Receiving Christ’s Gift Graciously

Palm Sunday

excerpt from Lenten Journey: Through the Desert to the Eternal Spring by Angela Jendro

Gospel of Luke 22:14-23:56 NAB full version. Luke 23:1-49 NAB shortened version and reprinted here below.

The elders of the people, chief priests and scribes, arose and brought Jesus before Pilate. They brought charges against him, saying, “We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Christ, a king.” Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, “I find this man not guilty.” But they were adamant and said, “He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea,
from Galilee where he began even to here.”

On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer. The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly. Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly. Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”

But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” — Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder. — Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!” Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.

As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed.

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal. “Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last.

The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events.

Meditation Reflection:

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week with Palm Sunday. The Gospel follows Christ through the events of His Paschal Mystery beginning with His final entrance into Jerusalem and culminating in His death.

Recall the Pope’s theology of sin. He teaches that the process of conversion begins with acknowledging our sin, confessing it with contrition to the Lord, then trusting in Christ’s mercy to forgive and heal us. As we unite ourselves to Christ this week, remembering the events of His suffering let us contemplate the third aspect of conversion – trusting gratitude for Christ’s mercy.

In the Office of Readings for today, a sermon by St. Andrew of Crete (d. 740), a bishop, offers a beautiful idea for how to honor Christ today…

“So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.”

This response inspires us to approach holy week with an attitude of deep appreciation; to follow the footsteps of the suffering Christ and feel the grace of His mercy accomplished through His sacrificial love. Numerous Gospel accounts tell of Pharisees or Sadducees wanting to kill Jesus but being unable. Christ could have escaped the Cross, it was within His power. He chose to surrender Himself which was the only reason they could apprehend Him. He chose to suffer as the sacrifice for our sins for the sole purpose of our redemption – to be freed from slavery to sin and death, to experience healing and supernatural strength, to experience union with God as His beloved children, and that our “joy may be full” (John 15:11).

Reflecting on Christ’s suffering however, especially if we have the courage to connect it to our own weakness and personal sins, requires more than a small amount of humility. It means we realize our dependence (something we hate in our culture) and our unworthiness. Christ endured things we could not, and when asked to offer something back in return, even trivial things, we often fail.   How many of us sigh at the length of the reading on Palm Sunday, and yet how much easier to read it than to live it! How much longer it was for Christ to actually endure the events we recall!

Distracted thoughts and limited attention spans will always burden us due to our weakened nature from original sin. We can work to minimize our distractions however and lengthen our attention by changing our habits. For instance, we can replace some of our thoughts about worldly matters with thoughts of spiritual matters through regular Scripture reading, good Christian books and conversation, or listening to Christian talk radio. We can replace worldly images in our imagination with images of Christ through praying the psalms and listening to Christian music. Rather than secular songs interrupting our prayer, over time we might find Christian songs interrupting our mundane tasks instead.

This Holy Week let’s do our best to, as St. Andrew suggested, lay our transformed selves before Christ. Let us ease His suffering with songs of praise and thanksgiving. Let us offer Him hope on the Cross by demonstrating that His sacrifice will bear much fruit.

 Consider:

  • Take time to reflect on those things Christ has conquered in your life – sin, addiction, lies you had believed, fears, pride, loneliness, despair…
  • Examine areas of your life in need of Christ. Imagine His blood washing over them and healing them. Invite Him to free you in that area as a grace of this Holy Week. Resolve to cooperate with Him in this effort.
  • Sacrifice is the proof of love. Christ would have suffered every pain for you alone.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray the Stations of the Cross.
  • Pray a psalm of thanksgiving each day for God’s help.
  • Pray psalm 21, the psalm Jesus quoted from the Cross when He said, “My God My God, why have you abandoned Me.”
  • Listen to Christian radio on your drive or as you get ready in the morning.
    • Ideas: local Christian music stations; download the Relevant Radio app and listen to Catholic programming.
  • Offer encouragement to someone who is suffering.
  • Offer mercy to someone in thanksgiving for Christ’s mercy to you.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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Living in Denial

excerpt from Lenten Journey: Through the Desert to the Eternal Spring by Angela Jendro (download or print)

3rd Sunday of Lent

Gospel of Luke 13:1-9 NAB

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”

 Meditation Reflection:

The mystery of God’s Mercy and Justice extend beyond the limits of our comprehension. Nevertheless, Jesus exhorts us to never forget that God is both. God’s mercy makes salvation possible through even the smallest opening of repentance and desire in our hearts. At the same time, the mercy we experience on a day to day basis, the undeserved blessings God showers as a doting Father, can also lead to complacency.

