I Can’t Believe My Eyes!

 

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

February 25th, 2018 2nd Sunday of Lent

Gospel of Mark 9:2-10 NAB

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice,  “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

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 (their disbelief so great Jesus urged them to touch Him and feel for themselves). 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 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 fishes on two different occasions for the multitudes (Mark 8:14-21).  Despite the pervasive modern attitude that “I’ll believe it when I see it,” we like the disciples, tend to ignore the very rule we place on God.  Miracle after miracle He works in our lives, and yet we continue to worry.  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 RSV).

How could there be so much intimacy with the incarnate Lord – so much love, and so much loyalty – and yet so little trust?  They lacked the gift of the Holy Spirit and sanctifying grace won for us by Christ’s Paschal Mystery.  The bridge from human weakness and anxiety to the strength of Christian peace is the beams of the Cross.

Everyone’s spiritual journey is unique.  At the same time, we are all human and so the stages of our spiritual development share some commonality just like our physical development.  We begin more easily trusting that which is familiar to us in the natural, visible world, and distrusting that which is possible only to God who transcends our understanding.  Discipleship requires the movement of grace and receptivity to the invitation of Christ. We need 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.” RSV

Every disciple of Christ struggles to move from the immediacy of visible world, to consistent sight of the even deeper reality of the invisible world.  The two are not mutually exclusive, but rather intimately related to one another.  As Catholics we call it the “sacramental principle.” God knows our struggle, which is why “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1: 14 RSV).

During Lent we take a step back to evaluate just how deep our faith really goes and to examine what “safety nets” of ours we keep erected in case God doesn’t come through for us.  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.

During Lent, 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’s the boundary 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.   But, God is Lord of Heaven and Earth.  His power and His love know no bounds.

Abraham believed this to his very core.  He trusted God to be Who He claimed to be.  His faith was so confident that he didn’t even hesitate when he raised the knife to sacrifice his only beloved son and his only hope of a legacy.  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 RSV).

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 “with God, nothing is impossible.”  So, as we journey through Lent, may we spend more time with the Lord and develop greater awareness of His daily presence.  Hopefully by the end, we will be somewhat closer to the confidence of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans:

“Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” Romans 8:31-32 NAB

Consider:

  • Sarah conceived Isaac despite being barren and past the natural age.  St. Paul writes that God did this because of her faith saying, “she considered Him faithful Who had promised” (Hebrews 11: 11 RSV).
    • 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 to God your cares.  Make a list of your worries or of what’s weighing on your heart, and place them in the care of Christ in prayer.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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The Peace of Christ

By Angela (Lambert) Jendro

February 4th, 2018 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 1:29-39 NAB

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Meditation Reflection:

Everyone encounters suffering in some form.  Whether physical sickness, the sickness of a loved one, spiritual or emotional sickness from Satan’s lies and those of the secular culture, the pain of divorce or the loss of a job, or just the “drudgery” of life Job complained of in the first reading (Job 7:1).  Even worse, underlying every difficulty is the grating anxiety to find an escape, and the fearful suspicion there may not be one.

Science, medicine, psychology, exercise, achievements, and vacations can only provide a partial remedy.  Escapes into addiction only worsen the problem.

It has always stuck me how many times Jesus says, “Peace be with you” together with His admonition to “Be not afraid.”  Jesus, both man and God, has experienced our suffering and even our anxiety.  He has compassion for our weakness and reaches out with His divine power to save us.  As David proclaimed in today’s Psalm,

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3

Jesus, the Word of God, through whom all things came to be (John 1:3), came to heal the wounds of sin and restore us to wholeness.  Moreover, because God always gives in abundance, Jesus imparted gifts upon us even greater than those lost by Adam and Eve (CCC, par. 420).

Jesus Christ not only heals the brokenhearted, He embraces them in His own Divine Love.  The lonely He makes children of God and their souls His dwelling place.  A Christian can never be truly lonely, since they only need to look interiorly to find their Lord.  In addition, each Christian is incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body the Church, and shares in the stream of grace that runs through it, and connects us one to another.  Any suffering you endure can be offered up as a grace and blessing for someone else, and vice versa.   Christ therefore transforms the “drudgery” of daily work by making even the smallest task, if done in love, a noble and efficacious participation in His work of redemption.

Even death no longer hangs over us as a futile end.  In Christ it has become the consummation of our earthly service, and the commencement of our heavenly reward.  The longing for God which begins here, finds it’s fulfillment and joy in eternity; much like a wedding marks the transition from the growing love of engagement, to the total union of marriage.  Thus, heaven is described by God as a wedding feast in the book of Revelation:

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory.

For the wedding day of the Lamb has come,

his bride has made herself ready.

