will have times of elation where our hearts burn within us, and times of confusion.  We must remember, as Isaiah prophesied:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” Isaiah 55:8

In these moments, we can follow the example of the two disciples in today’s Gospel.  They considered everything that had happened in fellowship together.  We too should turn to Christian friends for spiritual guidance and comfort.  They listened to Christ when He appeared, even though they didn’t realize it was Him at first.  If we keep our hearts open as we do our daily duties, He can speak to us as well without realizing it at first.  Jesus turned them to Scripture to understand what had happened, and His Holy Spirit can open our minds to understand Scripture more deeply.  Their bible study walk with the Lord opened their minds to see God’s plan in a way they had not before.  We too should make an effort to get into our bibles, even reading a bible-study book or listening to Christian podcasts.  As the walk came to an end, Jesus did not push Himself on them.  Rather He provided an opportunity for them to separate from Him politely by pretending to be going on.  Thankfully, the two disciples invited Him in for dinner and pressed Him to stay.   Christ makes Himself available to us, and even takes the initiative in our relationship, nevertheless He desires that we invite Him in further.  Seemingly valid excuses will always present themselves to leave our Lord and go off to do something else.  We must resist letting our Lord walk on without us, and press Him to accompany us in each aspect of our day.

Lastly, the disciples recognized Christ in the breaking of the bread.  He made Himself known to them at Sunday Mass. The Church calls the Eucharist the “source and summit of our faith” because it is the Sacrament of Christ’s Real Presence – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.  The Son of God, who became incarnate, and “pitched His tent among us” (John 1:14),  continues to dwell with us in an immanent way in the Eucharist.  He makes Himself available in every tabernacle, in every Catholic Church, around the world.  All we need to do, is come and break bread with Him.

Our Christian faith is not a philosophy.  It’s an encounter with our Lord.  Founded on relationship, our faith grows deeper through time spent with Him in the Eucharist, in conversation, in Scripture, and in our daily walk.  Jesus suffered for us and with us.  His Cross is a mystery we will revisit throughout our Christian journey.  In times of confusion, we can take heart that He is near, He will bring understanding in His time, and that He is victorious.

Consider:

  • Reflect on what it means to be an Easter people.  How does the joy of the Resurrection, shape your worldview?
  • When have you experienced the humility of Christ?  When has He seemed especially near, compassionate, or merciful?
  • When has your faith required trust in the Person of Christ rather than human wisdom?
  • Imagine walking on the Road to Emmaus with Jesus.   Who would be the Christian friend with you on the journey.  What might you be saying to one another?  What would your reaction be when He revealed Himself in the breaking of the Bread?
  • How might you walk with the Lord each day?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Begin each day inviting Christ to walk with you and eat with you.
    • Think through your schedule for the day –  offer each thing to the Lord.  Pray for the grace to shine His light to all those you meet, offer your work as a sacrifice of praise, and pray for the graces needed to meet any challenging people or tasks ahead of you.
  • Visit the Lord in the breaking of the bread by spending time with Him at Eucharistic adoration, praying before Him in the tabernacle at your Church, or attending a daily Mass.
  • Make time for spiritual conversation with a Christian friend.

Related Posts:

Hope When Least Expected

Climbing the Mountain of God By Way of the Valley of Humility

Following Christ at all Costs

Amazing Grace

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Hard to Believe

by Angela Lambert

April 23rd, 2017; Divine Mercy Sunday

 Gospel of John 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”   Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Meditation Reflection:

Christ is risen, He has won victory over sin and death.  As He said to the Father from the Cross, His redemptive work “is finished.”  Jesus has done His part, now we must do ours.  When Jesus appeared to the apostles, He offered them Peace and forgiveness of sins; sending them out to extend His peace and forgiveness to the world.

Thomas missed the opportunity to encounter the risen Christ.  However, the apostles shared the Good News with him and offered the peace and hope that Christ had shared with them.  Thomas refused to accept it.  He refused to accept the authoritative word of the apostles and refused the joy and graces of the resurrection. Despite the numerous prophecies of Jesus that this would happen, or Thomas’ witness of Jesus’ power to raise the dead (even very recently with Lazarus), and ignoring the unanimous testimony of his fellow apostles, Thomas demanded to see it for himself before he would submit.

St. John shares with us that Thomas was also called “Didymus”, or “twin.”  How many of us could claim to be Thomas’ twin? We might be passionate about serving Christ, crying out “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16), but we struggle to resurrect with Christ.  Maybe we can accept that He has poured out His mercy in the lives of others, but we need to see it to believe it to accept it for ourselves.

