That Others May See More of Christ In You

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Read the Gospel of John 12:20-33

Meditation Reflection:

Someone may say to you one day, “[Your Name], I would like to see Jesus.”  Imagine that for a moment and take it in.  A person looking to you with a hopeful and somewhat anxious expression, addressing you by name, and depending on you to connect them to Christ.

“Why me?” you might say.  In a secular culture void of God, searching souls see Christ from a distance and feel more at a loss to find their way to Him than you may think.  Your relationship with Jesus, and their relationship with you, may be the bridge they need.

Yet, to be Christ’s light and love in the world, to be a bridge, demands a serious choice which will decide the trajectory of your whole life.  Jesus made this choice, and so must each of His followers.  The choice – to live for yourself or to live for the Lord, to build a life of your own making or to build the kingdom of God.

A grain of wheat, in and of itself, is small and insignificant – enough to feed only a bird. Yet, within it lies tremendous potential – enough to feed human persons.  The movement from potential to actuality however begins with death.  If a grain were a conscious soul with a mind and will, it would see before it a decision:

  1. Go on living as a seed for itself, unchanged and comfortable.
  2. Surrender itself to the Creator, be broken apart in death and then transformed into something new and quite different from its experience as a seed.

Although the second option sounds scary, to grow and change also entails being lifted up from the ground, becoming tall stalks of wheat, and finally, maturing to the point where it can be picked as harvest for others.  The first choice may be easier, but the second adds so much more meaning to its life.

As Jesus’ Hour approached – His Passion and Death, He came to the final crossroads of His decision.  He had said Yes to the Father when He agreed to become man at the incarnation, He had said No to Satan’s temptations in the desert, and now as His ultimate sacrifice approached He weighed His decision aloud for His disciples to hear and one day imitate. 

Jesus didn’t want to suffer but He did want to save us. So, what was He really to do?  Christ’s magnanimous love refused to live for Himself, so He chose the path to the Cross.  He chose to die that He might be lifted up – on the Cross and in His Resurrection – and thereby bear fruit that gives all mankind who plucks it eternal life.

To be Christ’s disciples, we need to be nourished by Him first. Under the appearance of wheat bread in the host, He gives His very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to us in the Eucharist.  With this union and grace, He begins His work transforming our souls, if we let Him.

He starts by breaking down sin and selfishness.  Dying to ourselves marks the first stage of development.  Thus prayer, fasting, and almsgiving facilitate this process by putting God first, denying ourselves pleasures, and opening ourselves up to the poor around us. 

From this death to self however, which no doubt is painful, emerges transformation.  Sin and self at bay, Christ is more free to build virtues within us and to grow authentic Christian love.  The process snowballs positively as the greater one loves, the easier sacrifice becomes.  In full Christian development, love is so perfected that it, like Christ, can’t bear to choose pleasure or comfort over love of God and neighbor. We experience something of this in human loves between parent and child, spouses, or dear friends.  In loving relationships, giving of one’s self or possessions is felt to be an opportunity rather than a burden.

In this fifth week of Lent, you may be feeling the pain of perseverance in the commitments you made Ash Wednesday.  However, the more weak you feel on your own, the more reliant you become on Christ and His grace to support you.  Have hope, we are past the midpoint!  Just as there can be no Easter Sunday without Good Friday, we can’t truly feast until we’ve fasted.  The more we enter in to Lent, the more joy we will experience during Easter.  

Like Jesus, we might pray to the Father:

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.” (v.27)

We choose death to self because we desire life in Christ – which we know to be much happier, peaceful, and fulfilling than anything we could construct for ourselves.  We don’t die for its own sake but rather to receive greater life. 

Jesus teaches, “If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also” (v.26). In consequence, as we approach Holy Week we endeavor to be with our Lord wherever He is – at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, at the Cross on Good Friday, waiting in anticipation Holy Saturday, and rejoicing in His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

If we persevere and remain near to Christ, those near to us can be blessed by His Presence too. Our lived discipleship might drive out the lies of Satan with Christ’s Truth.  You could be a witness that Christ brings true happiness to someone disillusioned by the world’s false promises.  Your unconditional love could drive out the lie that someone is only as valuable as they are useful.  Your forgiveness could cast out the temptation of despair with the truth of mercy. 