She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment.” – The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

Revelation 19:7-9

No wonder “the whole town was gathered at the door” in today’s Gospel.  Jesus is the savior every human person longs for and needs.  He gives freely and abundantly.   May we seek Him out for ourselves, and also bring Him to others in need of His healing.

Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Everyone is looking for you.”  His words remain true today and in every age.

Consider:

  • Take a few minutes to lay your burdens and anxieties before Christ in prayer.  Approach Him with trusting faith to help you.
  • Take a few minutes to bring the burdens and anxieties of those you love before Christ.
  • Consider the difference between the temporary or partial relief you find in natural comforts, compared to the fullness of the peace of Christ found in prayer.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

Like the people in Simon Peter’s town, seek out Christ.   Choose one concrete way to encounter Him each day this week.

  • Ideas: Take 5 minutes for silent prayer, visit Christ in Eucharistic Adoration, spend 10 minutes with Christ in Scripture, attend a daily Mass, read about the life of a saint or one of their writings, make time to visit a Christian friend who always seems to make Christ visible to you.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Shining a Light into The Darkness

 

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

January 27th, 2018 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 1:21-28 NAB

Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus casts out demons with the power and authority of God Himself.  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 (Ignatius Press).  He notes,

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 describes 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.”

Von Balthasar further wrote 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 writes, “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.  In addition, it deprives us of the answers we need most of all – Who am I?  What is my purpose?  What’s the meaning of life? How do I find happiness?

Like living in denial of a physical illness,  one can only self-soothe by justifying sin for so long before the underlying dread and pain of spiritual illness becomes too intense to leave untreated.

Sin can become paralyzing.  Moreover Satan, the “Accuser” as Jesus calls him, whispers fearful lies into the darkness so as to keep a person from reentering the light.  The demons of shame, despair, and distrust bind the sinner to his dark loneliness.

And into this darkness, Christ the Light came.  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 that the sinner might 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 married life, softened his heart and converted his soul.  He went from being a hardened atheist to late 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 writes,

“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.” The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur; Sophia Institute Press

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.

“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 us!

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?

Make a Resolution (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.

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Have You Found What You’re Looking For?

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

Peter and andrew

January 14th, 2018 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of John 1:35-42 NAB

John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —, “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.

 Meditation Reflection:

Imagine what it must have been like for the apostles near the end of their lives, to remember back to the very beginning when they first met Jesus – before their zealous and arduous work as the leaders of Jesus’ Church, before they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, before Jesus’ astounding Resurrection, before His shocking suffering and death, before witnessing in amazement His teaching and miracles.  Back when they lived ordinary lives, as ordinary men, waiting upon the Lord in His silence.

The Lord had spoken to His People through prophets since His first revelation to Abraham.  They had enjoyed ongoing relationship with Him, even when they experienced the pain of God’s discipline.  Eventually however, their obstinacy toward God grew so hardened that it caused God to withdraw His immanent presence from the Temple. Without God’s help the people fell captive to foreign nations and lived in exile.

Years later, King Cyrus of Persia issued an edict allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and even contributed funds to aid in the rebuilding of the Temple which had been destroyed.  Eventually some returned to Jerusalem, but God’s divine and immanent presence (which had remained upon the Ark of the Covenant from their time in the desert during the Exodus through its housing in the Temple until the Babylonian Exile), did not return to the Temple.  Although God anointed prophets to mediate His Word through this time, God then remained silent for about 400 years leading up to the Incarnation of Christ.

In consequence, the Jews endured about 400 years of divine silence.  During that time they clung to the words of God’s earlier prophets and to His Law given through Moses.  They considered God’s promises and kept hope that one day He, who is always faithful, would fulfill them.

At long last, their hope for God’s Word and for renewed relationship enlivened with anticipation when John the Baptist appeared, as “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mark 1:3; Isaiah 40:3).

The long silence finally broken and the power of John’s prophecy excited some to speculate whether John was in fact the Messiah.

Both Messiah and Christ mean “anointed one.”  In the Old Testament, those God had appointed as either priest, prophet, or king would be anointed with oil.  Each were called in some way to mediate between God and the People, and were bestowed with a measure of God’s authority.

The priesthood of the Old Covenant foreshadowed the eternal priesthood of Jesus, who would offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.  The prophets mediated God’s word, preparing us for the incarnation of the Word of God, and later the indwelling of that Word in our souls through Baptism.  Finally, the role of king was to govern the people as a steward of God who is the true king.  Jesus came as king to reign not as a steward, but with the authority of God.

“All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” Mark 1:27

 “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Mark 2:7

John the Baptist answered the Messianic speculation directly, stating, “I am not the Messiah” (John 1:20). He too was waiting patiently upon the Lord.  He faithfully preached repentance, as God had asked of him, and baptized with water as a sign of readiness.