When we truly realize the gravity of sin, especially our own sin, our feelings of shame and regret can challenge our trust in Jesus.  It’s easy to say, “Jesus died for our sins”; it’s much harder to believe “Jesus forgives me of this particular sin.”  That shame and regret then spirals further, making it seem impossible to begin anew.  “There can be no fresh start for me”, we say, then fruitlessly endeavor to redeem ourselves or despair altogether and give up.

If you struggle with overcoming shame and self-doubt by accepting the mercy of Christ, you are not alone.  Despite Thomas’ disbelief, Jesus mercifully appeared to him that he might believe and receive the gift of peace and life.  In 1931 Jesus appeared to a humble Polish nun, St. Faustina, asking her to spread the message of His mercy anew.  Jesus lamented to Faustina that distrust on the part of souls caused His greatest suffering.  Jesus burns with love for us and sacrificed to save us, but we cannot be saved if we refuse His love and mercy.  He appeared to her many times after that, with a message of mercy He wanted made known.  He asked for an image to be painted of Him, with two rays coming forth from His side – white and red – representing the water and blood which poured out of side from the Cross, and the words “Jesus I Trust in You” beneath.  We receive Jesus’ redemptive mercy through the sacraments when we are washed in the waters of baptism and united to Him in the sacrament of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  He also asked that a Feast of Mercy be instituted, to be a day of extraordinary graces and an opportunity for us to make an act of trust and abandon so that He could be free to pour out His transformative love.

St. John Paul II perceived the truth and wisdom of Jesus’ message to St. Faustina.  He affirmed her sanctity, canonizing her in 2000, and established the requested Feast of Divine Mercy as the Sunday following Easter. St. John Paul II witnessed the misery and despair caused by atheism – promoted by communism in his youth, and consumerism in his older age.  He worked tirelessly to the very end, to exhort us to trust in Jesus.  Even when Parkinson’s reduced him to a wheel chair and frustrated his speech, he proclaimed the Good News that Christ loves us and can transform us.  I remember the last time I saw John Paul II.  I attended a Wednesday audience at St. Peter’s in 2002.  The formerly vibrant, strong, energetic, outdoorsy pope, had to be wheeled out on stage.  He personally delivered his message even though his words slurred making it difficult to understand and bits of drool forced their way down his mouth.  I remember thinking, “what courage, what humility, what determination!”  No matter how hard his body fought against him, John Paul II proclaimed the Gospel of Christ with conviction.  George Weigel fittingly titled JPII’s biography as “Witness to Hope”.  Even on his death bed, thousands gathered outside the window to his room and millions (including me) held vigil while viewing it on TV.

St. John Paul II knew our struggle to accept Christ’s mercy and did everything he could to make that merciful love felt.  Pope Francis also perceives this problem and called a Jubilee Year of Mercy to renew the message in a powerful and universal way.  In his book The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis responds to the question “Why, in your opinion, is humanity so in need of mercy?” by relating this observation:

“—  Because humanity is wounded, deeply wounded.  Either it does not know how to cure its wounds or it believes that it’s not possible to cure them…  Humanity needs mercy and compassion.  Pius XII, more than half a century ago, said that the tragedy of our age was that it had lost its sense of sin, the awareness of sin.  Today we add further to the tragedy by considering our illness, our sins, to be incurable, things that cannot be healed or forgiven.  We lack the actual concrete experience of mercy. The fragility of our era is this, too:  we don’t believe that there is a chance for redemption; for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save you, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with infinite, patient, indulgent love; to put you back on your feet.  We need mercy.”

 

Like Thomas, many of us need to see mercy to believe it.  Jesus desires that we believe without seeing. Yet, He graciously touches our lives anyway as He did for Thomas, condescending even further to meet our weakness.

Today, on this Feast of Divine Mercy, let us be strengthened by the witnesses of hope that Christ has sent to us.  Let us take a leap of faith and trust Christ with abandon.  He invites us to receive His mercy in the sacraments of Confession and Communion where His blood His poured out in our soul to free us from sin and free us to love. Inspired by this love, He calls us to share the Good News with others and practice the works of mercy that they too might see His mercy through His Mystical Body, and believe.

