“You are Witnesses of These Things”

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, Easter, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

3rd Sunday of Easter

Read the Gospel of Luke 24:35-48

Meditation Reflection:

Christ’s parting words summon every disciple to be a witness of their encounter with Him, repentance for sin, and God’s merciful love. 

In our frenzied culture many people vacillate from anxious stress to temporary escape through superficial pleasures.  In contrast, disciples of Christ rest in His Peace and rejoice in all circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:18).  When others wonder if anything can be true or lasting, Christians make decisions with confidence knowing that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that He has a plan for their lives.  Although choices may not be easy, Christ’s disciples can look to His teachings, His Church, and to the Holy Spirit to guide them, Who “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). 

Worried about the future or how to find meaning in life, many turn to psychics, gurus, ideologies, pop culture, or other general spiritualities.  In contrast, Christians encounter Jesus – who is alive and real, and therefore has the power to truly act in their lives on their behalf. They know that everything will be okay, because Jesus has conquered death and made them adopted children of the Father.  They experience the deepest kind of meaning in their lives because they believe that every act of love and kindness will reverberate into eternity.  Wealth, status, beauty, health, fame, and honor can all be taken away in a moment against one’s will.  Faith, hope, love, goodness, joy, and peace cannot – as so many martyrs and persecuted Christians have witnessed in the past and continue to do so today.

Our witness requires speaking about our faith at times.  We need to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” as St. Peter instructed (I Peter 3:15).  This means immersing ourselves in Scriptures and prayer and making an effort to keep learning more about our faith.  In this way, we can then pass on our faith to our children and stand up for the truth in society.

Our encounter with Christ is also witnessed in our silence.  I once had the opportunity to attend a private Mass at the Vatican with Pope St. John Paul II in 2001 along with about 20 other people.  When we entered the chapel, he was already there kneeling before the Lord intense in prayer.  His silent conversation with Christ was so real it was palpable.  When Moses returned from Mount Sinai the people knew he had encountered God because “the skin of his face had become radiant while he spoke with the Lord” (Exodus 34:29 NAB).  People often say of new mothers or new couples in love, that they are “glowing”.  Love has a way of doing that. When we spend time with Christ in prayer, when we walk with him throughout the day, we too glow with His love.  Imaginary myths or wishful thinking cannot produce this kind of radiance.

Finally, Christ becomes visible to others through His work from within us.  If I came home and the house were a mess, I wouldn’t believe my husband if he said that he had hired a maid for us.  If, however, when I returned home all the dishes were done, the floors vacuumed, laundry washed, and surfaces dusted, I would believe his word without even having met the person – their work would be evidence of their existence.  In the same way, if we tell others of Christ’s redeeming grace but remain the same mess of sin and confusion, it may be hard for them to believe.  However, when we tell them of how Christ transformed us, and they see our anger replaced with love, envy replaced with gratitude and contentment, and selfishness replaced with loving relationship, His grace will be evident to them in a real way.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).  God is here.  He is real.  We struggle to see because we are blinded by things – pleasure, over-ambition, anxiety, fear, anger, greed, and other distractions.  The more we cooperate with Christ to remove these obstacles the more easily we will see God, and the more easily others will see Him in us. 

Consider:

  • Who do you know that seems to “glow” with love for Christ?  Who seems to radiate His peace?
  • When have you experienced the peace of Christ?
  • When have you found Jesus’ words to be true?
  • How might you become more pure in heart?  What obstacles blur your vision?  How might you grow your love for the Lord?

Practical Application:

  • Try to keep Christ present in your heart throughout the day.  Spend 10 minutes in prayer every morning, pause for a prayer midday, and close with 5 minutes of prayer in the evening. 
  • Learn more about the faith by joining a bible study, attending Faith Formation at your parish, or reading a book about the faith with a group of Christian friends.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

The Trap of Self-Reliance

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

2nd Sunday of Easter/Sunday of Divine Mercy

Read the Gospel of John 20:19-31

Meditation Reflection:

The Christian faith is neither a well-crafted myth nor a brilliant philosophy.  Rather, the Christian religion is based on eye-witness testimony of the resurrected Lord.