Mercy means healing and transformation. In our complacency we can begin to think that we deserve our blessings and forget our sins, or worse forget our blessings as well. St. Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 10:1-12 that the Israelites, after witnessing the mighty hand of God liberating them from Egypt and walking on dry land through the Red Sea, reverted to doubt, fear, and grumbling in the desert. In consequence, although liberated by God from Egypt, they died in the desert unable to enter the Promised Land. God can work mighty deeds in our lives. His mercy will cut through any sin. God’s forgiveness is not merely “spiritual dry-cleaning” as Pope Francis has termed it. God’s work heals and transforms. This process ought to bear fruits therefore of virtue, sanctity, and love. In fact, one of the ways St. Teresa of Avila verified the authenticity of a spiritual experience was by the fruits of virtue that accompanied it.

Jesus warned in today’s Gospel that God’s mercy is inextricably united to God’s justice. God has given us free will. He will honor that gift. If we choose to reject the opportunity for life which comes through healing from sin, then at some point we will die. God offers us more chances than we deserve but they are limited by time and by our choices. We cannot receive the fruits of mercy until we choose to acknowledge and repent of our sin.

Unfortunately, the general cultural view denies the reality of sin, excusing it away. In consequence, as Pope Francis has preached on Mercy (recall the Year of Mercy 12/8/2015-11/20/2016) he concomitantly needed to preach on sin. In a First Things article, titled “The Pope’s Theology of Sin”, William Doino Jr. provides context for the relationship between sin and mercy and presents Pope Francis’ insights regarding the process of reaching the first step – acknowledgement and repentance:

“The first part is to recognize the darkness of contemporary life, and how it leads so many astray: Walking in darkness means being overly pleased with ourselves, believing that we do not need salvation. That is darkness! When we continue on this road of darkness, it is not

easy to turn back. Therefore, John continues, because this way of thinking made him reflect: ‘If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’”[1]

Why is seeing our sin so important? Isn’t it a bit depressing? If it was analogous to learning you had an incurable cancer, then yes. But if it’s analogous to learning you had a cancer that can be cured with early treatment, then it’s a huge relief. If we do not suffer under the oppression of sin, we do not need a redeemer. When we live in denial of our sins and addictions, we refuse the opportunity for help. For example, if a person lives in denial of their regular rude or hurtful comments under the rationalization that they are just “speaking their mind”, then they will soon lose relationships and friendship. If a person lives in denial of their intemperance in spending or greed for possessions beyond their means, they will eventually suffer bankruptcy. Similarly, if we live a self-centered life rather than a God-centered life, at some point we will experience the harsh reality of our choices.

After opening our eyes to our sins (with the help of the Holy Spirit), the second part of the process is to take them to Confession; not with an attitude of a quick shower but with a humble, and deeply contrite heart. The word Pope Francis used to describe this feeling is one we shy away from in our culture – shame. Yet, when we feel genuine shame for our sin, it also motivates us to change and open ourselves up to receiving help and grace.

The final part of the process he writes, is:

“having absolute faith in God to renew us: We must have trust, because when we sin we have an advocate with the Father ‘Jesus Christ the righteous.’ And he ‘supports us before the Father’ and defends us in front of our weaknesses.” [2]

Rather than despair at our weaknesses and imperfections, Pope Francis reminds us to put our trust in Christ. We must acknowledge that we cannot change on our own and allow Jesus to apply His healing grace to our souls – enlightening our minds, strengthening our wills, and fanning the flame of love for God and neighbor.

In conclusion, the mystery of God’s Justice and Mercy requires us to make an active decision to turn away from sin and accept God’s help. Because grace is freely given by God, fruits of that grace are expected too. If we do not bear fruit, we can conclude that we have not actually been receptive to grace. If we do bear fruit, it will evoke feelings of gratitude and love because we know who we are, and from where those virtues truly came.

 Consider:

  • How has facing your faults, though painful, made you a better person with the help of Christ? How are you different today than in years past?
  • Has God ever “rebuked” you? Did it have a positive effect later or lead to greater freedom?
  • Are there faults you continue to rationalize? Do you treat your spouse, children, or family members with the love they deserve, or do you excuse your behavior by saying they should love you as you are without an effort to change?
  • Have you ever experienced the pain of seeing someone you love self-destructing or suffering due to living in denial of a serious problem? Have you offered help and been rejected? Consider how this relates to God’s perspective.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Read an examination of conscience and prayerfully reflect on it. Most parishes have a pamphlet by the confessional with an examination, you can also find some online. If possible, look for one tailored to your state in life (e.g. single, married, priest, etc.)
  • Read the First Things article on Pope Francis’ Theology of Sin. (http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/08/the-popes-theology-of-sin)
  • Choose one sin you have been avoiding admitting and actively root it out through prayer and practicing the opposite virtue. (For example – greed is combatted by generosity, a habit of critical remarks by encouraging ones, pride by humility, etc.)

[1] Doino, William Jr. “The Pope’s Theology of Sin.” First Things. August 2013. https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/08/the-popes-theology-of-sin

[2] Ibid.