Consider:

  • When have you experienced mercy?
    • In prayer or at church, did you experience the peace of Christ?
    • After Confession, have you experienced the feeling of joy?
    • Have you experienced emotional or material support from someone when you were in need?
  • Do you find it difficult to accept help from others?  Why do you think that is?
  • Do you find it hard to accept unconditional love from Christ?  Do you struggle with feelings of needing to earn His love or be perfect before you can be saved?  Pray about what underlies that resistance:
    • Is it pride – you want to feel worthy of friendship with the Lord?
    • Is it despair – you don’t believe Christ can accept you as you are?
    • Is it past wounds that need healing – you have been denied mercy by others or your understanding of your dignity has been chipped away by abuse or patterns of toxic thinking.
  • Reflect on the freedom and joy of unconditional, merciful love.
  • Offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving if you have experienced this.
  • If you haven’t experienced it, consider the example of people you know who have this exchange of love, or Christians who surrender to it in their relationship with Christ.  What do you notice about how it affects their perspective, their choices, their demeanor, and the quality of their life?
  • Who might you extend merciful love to?  What relationships have too many conditions?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, pray the words “Jesus I Trust in You,” multiple times throughout the day.
  • Read a psalm of praise each day, strengthening and proclaiming your belief in God’s love for you. (Try beginning with Psalm 139!)
  • Resolve on one way to be a person of mercy each day.  Decide on who, what, when, and where you can be an encounter with Christ’s merciful love to someone.  Works of Mercy

Related Posts:

Divine Mercy…Can you believe it?  (Divine Mercy Sunday 2016 Post)

Tough, Gentle Mercy

Hope…When Least Expected

Love and Mercy In Superabundance

Behold, I Make All Things New

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Behold, I Make All Things New…

by Angela Lambert

April 16th, 2017  Easter Sunday

 Gospel of John 20:1-9

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus is risen! Just when we think all is lost, He makes something new.  Jesus took His most beloved disciples by surprise, and He takes us by surprise as well.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (MT 16:24-25)

Death scares us by its finality, and the shroud of the mysterious unknown that surrounds it.  Yet, in Christ we can be confident that with death comes resurrection.  Jesus had warned, and promised:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

Every change, even welcomed ones, require us to leave the old behind in order to embrace the new.  It takes courage to leave a familiar prison, to embrace an unfamiliar freedom.  Today, we celebrate the victory of Christ, Who provides both the courage and the freedom we desire.

God’s love for us exceeds all our expectations.  His intervention in our lives, especially when we surrender completely to His will, always surprises us.  If we trust in Jesus each day, allowing Him to lead, He will bring richness, joy, peace, and deep love to our lives in ways we might not have forseen.

Today we celebrate new life.   We celebrate God’s love.  We celebrate God’s power and His victory over sin and death.  We celebrate His victory in our own lives and within our own hearts.  Our confidence can be renewed, that no struggle or suffering can stop Christ.  If we place our trust Him, He will heal and transform us, putting to rest the old for good and making something new.  Today, we celebrate our fresh start.  During Lent, we endeavored to face our sins and bring our guilt before the Lord.  Now, we get to leave that shame in the past, crucified with Christ, and begin something new.

Revelation 21:3-5“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.  He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”

 The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Consider:

  • Consider Christ’s victories in your life.
    • How have you grown?
    • In what way do you experience greater freedom than before?
    • What were you afraid of before, that you no longer fear?
    • What virtues has Christ developed in you?
    • How has your love for God and others deepened?
  • How has God surprised you?
    • When did He give you something more than you asked for?
    • When did His plan lead you down an unexpected road?
    • When have you experienced His loving mercy when you didn’t think you should?
  • Reflect on Christ’s love for you and His strength.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Resolve to begin anew today.  Make a concrete step to leave the old behind, no matter how comfortable it is, and allow Christ to lead you forward.

~ 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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He Shared In Our Suffering, And Carries Our Cross…Gospel Meditation for Palm Sunday

by Angela Lambert

April 9th, 2017; Palm Sunday

(For the longer version of today’s Gospel, click this link: Matthew 26:14-27:66)

Gospel of Matthew 27:11-54

Jesus stood before the governor, Pontius Pilate, who questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?” But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over. While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.” The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus. The governor said to them in reply, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They answered, “Barabbas!”

Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!” When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.

And when they came to a place called Golgotha — which means Place of the Skull —, they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall. But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink. After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left. Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the cross!” Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way.

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, ‘Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.” But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

Meditation Reflection:

Sin has a price.  During Holy Week, we contemplate Christ’s sacrifice for our salvation; the reason He became man and dwelt among us.  Jesus’ journey to the Cross began with His Incarnation in Mary’s womb.  Certainly, He ranks as the greatest Teacher in history, but He is much much more than that.  Divine Truth could not save us, without the gift of grace to transform us.  As St. Paul taught, the Mosaic Law condemns us.  Since we know the truth, we are all the guiltier when we transgress it.  The Mosaic Law provided the gift of wisdom, but it could not fortify a soul to follow it.  The thousands upon thousands of sacrificial lambs began the process of atonement for sin, but only the Lamb of God could justify us before the Lord.