Christ’s saving love draws everyone to Himself.  If we allow ourselves to be conformed to Him, we just might be that bridge to Christ for someone’s salvation, or that stalk of wheat which they pluck to receive our Lord for the first time.

Consider:

  • Meditate on the words, “we would like to see Jesus.”  Make this your prayer to the Holy Spirit and spend 5 minutes in silent prayer listening.
  • Consider Christ’s gift of self for you.  Pray about how you might give more of yourself to Him and to others.
  • How does your life witness your faith to others, and in what ways do you sometimes hide your faith?
    • Are you a joyful or a gloomy Christian?
    • In conversations, does your speech reflect your Christian values or do you participate in gossip or vulgar jokes.
    • Do you speak about your church or priest with respect or are you overly critical?
    • Do you reach out to persons at work or in your neighborhood who seem to be friendless or having a tough time, or are you too focused on your own life?
    • Do you greet people with a smile? (one of Mother Teresa’s common suggestions)

Practical Application:

  • Invite someone to Mass or Bible Study with you this week.
  • Pray with someone this week.
  • Intentionally greet each person with a smile, even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Pray the Stations of the Cross.  Meditatively be with Christ at each step. 

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

Restoring the Sacred

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

3rd Sunday of Lent

Read the Gospel of John 2:13-25

Meditation Reflection:

Is nothing sacred? That’s how it feels sometimes in our culture.  From the vulgarity prevalent in speech, the disappearance of courteous manners, and the dissolution of Sunday rest, to the dismantling of laws which protect the rights of the unborn, the promotion of euthanasia, and the disrespect for the institution of marriage – nothing seems off-limits.

Jesus felt the same way in this Gospel passage.  He acted in outrage at the disrespect shown to the most sacred place on earth.  The Temple in Jerusalem was where God’s unique and immanent presence had dwelt.  God’s presence had been upon the Ark of the Covenant since the time of the Exodus and remained in the Temple from the time of King Solomon to the Babylonian Exile.  The Lord had promised Solomon:

“Now the word of the LORD came to Solomon, ‘Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my ordinances and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.’”  I Kings 6:11-13

Upon finishing the Temple and dedicating it to the Lord, the priests placed the Ark in the center of the Temple in the Holy of Holies.  God, true to His word, dwelt there.

“And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.” I Kings 8:10-11

This did not mean the Israelites thought the Ark could “contain” God, who is transcendent and infinite.  It was nevertheless, His immanent and particular presence. Unfortunately, over time they abused their relationship with God.  On the one hand, they knew with God in their midst no one could defeat them, and this is admirable faith.  However, over time they spiraled downward in their sins and so payed lip service to God, expecting Him to maintain His protection over them, while at the same time living in defiance of His laws. 

After much prodding by God through His prophets for their words and actions to align, the people remained obstinate, so God took His presence from the Temple (Ezekiel 10) and left them to their own devices.  They were quickly conquered by the Babylonians and exiled.  In the same way, when we refuse Christ’s grace and mercy, ignoring His calls to conversion, we find ourselves overcome by our sin and feeling exiled from the comfort of God’s peace.

Eventually the Jews were allowed to return and rebuild the Temple.  Although it became a place to offer sacrifice again, God’s immanent presence upon the Temple had not yet returned.  When He finally did enter the temple, it wasn’t as a cloud descending.  Rather, far beyond expectation or imagination, God’s presence returned in His incarnate Son!

Unfortunately on this day that God came to the Temple, He found shady business transactions where there should have been reverent preparation for prayer.  He’d had enough and kicked them out. 

After His Ascension into Heaven, Jesus established His ongoing immanent presence in the Temple of His followers through Baptism and nourishes those followers with His Real Presence in the Eucharist. Let’s not become too complacent in our faith, but rather live as if we are in the presence of God – because we are.