Strength in the Lord

By Angela Jendro

Excerpt from Lenten Journey: Through the Desert to the Eternal Spring by Angela Jendro

Download to your pdf reader or print.  Free Will Offering

1st Sunday of Lent

Gospel Luke 4:1-13 NAB

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,

One does not live on bread alone.

Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written:

You shall worship the Lord, your God,

and him alone shall you serve.

Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written:

He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,

and:

With their hands they will support you,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Jesus said to him in reply,

“It also says,

You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.

When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.

 

 Meditation Reflection:

Directly after Jesus’ Baptism, the inauguration of His transition from His Hidden Life in Nazareth to His public ministry, the Spirit led Him into the desert for a time of preparation first – to fast, pray, and face temptation. In the same way, the Holy Spirit periodically draws us away from the noise of life and the distractions of the senses to be able to connect with God in a deeper interior way. In some cases, we choose to place ourselves in quiet reflection by going on a retreat or planning a weekend of solitude. At other times, the circumstances of life create that solitude for us.

It reminds me of standing ankle-deep in the waves of the ocean on the beach. As the water cascades over my feet it carries with it a flurry of sand, shells, sea-weed, and teems with life and energy. Then it recedes, drawing back everything it had just placed before me. Even the sand around my feet recedes leaving me only two small mounds beneath my arches.

Times of solitude can feel lonely and a little barren like the desert. However, they can be opportunities for prayer and preparation for the next mission God has for us when the water will return, replenished and shimmering.

The devil of course hates for us to follow Christ and he especially despises when we build the kingdom of God. He therefore attempts to derail us in any way possible. He prevents us from God’s work in a myriad of ways tailored to our own personal weaknesses. The devil distracts us with physical pleasures and the lie that if we don’t satisfy our body’s whims and desires, we will die, or at least be so miserable it’s not worth living.

During Lent, we face this lie and temptation, strengthening or will over our body and seeking joy in the Lord by giving up sweets, pop, alcohol, snacking, over-sleeping, staying up too late, etc., and replacing them with added prayer or spiritual exercises.

Another tactic favored by the devil is to redirect the trajectory of our work by aiming our talents at building the kingdom of self rather than the kingdom of God. He tempted Jesus with an enticement of kingship without the cross. Similarly, Satan attempts to promise us success and happiness without the suffering of the cross, if only we would exchange our faith in God for faith in ourselves.

Lastly, if we thwart both pitfalls through strength of faith and love, the devil makes his last attack by twisting God’s own words and attempting to skew our relationship with the Lord. The devil hates the Church because Christ empowered it with His authority to preach truth and correctly interpret Scripture by the power of the Holy Spirit, as well as the grace of Christ to live it. If we listen to the Holy Spirit through Christ’s Church the devil loses his power to trick us “and will depart for a time”.

If we pay careful attention, we can learn the tricks of the devil in our own lives. St. Ignatius of Loyola began to notice this too and developed rules of discernment that have become a classic in the Christian life. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow in self-knowledge and provide the grace to overcome temptation so as to live in the freedom of the kingdom of God and work unhindered for His glory.

 Consider:

  • Spend some time in prayer reflecting on your average day. Consider what things unnecessarily slow you down, distract you, make you late, frustrate your work, or prevent you from getting started on something.   Implement a plan to combat one of them.
  • Consider the three categories of temptations from the Gospel today and how each one applies to you. This Lent build strength by combatting the pleasure that has a hold over you, the suffering you are trying to avoid or the status you are trying to achieve, and grow in knowledge of your faith to protect you from the deceptions of the devil.
  • Look back on your life and reflect on how God prepared you before raising you up for something. How did you feel beforehand and after? Have you experienced deeper and richer faith after a time of solitude or difficulty?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Commit to a Lenten resolution even if you fail at it periodically. Give something up and/or do something extra to strengthen your relationship with Christ and weaken your relationship with sin.
  • Read (or listen to the audiobook) C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. It’s short, entertaining, and enlightening. It’s a satirical work which features letters from an experienced demon to a lesser experienced one about how to tempt humans.
  • Listen to Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s podcasts on St. Ignatius’ discernment of spirits. He presents Ignatius’s ideas in an understandable and relatable way. (discerninghearts.com)

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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Who Me?!

by Angela Jendro

yqhih

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Luke 5:1-11 NAB

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.

Meditation Reflection:

I often find myself torn between two emotions. Like Simon Peter my encounter with Christ leaves me astonished with a strong desire to leave everything and follow Him so I can hang on His every word and witness His great works. I want to call out “Pick me! Pick me!” At the same time, when Christ actually calls me to follow Him and participate in His mission, I feel so ridiculous because of my smallness that all I can say is “Who me? Really? Are you certain? Uh oh…” It’s one thing to watch Christ, it’s completely another to be invited to work side by side with Him. I don’t mind blending into the crowd of admirers, but I know what Christ can do through His followers and I feel foolishly unqualified.