It began with the testimony of Mary Magdalene, who encountered the risen Christ in the morning when she went to His tomb and was subsequently sent by Him to tell the apostles.  They felt excited and a bit confused “for they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9 NAB).   In the evening, Jesus appeared to them as well except for Thomas who wasn’t there.  Upon seeing Him with their own eyes they believed and rejoiced. 

When they shared their Good News with Thomas he refused belief until he could see it for himself.  Thomas had been willing to die with Christ (John 11:7-8, 16) but he couldn’t envision rising with Him. In consequence, his faith – though fiercely loyal – remained limited to his own personal experience. One week later however, Jesus showed mercy toward Thomas’ obstinate self-reliance, appearing to him in the flesh and so enabling Thomas to believe. 

We too can fall into the trap of self-reliance in matters of faith – limiting our belief to personal experience and rejecting the witness of Jesus’ apostles and His Church.  Our present culture tends toward “cafeteria Christianity”, meaning we pick and choose what we like and leave what we don’t.  We view doctrine as a buffet of ideas that we can take or leave according to our personal preferences and reasoning. 

Imagine Thomas saying to the other ten, “you have your truth and I have my truth, one is not better than the other.”  Yet, one is that Jesus is risen and the other is that Jesus is dead!  How could Jesus’ Church endure with such conflicting beliefs?  The same remains true today.  Capitulating to the attitude of an individualistic faith undermines Christ’s work.

Jesus chose to share His Truth and grace through the apostles’ witness (and their successors – the pope and bishops).  Their interpretation of Scripture and the power of their miracles came from the Holy Spirit bestowed on them by the Lord. At the final moment of Jesus’ death, He breathed His last and surrendered His Spirit to the Father.  On the evening of His resurrection, He breathed upon the Apostles, and gave them His Spirit and His authority:

“‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” John 20:21-23

Christianity is an encounter with the incarnate God who dwells within the very souls of His baptized disciples and makes them one Body.  Jesus is not a restauranteur who offers the world’s greatest buffet.  He is the Son of God who desires all persons to be united as a family in the Lord.  He therefore established a visible Church endowed with His invisible presence to guide and govern its members to His eternal kingdom.

Today, one week after Easter, we celebrate the inexhaustible, generous, mercy of Christ which He lavishes on all who will accept it. As He did for Thomas on this same day, Christ reaches down into the darkest parts of our souls, to our most acute failures and sins, to apply the healing balm of His Merciful Love poured out on the Cross for our salvation. Our Lord is a crucified Lord.  When He appeared to the apostles “He showed them His hands and His side” (John 20:20).  He did not choose, as Satan tempted Him to be in the desert, a king without the Cross.  Similarly, true disciples are crucified disciples.  They have died to self, and self-reliance, and live by the Holy Spirit in communion with the Church.

There’s no sin too great for Jesus to forgive. He only requires a repentant heart which chooses to trust in His love.  There’s also no weakness of faith He can’t strengthen, no doubt He can’t heal, and no question of doctrine He can’t explain to you – if you let Him.  And remember, He has given us the fellowship of the Apostles through both the Scriptures and the living voice of authority in His Church.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29). Today’s Gospel passage concludes with John offering the same witness to us that was offered to Thomas. Today is the day to surrender to Christ in prayer every doubt you harbor and every limitation you place on faith.  Then, receive His mercy in daily prayer, immersion in the Scriptures, the Eucharist at Mass, and trying to learn the Church’s reasons for her doctrines.  In consequence, you too will become an eye-witness of the resurrected Christ to others.

Consider:

  • When buying a product online or hiring someone for a house project, how much credence to you give to people’s reviews?  How much credence to you give to the testimony about Jesus from the Apostles, the saints and martyrs, the Christians you know who testify to the Lord’s work in their lives?
  • It’s hard to trust someone you can’t see.  Do you make Christ visible to others in your life?  How might you witness the reality of His truth and mercy even more?
  • Reflect on the choice presented today: whether to sand stubbornly in self-reliance or enter the communion of the Body of Christ – His Church – and lean on one another.
  • Jesus told St. Faustina that His greatest pain is distrust on the part of souls in His mercy.  In his book, The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis observed that we fail to believe in Christ’s mercy because we have no experience of mercy in our lives and therefore believe no one – not even Christ – will help us.
    • To what extent has this been your experience? 
    • What makes it difficult to trust Christ? 
    • How might you extend mercy to the people in your daily life so they might believe in Christ’s mercy?