Consider:

  • Like the Israelites, it’s easy for us to begin taking God’s gifts and presence for granted.  In what areas has reverence for God slipped a bit in your life? What “tables” would Jesus overturn if He spent the day with you?  How might you restore sacredness there?
  • Are there areas of your life where you pay lip service to God? What habits do you persist in that don’t correspond to God’s ways?
  • How might you live more authentically as a baptized Christian – a Temple of Holy Spirit, a Light of Christ, a child of God?
    • In the media you consume
    • In the work you do
    • In your friendships
    • In your prayer life
    • In your priorities and goals

Practical Application:

  • Take concrete steps to restore the sacred in one area of your life. 
    • Arrive at Mass 5 minutes early, or read the Scriptures ahead of time so you can better prepare
    • Delete any social media accounts, music, or channels that are inconsistent with your Christian calling
    • Make a plan as to how you will avoid break room gossip or crude jokes
    • Develop greater sensitivity toward the dignity of life by contacting your local crisis pregnancy center or nursing home and helping them with a need
    • Restore the sacred in your marriage by doing something intentional to deepen your relationship and show your appreciation, cut out habits of disrespect.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

I Can’t Believe My Eyes

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

2nd Sunday of Lent

Read the Gospe1 of Mark 9:2-10

Meditation Reflection:

I can’t believe my eyes!  Peter, James, and John must surely have thought this at the Transfiguration. They would again – though for a different reason – at the Cross; and again at the sight of the risen Lord. There, at the Transfiguration, Jesus’ divinity and Messianic promise radiated unveiled in glory.  Despite the awe inspired by this divine theophany, they struggled to understand what Jesus later meant by rising from the dead.

The Apostles believed Jesus to be the Messiah and remained with Him through the entire three-year tenure of His public ministry.  Nevertheless, they often underestimated Christ, and despite the innumerable miracles they witnessed firsthand, regularly regressed to earthly problem solving without calculating the supernatural aid of their divine Master.  Consider the storm on the sea in which they were sure they would drown while Jesus lay asleep (Mark 4:35-41), or their concern over forgetting to bring bread on their voyage even though Jesus had just multiplied loaves and fish on two different occasions for the multitudes (Mark 8:14-21). 

People often say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Yet, despite witnessing miracle after miracle in our own lives, we continue to worry anyhow.  Jesus could very well say to many of us, “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:18).  

Every disciple of Christ struggles to move from the immediacy of the visible world, to consistent sight of the even deeper reality of the invisible world.  Discipleship requires the movement of grace and the Holy Spirit to enable us to follow the Lord where He leads, even though it may mystify and surprise us.  As God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,      neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth,      so are my ways higher than your ways     and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

During Lent we take a step back to evaluate just how deep our faith really goes.  For example, do you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, trusting wholeheartedly that if you do so He will provide for everything else (Matthew 6:33)?   Or do you hedge your bets, keeping up worldly-minded safety nets in case God doesn’t come through for you?

These attachments hold us back from full freedom in the Lord.  Like the apostles, we worry about things like bread and tents (financial and physical security), when Christ has provided everything we need and more…including life itself and a room in His Father’s house. As we contemplate the awesome, sacrificial love of Christ, we are challenged to invite Him more fully into every aspect of our lives.  Certainly He has proven that we can trust Him – the man that died and rose again for us, the man who is also God! 

So, consider: What limits do you place on God? Where are the boundaries of your faith? Do you trust God to secure your eternal home, but doubt with matters related to your earthly one?  Sometimes the visible world can seem more real than the invisible.  The immediacy and demands of each day’s tasks can beguile our imagination into feeling as if God is remote and unrelated to the day’s needs, at least in any concrete or practical way. However, God is Lord of Heaven and Earth. 

Abraham believed this to his very core.  He trusted God to be Who He claimed to be.  His faith was so confident that he raised his knife to sacrifice his only beloved son and his only hope of a legacy, believing God could raise Isaac from the dead if need be. St. Paul described Abraham’s magnanimous faith in his letter to the Hebrews saying:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said ‘Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.’  He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence he did receive him back, and this was a symbol.” (Hebrews 11:17-19).