Every Christian who has encountered Christ and heard His call struggles with the same emotions. Pick up any account of the life of a saint and they articulate the same tension. Don’t mistake their words for false modesty. The saints knew precisely the greatness of God and their own ineptitude. The only difference is that they had the humility and courage to say yes to God anyway.

Today’s first and second reading give us two such examples. Isaiah (6:1-8) reacts to seeing the glory of the Lord with fear due to his own sinfulness and feelings of being unworthy. God doesn’t disagree with him because Isaiah’s response is appropriate and true. Rather God heals Isaiah and enables him to serve God by having an angel touch Isaiah’s mouth with an ember from God’s altar.   Isaiah’s first words of “Woe is me I am doomed” change to “Here I am, send me”. St. Paul recounts having a similar experience (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). He humbly acknowledges that he of all people has no right to be called an apostle because he began by persecuting the Church. I have to think that not a day went by that Paul did not recall being present at St. Stephen’s martyrdom as a witness on the side of the persecutors. To accept Christ’s call to serve as an apostle had to have required great humility on Paul’s part and a deep trust in the mercy of Christ. Paul was willing to change teams and look like a fool by accepting a leadership position because He decided to say yes to Christ anyway.

Fr. Francis Fernandez-Carvajal, author of many works on the spiritual life, notes that the devil often tries to discourage us from great aspirations by tricking us with false humility. Drawing from Teresa of Avila, he writes in his book Through Wind and Waves,

St. Teresa of Avila, after stressing that the struggle for holiness is grounded on God’s help, and hence the importance of being humble, warns of the danger of a false humility that is short on desire and low in aspirations. The saint says regarding true humility: ‘It is necessary that we know what this humility is like. I believe that the devil harms people who practice prayer and prevents them from advancing by causing them to misunderstand humility. He makes it appear to us that it’s pride to have great desires and want to imitate the saints and long to be martyrs. Then he tells us or causes us to think that since we are sinners the deeds of the saints are for our admiration, not our imitation.’ This false humility leads to spiritual mediocrity, so opposed to the true Christian vocation.”

Although we legitimately feel unworthy, answering Christ’s call demonstrates faith and trust in the merciful love of God. Shrinking from service because of our smallness is not humble it’s mediocre, and mediocrity is not the response to grace that Christ deserves.

Christ calls every Christian to share in His work of saving souls. It’s natural to respond with an astonished “Who, me?!” However, as Pope St. John Paul II exhorted us, we should cling to Christ’s words “Be not afraid”. Push aside the temptation of false humility and step forward in faith to say as Isaiah did, “Here I am, send me”.

Consider:

  • When, like Peter or Isaiah, have you been astonished by Christ?
  • What is Christ asking of you today?
  • What fears or insecurities are holding you back?
  • Do you believe Christ will do great things through you or do you doubt His mercy?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week ask Christ in prayer, “What do you want of me today? Here I am, send me.”
  • Pray the litany of humility prayer each day. It asks Christ to deliver us from the desires and fears that tend to become extreme in us and prevent us from freedom in following Christ.
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

 

~ Written by Angela (Lambert) Jendro © 2016

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Let Go and Let God

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Luke 4:21-30

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Meditation Reflection:

Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of Christ in this passage.  All too often so-called friends or groups of admirers show their fickle nature by turning on us at the first instance we upset them, let them down, don’t meet all of their expectations, or they simply become distracted by something else.  The home-town crowd listening to Jesus turned from amazement at His gracious words to anger, impelling them to hurl Him down a cliff in what seems like a moment.

The daily Gospel readings this past week shed light on the situation however, that can help sooth our disillusionment.  Jesus responded to both praise and rejection with the same calm demeanor.  He knows human nature and refrains from getting worked up about the opinion of the masses.  His mission is to do the will of the Father not to poll focus groups.  Moreover, Jesus teaches that all any of us can do is the will of the Father, the results are in God’s hands not our own.  This works both ways – when we seemingly do great works, and when we seemingly fail.  

In Thursdays Gospel reading from Mark 4:1-20 Jesus told the parable of the Sower and the Seed.  As a teacher and mother this is one of my favorite passages.  Jesus, and His servants, have the responsibility to sow the seeds of the Gospel wherever God sends.  How those seeds grow depends on the soil, or the disposition, of the receiver.  Jesus’ words quite often fell on hearts that were hardened toward Him or too distracted by greed or anxiety.  Why should we be surprised if we experience the same thing?  Sometimes Jesus’ words fell on generous hearts and the Holy Spirit was able to work wonders through His followers.  Again, can we really take all the credit when our work bears rich fruit? Some of the credit belongs to the person of faith willing to “hear the word of God and obey it” (Lk 11:28).  Thus, Jesus places higher honor on two foreigners over God’s own children the Israelites because they were willing to do something in response to God’s word.  Finally, credit ultimately belongs to God.  In Friday’s Gospel from Mark 4:26-32 Jesus reflected on how a farmer plants seeds and harvests the crops but the entire process of growth in between is due to the mystery of God’s work in nature.