Practical Application:

  • Every time you feel helpless, turn to Christ in prayer and throw yourself at His mercy. Repeat the words He asked St. Faustina to have written under His image: “Jesus, I Trust In You.”
  • Do one work of mercy each day.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

I highly recommend both the Diary of St. Faustina and The Name of God is Mercy .

A beautiful exemplar of Christ’s merciful love is Mother Teresa. I also recommend her book A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve

That Others May See More of Christ In You

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Read the Gospel of John 12:20-33

Meditation Reflection:

Someone may say to you one day, “[Your Name], I would like to see Jesus.”  Imagine that for a moment and take it in.  A person looking to you with a hopeful and somewhat anxious expression, addressing you by name, and depending on you to connect them to Christ.

“Why me?” you might say.  In a secular culture void of God, searching souls see Christ from a distance and feel more at a loss to find their way to Him than you may think.  Your relationship with Jesus, and their relationship with you, may be the bridge they need.

Yet, to be Christ’s light and love in the world, to be a bridge, demands a serious choice which will decide the trajectory of your whole life.  Jesus made this choice, and so must each of His followers.  The choice – to live for yourself or to live for the Lord, to build a life of your own making or to build the kingdom of God.

A grain of wheat, in and of itself, is small and insignificant – enough to feed only a bird. Yet, within it lies tremendous potential – enough to feed human persons.  The movement from potential to actuality however begins with death.  If a grain were a conscious soul with a mind and will, it would see before it a decision:

  1. Go on living as a seed for itself, unchanged and comfortable.
  2. Surrender itself to the Creator, be broken apart in death and then transformed into something new and quite different from its experience as a seed.

Although the second option sounds scary, to grow and change also entails being lifted up from the ground, becoming tall stalks of wheat, and finally, maturing to the point where it can be picked as harvest for others.  The first choice may be easier, but the second adds so much more meaning to its life.

As Jesus’ Hour approached – His Passion and Death, He came to the final crossroads of His decision.  He had said Yes to the Father when He agreed to become man at the incarnation, He had said No to Satan’s temptations in the desert, and now as His ultimate sacrifice approached He weighed His decision aloud for His disciples to hear and one day imitate. 

Jesus didn’t want to suffer but He did want to save us. So, what was He really to do?  Christ’s magnanimous love refused to live for Himself, so He chose the path to the Cross.  He chose to die that He might be lifted up – on the Cross and in His Resurrection – and thereby bear fruit that gives all mankind who plucks it eternal life.

To be Christ’s disciples, we need to be nourished by Him first. Under the appearance of wheat bread in the host, He gives His very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to us in the Eucharist.  With this union and grace, He begins His work transforming our souls, if we let Him.

He starts by breaking down sin and selfishness.  Dying to ourselves marks the first stage of development.  Thus prayer, fasting, and almsgiving facilitate this process by putting God first, denying ourselves pleasures, and opening ourselves up to the poor around us. 

From this death to self however, which no doubt is painful, emerges transformation.  Sin and self at bay, Christ is more free to build virtues within us and to grow authentic Christian love.  The process snowballs positively as the greater one loves, the easier sacrifice becomes.  In full Christian development, love is so perfected that it, like Christ, can’t bear to choose pleasure or comfort over love of God and neighbor. We experience something of this in human loves between parent and child, spouses, or dear friends.  In loving relationships, giving of one’s self or possessions is felt to be an opportunity rather than a burden.

In this fifth week of Lent, you may be feeling the pain of perseverance in the commitments you made Ash Wednesday.  However, the more weak you feel on your own, the more reliant you become on Christ and His grace to support you.  Have hope, we are past the midpoint!  Just as there can be no Easter Sunday without Good Friday, we can’t truly feast until we’ve fasted.  The more we enter in to Lent, the more joy we will experience during Easter.  

Like Jesus, we might pray to the Father:

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.” (v.27)

We choose death to self because we desire life in Christ – which we know to be much happier, peaceful, and fulfilling than anything we could construct for ourselves.  We don’t die for its own sake but rather to receive greater life. 