The eyes of faith see the visible and the invisible.  They “understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (Hebrews 11: 3).  Faith trusts that God is who He says He is, and who He has shown Himself to be time and again.  Yes, it exceeds our understanding, because for us many things are impossible, but “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). 

As we journey through Lent, may we place our trust more fully in Jesus Christ. Maybe by the end, we will be somewhat closer to the confidence St. Paul expressed in his letter to the Romans:

“If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” Romans 8:31-32

Consider:

  • Sarah conceived Isaac despite being barren and past the natural age.  God did this because Sarah believed in the power and faithfulness of God.  “She considered Him faithful Who had promised” (Hebrews 11: 11).
  • Consider God’s faithfulness.  How has God been there for you when it counted?  How has He answered prayers in a way you didn’t expect?  How has He brought good out of a bad situation?
  • Consider God’s generosity. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you look back on the day, week, year, and course of your life and see God’s blessings.  Then spend a few minutes in prayers of gratitude.
  • Entrust your cares to Christ. Make a list of your worries or of what’s weighing on your heart and surrender them to Him.

Practical Application:

  • Pray the Act of Faith, Divine Praises, Serenity Prayer, or Suscipe Prayer each day this week.
  • Make a gratitude list each day.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

Desert Decisions

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

1st Sunday of Lent

Read the Gospel of Mark 1:12-15

Meditation Reflection:

The transition from Christ’s hidden life to His public ministry began with His Baptism and then the temptation in the desert.  There, He decidedly chose the path of self-sacrifice over self-gain.

At the Incarnation Christ, though the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, took on a human nature and humbly chose to fully live the human experience with all of its limitations and difficulties.

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:6-7

As man, Jesus grew “in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52), obedient to His parents, embracing the temporal condition of human development.  He did not begin His public ministry until the age of thirty, which marked full manhood at the time and the transition to leadership roles.  It was also the age Levitical priests would enter the full service of the Lord (see Numbers 4:3, 30).

The commencement of His mission was preceded by temptation and trial.  He, like us, had to choose which trajectory His life would take.  In the desert, Satan enticed the Lord to direct His divine gifts to pampering His human nature.  Matthew (4:1-11) details the temptations specifically: bodily pleasure (bread), tremendous fame (leap from the temple pinnacle), and worldly power (all the kingdoms of the earth).  Satan forced the choice before the Lord: the immediacy of the visible world and self-gain without the Cross, or the work of establishing the invisible kingdom of God which would require self-immolation and suffering Crucifixion before rising again.

Each of us faces the same temptations and the same choice.  We can either use our God-given gifts to promote ourselves and worldly achievements or direct them to the Father’s will and the building up of His kingdom.

Lent provides a time to step into the desert with the Lord, to pray and fast, and to re-orient the trajectory of our lives.  As a Church, the People of God, we take 40 days each year to shed the illusion that we can live for both worlds or that we can have the kingdom without the Cross.

Through fasting, with the help of grace, we deny ourselves tempting pleasures to strengthen our will and remember that:

man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). 

Furthermore, it reveals the truth of just how attached we may be and loosens the hold that habit may have over us.  Fasting also unites us to the redemptive value Christ has placed on suffering through His own suffering and death.  In fact, on one occasion Jesus even said to His disciples that some demons “cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).  Thus, through our Lenten fasting, we join our sacrifices to His, to cast out the demons in our lives with His help, so that we might share in His mission and thus share in the hope of His Resurrection.

Through prayer we draw closer to the Lord, that the invisible might become more visible and His grace might transform us.  Encountering Christ in the Scriptures, the Mass, the Rosary, the lives of the saints, Eucharistic Adoration, the Stations of the Cross, and other prayerful devotions, our love for Him is enkindled and our discipleship strengthened.

