Making Room for Christ

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 making room for christ to come

December 10th, 2017 2nd Sunday of Advent

Gospel of Mark 1:1-8 NAB

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Meditation Reflection:

It’s the time of year for making room – in our closets, our homes, our schedules, and our lives.

We live in a culture so in love with stuff that we need storage units just to hold the overflow of possessions. Additionally, the rampant competitiveness in the culture adds pressure to our schedule, forcing our waking hours to overflow into the late night and early mornings.

When I was single I could handle quite a bit of buildup in things and reduction in sleep.  A few weeks into motherhood however it became clear we would all drown if I didn’t take regular action.   When my kids were younger we had a tradition every year of cleaning out their rooms and closets a couple of weeks before Christmas and a couple of weeks before their birthdays.  I would give them two bags – one for garbage and one for giveaway.  Anything broken, grown out of, or no longer used had to go to make room for the new gifts.  I too would clean out my things and reassess our calendar.

Advent provides an opportunity for us to do the same thing in our spiritual lives a few weeks before Christmas.  In anticipation of the greatest gift – Jesus Christ, the Son of God – we must make room in our souls, our schedules, and our lives.  It’s a time to step back and make an honest examination of what occupies our hearts.  Much like when I hold up an old sweater and debate whether I will really wear it again or not, I must examine the things I spend time and energy on and ask if they are still worth it, or just taking up valuable space.

If it’s so difficult to let go of an old ratty sweater overrun with pills, how much more difficult to let go of old bad habits or frames of mind.  We hold on to useless or worn out things simply because we hate change and we love nostalgia.  We may rationalize that we will “use that someday” but we don’t even know all the “thats” we have anymore.  We just don’t want to let go of something that’s been with us so long.

Similarly, we resist honestly evaluating our priorities, bad habits and sins.  In some ways they can begin to feel a part of our identity.  However, the process of decluttering our soul can be marvelously freeing and enable us to move forward in our lives.  The questions we must ask will vary as much as the clutter in our homes.  You may have to consider, “Am I a hard worker, or have I become a workaholic? Or the opposite: “Do I have a healthy amount of down time in my life, or have I just become lazy?”  About attitudes one might ask “Am I someone who doesn’t get riled up about much, or am I just complacent?” or the opposite: “Am I someone who cares passionately about things, or do I make an idol out of causes or get too involved in other people’s business?”

Outside perspective can help.  If you share a closet, garage, or home with someone, they will quickly tell you which items have been hogging space for no reason.   Loving family and friends can also offer valuable insight.  They can more easily identify the ways you have grown as a person and the things that hold you back.  The Holy Spirit can also guide you if you ask.  He can enlighten your mind to see things from God’s perspective and soothe you with grace to let the lesser goods go.

After decluttering, the final preparations for Christmas celebrations involve cleaning.  Mineral build up on the faucet, sticky fingerprints and globs of ketchup on the refrigerator, half-finished projects that have become an eyesore or safety hazard, and dusty surfaces dull the beauty of our homes.  It takes time and sweat, but the shiny glean in every room renews our appreciation of the gifts God has bestowed upon us and the joy of home.

In the same way, our virtues and gifts can dull from the challenges of everyday life.   Stepping back for a little introspection can help us reclaim those pieces of ourselves we love and let them shine again.

Some things may need to go and some things may be reasonable to keep, or some things may need a deep clean, but at the end of the process our souls shine with the beauty God has given us, and Christ has more room to fill with His divine presence and peace.

Consider:

  • Prayerfully list your priorities.  Where do God, work, family, friends, hobbies, and self-care rank?
  • Consider your schedule: How well do you balance time for God, time for taking care of yourself, time for helping others, and time to accomplish your work well?
  • Consider your possessions:  How well do your things represent your priorities?  Are there ways your possessions could better reflect what matters to you?
  • Consider your heart:  What occupies your desires most?  Be honest.  Then relate them back to your priority list.  Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to increase your desire for the Lord and for loving relationship with others, and to decrease your desire for what competes with them.
  • Consider your mind:  What occupies your thoughts?  What do you spend time learning about?  How well are you making time for introspection and spiritual growth?  Do you take the time to think of others or to identify your own needs?  What tends to distract you or consume your mind? How might you detach somewhat?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Make room for Christ in your home, your schedule, and your heart.  Declutter your biggest horde, simplify your time commitments, and increase your prayer and spiritual reading by 10 minutes.
  • Do an examination of conscience and encounter Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Related Posts:

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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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 Universal Search For God

by Angela Lambert

magi

January 8th, 2017 Feast of the Epiphany

Gospel Matthew 2:1-12 NAB

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

Meditation Reflection:

Epiphany means “the manifestation of the divine.”  God manifested the Savior to the world, from the poor Jewish shepherds, to the wise Magi from the East. All human persons seek God, whether they call their search one for the divine or not.  It may begin as movement toward God’s Goodness through the conscience, toward His Truth through the pursuit of wisdom, or toward His Beauty through captivation by His creation or art.