Jesus teaches, “If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also” (v.26). In consequence, as we approach Holy Week we endeavor to be with our Lord wherever He is – at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, at the Cross on Good Friday, waiting in anticipation Holy Saturday, and rejoicing in His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

If we persevere and remain near to Christ, those near to us can be blessed by His Presence too. Our lived discipleship might drive out the lies of Satan with Christ’s Truth.  You could be a witness that Christ brings true happiness to someone disillusioned by the world’s false promises.  Your unconditional love could drive out the lie that someone is only as valuable as they are useful.  Your forgiveness could cast out the temptation of despair with the truth of mercy. 

Christ’s saving love draws everyone to Himself.  If we allow ourselves to be conformed to Him, we just might be that bridge to Christ for someone’s salvation, or that stalk of wheat which they pluck to receive our Lord for the first time.

Consider:

  • Meditate on the words, “we would like to see Jesus.”  Make this your prayer to the Holy Spirit and spend 5 minutes in silent prayer listening.
  • Consider Christ’s gift of self for you.  Pray about how you might give more of yourself to Him and to others.
  • How does your life witness your faith to others, and in what ways do you sometimes hide your faith?
    • Are you a joyful or a gloomy Christian?
    • In conversations, does your speech reflect your Christian values or do you participate in gossip or vulgar jokes.
    • Do you speak about your church or priest with respect or are you overly critical?
    • Do you reach out to persons at work or in your neighborhood who seem to be friendless or having a tough time, or are you too focused on your own life?
    • Do you greet people with a smile? (one of Mother Teresa’s common suggestions)

Practical Application:

  • Invite someone to Mass or Bible Study with you this week.
  • Pray with someone this week.
  • Intentionally greet each person with a smile, even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Pray the Stations of the Cross.  Meditatively be with Christ at each step. 

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

I Can’t Believe My Eyes

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

2nd Sunday of Lent

Read the Gospe1 of Mark 9:2-10

Meditation Reflection:

I can’t believe my eyes!  Peter, James, and John must surely have thought this at the Transfiguration. They would again – though for a different reason – at the Cross; and again at the sight of the risen Lord. There, at the Transfiguration, Jesus’ divinity and Messianic promise radiated unveiled in glory.  Despite the awe inspired by this divine theophany, they struggled to understand what Jesus later meant by rising from the dead.

The Apostles believed Jesus to be the Messiah and remained with Him through the entire three-year tenure of His public ministry.  Nevertheless, they often underestimated Christ, and despite the innumerable miracles they witnessed firsthand, regularly regressed to earthly problem solving without calculating the supernatural aid of their divine Master.  Consider the storm on the sea in which they were sure they would drown while Jesus lay asleep (Mark 4:35-41), or their concern over forgetting to bring bread on their voyage even though Jesus had just multiplied loaves and fish on two different occasions for the multitudes (Mark 8:14-21). 

People often say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Yet, despite witnessing miracle after miracle in our own lives, we continue to worry anyhow.  Jesus could very well say to many of us, “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:18).  

Every disciple of Christ struggles to move from the immediacy of the visible world, to consistent sight of the even deeper reality of the invisible world.  Discipleship requires the movement of grace and the Holy Spirit to enable us to follow the Lord where He leads, even though it may mystify and surprise us.  As God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,      neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth,      so are my ways higher than your ways     and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

During Lent we take a step back to evaluate just how deep our faith really goes.  For example, do you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, trusting wholeheartedly that if you do so He will provide for everything else (Matthew 6:33)?   Or do you hedge your bets, keeping up worldly-minded safety nets in case God doesn’t come through for you?

These attachments hold us back from full freedom in the Lord.  Like the apostles, we worry about things like bread and tents (financial and physical security), when Christ has provided everything we need and more…including life itself and a room in His Father’s house. As we contemplate the awesome, sacrificial love of Christ, we are challenged to invite Him more fully into every aspect of our lives.  Certainly He has proven that we can trust Him – the man that died and rose again for us, the man who is also God! 

So, consider: What limits do you place on God? Where are the boundaries of your faith? Do you trust God to secure your eternal home, but doubt with matters related to your earthly one?  Sometimes the visible world can seem more real than the invisible.  The immediacy and demands of each day’s tasks can beguile our imagination into feeling as if God is remote and unrelated to the day’s needs, at least in any concrete or practical way. However, God is Lord of Heaven and Earth. 