Finally, the Holy Spirit revealed the Messiah to John – it was Jesus.  There, waiting expectantly, were St. Andrew and another disciple of John. Upon hearing his prophetic declaration, “Behold the Lamb of God,” they began following Jesus immediately, apparently without even saying a word.  When Jesus turned to ask them what they wanted, they expressed their desire to remain with Him.  They accepted Jesus’ invitation to come, and in their encounter with the Person of Jesus, determined with conviction that He was in fact the Messiah.  In consequence, Andrew hurried to his brother to share the unbelievable news.

Their day probably began like every other day.  Breakfast, work, prayer, routine.  In that moment however, they dropped everything to find Jesus.

Everything had changed.

In that first encounter, Jesus called Simon by name, and gave him a new name indicating his new role in the New Covenant. Simon would leave the normalcy of the life he knew, to be Peter, “Rock”, upon which Christ would build His Church.  Imagine the trust he must have had in the Lord to persevere in his discipleship through so many changes, so much confusion, and so much responsibility.

So much took place over the course of their lives, but it all began with dropping what they were doing when the time came, and going to find the Messiah.

We are all searching and waiting –  for meaning, for purpose, and for happiness.  We go about our everyday, on the lookout for the answer to come.  Yet, Christ has come.  He is what we have been looking for, even if we couldn’t put a name to it like the Jews.  Praise be to God!

The Anointed One has come.  He heals wounds of sin and strengthens us with grace through His sacrifice on the Cross, poured out for us in the Sacraments.

Jesus is the Word of God, who reveals God’s plan for our lives, our purpose, and His constant care.

Jesus is king.  We enter His kingdom through Baptism and must work to allow His rule over our lives daily.  Through our adoption as sons and daughters of God, He makes us rich as heirs of heaven.

We have found the Messiah.”  There’s no more need to search, only to follow; to say yes to Jesus’ invitation “Come, and you will see.”

Christianity is not a consumer product, a happy drug, an interesting philosophy, or a social club.  Christianity is following Christ, the Anointed One of God, and staying with Him. None of us can imagine where it will lead, only follow one step at a time, waiting during times of silence, and acting when He calls our name.  Where it leads only the Lord knows, but it will certainly be an adventure and full of surprises.

Consider:

  • Spend a few minutes in silent prayer, just being in the presence of Christ.
  • When have you felt excitement about your faith like the apostles?
  • How has encountering Christ transformed you? In what ways has it changed the way you think, guided your actions, or changed your desires and priorities?
  • Prayerfully consider what mission Christ has for you.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Take one step toward Christ every day. Follow Him in Scripture reading, works of love, or the sacraments.
  • Take 5 minutes of silence to rest in the Lord.

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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The Joy of Loving Watch

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

December 3rd, 2017 1st Sunday of Advent

Gospel of Mark 13:33-37 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

Meditation Reflection:

It’s the season of watching.  Watching for sales and gifts, watching beautiful Christmas lights, watching school Christmas programs, watching Hallmark movies, watching the mail for Christmas cards and watching for our loved ones to visit.  It can also become watching the calendar fill with a myriad of commitments, and watching our to-do list lengthen like the unfurling of a scroll that tumbles across the floor to the end of the room.

The excitement of the season can also be draining.  We endeavor to conserve our energy and find balance between the work to prepare for Christmas, and actually relaxing enough to enjoy it.  The thrill of finding the perfect gift on Black Friday a few weeks later devolves into frantic stress over the hard-to-buy-for person.  The hours in the day seem to disappear as fast as the shrinking sunlight.  Upon lighting the first advent candle as a child, I would groan at the long wait ahead of four interminable weeks.  Now, as I pull the advent wreath from my tub of Christmas decorations, I groan that there are only four short weeks left to get everything done.

If we let the activity distract our aim, we may miss the target and lose the wonderful opportunity for reconnection and generous love Christmas offers.   However, if we keep our sight on the purpose of each of our activities, we will hit the mark.  The cleaning, decorating, cooking, shopping, travelling, and planning can either leave us exhausted and cranky toward those we love, or they can invigorate us with energy and joy as we revel in lavishing our love on them and treasuring precious time together.

This time is also rich in opportunities to lavish our love upon Christ.  During Advent, parishes often offer a spiritual retreat or host an evening with a speaker.  The liturgy of the mass includes special prayers and Scriptures, and many people add advent traditions of prayer in their home such as lighting advent candles, reading Scriptures alongside a Jesse Tree with children, or another devotion.  Community outreach is everywhere you turn from winter wear drives at work or school, to food donations, and toy drives.

Today, the first Sunday of Advent, our Gospel reading serves to focus our sight on the right target – the Good News that Christ has come and will come again.  He has saved us, freed us from sin, and heals our souls.  During the present age we have been entrusted by Him, “each with [our] own work,” but we must always remember that He is the Lord and ultimately we watch and await His return.