This Gospel should give us peace that God is in control.  He opens people’s ears to hear and eyes to see if He chooses.  He decides which persecutions He will allow toward His servants and which He won’t.  In this Gospel Jesus calmly and effortlessly passed through the angry crowd, demonstrating God’s total control over the situation.  During His Passion however, the Father allowed His Son to be taken by the angry crowd in the Garden of Gethsemane and eventually crucified.  Yet, by the power of God Jesus also rose from the dead.  

Disciples of Christ can take comfort in Jesus’ words He so often speaks:  “Peace be with you” and “Be not afraid”.  We can let go and let God because our only task is to do the will of the Father and let Him bring our work to fruition.  We have the joy of being His instrument, but the music played through us belongs to Him.

Consider:

 Have you ever had an experience like Christ’s where a friend or an acquaintance turned on you?  What did it teach you about relying on the opinion of others?
 How much do you worry about what other people think of you?
 Do you trust your children to God or do you put all the pressure for their good on yourself?
 In John 15:1-5 Jesus asserts that our fruitfulness depends upon our connection to Him.  

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

 

o How often do you begin your work with prayer?  
o Do you pray for the people in your life?  
o Do you pray for God to guide little decisions and everyday tasks in addition to the larger ones? 
o How has bringing things to prayer enrichened your experience or the outcome?    

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

 Whatever your work may be, take time in prayer to surrender it to Christ each day.  Ask for Him to guide the process as well as the outcome. 
 Choose a time in the middle of your day to connect with Christ.  Decide on when, where, and how – even if it’s as simple as 5 minutes of silent prayer or reading Scripture at your desk during lunch.

~ Written by Angela (Lambert) Jendro © 2016; edited © 2018 Angela Jendro

Christmas Day! Up Close and Personal: God Dwells Among Us

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

Gospel of John 1:1-18

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

 Meditation Reflection:

There’s a reason why parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends greet children of every age with “I can’t believe how big you’re getting!”  The miracle of human life never ceases to astound.  My first pregnancy I remember marveling that a person who recently never existed, now did, and would for all of eternity.  It hit me that God had done a creating act of my child’s soul in my very womb.   The intimate closeness of God’s activity, and the reality of this miracle which was now kicking inside of me exceeded my understanding and overwhelmed my heart.  To this day, I look at my children and think, “You used to not exist, and now you do, and you are amazing.”

Holding my son for the first time, I finally experienced what it meant to be a contemplative.  I had learned about contemplation and how Mary was the perfect example as she gazed on Jesus and loved Him.  The catechism relates this description of contemplation from one of St. John Vianney’s parishioners:

Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. CCC 2712

Although I admired this kind of prayer and certainly desired it, I also felt it was unattainable for me.  “How can I just sit and stare at Christ?”, I wondered.  I would do my regular prayers then get on with serving Christ actively but had to leave contemplation to the advanced Christians, or so I thought.  Then I held my newborn son for the first time.  Exhausted from a difficult pregnancy and even more difficult birth full of complications, I nevertheless couldn’t stop staring at him, my heart overflowing with love.  The nurse asked several times if I would like her to take him so I could get some rest.  It was no use, I was wide awake and deep in contemplation. Moreover, this gaze of love changed the way I viewed everyone. From that moment forward, I understood the fierce love and compassion I have for my son is the same fierce love and compassion God has for each of His children.  In consequence, I see people through the Father’s eyes instead of my own.

At Christmas, we encounter the astounding miracle of the Incarnation.  God, Who was completely transcendent and beyond us, became man and lived intimately among us.  He shares our human experience.  He had a human mother, grandparents, cousins, an address.  He grew out of his clothes and sandals like my children are constantly doing.  Finally, whereas in the past God spoke through prophets, now He spoke directly to us.  The Word of God literally resonated through the air and to the ears of listeners.  It continues to resonate through the Church He endowed with His Holy Spirit and the Scriptures as well as in our own prayer through the indwelling of the Spirit as a gift of Baptism.

Contrary to popular cultural myth – God is not dead, not silent, not absent, and not remote.  Today we celebrate His birth, His Word dwelling among us, closer than any Person can get.

During this Christmas season, let us seek Him.  Contemplative prayer is possible for everyone.  We seek sight of those we love – whether through physical presence, facetime on the phone, or photographs on our desk.  It’s a movement of the heart.  God became man, that we might be intimately close to Him.  The catechism teaches:

Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.” CCC 2709 and Song of Songs 1:7; cf 3:14

Let us seek Christ spiritually in prayer and Scripture, physically in the Eucharist and Confession, and in each person we meet.