Abraham believed this to his very core.  He trusted God to be Who He claimed to be.  His faith was so confident that he raised his knife to sacrifice his only beloved son and his only hope of a legacy, believing God could raise Isaac from the dead if need be. St. Paul described Abraham’s magnanimous faith in his letter to the Hebrews saying:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said ‘Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.’  He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence he did receive him back, and this was a symbol.” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

The eyes of faith see the visible and the invisible.  They “understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (Hebrews 11: 3).  Faith trusts that God is who He says He is, and who He has shown Himself to be time and again.  Yes, it exceeds our understanding, because for us many things are impossible, but “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). 

As we journey through Lent, may we place our trust more fully in Jesus Christ. Maybe by the end, we will be somewhat closer to the confidence St. Paul expressed in his letter to the Romans:

“If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” Romans 8:31-32

Consider:

  • Sarah conceived Isaac despite being barren and past the natural age.  God did this because Sarah believed in the power and faithfulness of God.  “She considered Him faithful Who had promised” (Hebrews 11: 11).
  • Consider God’s faithfulness.  How has God been there for you when it counted?  How has He answered prayers in a way you didn’t expect?  How has He brought good out of a bad situation?
  • Consider God’s generosity. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you look back on the day, week, year, and course of your life and see God’s blessings.  Then spend a few minutes in prayers of gratitude.
  • Entrust your cares to Christ. Make a list of your worries or of what’s weighing on your heart and surrender them to Him.

Practical Application:

  • Pray the Act of Faith, Divine Praises, Serenity Prayer, or Suscipe Prayer each day this week.
  • Make a gratitude list each day.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

Private v. Public

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Read the Gospel of Mark 1:40-45

Meditation Reflection:

Encounter with Christ can seem paradoxical – both private and public, personal and communal, and silent or exclamatory. We experience the healing of Christ when we go to Him in the quiet solitude of personal pleading in faith to our Lord, whether in moments of private prayer or in approaching him through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession.  At the same time, love and gratitude from this experience overflow our hearts and almost compel us to share it. 

In addition, sometimes Jesus instructed people to tell of their experience, and at other times He bade them to be quiet.  Similarly, the Church sends out missionaries to preach the Gospel in every corner of the world, and at the same time relies on the cloistered prayer of contemplatives and hermits.  Our own duty to attend communal worship at Mass on Sunday, is fed by daily personal prayer all week, and vice versa.

In our own lives we may experience both calls too.  At times Jesus asks us to withdraw in quiet faithfulness, alone with Him and just a few close followers.  At other times, He calls us to publicly witness our faith to others in a visible way. 

How do we discern the difference? Listen. Just listen to the Holy Spirit Who guides the heart’s prayer and provides the words of witness.  The man in this passage couldn’t help but share his joy, it was too overwhelming to keep to himself.  Jesus did ask him to keep quiet because Jesus wanted it to be a personal not public miracle.  Yet, His personal miracles in our lives become public as our joy radiates. 

Consider:

  • How has Christ been working in your life? What are the small (or big) miracles?
  • Is Jesus calling you now into a time of quiet or of witness, or both?
  • How does taking time for personal prayer, make your Mass experience richer?
  • Spend time offering your plea to Christ like the leper in this passage, and time listening and receiving His healing touch.

Practical Application:

  • Read the lives of the saints this week – they offer real life examples of this paradoxical tension between silence and solitude, and courageous witness.

(If you don’t know who to read about, look up the saint of the day online)

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

Shining a Light into The Darkness

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Read the Gospel of Mark 1:21-28

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus casts out demons, He frees us from their lies and from the darkness of sin.  This is truly a gift and a great relief! Our present secular culture needs this gift.  Marked by the highest levels of anxiety and depression, the darkness from which these symptoms often proceed need to be cast out with the authority and light of Christ.