How do we keep watch?  Daily in prayer, weekly at Mass, and at every moment with love in our hearts to lavish love upon Christ in those around us.  Mother Teresa served each day with this verse as her aim: “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did it for Me.”

May this season of Advent and Christmas invigorate rather than drain, as we keep our aim on love and on Christ.

Consider:

  • What do you enjoy most about the weeks leading up to Christmas?
  • How might you enjoy them more, and prioritize your time better?
  • Reflect on the gift of the Incarnation.  Consider the humility of Christ to become man.  Contemplate His love for you, that He desired to be so close.  Reflect on the gift of His grace and redemption.
  • What gifts has Christ given to you over the years?  What gifts has He blessed you with this year?  Are there any spiritual gifts you might put on your Christmas list to Him presently?
  • What might you offer to Christ as a gift?  What do you need to do to prepare it?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • As we spend more time with family, friends, and coworkers this season, spend more time with Christ as well.  Decide on how you will do this – go on a retreat, attend a speaker at your church, read an advent devotional each day, spend time with Scripture…

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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The Vocation To Love

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

November 19th, 2017 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 25:14-30 NAB

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

Meditation Reflection:

Fair doesn’t always mean equal. Most often it requires a sliding scale.  Chores and responsibilities in the home depend on age and ability.  In the same way, privileges correspond to the level of responsibility and trustworthiness.  The workplace organizes in roles determined by qualification and experience, thus each is expected to contribute in the manner expected of their specific job.

Jesus reveals that in the kingdom of God there’s a sliding scale as well.  Each person has a job which is suited to his or her abilities and expectations for outcome that correspond to them.  Thanks be to God!

It seems reasonable so what’s the problem?  Sin.  I’d like to consider specifically Envy and Sloth.  Envy stirs discontent within us.  It looks around at others and desires their gifts and goods, and rejoices at their misfortunes.  It makes us want others’ privileges without necessarily their responsibilities.  It convinces us the grass is greener on the other side and blinds us to the Cross present in every state and place in life.

Envy can even distort spiritual aspirations.  The Lord has a plan for each one of us (Jeremiah 29:11). He has poured out His redemptive love for all mankind and invites everyone to Heaven.  He calls us each to love where He has placed us, not where He has placed someone else.

Sometimes love includes warm feelings and gratitude, other times it tries our patience and drains us.  At all times however, love is faithful.  I love my kids when receiving their hugs and when disciplining them during a tantrum, when being met with appreciation or the attitude that I can’t do anything right.   I love my students when engaging in an inspiring conversation with them, and when having to track down their missing homework or correct a bad behavior.

During the difficult tasks of love however, it’s tempting to think that we are in the wrong place.  We look around us and consider if we would be happier doing something else for the Lord.  And yet, precisely in faithfully loving during good times and bad, we most resemble our Lord and act as His disciples.

The second obstacle to faithful love is sloth.  Sloth is physical and/or spiritual laziness.  It especially undermines our strength of perseverance in the unappealing aspects of relational love such as the daily routine of chores, conflict resolution, work deadlines, bearing wrongs patiently, praying when we don’t feel like it, or going to Mass even though we’d rather sleep in.  It’s then that we want to just bury the talent God gave us and click the next episode of Netflix.

But God has made us with a purpose and has entrusted us with a noble task.  He calls us to greatness through great love.  Jesus called St. Mother Teresa to greatness through “small acts done with great love.” Before her, St. Therese of Lisieux the Little Flower, from whom Mother Teresa chose her name, learned the “Little Way” from Jesus and Mary.  Though a cloistered Carmelite nun who died at a young age, Jesus inspired millions through the love He poured into her and through her, so much so that Pope St. John Paull II proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church on October 19th, 1997.

In his homily, he described her missionary aspirations, which Christ asked her to fulfill not by travel (as she wished)  but through contemplative prayer and sacrifice.  Though not the martyr’s glorious death she desired, she came to understand that each is called to a different service, but all are called to the same purpose – love.  In fact, she concluded and exclaimed, “O Jesus, my Love … at last I have found my vocation; my vocation is Love!'” (Ms B, 3vº).  She understood that Christ simply wanted us to love with faithfulness wherever we were and that fidelity contributed to Christ’s larger mission (she is in fact the patron saint of missions).  Pope St. John Paul II described her insight in his homily saying,

 “Thérèse of Lisieux did not only grasp and describe the profound truth of Love as the centre and heart of the Church, but in her short life she lived it intensely. It is precisely this convergence of doctrine and concrete experience, of truth and life, of teaching and practice, which shines with particular brightness in this saint, and which makes her an attractive model especially for young people and for those who are seeking true meaning for their life.”

