Stepping Outside Our Comfort Zone & Walking On Water

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

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August 13th, 2017; 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 14:22-33

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

Meditation Reflection:

Exhilaration, adventure, a leap of faith – we get brave and step out onto the water…outside our comfort zone.   For a brief moment, his eyes fixed on Jesus, Peter did just that.  Then, a gust of wind distracted him, and Peter’s gaze turned to the strength of the wind rather than the strength of the Lord.  His faith sank and so did he.  Yet, as quick as he had turned from the Lord, he turned right back.  He immediately reached out to Christ for help.  Jesus did not delay, He caught Peter as soon as he asked. Jesus didn’t let Peter flounder in the water gasping for air as He lectured him.  He cast no words of spite, no “I told you so”, or “that’s what you get for not believing more in Me.”   Jesus came to reveal the Father’s love, and on this night He demonstrated the Lord’s compassionate mercy for our weak nature.

Discipleship calls us beyond our comfort zone, and even beyond our natural limits.  Yoked to Christ, He enables us to walk on water.  Like Peter, we might step out of the boat in total confidence in our Lord.  Once on the water however, we become fearful as we realize our total dependence on His supernatural help.  It’s much easier to have faith floating on the water in a boat, than walking on water barefooted.

I remember the excitement of getting my first teaching job, and the enthusiasm of teaching students about God.  Then, the first day of class arrived, and panic struck.  “Yikes!” I thought, “How I am I going to get through the day? What I am I going to say for a whole class period?! What if a student misbehaves? What if I’m a terrible teacher?…”  I also remember the joy of holding my first child in my arms the day he was born.  It was absolutely surreal.  Two days later the nurse walked us out to the car and waved goodbye.  As we put my son in the car seat and drove away anxiety erupted, “They’re just letting us take him?!  We don’t know anything!  What if I’m a terrible mother? What if I say or do something that scars him for life?!…”  Lastly, when I do speaking engagements or workshops, I’m exhilarated at the opportunity to share the joy of God’s saving love with others.  A half hour before the talk however, worried thoughts begin to percolate up, “Why did I agree to do this?  It would be far more comfortable to be at home watching Netflix.  What if I fail? What if everyone is bored? Who am I to do this, I’m a sinner like everyone else?”  Like Peter, I begin to sink but then I cry out to the Jesus.  He reminds me that I teach, mother, and speak because He has called me to.  He assures me that though I am not worthy, He is, and He is with me.  He also pushes me by filling my heart with so much gratitude for His love in my life that I can’t resist sharing it with others.

The challenge of discipleship is living at a level only sustainable if Christ is real, and if He’s someone ready to help.  It requires taking a risk, so much so that if Christ is not real, you would be at a loss.  Consider how many times God tells us in Scripture to be not afraid.  Pope St. John Paul II chose these words for his first statement as Pope, knowing how much we fear as we look around at the dangers that surround us.

When I begin to sink in fear a few verses come to mind that strengthen me.  First, I think of 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

“Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”

St. Paul felt too weak to face a challenge on his own.  Rather than remove the difficulty, Jesus promised to provide the strength.  St. Paul realized therefore, that the weaker he is, the more God’s power must be at work in him to accomplish God’s will.  He moved from anxiety to total confidence, and writes in his letter to the Philippians,

“I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (4:13)

We can trust Jesus to come through for us.  We can answer His call, even if it means going beyond our natural limits.   When we struggle to take that leap of faith beyond our comfort zone, Christ urges us to simply reach out and He will be there for us as He was for Peter.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:7

Ask, seek, knock, and you just might walk on water.

Consider:

  • How has following Christ stretched you beyond what you expected?
  • When has Christ made an endeavor more fruitful than it would have been by your own merits?
  • Have you ever felt like Peter, walking on water, in awe of Christ’s divine power?
  • Have you ever faltered because of fear, worry, or anxiety?
  • What Scripture verses or memories reassure you of Christ’s aid?
  • Is Christ calling you to something outside your comfort zone right now?  What holds you back?  What inspires you forward?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Take one risk each day for your faith.
    • Ideas: Inviting your spouse to pray together, praying as a family, saying “God bless” to someone on the phone or a at work, speaking up when someone is criticizing the Church or using God’s name in vain, sharing your faith with someone in need of comfort, going to the Sacrament of Confession, responding to God’s call in your vocation or job…

Related Posts:

On Taking Risks…Gospel Meditation John 6:1-15 for Sunday July 26th

Do You Have Skin In The Game?

Being a Worrier or a Wildflower

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

~ Written by Angela M. Jendro © 2017

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Because of Your Name….

by Angela Lambert

person in prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 25th 2017; 12th Sunday Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 10:26-33

Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

Meditation Reflection:

Because of Christ’ Name, we suffer.  But by His Holy Name, we are saved.