Finally, the Lenten practice of almsgiving moves us outside of ourselves through service toward others.  This can range from sharing your money with the poor to sharing a blanket with your child.  It also includes sharing your time with someone sorrowing, lonely, or sick. It begins with meeting the needs of your family then your co-workers or neighbors and friends, your local parish and community, and finally the world-wide needs of the Church.  Catholic Relief Service’s Operation Rice Bowl provides an opportunity as a family to make simpler meals during Lent and to donate the money saved to feed the hungry in poor areas of the world.

During Lent, we join Christ in the desert.  We withdraw from the immediate pleasures of the moment and usual temptations toward worldliness.  With that space we can draw nearer to Christ and the eternal, even more real, pleasures of the Heaven.  At the end of this purification we share in the joy of His resurrection at Easter.  Easter is the beginning of a new creation, and we hope to be a new, or renewed, creation Easter Sunday as well. Lent is a time to “repent and believe in the gospel” so that, transformed by grace, we may live in the Kingdom of God which is now at hand in Jesus Christ.

Consider:

  • Consider in prayer the deeper, truer, reality of the spiritual world.  Reflect on the illusory promises of pleasure, fame, and status compared with the enduring graces of Christian love, strength, and joy.
  • Ask Christ in prayer to reveal an attachment you may have, that up until now you have been blind to such as subtle forms of pride, vanity, greed, or pleasures.
  • Take time for gratitude.
  • Ask Mary to help you see the needs around you as she did at the Wedding at Cana.

Practical Application:

  • Swap out 15 minutes of media time for 15 minutes of prayer or silence.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

Private v. Public

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Read the Gospel of Mark 1:40-45

Meditation Reflection:

Encounter with Christ can seem paradoxical – both private and public, personal and communal, and silent or exclamatory. We experience the healing of Christ when we go to Him in the quiet solitude of personal pleading in faith to our Lord, whether in moments of private prayer or in approaching him through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession.  At the same time, love and gratitude from this experience overflow our hearts and almost compel us to share it. 

In addition, sometimes Jesus instructed people to tell of their experience, and at other times He bade them to be quiet.  Similarly, the Church sends out missionaries to preach the Gospel in every corner of the world, and at the same time relies on the cloistered prayer of contemplatives and hermits.  Our own duty to attend communal worship at Mass on Sunday, is fed by daily personal prayer all week, and vice versa.

In our own lives we may experience both calls too.  At times Jesus asks us to withdraw in quiet faithfulness, alone with Him and just a few close followers.  At other times, He calls us to publicly witness our faith to others in a visible way. 

How do we discern the difference? Listen. Just listen to the Holy Spirit Who guides the heart’s prayer and provides the words of witness.  The man in this passage couldn’t help but share his joy, it was too overwhelming to keep to himself.  Jesus did ask him to keep quiet because Jesus wanted it to be a personal not public miracle.  Yet, His personal miracles in our lives become public as our joy radiates. 

Consider:

  • How has Christ been working in your life? What are the small (or big) miracles?
  • Is Jesus calling you now into a time of quiet or of witness, or both?
  • How does taking time for personal prayer, make your Mass experience richer?
  • Spend time offering your plea to Christ like the leper in this passage, and time listening and receiving His healing touch.

Practical Application:

  • Read the lives of the saints this week – they offer real life examples of this paradoxical tension between silence and solitude, and courageous witness.

(If you don’t know who to read about, look up the saint of the day online)

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

Shining a Light into The Darkness

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Read the Gospel of Mark 1:21-28

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus casts out demons, He frees us from their lies and from the darkness of sin.  This is truly a gift and a great relief! Our present secular culture needs this gift.  Marked by the highest levels of anxiety and depression, the darkness from which these symptoms often proceed need to be cast out with the authority and light of Christ.