John Paul II followed the Little Way and Christ called him to love in astounding and public ways, travelling around the world, encountering millions of people, and fighting deathly philosophies becoming a saint through love too.  At the same time, St. Therese’s parents, who lived a simple Catholic family life, were canonized saints by Pope Francis in October of 2015.  Whether a pope or a parent, all are called to love and through that love be saints.  It’s love that God gives to us, and love that He wants returned – not buried and barren, but fruitfully multiplied.  Love gives love, and in giving it receives.  As St. John exclaimed in his first letter:

“We love because he first loved us.I John 4:19

Consider:

  • Who is someone who loves you faithfully in both times of crisis and the ordinary, yet repetitive, needs of everyday?
  • What makes you feel the most loved?
  • Where has God placed you to love?  Who are the people in your family, neighborhood, friendships, and work?  How might you show them love?  What practical help might they need?  What encouragement, time, or conversation may they need?  How might you brighten their day or help carry their burden?
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will enable you to see opportunities to love, even in the difficult ways like disciplining or meeting deadlines.
  • Consider if envy or sloth ever undermine your vocation to love.  To you ever undervalue your vocation or your work?  Does it ever feel like it’s not enough?  Do you feel overwhelmed or tempted by distraction?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Choose one person each day to love – with intention, patience, perseverance, and generosity.
  • Read John Paul II’s homily about St. Therese of Lisieux when he proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church.
  • Read about Mother Teresa or some of her writings.
  • Spend time with someone loving and learn from their example.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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Fueling the Fire of Love

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

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November 12th, 2017 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 25:1-13 NAB

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Meditation Reflection:

What do we need to be ready for Christ?  At Baptism we received a lighted candle, and the call to be the light of Christ in the world.  Sometimes we may feel that zeal and live our faith in a powerful way.  Other times the routine and busyness of every day drains our energy and we become drowsy or complacent.  Work projects or sports tournaments begin to overshadow weekly Sunday Mass and after rationalizing missing one Sunday we easily slip into missing most.  Seeing our bible collect dust we might open it up and resolve to read it every day until we’ve completed it cover to cover.  Half-way through Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we give up.  Maybe we are going through a tough time and it renews our zeal to pray daily.  After it passes we continue a little longer in thanksgiving.  A few weeks into the hum drum of life without much drama we begin to forget that time with the Lord.

So how do we keep our candles lit during the long wait? Heaven is union with God and so we need to burn with the fire of His love.  Authentic love perseveres because it’s rooted deeper than the emotions.  It requires conviction, consistent nurturing, and Christ’s grace.

Every relationship requires effort and ongoing time and attention to be sustained.  In the same way, we can fuel our love for Christ by developing our convictions through ongoing study of Scripture, the teachings of our Faith, and the lives of the saints.  We can nurture our relationship by setting aside time with the Lord daily in prayer and weekly at Mass.  Lastly, we can ask Christ for His grace to sustain us and transform us.  Most importantly, when we come to the banquet of His love in the Eucharist, He fills us with His divine love which burns away anything that comes between us and Him.

We can also root out things that undermine our relationship with Christ by rooting them out in our human relationships as well.  Being attentive to our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers will require many of the same virtues we need to be attentive to the Lord.  To listen to our loved one when they need to talk will mean saying no to whatever else was occupying our attention at that moment.  To visit someone will mean scheduling time and moving other things around to make it happen.

Christ wants to visit us today.  Where can He find an open door and a lighted lamp?  Hopefully He can find us at prayer, speak to us in Scripture, and be received by us in the Eucharist at Mass.  Then, when He comes again for the final time, we will be ready and our joy will be complete.  During our lives we will have said, “Come Lord, enter my heart and be welcomed by my love.”  And at the end of our lives, He will stretch His hand out to us, where we will find the door open and He will say to us, “Come my child, enter my heart and be welcomed eternally by my love.”

Consider:

  • When has your faith been most on fire for the Lord?  Was it after a retreat, an experience in prayer, a profound event in your life, a speaker or book you read, sacred music that lifted your heart?
  • What competes with your devotion to Christ?  Distractions from pleasures, anxiety from stress, a busy schedule, a pull toward laziness, numbness from emotional pain, an addiction?
  • How do you prepare for guests, especially at the holidays?  Consider the extra thoughtfulness you put into preparing food they will like or attentiveness to the little details that will add warmth to the experience.
  • Consider Christ visiting.  How might you be attentive to Him? Schedule time for conversation.  Welcome Him through others by works of mercy.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Resolve on one thing this week to detach you from something that competes with love for Christ, and one thing to keep the fire of love lit for Him.
    •  Ideas for detachment:  Identify an attachment (click here for how to: identifying attachments), then practice the opposite virtue.  If you don’t pray because you sleep through your morning alarm, resolve to get up at the right time or 10 minutes earlier.  If you have work or sports on Sundays, look ahead to find a Mass time that will work, even if you have to visit a different parish to do so.  If possible, change your work schedule.
    • Ideas for feeding the fire:  10 minutes of prayer, spiritual reading, learning about your faith through books, podcasts, or a class at church, reading about the life of a saint, spending time with a faith-filled Christian friend.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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God’s Treasure – Knowing Your Value

image by aint_he_faithful

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

October 21st, 2017 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 22:15-21 NAB

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Meditation Reflection:

Consider the value and meaning we place on money.