The great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), explored the relationship between darkness, sin, and anxiety in his work The Christian and Anxiety.  He noted, “The main effect of darkness is that it separates, isolates, makes lonely.”  Similarly, the darkness of sin separates the sinner from others, isolates him from God whose light he evades to continue in sin, resulting in dark loneliness.  In Exodus, the penultimate plague aptly signified the culmination of Pharaoh’s obstinate evasion of God, who had made Himself visibly manifest.  A darkness came over the Egyptians for three days, “a darkness to be felt” (Exodus 10:21) The dense, suffocating, darkness effected a social paralysis, symptomatic of their spiritual sickness. 

and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; they did not see one another, nor did any rise from his place for three days; but all the people of Israel had light where they dwelt” (Exodus 10:22-23). 

Von Balthasar asserted that the loss of light signifies the loss of reality.  Without light we cannot see and therefore remain trapped by our imagination. Reflecting on Wisdom chapter 17, he wrote, “The wicked are afraid of Nothing, of nothing real.”  God is Reality.  His divine Name, Yahweh, which means “I Am”, revealed Him to be existence itself.  Therefore, to hide from His Light, to duck His Truth, means to retreat into an imaginary world of one’s own creation. It deprives us of the answers we need most of all – Who am I?  What is my purpose?  What is the meaning of life? How do I find happiness?  

Denial as a coping method may be alluring, but rarely helpful. For example, avoiding the truth about a physical illness provides a temporary relief and façade of healthiness.  However, the illness usually worsens without treatment and the anxiety one initially avoided only intensifies due to procrastinating the cure. In the same way, one can only self-soothe by justifying sin for so long before the underlying dread and pain of spiritual illness becomes too intense to deny.

Sin can become paralyzing.  Left untreated for too long it can feel insurmountable.  Satan, the “Accuser” as Jesus calls him, whispers fearful lies into the darkness to keep a person from reentering the light.  The demons of shame, despair, and distrust bind the sinner to his dark loneliness. 

Yet, into this darkness, Christ the Light broke through.  He “spoke with authority” because He spoke Truth, thereby dispelling lies.  His Light cast out the demons of darkness, His Truth cast out the Father of Lies, and His merciful love strengthened and healed so the sinner could become whole again.  How many miracles of Jesus demonstrate this!  The paralyzed man who could walk again.  The lepers, cast out from society, healed and able to rejoin their families.  The demoniacs freed and restored to their loved ones.  Christ’s light shone on prostitutes, tax collectors, and pagans.  He liberated them from a kingdom of degradation and made them citizens and children of His Kingdom of God. 

Christ continues to bring His light into the darkness through His Mystical Body the Church.  He invites us into His healing love, then His light begins to shine in us.  Wherever we are, that light shines simply by union with Him. 

Elizabeth Leseur (1866-1914), a devout Catholic living in an upper-class, atheistic, French society provides a concrete example of how to be a light in darkness.  Elisabeth and her husband Felix loved one another intensely and shared an inspiring intimacy of marital friendship. As a result, it pained her severely that he was an ardent atheist.  Her love for God and her love for Felix were both so deep, and yet she couldn’t share that deepest part of herself with the man she loved the most, nor see him receive the joys and graces she enjoyed as a Christian. 

She made it her apostolate to pray and sacrifice for his conversion and for their friends.  Most everyone in their society of friendship were intellectuals and anti-Catholic.  Her diary reveals how she prayerfully navigated ministering to them, bringing light to the darkness through her hidden interior life, her faithful exterior practices, her patient silence, and her readiness to speak boldly and intelligently for Christ if the moment necessitated it.  After her death, her husband discovered her secret diary.  The insights into her interior life, together with his experience of her daily love during their marriage, softened his heart and converted his soul.  He went from being a hardened atheist to later becoming a Catholic priest!

Elisabeth brought her light into the darkness and it freed the one she loved the most.  One of her resolutions in her diary can be instructive for us in the same effort.  In today’s Gospel Jesus spoke with authority and it struck people.  Elisabeth discovered the same thing in her own interactions.  She found that somehow her personal conviction of faith, was itself a strong testimony, strengthened more by authenticity and simple truth than by long explanations trying to persuade.  She wrote,

“Each time the conversation leads me to speak of faith, I will do so simply, but in a direct and firm way that will leave no doubt as to my convictions.  Cleverness is nothing in such things; I am struck with the fact that unbelievers have more sympathy with people of deep faith than with those of variable and utilitarian views.  These dear unbelievers attend more to those who are ‘intransigent’ regarding the Faith than to those who by subtlety and compromise hope to bring them to accept the Faith. And yet the bold statement must be made with the most intelligent sympathy and the liveliest and most delicate charity.”[i]

Our culture suffers under “a darkness that can be felt,” but Christ’s light shines into that darkness to cast it out and replace it with freedom. As St. John testified:

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5

May the light of Christ shine in and through us!