Jesus knew every detail of His Passion before it occurred.  His human nature agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Eve of His crucifixion, even begging God that if it be His will, “to let this cup pass.”  Jesus willingly accepted His suffering and allowed Himself to be taken into custody, beaten, scourged, mocked, and crucified.  The Jews had tried to arrest Him several times before or stone Him for blasphemy, but to no avail.  They had no power of Jesus, only love and the cost for our redemption compelled Him forward.

Christ, though sinless Himself, entered into the messiness of our sinful human experience.  In doing so, He accomplished two things – first He redeemed us from our sins, and secondly, He drew near to comfort us in our struggles.  No one can say to the Lord, “you don’t understand, your God.”  Jesus experienced every humiliation that you and I suffer.  He grew up in poverty, His family had to flee persecution and live in exile for a period of time, the cultural elite looked down on Him and discounted His wisdom, He was often misunderstood – even by His closest companions, during His public ministry He had no home, some towns welcomed Him but others drove Him out of the city, on the hardest day of His life His friends fled and two betrayed Him, and at the end of His life it appeared that everything He had built was falling apart.  He experienced the fickle nature of human honors – being hailed as king as He entered Jerusalem with people waving palms shouting, “hosanna in the highest”, then the next day hearing the same crowd demand His execution shouting “crucify Him.”

When we cry out to God in our pain, weeping and begging as we ask “do you not see my suffering? Do you even care?”, we can be assured that He does, more than anyone else on this earth.  He became man so He could share in our suffering, carry our cross with us, and paying the price of our sins so we could live in the freedom of grace.  It may seem at times that God is silent, and we may struggle at His inaction.  Jesus experienced this too.  He asked in the Garden if there was another way.  On the Cross, He cried out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.”  Yet, He maintained complete confidence in God’s love and mercy.  He surrendered to God’s will at each step.  Even His final cry was one of hope.  He was quoting Psalm 22 which begins in anguish but ends in confidence that God will save. Jesus knew that His death would bring resurrection, for all men.  In the same way, we can be confident that we are never alone in our suffering, and with any death we experience, God will bring from it resurrection to new life.

Consider:

  • Consider each of Jesus’ sufferings.
    • His agony in the Garden – taking upon Himself the weight of our sins, fighting the human impulse to flee pain, the apostles asleep in His hour of need, the betrayal by Judas
    • His condemnation by the Sadducees and then by Pilate.  Standing silent without retort.
    • Hearing the crowd reject Him, even though He had done nothing but show them love.  Hearing them demand His crucifixion.  The vicious envy of the Jewish leaders and the shallowness of the people in the crowd who were so easily influenced.
    • The bloody scourging, which bruised and tore His flesh and resulted in losing a great deal of blood.
    • The mocking of the guards and the crown of thorns.  Choosing to endure rather than to argue back or overpower them.
    • Carrying the heavy cross, after a sleepless night and so much blood loss.  Fighting the weakness of His body with each step, and the shock of pain with each fall under its weight.  The chaos of the crowds pressing in on Him.
    • The humiliation of being stripped of His clothes.
    • The brutal crucifixion.
  • Consider the cost of your sins.  In what ways do others pay a price for your sin?  Are there persons particularly affected by your impatience, envy, pride, competitiveness, desire for attention, gossip, or other shortcomings?
  • In what ways do you pay a price for the sins of others?  How can imitating Christ’s example of forgiveness lift someone up with whom you struggle?
  • Consider your darkest moments and your deepest pain.  Reflect on how Christ has shared that same experience and suffered the same emotions – anxiety, humiliation, rejection, loss.
  • Consider the immense, unconditional love that Christ has for you.  Consider the lengths to which He willingly went, to protect and save you – to give you life and joy to the fullest.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, ask Christ to show you someone who is suffering.  Comfort that person in some way, so as to offer comfort to Christ in His sufferings.

Related Posts:

The Easter Triduum…Entering the Mystery

Receiving Christ’s Gift Graciously…Gospel Meditation for Palm Sunday (2016)

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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

 

Stating the Facts & Facing the Conclusions

by Angela Lambert

March 26th, 2017; 4th Sunday of Lent

Gospel of John 9:1-41

As Jesus passed by He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—. So he went and washed, and came back able to see. His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I don’t know.” They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.” So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out. When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

 Meditation Reflection:

Another long passage.  Why?  Two in a row?  Is it because it’s Lent and the Church wants to test or patience?  No, despite our ever-shortening attention spans, we still need to hear real stories of real people’s transformation in Christ.