First, there’s the cultural pressure to value ourselves based on our bank account.  We call name brand clothes, luxury vehicles, the size and elegance of a home, or exotic vacations “status symbols” because they reflect our monetary power and therefore our personal value.  Consider how many people struggle with low self-esteem, whether in grade school or retired, because they lack the apparent wealth of others.

Our perception of the value of our work can also be tied to the numbers.  How many decisions do we make based on how much money it pays rather than based on whether it’s God’s will? How many opportunities do we miss because we are afraid of having less and worry that we will thereby be less.

Currency further identifies our national ties.  Each country has its own currency with images of its leaders and heroes.  To buy or sell in another nation requires exchanging your local money for the proper foreign coins.

These habits of mind might belong in the kingdom of fallen man, but not in the Kingdom of God.  God created everything from nothing, and continues to govern it and hold it in existence.  He imprinted His image on man and woman, and placed a value of infinite worth on each.  The only way to devalue this currency is to distort God’s image within us, which we all do through sin (except Jesus and Mary) since Adam and Eve.  Nevertheless, Jesus came to restore God’s image within us, and to elevate it to an even higher union and dignity by uniting our human nature with His divine nature through His Incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection.

Jesus doesn’t condemn Caesar’s image on Roman coins because it’s an earthly currency for an earthly political system.  Rather, Jesus reminds us that our citizenship in His kingdom transcends our human institutions.

God desires that we revere Him as the King of kings, worship Him as Creator, and love Him as Father and Redeemer.   He has bestowed His royal dignity upon us and urges us to return back to Him His image.  We don’t earn heavenly currency, we become it and we receive it.

Jesus reveals that we are God’s treasure.  If we want to chase the dollar, we should chase God’s dollar.  Through deeper union with the Lord, His grace transforms us more and more into His likeness.  We also begin to see God’s image in others and their corresponding value and beauty.

Thus one person, no matter how broken, is worth more than as many images of Ben Franklin you could stack.

I was reminded again of this truth just a couple of weeks ago when my sister and brother-in-law welcomed my baby nephew into the world.  Our whole family rejoiced at such a precious gift and my heart aches until I can visit and hold him in my arms. The only addition possible to this joy, was the preciousness of the love which my sister’s children showed toward their baby brother, and the sweet love my children expressed over him too.

Love sees the whole person.  When a family member or loved one becomes ensnared in a serious sin, addiction, or suffers under mental illness, we feel sorrow because we see how these things distort the image of the true person we know, and all they could be.  We want the ones we love to flourish.  We value them for simply them, not anything they have accomplished or not.  I love family reunions just because I enjoy being around those I love.  I have grown up with my brother, sister, and cousins for many years now.  I have seen us all go through ups and downs, great strides and tough struggles.  I love them all when they are doing well, and just as much when they are struggling.  I hate anything that would hold them back from the fullness of Christ’s joy, and yet I also know that God can work all things together for good.

Money can buy temporary pleasures and momentary experiences.  However, the more we image the Lord, the deeper we experience a well-spring of joy, and far richer experiences than we can find anywhere else.  It can hardly be described in words so I won’t even try.  Christ doesn’t explain it either.  He simply says, “Come and see” (John 1:39).

Come and see Jesus, and see your true worth in His eyes.

Consider:

  •  Think of the people you His vision.  Ask Him to enable you to see yourself and others as God does.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Each morning, “give to God what is God’s” – His image in you.  Pray for trust that “the One who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)
Prayer by St. Cardinal John Henry Newman

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.

  • This week, try to see yourself and others as God does.  Pray for their freedom and yours from sin, fear, or addiction, and the gift of Christ-filled joy.

Related Posts:

Becoming Rich: Investment Strategies From Christ

Preparing the Soil…Spiritual Receptivity

Finding Fulfillment in Self-Gift

Authentic Love

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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Love Shows Up

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

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October 1st, 2017  26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 21:28-32 NAB

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘ but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus knows us so well!  How often do we pay lip service to God?  How many spiritual goals and good intentions fall quickly by the wayside left undone?  In the morning, the first words on our mind and lips should be an expression of gratitude to the Lord, entrusting the day to His care.  Instead, we hit the snooze button and possibly let less godly words be the first on our lips.  As the day progresses, opportunities arise at every moment to be at the service of the Lord.  Do we embrace the tasks at hand and the duties before us, or de we try to avoid work and get by on minimal effort?

