The Universal Search for God

Feast of the Ephiphany

Take Time For Him Book cover

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Simple, Soulful Gospel Meditations to Ignite the Busy Person’s Spiritual Life (click to order your own copy from Amazon!  Remember to rate it and leave a review!)

Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12

Meditation Reflection:

Epiphany means “the manifestation of the divine.” God manifested the 350px-Edward_Burne-Jones_-_The_Adoration_of_the_Magi_-_Google_Art_Project.jpgSavior 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 a 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. It may be through a search for meaning or to answer the tug at the heart that whispers “there’s more to life than this.”

Even those who deny God’s existence, still witness to the reality of the spiritual world. Our pets don’t ponder, and they don’t wrestle with questions about whether God exists. Those who develop a direct antagonism for religion expressed in a defiant atheism, still reveal that they have grappled with the search, a search that requires spiritual pondering, 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? Why even address the question at all? And yet we are not content with the same things as our pets and we all experience this question in our hearts.

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 deformation, which evidences the reality of the soul and its needs.

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. Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman noted that 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 have always offered easy cures in exchange for their own personal gain, but those quick fixes always came up short. Similar to marketing scams, they do more to manipulate the person’s wound rather than heal it.

Christ operates differently. He received no personal gain, but instead 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.

“For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9

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, Blessed Archbishop Fulton Sheen observed “No one who ever meets Christ with a good will returns the same way he came”.

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 reinvigorate your search for God
    • 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…

Additional Recommendations for Spiritual Reading:

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The Manifestation of Christ – God & Man – Savior For All Who Will Receive Him.

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

Feast of the Epiphany

 Gospel of 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:

You might be asking yourselves at this point, or at least your kids might like mine, “why do we keep having to go to all of these masses?!”  Feast, after feast, after feast.  For Christians, and Catholics in particular, Christmas season is not shopping season.  It’s a time to reflect, ponder, and grow in our understanding and appreciation of the birth of our savior. A mystery of this grandeur naturally requires several days and weeks to digest and contemplate.  Presently, our culture is celebrating the new-year which causes us to pause, reflect on our lives, and set new goals.  In the liturgical calendar the new-year begins with Advent but has a similar process.  We pause to reflect on our lives, but also to reflect on the great love of God who gave His only Son for our salvation.  We contemplate this gift because it ought to change the way we approach our life and inform our goals for the next year.

During Advent we prepare for the coming of Christ.  We repent of sins that keep us from Him and open our eyes and ears through prayer and spiritual reflection.  On Christmas day we rejoice at the coming of our savior, God incarnate.  The Sunday after Christmas we celebrate the Holy Family.  When God created man and woman in His image, He created them as a family.  God is a communion of Persons whose love is life-giving.  The family images this reality as a communion of a man and woman in life-giving love.  God’s work of restoring His image which had been distorted by sin begins with restoring the family.  He enters humanity and spends His first thirty years simply being the son of Mary and Joseph.  In this way, God bestows renewed greatness and dignity upon the call to family life.

On January 1st, the feast of Mary the Mother of God, we reflect on the question “who/what is Jesus?”  This mystery hinges on His relationship to Mary. Mary has the title “Mother of God” because she is truly Jesus’ mother and Jesus is also God.  At the incarnation, Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb and received His human nature from her.  Thus, Jesus is both God and man so He could be our Savior.

The next question we need to ask is who did Jesus come to save?  On the Feast of the Epiphany we celebrate that the Christ came to save all people universally who seek Him.  Epiphany means “the manifestation of the divine.” The angels had announced the manifestation of Christ’s coming to the shepherds and they responded by going to visit the Christ child.  Interestingly, they were shepherds from Bethlehem, and King David was not only from Bethlehem but also began as a shepherd.  God announces to His people who have been looking and waiting for Him for almost two thousand years that He had come.   Kings or shepherds, all classes are welcomed.  Moreover, the new star in the sky proclaimed to all creation that the Christ had come and the magi who were looking and searching responded by following the star to the Christ-child as well.  They offered Him gifts that recognized who the baby Jesus is – Gold because He is king, Frankincense because He is God, and Myrrh which is a burial ointment that foreshadowed His death.

God reveals Himself to all who will look and listen.  He might reveal Christ to you through His People, through an angel, or through Creation.  All should lead you to “the child with Mary His mother.”  It should lead us all to offer Christ our worship and every gift we can give.  He calls us all into communion with Him and His People the Church. Christ came to save us from sin and to restore us to unity as a human family in God.  The magi teach by example that seeking the Lord requires openness, effort, perseverance, investigation, and reverence.  As we celebrate the coming of Christ this Christmas season it should set the course of our entire year.  We must live in response to this gracious encounter with our Lord and Savior.