Consider:

  • When was a time you experienced the miracle of life?  How did it  make you feel closer to God?
  • Reflect on how intimately Jesus walks with you. Consider how He shares your experiences – the joys and the pain.
  • Imagine what it must have been like to be Jesus’ grandparents or extended family?  Imagine what it was like for Mary and Joseph to love Jesus with a mother and foster-father’s love.

 Make a Resolution:

  • Spend 10 minutes a day reading and reflecting on a Gospel passage.  Encounter Christ in His Word.  (I recommend Matthew 5-7 if you don’t know where to start.)
  • Spend 5 minutes in silent prayer.  Set a timer, close your eyes, and try to simply gaze on Jesus in your heart.  Don’t worry about distractions, just push them away and turn your gaze back if they pop up.
  • Encounter Christ in others each day this week.  Try to see them as God the Father does, and care for them as a physical opportunity to care for Christ.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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

3rd Sunday of Advent

Reflection by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 Gospel Luke 3:10-18 NAB

The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

Meditation Reflection:

 To prepare for Christ’s coming, John the Baptist offered practical advice:  God is Justice and Mercy, therefore practice justice and mercy in your everyday life.

To this end, the Church summarizes Jesus’ teaching on how to treat others into two categories of practical mercy: corporal and spiritual.  Corporal works of mercy care for the physical needs of others and the spiritual works of mercy care for those of the soul.  Advent offers a special opportunity to renew our commitment to practicing them in concrete ways on a regular basis.

Corporal Works of Mercy:

1)      Feed the hungry

2)      Give drink to the thirsty

3)      Clothe the naked

4)      Shelter the homeless

5)      Visit the sick

6)      Ransom the captive

7)      Bury the dead

Spiritual Works of

Mercy:

1)      Instruct the ignorant (teaching)

2)      Counsel the doubtful (encouraging someone struggling with the faith)

3)      Admonish sinners (having the courage to tell someone what they are doing is wrong)

4)      Bear wrongs patiently

5)      Forgive offenses willingly

6)      Comfort the afflicted

7)      Pray for the living and the dead

Each of these can be practiced in obvious ways of almsgiving, but they can also be practiced in some very ordinary ways if done with love and intentionality.  Feeding the hungry can mean going to the grocery store despite being tired (or wanting to do anything other than grocery shopping!).  Giving drink to the thirsty can be smiling when you really want to sigh in exasperation when your child asks for a cup of water or milk just as you are about to go to bed for the night.  Admonishing the sinner can mean doing the work of disciplining your children to teach them virtue when you would rather ignore the behavior and avoid the conflict.  It can also mean being honest with your friend when they are doing something wrong.  Burying the dead means making the time to attend a funeral even though you are busy.

Forgiving offenses willing and bearing wrongs patiently can be the most difficult.  They require surrendering bitterness and the desire for retaliation to offer patience and understanding instead.  Apply this to driving in traffic, shopping in a busy store, or putting up with annoying traits of your co-workers.  These things are much easier said than done.  Thankfully, Christ offers the grace we need to be a more merciful person.  He also teaches us in the Lord’s prayer that we will be forgiven insofar as we forgive others.

We all struggle with sin and a fallen nature.  Nevertheless, during Advent we recall the gift of the Incarnation and Christ’s redeeming power.  God made man and woman in His image.  He became man to restore that image by forgiving our sins and opening the possibility of becoming a new creation.  An early Church Father and bishop, St. Athanasius, described it beautifully in this way:

What, then, must God do? or what else was it right to do, but to renew again the grace by which they had been made after His Image, so that through it men might be able once more to know Him? But how could this have been done except by the coming of the very Image Himself of God, our Savior Jesus Christ?

The more we offer mercy the more we will receive mercy, and the more will become like God!

Consider:

  • If John the Baptist were to offer you advice, what would it be? (Would he see an injustice that you could correct or an opportunity for mercy you could take?)
  • Reflect on the mercy God and others have shown to you.  Offer God and those persons your gratitude.
  • Pray about the works of mercy and write a list of ways that you could incorporate them into your life.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Do one work of mercy each day.
  • Offer a prayer for those who have shown you mercy.
  • Receive the sacrament of Confession.
  • Visit the Vatican website for the Jubilee of Mercy and read some of Pope Francis’ reflections:   http://www.im.va/content/gdm/en.html

* Image: Pope Francis embraces a patient at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital, where the pontiff addressed a group of recovering drug addicts, offering them a message of compassion and hope on July 24, 2013, in Rio de Janeiro. CNS photo

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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The Courage to Transcend Mediocrity…Gospel Meditation for Mark 10:17-30 for 28th Sunday

by Angela Lambert

Jesus and the Rich man

Gospel of Mark 10:17-30 NAB

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus is about to leave when the young man comes running to Him. The question must have been burning on his heart and he knew he had to get to Jesus and ask Him before He left. In every human soul, the question of eternal life singes until satisfied.