John could only include a sliver of these experiences in his Gospel, so he reserved room for the most powerful or most instructive.  His Gospel is not written as myth or legend, but as testimony.  Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well taught us the surprising nature of the kingdom of God which we, like many of the Jews at the time, may find difficult to understand on a natural level. Jesus’ healing of the man born blind, testifies to the undeniable evidence of Jesus’ divine origin.  Thus, discipleship of Christ cannot be sustained by natural reason alone, which is why believing in Him as merely a good moral teacher is not enough and not very effective.  Rather, disciples follow Christ based on faith in Who He is.  This faith may develop gradually over a period of time and interaction like the Samaritan woman’s village with whom Jesus spent two days, or happen in a miraculous moment like the man born blind.  Either way, the call of discipleship exceeds our understanding, and can only make sense if we believe that Jesus is truly God.

Discipleship, therefore, begins with encounter and follows with witness.  The man born blind stated the facts of the situation without interpretation several times.  The Pharisees refused to acknowledge the logical conclusion so they tried to raise doubts about the premises.  Finally, the exasperated man connected the dots for them and stated the logical conclusion. He was born blind, now he is not blind; only God could have given him sight ; God only blesses those whom He approves; therefore…Jesus is from God.  For the Pharisees to reject Christ when the miracle was standing right in front of them, was to willingly choose blindness.  God acts in our lives daily and has sent His only Son for our salvation.  We have no more excuses for our ignorance.

The Pharisees tried to pit Jesus against Moses, but Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a new Moses.  Moses received the Law from God and brought it to the people.  Jesus is God, and communicates the New Law from His own authority.  He also, therefore, has the authority to correct any misinterpretations or mis-applications of the Old Law.

God also promised, that someone from the line of David would always be king.  As the New David, Jesus takes up the crown as eternal king.  When God told the prophet Samuel to go to the house of Jesse and anoint one of his sons as the new king, Samuel expected the oldest to be chosen.  Instead, God chose the youngest.  This was such an unforeseen call, that David wasn’t even present at the visit but instead was tasked with tending the sheep.  Just as God said to Samuel regarding David, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7), so the blind man gave witness to Jesus by his miraculous and supernatural sight.  One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see…It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”

All Christians are called to bear witness to Christ, evidenced by His transformative power in their lives.  How others react to that witness, brings to light their true state of soul.  We all have an innate yearning for God.  We sometimes avoid Him however to continue in some of our sins.  Sometimes we feign ignorance, rationalize away Christ’s teaching, or discount the witness given by the lives of strong Christians we know, so we can avoid facing the truth about our attachments.  We cannot hide any longer.  Christ has come, His light has shone, and He continues to live and act through His Mystical Body the Church.  He has given a New Law as our Eternal King.  His expectations exceed our natural abilities and weakness, but His grace makes the Christian life possible.

The more our relationship with Christ develops, the more our faith will strengthen and our trust in Him will grow.  Then, when the Christian life tests our minds and hearts, we will hopefully respond as St. Peter did, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) and to give witness as St. John does at the beginning of His Gospel: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as the only-begotten Son from the Father.” (John 1:14)

Consider:

  • Where would you consider yourself in your spiritual journey?
    • Initial Outreach – just beginning the search for God, curious about Jesus but unsure of whether to follow Him
    • Early Development – responding to Christ, learning His truths, forming convictions, developing Christian habits, shedding sinful habits, wavering but growing stronger
    • Disciple – follower of Christ, faith in Him and trust in Him above oneself, motivated by love and loyalty, allowing Christ full authority to transform you, witness of His life in you
  • If, like the man born blind, you were asked to testify about your encounter with Christ, what would you say?  What would be the “facts” of the case, and what would be your conclusions?
  • How has the Christian witness of others strengthened your faith or moved you to make a serious change in your life?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each morning take five minutes of prayer to think about your day ahead, and resolve to  witness to Christ in one to three concrete ways.
    • Consider in each aspect – home, work, recreation, family time.
    • Think of ways in each area you can live your Christian faith and witness to Christ by either your words or your actions.
    • Resolve on one thing to say or do in each area for the day.
    • At the end of the day, reflect back on how you did.  Praise God for your successes, and where you failed ask for grace to do better tomorrow.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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