At the same time, if we hear God’s call, often it may seem outrageous at first, especially His insistence on forgiving others.  God challenges us to live beyond our natural limits, to participate in His divine love.  Our first response may be no, but upon further reflection and with the softening effect of grace, we may rise to the challenge after all.

Inauthentic love disappoints.  It makes big promises and grand plans only to fail to follow through on them.  Real love acts.  It proves itself by keeping promises, showing up, and responding to the needs of the beloved.

When St. Mother Teresa began her ministry to the poorest of the poor, she simply went out into the streets and showed up to comfort and aid those she met.  For the children she found aimless and alone, she began to teach them by gathering them together and writing with a stick in the dirt. For the sick, she begged the pharmacist for medicine.  For the dying, she offered what comforts she could along with loving companionship. God grew the ministry, Mother Teresa simply went out into the vineyard each day to work.

Practical goals and intentional habits form a framework of love that infuses our day with charity. However, when we don’t know where to begin, Jesus reminds us to start by jut showing up when asked.   It’s amazing how deep of an impression it can make.

When I consider who has touched my life, it has been those who laughed with me, shouldered burdens with me, encouraged me, or reached out in ordinary ways when I needed it. I remember when my mom chose to leave a law firm she enjoyed so she could open her own and have more time available for her kids.  It meant that despite the many responsibilities she had at her job every day, I could count on her to listen when I needed some advice, to cheer for me at school events, and to be there when I had a tough time.  Even now as a grown adult, I can still count on my mom to show up no matter what.

Above all, the Lord shows up.  He created our souls at the moment of our conception.   He became man, suffered and died on the Cross, and rose again for our salvation.  His angels guide and protect us.  His Mother intercedes for us. His very Spirit dwells within us as His Temple (1Cor 6:19). He is united to us as a Head to a body (Col 1:18), and as a vine to its branches (Jn 15:5).  God is always faithful.

But so great is Your faithful love, I may come into Your house, and before Your holy temple bow down in reverence of You.”  (Psalm 5:7)

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1)

I will delight and rejoice in your faithful love. Be brave, take heart, all who put your hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31: 7, 24)

Better one day in Your courts than a thousand at my own devices.”  (Psalm 84:10)

Blessed are those who observe His instruction, who seek Him with all their hearts” (Psalm 119:2)

Love is about showing up and being there for someone. Love for Christ answers yes to His call and shows up for prayer. Love has the strength and perseverance to do the right thing even when it’s hard.  It may not be glamorous, but following through on our daily duties, even if we resist at first, makes an eternal impression on God.

Consider:

  •  How can you make yourself more available to God?  How can you hear His call more acutely and act more faithfully?
    • In times of prayer – when, where, and how do you pray.  How much do you listen in prayer?
    • In the duties of family life – what does your spouse, children, or parents need from you?
    • In the duties of your work life – how might your work become more of an offering to God?  Ask God what He desires from you and spend a few minutes listening to Him. Is He asking you for greater diligence, or do you need better boundaries on your work?  Is He asking you to reign in some of your conversations with co-workers, or is He asking you to make a greater effort at reaching out to them?
  • How do you respond to the work God asks of you each day?  What often derails you from following through with your commitments?  Is it distractions, sloth, fear…?
  • Reflect on the times God has shown up for you.  When has He proven His faithfulness in a time of need?  What blessings has He showered upon you?
  • Offer prayers of thanksgiving and blessing for those who have loved you over the years and those who continue to be there for you today.  Consider especially the persons you may be taking for granted.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  The Psalms sing God’s praises, especially of His faithful love.  Pray one Psalm in the morning, one midday at lunch, and one at night.
  • Identify one thing you have said “no” to God about, and do it today.

*A great resource for learning to hear God’s voice is St. Ignatius’ Rules of Discernment.  Fr. Timothy Gallagher has an excellent podcast series explaining each one and giving practical examples.  You can listen to them for free online at this link:  Fr. Timothy Gallagher “Discernment of Spirits”

I also recommend the spiritual classic, “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence.  It’s a small, thin book but a little goes a long way.

Related Posts: 

Authentic Love

Stepping Outside Our Comfort Zone & Walking On Water

Preparing the Soil…Spiritual Receptivity

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 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.

 

 

Authentic Love

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

August 19th, 2017; 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 16:21-27 NAB

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, 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. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

Meditation Reflection:

Peter loved Jesus.  He left everything to follow Him. Peter put his whole heart into the mission and his courage and zeal expressed themselves in extraordinary ways.  Moved by faith, Peter walked on water.  With his heart open to the Holy Spirit, he boldly answered Jesus’ questions to the disciples “Who do you say that I am?” by proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God.