In his work, Pensees, the philosopher Pascal observed that we fill our lives with distractions just to avoid this very question. When we are quiet or alone, it surges up and must be dealt with. We realize the feebleness of our nature and our true vulnerability. We are then faced with the clear decision that either there is no God in which case I can live as I want but my life is meaningless, or there is a God and I can live forever but I must acknowledge His authority and live by His precepts.

Many of us make something of an effort. Like the rich young man, many of us modern religious persons live comfortable and fairly moral lives. We follow God’s rules while we pursue the average American dream. Yet, our hearts still burn for more. Thankfully, the man in the passage pushes Jesus on the issue. Jesus affirms that the man has done the minimum requirement for eternal life. So why isn’t he satisfied? This is why “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” The man had opened his heart with a listening ear, courageous enough to seek out the answer rather than bury the discomfort. He asked Jesus that challenging question I have suggested in past posts – “Lord show me my blind spot.” And Jesus does, out of love.

Christ calls us beyond the minimum.

“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)

The philosophical and theological definition of “perfect” is “full or complete.” This is why He tells the man he is “lacking” one thing only. Christ, God incarnate, is about to set out for a journey. He offers the man the opportunity to come follow Him. What a privilege! Yet to do this, he would have to leave everything behind – another fork in the road.

How many times do we turn down incredible opportunities to stay in our comfort zone?   We get sentimental or attached to any number of our possessions and it undermines our freedom to say yes to the gifts of Christ that come in the form of service opportunities, vocation, relationships, even careers we may end up finding more fulfilling but less lucrative. When we let fear, comfort, or greed hold even a small part of us back from God, we experience a nagging feeling of hunger because we are not quite full. It’s normal to feel this divided heart – a simultaneous desire for complete abandonment to God and the fullness of joy and peace that accompany it, and the safe visible comforts of a worldly success which give us a kind of safety net but leave us feeling a bit cowardly.

I appreciate that Jesus says it’s impossible for us to make this leap by human effort alone because it speaks to my own experience. Rather than being discouraged by my own failure, I find hope in Jesus’ words that “all is possible for God.” The difference between the Old and New Covenant, is that in the first God gave His saving truth but in the second He gave us the grace to live by that truth. The young man in this passage encountered Christ and saw His gaze of love. May we too be blessed to see this gaze of love for us and say yes to perfect fullness. It’s okay if we leave feeling sad. It’s difficult to give up attachments. We don’t actually know if the man in this passage is sad because he won’t give up his possessions or because he will. The important thing is that we respond to grace, confident in Christ’s promise that our “sadness will be turned to joy” (John 16:20).

Consider:

  • Do you avoid solitude or quiet? Do you have a nagging feeling inside? Do you know why? With the help of Christ, consider honestly what fears, comforts, or ambitions hold you back from following Him with complete freedom and abandonment.
  • When did you make a sacrifice for Christ that turned out to be a terrific blessing? What held you back at first? How did you overcome those inhibitions? How did Christ exceed your expectations?
    • (for example: when I personally felt called by Christ to stay home with my children I found it hard to leave my job and the feeling of achievement. However, I came to experience freedom from taking my identity in accomplishments and a fullness of love in my heart I had never imagined. When my kids were school aged and Christ called me back to teaching, I found it difficult to transition again. However, I have a richer experience at work than before because now it’s more fully in union with Christ and I am less pulled by earlier attachments. It has also enriched my relationship with my kids as God has purified me of attachments I had grown while at home with them.)

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Christ challenges that possessions hold us back. Give away a possession this week.
  • Choose one fear, comfort, or ambition that is holding you back from following Christ’s lead completely. Practice the opposite virtue and do concrete actions to detach yourself. Be sure to pray and ask for grace. You will need Christ to help. Talk with a Christian who knows and cares about you so they can offer ideas and perspective.
  • Thank God for His grace in your life. Make a list of His gifts and of all the fears He has already freed you from up to now.
  • If God’s providence creates the opportunity, have the courage and humility to encourage someone else with your witness about how God freed and fulfilled you.

~ Written by Angela (Lambert) Jendro © 2015

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Finding Freedom

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

July 15th,2018 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 6:7-13 NAB

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick— no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus conquered Satan, and just as He healed persons afflicted by demons, He also gave His authority to His apostles to drive them out as well. Jesus personally extends this opportunity for freedom to you and I through the ministry of His Church and His grace. The question is only if we will invite Christ and His followers in and accept healing, or refuse to listen and force them out.

Satan and his demons, even if they do not take total possession of a person, can and do take control of pieces of us whenever we allow ourselves to be bound by their lies and their allurements.