Consider:

  • Reflect on how you first encountered Christ and other times you encountered Him in a deeper way.
    •  How did this encounter enrichen your life?
    • How have you responded to this encounter?
  • The word catholic means “universal.”  Take a moment to praise God for extending His saving Truth and Love to all persons world-wide.  Consider how you might grow in union with God and with others.
  • Spend 5-10 minutes in silence reverencing the new-born king.  Imagine yourself as one of the magi encountering Jesus held in His mother’s arms.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Seek God actively in one way this week.
    • Some ideas: reading Scripture, silent prayer, service toward others, or attending a daily Mass.
  • Investigate God’s revelation.
    • Learn about Scripture and our Faith.  Attend a Bible Study, join Faith Formation at your parish, read a book about the Faith or the Catechism, talk to a priest or religion teacher and ask him or her some of your questions.
  • Offer a gift to Christ this week.  Make it thoughtful, something you know He would appreciate from you.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Soaking up the Sun of God

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 Epiphany 2.png

 

January 7, 2018 The Epiphany of the Lord

Gospel of 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:

After the bustle and excitement of Christmas celebrations, the days following often produce mixed feelings.  On the one hand a sigh of welcomed relaxation and the comfort of settling back into normalcy.  On the other hand, a sigh of sadness as we ache from missing our loved ones, along with a moan of pain as the brutal cold and darkness depress our commute.

Although the Christmas decorations may be coming down and routine returning , the true “Spirit of Christmas” (as every Hallmark movie loves to reference), ought to remain present and illuminate our homes.  The Feast of the Epiphany witnesses that the birth of Christ has ushered in a light that radiates with the strength of mid-summer rays and remains enduringly without diminishment.

The wise men travelled an arduous distance to find this light in the darkness.  As we begin surfing the internet for discount airline tickets and the brief relief of a warm, sunny vacation, we can take a lesson from the magi and intentionally seek out the true and lasting “Sun” of God.  Rather than merely making plans for the Caribbean, make plans to seek the Lord as well, where you can soak in the warmth of His rays of grace and love.  Surf for Christ-destinations such as Eucharistic Adoration, Mass, Confession, Scripture, spiritual reading, or silent prayer. Vacations refresh us with the energy we need to keep going in our daily routine.  Breaking away to soak up quality time with Christ will do the same.  It will refresh our weary spirits, lighten our dark moods, and deepen our lives with purpose and personal connection.

So, wrap up and stack your red and green decor in totes, and without a doubt discard the once fragrant Christmas tree that has now dried up into a mess of needles and a worrisome fire hazard.  Keep the light of Christ however.  After having drawn near to Him at His birth, remain with Him.  Keep close to Him.  Lay your whole self before Him in homage as the magi did, and offer Him every gift and talent you possess.  “Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow” (Isaiah 60:5).

Christmas celebrates the appearance of our long awaited Savior which lasts eternally not just one day. His coming should be transformative and therefore change the way we think and act, and re-prioritize our hopes and desires.  The New Year doesn’t mark the end of the holidays.  Rather, it marks the beginning of our new, and renewed, life in Christ.  The Magi left Bethlehem filled with joy and hope.  Mary left Bethlehem with Jesus in her arms close to her heart.  May we leave this Christmas season in the same way.

Consider:

  • Spend a few minutes in prayer drawing near to Christ like Mary, Joseph, and the Magi.  Surrender to Him in humility, love, and homage as they did.
  • How might you keep close to Christ daily and weekly?  Where might you encounter Him?
  • What gifts might you offer to Jesus?
    • Gold (wealth) – how well are you doing at tithing? Do you give the Lord your first 10% in thanksgiving and faith? Is there some way He is asking you to be more generous with your money or with your time and service?
    • Frankincense (used in worship of God) – How can you offer Christ your worship?  What might you offer to Him as a sacrifice?  How can you apply your talents and abilities to advancing the Kingdom of God?
      • [For example: offer patience with a family member as a sacrifice, offer your daily work as a sacrifice – especially the most tedious aspects, or offer living your faith authentically in the workplace rather than joining in un-Christian jokes, conversations, or activities.]
    • Myrrh (used as ointment for burial) – How can you honor Christ’s death for you?  Do you live as one saved or persist in certain sins?  Consider how to live more intentionally as one freed by Christ.  Meditate on the sufferings of Christ and unite your own suffering to His.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Choose one “gift” to present to Jesus for this year.
  • Seek Christ this week in an intentional way.  Set aside 10-15 minutes for prayer or spiritual reading, or seek Him in the sacraments.

Related Posts:

Setting goals for the New Year – Lessons from the Magi

The Universal Search For God

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.

 

 

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

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.