The great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), explored the relationship between darkness, sin, and anxiety in his work The Christian and Anxiety.  He noted, “The main effect of darkness is that it separates, isolates, makes lonely.”  Similarly, the darkness of sin separates the sinner from others, isolates him from God whose light he evades to continue in sin, resulting in dark loneliness.  In Exodus, the penultimate plague aptly signified the culmination of Pharaoh’s obstinate evasion of God, who had made Himself visibly manifest.  A darkness came over the Egyptians for three days, “a darkness to be felt” (Exodus 10:21) The dense, suffocating, darkness effected a social paralysis, symptomatic of their spiritual sickness. 

and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; they did not see one another, nor did any rise from his place for three days; but all the people of Israel had light where they dwelt” (Exodus 10:22-23). 

Von Balthasar asserted that the loss of light signifies the loss of reality.  Without light we cannot see and therefore remain trapped by our imagination. Reflecting on Wisdom chapter 17, he wrote, “The wicked are afraid of Nothing, of nothing real.”  God is Reality.  His divine Name, Yahweh, which means “I Am”, revealed Him to be existence itself.  Therefore, to hide from His Light, to duck His Truth, means to retreat into an imaginary world of one’s own creation. It deprives us of the answers we need most of all – Who am I?  What is my purpose?  What is the meaning of life? How do I find happiness?  

Denial as a coping method may be alluring, but rarely helpful. For example, avoiding the truth about a physical illness provides a temporary relief and façade of healthiness.  However, the illness usually worsens without treatment and the anxiety one initially avoided only intensifies due to procrastinating the cure. In the same way, one can only self-soothe by justifying sin for so long before the underlying dread and pain of spiritual illness becomes too intense to deny.

Sin can become paralyzing.  Left untreated for too long it can feel insurmountable.  Satan, the “Accuser” as Jesus calls him, whispers fearful lies into the darkness to keep a person from reentering the light.  The demons of shame, despair, and distrust bind the sinner to his dark loneliness. 

Yet, into this darkness, Christ the Light broke through.  He “spoke with authority” because He spoke Truth, thereby dispelling lies.  His Light cast out the demons of darkness, His Truth cast out the Father of Lies, and His merciful love strengthened and healed so the sinner could become whole again.  How many miracles of Jesus demonstrate this!  The paralyzed man who could walk again.  The lepers, cast out from society, healed and able to rejoin their families.  The demoniacs freed and restored to their loved ones.  Christ’s light shone on prostitutes, tax collectors, and pagans.  He liberated them from a kingdom of degradation and made them citizens and children of His Kingdom of God. 

Christ continues to bring His light into the darkness through His Mystical Body the Church.  He invites us into His healing love, then His light begins to shine in us.  Wherever we are, that light shines simply by union with Him. 

Elizabeth Leseur (1866-1914), a devout Catholic living in an upper-class, atheistic, French society provides a concrete example of how to be a light in darkness.  Elisabeth and her husband Felix loved one another intensely and shared an inspiring intimacy of marital friendship. As a result, it pained her severely that he was an ardent atheist.  Her love for God and her love for Felix were both so deep, and yet she couldn’t share that deepest part of herself with the man she loved the most, nor see him receive the joys and graces she enjoyed as a Christian. 

She made it her apostolate to pray and sacrifice for his conversion and for their friends.  Most everyone in their society of friendship were intellectuals and anti-Catholic.  Her diary reveals how she prayerfully navigated ministering to them, bringing light to the darkness through her hidden interior life, her faithful exterior practices, her patient silence, and her readiness to speak boldly and intelligently for Christ if the moment necessitated it.  After her death, her husband discovered her secret diary.  The insights into her interior life, together with his experience of her daily love during their marriage, softened his heart and converted his soul.  He went from being a hardened atheist to later becoming a Catholic priest!