As long as you remain lukewarm in your faith, keep it private, and compartmentalize it from the rest of your life, you will likely enjoy peace with the world.  If you proclaim Jesus to be a great teacher like Buddha, but refrain from calling Him God, people will respect you and your “spirituality.”  If you acknowledge Christ as one way and not The Way, most people will put up with your belief, since they afford everyone a little bit of foolishness.

One problem…to proclaim a nice moral teacher who isn’t God and isn’t the Way, the Truth, and the Life, is not to proclaim Jesus Christ.  Jesus promises that “Everyone who acknowledges Me before others I will acknowledge before My heavenly Father.”  To do that however, we must  proclaim the God Who became Man, that He is the fullness of Revelation – Divine Truth, the Savior of all mankind, and Love incarnate.  To proclaim a myth of our own making, and worse to belittle Christ by using a weakened, distorted, version of Him as our inspiration, is to deny Christ.  Jesus warns “But whoever denies Me before others, I will deny before My heavenly Father.”

To proclaim Christ takes serious guts, and I don’t’ just mean speaking about Christ.  Simply living your faith in everyday life will incite criticism and even personal attacks by others.

If you go to Church every Sunday despite competing demands for your time, you may be accused of being too rigid or too zealous.  Those who would prefer you prioritize them over God will accuse you of being uncharitable or having an unhealthy scrupulosity.  Those whose own church attendance looks lackluster in comparison will more likely try to find fault with your devotion rather than to imitate it.

If you believe that Jesus is the Truth – the Word of God, prepare to be accused of intolerance, close-mindedness, and archaic thinking.  Even if you do not “push your beliefs on others”, your simple rejection of the religion of Relativism will offend its many followers (note: Relativism states that there is no objective truth, except, paradoxically, Relativism).  Moreover, no matter how hard persons try to rationalize sins, their God-given consciences sense the truth and can’t help but react at reminders.  People who want to live in darkness hate the light. It happens at every age.  Teens who don’t drink or engage in pre-marital sex, get left out of parties and certain social groups. Adults who put God and family first, get left out of some events or opportunities at work, or in neighborhood gatherings.

It’s hard to follow Christ, especially when it means staying up at night with a newborn, while colleagues or friends fly off to sunny vacations.  It takes humility to make time for Mass and soccer games, knowing others will “get ahead” in their career because of their willingness to work all hours and days.  And what do you get for your sacrifice and virtue? Consider, how did Cain react toward Abel? How did Joseph’s brothers treat his piety? You will be honored by God and those who are Godly, but you will be scorned by those of the world.

Jesus is the Truth, and Satan is the father of lies.  Those who live by Truth will threaten those lies.  In retaliation, just as Satan spread lies to Adam and Eve about God, and just as he continues to spread lies about Jesus, Satan will spread lies about Jesus’ followers too.  We can feel helpless in these situations because it’s hard to defend ourselves when the other person fights dirty.  Jesus knows our struggle and has experienced our pain.  Thus, He assures us beforehand to “Fear no one.  Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed.”  Jesus promises that the Truth will conquer in the end.  It requires more patience, a lot of faith, and Holy Spirit courage though.

It’s hard to suffer unjust treatment and unwarranted animosity, especially when you are simply trying to live your own quiet Christian life.  Take heart however, people don’t get bothered by the lukewarm or the mediocre; whereas greatness is always challenged.  The more you are treated like Christ (the real Christ, not the mythical nice guy in sandals), the more it means you are becoming Christ-like.  So, as Pope St. John Paul II repeated again and again, “Be not afraid.”  Let Christ’s love in you soften hearts, even if they scream at you first.  Let the light of Christ radiate in you and cut through the darkness.  As the prophet Jeremiah witnessed in today’s first reading (Jer 20:10-13), “the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.”

Consider:

  • When did Jesus experience the most criticism and rejection?  Consider how His mighty works of healing and love, were met with envy and anger by some of the Jews.
  • Consider the mystery of the Cross.  Christ suffered out of love for us and was rejected.  Yet He rose again to new life and brought about our salvation.  How might we offer our pain and suffering from others’ rejections for their salvation, like Christ has done for us?
  • Reflect on a time when you “preferred darkness to light.”  How did you rationalize your sin or your way of thinking?  How did you react toward someone whose life shined a light on it?
  • Reflect on a time when you preferred light to darkness.  When have you experienced joy and freedom when the Truth in someone else’s life, freed you from a lie in your own?

 Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, pray an Our Father or a Hail Mary for someone who is persecuting you.
  • Each day this week, pray Psalm 69.
  • Offer this prayer each day:
Lord, I don’t want my light to be so dim as to not make a difference.