Whereas Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).  How can we discern between the two?  Truth builds up and encourages. Even if it’s not what we want to hear, it always leads to our true good and real happiness. In contrast, Satan’s lies derail us from happiness and discourage us, even to the point of despair.

His common tactics include whispers that you are not worthy, that you cannot be loved, that you will never find happiness, that you are a failure, that God is a tyrant and faith is an illusion. Broken with despair, Satan offers false hope through sin.  He promises that happiness can only be found in pleasure so seek it without restraint or any moral boundaries.  He urges you to look out only for yourself and seek total independence – from any need of others and from God, and from anyone relying on you either.  The fruit of these lies however only reveal that the truth is true – that these do not bring happiness but intense sorrow, loneliness, and a degradation of your true dignity.  We need only to look at our secular hedonistic culture to see evidence of this.  In its pursuit of pleasure and freedom without God or morality, it has produced widespread depression, high suicide rates, slavery to addiction, and callousness toward the dignity of human life.

Contrary to Satan’s lies, the truth is in fact liberating.  You CAN find joy and happiness living a moral life in relationship with Christ.  Where do we find evidence of people who experience real freedom of soul, peace of spirit, and radiate joy?  In the lives of the Saints and in the lives of everyday Christians who strive to live a life of holiness with the help of grace.

Christ came to conquer sin and death that we might experience freedom and the fullness of joy (see John 15:11).  In today’s passage we see that He does this by giving His own authority to those He had chosen and sending them out to us.  Christ gave His saving Truth to His Church, not because of the apostles’ perfect character but simply because He willed it and wanted to personally extend His Gospel throughout the whole world.  He continues to do this through the apostles’ successors today, the bishops, who are also flawed human beings, and yet still messengers of the authoritative and saving word of God.  He also does this through every baptized Christian, whom He calls to be witnesses of the truth of the Gospel.

We need witnesses of this reality to give us hope and the strength to choose Christ – who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Consider the battle with addiction. At first it offered relief from pain and promised feelings of happiness for the person.  Instead it brought loss and self-destruction.  Still, the idea of giving up that addiction may feel like facing a life of misery.  The testimony of those who have conquered it and now experience freedom can strengthen the addict to reach for the hope of happiness in sobriety instead of reaching for their drug.

Similarly, in a culture obsessed with lust, chaste love may appear like misery.  The joy and freedom testified by chaste singles and faithful married couples prove the lie to be wrong.  Especially impressive today, are those who struggle with homosexual desires who choose chaste love.  Their witness directly contradicts the current propaganda that they won’t be happy unless they have homosexually physical relationships.  (For examples of their testimonies, see the website couragerc.org).

Satan tempted Jesus to be king without the Cross, and he tempts us the same way.  Nevertheless, Jesus proved that suffering and death brings resurrection and grace.  Following Christ will not be pleasurable all the time, but it will be joyful and meaningful.  The days of my children’s births were not pleasurable, but they were the most joyful and meaningful days of my life.  Any noble and worthwhile pursuit will require sacrifice, but there’s a kind of pleasure in the sacrifice when you know you are working toward something great.  What greater work can we do than taking Christ’s yoke upon us and building up the Kingdom of God?!

Jesus confronts the lies we cling to and our sin.  We must say yes to Him to be free of them, thus the call for repentance before being able to receive healing.  Oftentimes our response to being convicted of sin is to become defensive, attack the messenger, or walk away.  To this response Jesus tells the apostles to “shake the dust from their feet” and move on to those who are open to His Word.  Yet, sin is precisely where the demons have a foothold in our heart and deprive us of true joy.  You may not feel strong enough to overcome a sin, but by acknowledging your sin and inviting Christ in, and His Body the Church, He can drive the demons out and fill you with His peace; and one day you might get to be the hand of Christ to help someone else in your situation.  The choice is up to you.

Consider:

  • Think of one sin you struggle with the most.
    • What are the lies and rationalizations that keep you tied to this sin?
  • People were free to accept or reject the apostles.  Consider how receptive or defensive you are toward those Christ sends to you.  Who specifically are those persons in your life?
  • Invite Christ to free you with the help of His grace, to accept His Truth and to detach from the lie or sin you are struggling against.  You don’t have to do it alone, He gives you the whole Church, infused with His own authority and grace, to strengthen and support you.
  • The Truth is true.  How might you witness to this by your words and life?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Identify one specific, practical way you will reach out to accept the support of Christ’s Church to help you overcome your sin and receive freedom and healing.
    • (Examples: talking openly with a spiritual friend or your priest; receiving grace through attending a daily Mass; meditating on Scriptures or spiritual books that address your particular struggles; going to the sacrament of Confession…)

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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It’s Not Magic, but it is Supernatural

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

July 1st, 2018 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 5:21-43 NAB

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

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

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

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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