Even those who attempt to deny the search, witness to its inherent reality in our nature. Those who develop a direct antagonism for religion expressed in a defiant atheism, reveal that they have grappled with the search, evidenced by their conclusion.  In addition, true atheism expresses a negative despair, rather than a fulfillment of life or joy.  If God’s nonexistence were true, shouldn’t it satiate our nature rather than leaving us feeling depressed?  If we are merely animals, shouldn’t we be content with food, security, and a nap?  And yet we are not.   On the other hand, those who seemingly ignore the search due to idling in the superficial pleasures of the world, also reveal something of the human person’s natural inclination toward God.  If a child shirked healthy food and exercise in favor of foods that pleasure the palette and sedentary entertainment, his body’s natural development would be harmed, evidenced by less development than normal and increased sickness.  Similarly, those who neglect the healthy development of the soul suffer similar emotional and spiritual disfigurement as well.

The birth of Christ fulfilled the desire of all humankind.  God created us with the capacity for love, destined for eternal life, and union with the divine.  The Jews tasted this through His revelation in the Old Covenant and His many signs and miracles.  The Gentiles also sensed this through their observations of creation and philosophy. As a result, the Jewish shepherds learned of Christ’s birth by the appearance of angels, and the magi from the East learned of Him through sighting a new star.  Although the journey may begin in different places and a person may traverse by different means, nevertheless, all converge on Christ.

In addition to the universal search for God, humankind evidences a universal desire for redemption.  We sense the eternal law in our conscience, as well as the pang of guilt for transgressing that law so many times and the feeling of helplessness to be able to perfect ourselves. For instance, we look to psychology, television, news, science, and nutrition, to discover the explanation as to why we do what we know we should not do.  After finding an explanation we seek the cure – again through self-help guides or better diet.  And yet we continue to feel guilt and unrest.  We continue in behaviors we know are self-destructive and negative.  We need a savior.

False gods and false prophets always promised cures in return for some kind of personal gain, promising quick cures that always came up short.  Similar to marketing scams , they do more to manipulate the person’s wound rather than heal it.  Christ proves the opposite of the false gods and demonstrates His authenticity by rejecting anything worldly we might offer.  He came poor and died poor.  He lived a hidden life for thirty years and avoided vainglory by never staying too long in one place during His public ministry and often commanding those He healed to tell no one.  Rather than lengthen His life, it was shortened.  He proved on the Cross that He did not come to take from us, but to give selflessly and unconditionally to us.

Jesus is the Savior we yearn for and there is no gimmick.  He did not come to manipulate, He did not offer false hopes or promises.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who offers pure, loving, relationship.  He alone satiates our search and nourishes our development.  The magi searched for God and found Him.  Jesus promises us as well, that all who seek Him shall find Him.  Hopefully we, like the Magi, can have the courage to venture out in search of the Lord.  Contemplating this mystery, Archbishop Fulton Sheen observed “No one who ever meets Christ with a good will returns the same way he came” (Life of Christ).

Consider:

  • Reflect on your journey to God.  What “pointed” you toward Him, like the star did for the Magi?
  • Has your search for God grown lax at times? How did your spiritual life atrophy afterward?
  • How might you reinvigorate your search for God? Could you increase your search through prayer, reading of Scripture, studying the faith, or fellowship with friends of faith?
  • Consider the gift of our savior. How has Christ freed and healed you?  What do you need Him to free you from, or heal you, of today?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Choose one way to invigorate your search for Christ.
    • Ideas: Read a chapter of a Gospel each day; Read a book about Christ by an inspiring author, make time to visit with a Christian friend about the Lord, join a Bible study, read the lives of the saints and learn from their pursuit of Christ, talk with your family about Christ…

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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

by Angela Lambert

nativity

December 25th, 2016; Christmas Liturgy

Gospel John 1:1-18

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

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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