Love inspires, emboldens, strengthens, and provides unique insights into the beloved.  Like the love between a husband and wife, a mother or father and their children, a beloved brother or sister, or a dearest friend, love wells up inside and can’t help but express itself exclamations of affection, physical closeness, and fierce protectiveness.

Due to our wounded, fallen nature however, our love can also be misdirected.  In this Gospel passage, Peter’s love mixed with his pride and with his worldly understanding to embolden him in a way that undermined, rather than supported, Jesus.

Our love needs conversion to be authentic and to be true to our beloved.  It requires ongoing formation in what is True and Good as God has revealed it, rather than as our emotions direct us or the culture.  It requires practice as well, to break bad habits and form good ones, or to overcome personal weaknesses that hurt the relationship.

Peter loved Jesus and was honored to be given the keys to the kingdom just one chapter prior to this.  However, his pride and ambition, together with his cultural assumptions about what that kingdom would look like, misdirected his love to preserving an earthly kingdom by preserving Jesus’ earthly life.  Just when Jesus needed the support of His disciples the most, as His “Hour” of Redemptive suffering for all mankind approached, Peter pulled Him aside and tried to dissuade Him.

Similar to Peter, our love needs Christ’s grace and truth to be authentic.  Consider the sentiment “I just want you to be happy.”  It can motivate noble sacrifice, but it can also rationalize weakness.  If we define happiness as merely earthly comfort, ease, security, and pleasure, we risk encouraging our beloved to turn from their cross rather than helping them carry it.  Yet, in trying to save their life, we could actually cripple them.

Consider the paradox inherent in parenting.  Kids need protection, nurturing, and comfort.  At the same time, to mature into adulthood, they also need to work through difficulties, setbacks, and pain.  The temptation to remove everything hard undermines the maturation process, whereas supporting them through the struggle without removing it for them can aid their maturation.  To know when to intervene and when to stand back is NOT easy!  It requires the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the grace of fortitude.  When Jesus’ life was threatened by King Herod, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to protect Him.  When Jesus was scourged and crucified however, Mary stood by Him, feeling every pain with Him, but knew it was necessary for His mission.

In marriage, family life, and friendship, authentic love needs conversion.  When we say “I just want you to be happy,” we have to be honest about which kind of happiness we desire for them.  Jesus is clear,

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, 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.” 

 

Those we love will struggle with sin.  It’s the battle of this life.  Authentic love won’t condone the sin or escaping it.  Rather, it will strengthen a person to speak the truth in love and support the beloved through the pain of conversion because true life and true freedom is found in the Lord. In the first reading for today (Jeremiah 20:7-9), the prophet Jeremiah expresses authentic love.  His human nature desired comfort and to simply be liked.  Nevertheless, his people had succumbed to habits of sin and needed to be corrected lest they die eternally from their destructive behavior and attitudes.  He didn’t want to speak out anymore because every time he did they met him with anger.  However, when he tried to remain silent, the truth welled up in him and he couldn’t hold it in any longer without suffering even greater pain.

True love can’t stand to see sin hurting it’s beloved.  Our friends and family need us to battle for their souls with the strength of prayer, God’s Truth, and the cross, not sentimentality.  And we need those who love us to battle for our souls in the same way.

To do this, we need to actively cooperate with the Holy Spirit that our love can be fully converted.  St. Paul states it well when he says,

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

It will take time, effort, and support.  However, we can be encouraged by Peter’s example.  Peter’s conversion took time as well, but by the end of his life his love had become so perfect, that he accepted the cross and crucifixion for himself that he had once tried to dissuade Jesus from.

I’ll end with two quotes that I read often which give me hope:

Pope Francis   January 19, 2016

“there is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future

 

St. Josemaria Escriva

“A saint is a sinner that keeps trying.”

Consider:

  • Reflect on Mary’s love for Jesus.  Consider her fierce protection when He was young.  Consider her fierce loyalty to His mission on the Cross, despite both of their suffering.
  • Consider the words “I just want you to be happy.”  Pray about what true happiness is, where it can be found, and how it can be attained.
  • When has Christian love required you to carry a cross?  Who supported you?  Who tried to dissuade you?
  • When have you had to stand by someone while they carried a cross?  In what ways were you tempted to encourage them to leave the cross?  How were you able to support them in their pain or struggle and make the burden easier?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Do one thing each day for “the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
    • Spend 5 minutes with Scripture
    • Read a good Christian book
    • Listen to Christian podcasts
    • Visit with a Christian friend
  • Support a friend on their spiritual journey who is struggling with a sin or with a cross.
    • Pray and sacrifice for them; Speak truth in love; Visit them; encourage them with Scriptures of hope and resurrection after the Cross.

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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