[i] Elisabeth Leseur, The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur: The Woman Whose Goodness Changed Her Husband from Atheist to Priest, Sophia Institute Press, 2002.

Consider:

  • Are there shadows of darkness with which you struggle?  Bring them to prayer and expose them to the light of Christ in Scripture and the sacraments.
  • Compare who the world says that you are and what your worth is, with who Christ says that you are.  Which do you listen to more?  How might you strengthen Christ’s voice within you?
  • Spend 5 minutes of silent prayer, loving Christ and receiving His love.
  • How might you grow your relationship with Christ and let Him shine more brightly in your life?  How might you bring His warmth, love, and truth to those in your life?

Practical Application:

  • Resolve to pray for and develop a deeper love for Christ and to shine Him more brightly.
  • Pray the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi daily.
  • Pray the Rosary.  Mary always purifies and strengthens our love for Jesus.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

The Priority of Being Present

by Angela M Jendro

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Gospel of Luke 10:38-42 NAB

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Meditation Reflection:

Theologians and spiritual writers often point to this passage as a teaching on the active life of service and the contemplative life of prayer.  I find it also provides rich insights into the life of family. Martha’s home – her welcoming love and hospitality – together with the company of her sister Mary and brother Lazarus, became a place of respite and comfort for Christ.

His relationship with their family began with Martha’s initiative as He entered their village.  Just prior to this passage, Luke recounted the many places and people that either failed to receive Jesus or rejected him outright.  Martha however invited Him into her home and served Him with gracious hospitality.

In family life, welcoming children begins with a similar openness toward receiving others whenever they arrive and a readiness to serve.  In fact, in Luke 9:48, Jesus lauded this service, promising: “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” Oftentimes however, parents become “burdened with much serving” like Martha.  Babies require constant care day and night, young children need continual help, pre-teens need a frenetic amount of chauffeuring, and teens still require guidance and massive food intake.

These daily battles don’t go unnoticed by Chirst and He appreciates every sacrifice we make.  He also understands how even the best intentions and sacrificial serving can go awry if we allow our work to become a source of untethered anxiety and worry, distracting us from the relationships that it was meant to nurture and undermining our own spiritual health.   Jesus did not scold Martha for working too hard, He voiced His concern for her anxiousness.  Her worry had sabotaged her ability to be present in the moment and began to skew her perspective.  When she tried to drag Mary into her frenzy Jesus prevented her and gently helped Martha see where she had crossed the line.

Pope Francis also noted this challenge to modern families in his apostolic letter The Joy of Love .  Citing responses he had received from the questionnaire he had sent out prior to the Synod on the Family, he acknowledged:

Many of the respondents pointed to the problems families face in raising children.  In many cases, parents come home exhausted, not wanting to talk, and many families no longer even share a common meal.  Distractions abound, including an addiction to television…Other responses pointed to the effect of severe stress on families, who often seem more caught up with securing their future than with enjoying the present.  This is a broader cultural problem, aggravated by fears about steady employment, finances, and the future of children.” (The Joy of Love  par. 50)

 

My watershed moment like Martha’s occurred at Christmas time several years ago.  My three kids were pretty young, and at the same time old enough for us to have established Christmas traditions of our own.  In addition, we were going to host the Christmas Eve celebration for our extended family. As a result, I had grand plans worked out into an organized to-do list so that we could accomplish everything from home-made frosted sugar cookies the kids and I would make together in Christmas shapes to the FoodNetwork recipes I would make for the family celebration.   That all came to an abrupt and painful halt when I became sick with the flu one week prior to Christmas day.  As the flu persisted and Christmas approached my stress level reached breaking point.  My mom called to say hi but instead had to methodically walk me back from my emotional cliff.  She went through my list with me one task at a time and asked the simple question over and over again: “and what would happen if that didn’t get done? And what if that didn’t get done…”

Although I had loving intentions behind each task, the element of service had been usurped by a ball of worry.  My mom, like Christ, gently gave me perspective.  Consequently, with the help of a great deal of divine grace, I surrendered our newly established Christmas traditions and accepted that we could do them next year.  I scaled back my expectations for hosting, humbly accepted help, and recalled that spending time together was the most important thing not the elaborate meal.    Since then, with the help of prayer and grace, I have worked to keep that perspective and peace.