I beg You to make Your Divine Light shine through me with such radiance,

That it frees with Your Truth, those held captive by lies,

Guides those who are lost, back to You,

And lifts up lonely, discouraged souls with Your Love.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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

by Angela Lambert

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May 8th, 2016; Feast of the Ascension

A reading from Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11 (NAB)

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

 Meditation Reflection:

Jesus spent forty days with the apostles before ascending to Heaven.  During that time He proved He wasn’t a hallucination or a ghost.  He ate with them, spoke with them, embraced them, and even let Thomas put his finger in the wound mark in His side.  Having finished preparing the apostles to lead on earth, Christ ascended to reign in glory by the Father’s right hand in Heaven.  The apostles were left staring at the sky wondering what to do next.  Christ gave them instructions to wait and promised to send the Holy Spirit who would teach them all they needed and so God could dwell not merely with them as He had been the last few years, but within them.  Two angels appear assuring them Christ would return and the apostles then waited in hope and longing.

The twelve experienced a tension every Christian in love with Christ faces.  They belonged to two worlds – their hearts remained with Christ but their bodies remained on earth.  Christians are not dualists however.  Christ remained present in a real and substantial way with His Church and His followers dwell with Him in Heaven even while on this earthly sojourn just in an incomplete way.  St. Augustine expressed this beautifully in a sermon that is read today in the Office of Readings:

For just as He remained with us even after His ascension, so too we are already in heaven with Him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.  Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but He still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of His body have to bear…Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with Him in heaven even now, through faith, hope, and love that unites us to Him?  While in heaven He is also with us; and we while on earth are with Him.”  St. Augustine – sermon; office of readings for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Christ didn’t abandon us when He ascended but rather He enabled Himself to be even closer to us.  Through the indwelling of the Trinity, made possible through Baptism by the suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, He is no longer limited by space and time as He was when He walked the earth.  During His public ministry, Christ often longed to stay at a place and continue His work, but had to move on to bring the Gospel to other.  Now, reigning in Heaven and dwelling in His followers, He can be nearer to us than ever.  Suffering with us, comforting us, rejoicing with us.

Moreover, St. Paul teaches that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ with Christ as the head and His members as His body.  As a result we truly experience the grace and love of the Lord run through our veins and He experiences our joys and sufferings as well.  Every member of the body matters and every pain is endured by the whole body.  Stub a toe or break even a finger and everything seems to be affected.  Moreover, it seems as though when we have pain our brain can barely see past it without intentional effort.  Paul knew this reality intimately since Christ personally accused Paul of persecuting Him when he was persecuting the Christians.  In the same way, the health of the mind and the health of the body have a positive effect on all the members.  Making time to simply eat right, exercise some, get rest, and feed the mind energizes the whole person.

It may feel like a huge chasm between earth and heaven, but the only canyon separating the two is sin.  Because of Christ’s Paschal Mystery which merited Redemption for us, every person who seeks Him can find Him and everyone who wishes to remain in Him can do so through membership in His Mystical Body.  The sacraments provide a real and substantial connection between heaven and earth, the invisible and the visible, the perfect and the trainees.

Even the smallest separation can be intensely painful however depending upon the degree of love.  For instance, the more Teresa of Avila experienced union with Christ, despite having extraordinary gifts of rapture and brief moments of spiritual ecstasy, the more painful it became to endure everyday life without the intimate vision of the Lord.  Many saints speak of the same longing and even viewed death as a gift, their marriage to the Lord being fulfilled by crossing the threshold of their home together.

Our union with Christ will be fulfilled in heaven but it begins now.  We can be with Him as much as we allow Him to dwell within us and as much as we seek Him out in prayer and Sacraments.  Moreover, in this Year of Mercy, we are reminded that “whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do unto Me.”  Mother Teresa sought the Lord she loved in the poorest of the poor.  If you miss Christ and want to be near Him, you will find Him dwelling within you and in the poor around you, even those in your own home or workplace.

Consider:

  •  In what ways do you experience the beginning of heaven here on earth? (Remember heaven is union with God, joy and peace in His presence, enjoying the fellowship of loved ones…)
  • In what ways is heaven still distant?
  • Have you ever experienced the bittersweet pain of being physically apart from someone you love for a time? How did that distance deepen your relationship?  How did it feel when it was over and you could be together?
    • Consider your relationship with Christ in the same way. You can talk, relate, and love each other, but there remains a longing for being together in both body and spirit and being able to see each other.
    • Consider how the sacraments provide a real experience of heaven touching earth, of physically being near to the one you love.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Spend time with Christ in prayer each day or at daily Mass.
  • Intentionally look for Christ in those around you. Seek His face in the poor (especially the spiritually poor).  Do one act of love and kindness toward Christ through one of His members.
  • Each day begin by recalling: “This isn’t heaven. I have to wait.  But the more Christ dwells in me, the more heavenly this earth will be.”

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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