Christian service is not an end in and of itself.  Rather, it’s a loving encounter with another person.  Whether it’s care for kids, elderly parents, a disabled relative, a nextdoor neighbor,  or dedication at one’s job, we all need to make sure we keep the persons we are serving at the center and resist letting the tasks distract us with worry from the people whom we are caring about in the first place.  Jesus loved visiting Mary, Martha, and Lazarus because of the warm hospitality and because of the personal love, faith, and fellowship that they offered.  Despite our technological advances, we have become busier as a culture rather than more relaxed.  It requires intentional effort and grace to put people first and to be present in the moment.  It’s no small task to order our lives in such a way that we can work hard and have time to stop and listen to those we love.  To a stressed out Martha, Mary appeared to just be sitting around doing nothing.  Jesus reminded her that personal attention is just as important a “task” as the others, if not more important.

Mary chose the better part.  We too must pray for the grace to choose to spend time doing what feels like nothing with our kids, parents, and family; to just enjoy being with one another.  Similarly, we must choose to make time to just be with Christ so that our work remains in service to Him imbued with His love.  No one claims they treat their family and friends the best when they are stressed out and anxious.   By “practicing the presence of God”, as Brother Lawrence’s spiritual classic teaches, God will provide the peace we need to practice the presence of others as well.  It will be counter-cultural, and you will have to let go of competing with the super-moms and the super-colleagues, but Jesus assures us that choosing to be present to the people we care about over a frenzied attitude over work that needs to be done is the better part and we shouldn’t let anything take it from us.

Consider:

  •  Prayerfully consider how present you are to Christ.
    • Do you make time to sit with Him and listen?
    • Do you think of Him during the day or while at work?
    • Do you enjoy silent prayer or struggle with the feeling that you are “doing nothing”?
  • Prayerfully consider how present you are to your family.
    • When are your favorite times to connect?
    • What special moments do you recall with your parents or kids where you felt loved and listened to?
    • What things undermine your peace and your ability to focus on those around you?
    • What causes you to become stressed and distracted?
    • How could you re-order your life or adjust your expectations so you can resist unnecessary anxiety and give your loved ones the best version of yourself?
    • What do you need to take care of yourself so you can be a peaceful, present person?
      • How much sleep do you need? Be honest!
      • How and when do you relax?
      • What are your quirks or limitations it would help to acknowledge? (For example – running late makes you stressed so make an effort to arrive 5 minutes early or you need a bite to eat every couple of hours so make time for good food, etc.)
    • Pray for an increase in the virtue of Hope. Consider how worry can be combated by trust in Jesus. Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added” (Matthew 6:33).  Pray for the grace to prioritize your life according to God’s will, then allow Him to make sure everything else gets worked out.
    • Reflect on the reality of our limitations: limitations of time in a day, energy, the need for rest and food, etc. It takes humility to live within our limitations but being more realistic about what we expect from ourselves and others as well as what we say yes or no to can greatly reduce unnecessary stress.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Make a list of priorities. Then make a list of your schedule and activities.  Prayerfully evaluate if they align and make adjustments. Schedule in time for God, time to take care of yourself, and time for serving your family and at work.
  • Each day choose one person to whom you will be present and attentive. If possible decide who, when, and how. (It can be as simple as asking someone at work about their day at lunch or visiting with your kids at the dinner table.)

Comments: 

  1. You can help encourage one another by sharing your own example of a “Martha” or “Mary moment.
  2. Share your resolution for the week! How are you going to apply today’s meditation to your life?  Then let us know how it’s going.

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(16th Sunday of Ordinary Time)

~ Written by Angela (Lambert) Jendro © 2016; edited and updated © 2019

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