Elisabeth brought her light into the darkness and it freed the one she loved the most.  One of her resolutions in her diary can be instructive for us in the same effort.  In today’s Gospel Jesus spoke with authority and it struck people.  Elisabeth discovered the same thing in her own interactions.  She found that somehow her personal conviction of faith, was itself a strong testimony, strengthened more by authenticity and simple truth than by long explanations trying to persuade.  She wrote,

“Each time the conversation leads me to speak of faith, I will do so simply, but in a direct and firm way that will leave no doubt as to my convictions.  Cleverness is nothing in such things; I am struck with the fact that unbelievers have more sympathy with people of deep faith than with those of variable and utilitarian views.  These dear unbelievers attend more to those who are ‘intransigent’ regarding the Faith than to those who by subtlety and compromise hope to bring them to accept the Faith. And yet the bold statement must be made with the most intelligent sympathy and the liveliest and most delicate charity.”[i]

Our culture suffers under “a darkness that can be felt,” but Christ’s light shines into that darkness to cast it out and replace it with freedom. As St. John testified:

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5

May the light of Christ shine in and through us!


[i] Elisabeth Leseur, The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur: The Woman Whose Goodness Changed Her Husband from Atheist to Priest, Sophia Institute Press, 2002.

Consider:

  • Are there shadows of darkness with which you struggle?  Bring them to prayer and expose them to the light of Christ in Scripture and the sacraments.
  • Compare who the world says that you are and what your worth is, with who Christ says that you are.  Which do you listen to more?  How might you strengthen Christ’s voice within you?
  • Spend 5 minutes of silent prayer, loving Christ and receiving His love.
  • How might you grow your relationship with Christ and let Him shine more brightly in your life?  How might you bring His warmth, love, and truth to those in your life?

Practical Application:

  • Resolve to pray for and develop a deeper love for Christ and to shine Him more brightly.
  • Pray the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi daily.
  • Pray the Rosary.  Mary always purifies and strengthens our love for Jesus.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

Have You Found What You Are Looking For?

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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Order the kindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Read the Gospel of John 1:35-42

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

At long last, their hope for God’s Word and for renewed relationship enlivened with anticipation when John the Baptist appeared, as

“the voice of one crying in the wilderness:

 ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight’”

(Mark 1:3; Isaiah 40:3).

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

Both Messiah and Christ mean “anointed one.”  In the Old Testament, those God had appointed as either priest, prophet, or king would be anointed with oil.  Each were called in some way to mediate between God and the People, bestowed with a measure of God’s authority.  The priesthood of the Old Covenant foreshadowed the eternal priesthood of Jesus, who would offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.  The prophets mediated God’s word, preparing us for the incarnation of the Word of God, and later the indwelling of that Word in our souls through Baptism.  Finally, the role of king was to govern the people as a steward of God who is the true king.  Jesus came as king to reign not as a steward, but with the authority of God Himself.

“And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching!’” Mark 1:27   “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 2:7

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

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

That day had probably began like every other day: breakfast, work, prayer, routine.  In that moment however, they dropped everything to find Jesus.  Everything had changed.  In that first encounter, Jesus called Simon by name, and gave him a new name indicating his new role in the New Covenant. Simon would leave the normalcy of the life he knew, to be Peter, “Rock”, upon which Christ would build His Church.  Imagine the trust he must have had in the Lord to persevere in his discipleship through so many changes, so much confusion, and so much responsibility!  So much took place over the course of their lives, but it all began with dropping what they were doing when the time came, and going to find the Messiah. 

The Anointed One has come.  He heals wounds of sin and strengthens us with grace through His sacrifice on the Cross mediated to us in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confession, and the Eucharist. Jesus is the Word of God, who reveals God’s plan for our lives, our purpose, and His constant care. Jesus is king.  We enter His kingdom through Baptism and must work to allow His rule over our lives daily.

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

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

Consider:

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

Practical Application:

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

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

Keeping Christ in Christmas & John the Baptist in Advent

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

3rd Sunday of Advent

Read the Gospel of John 1:6-8, 19-28

Meditation Reflection:

For the second week in a row, we have a Gospel passage about John the Baptist.  John is considered the last, and greatest, of the prophets of the Old Covenant.  Jesus even said of him, “among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).   Yet, both John and Jesus proclaimed that the best was yet to come.  The Covenant of the Jewish people with God would be elevated inexpressibly in the New Covenant established in Jesus Christ.  Thus, Jesus finished his sentence with: “yet he who is least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

John the Baptist’s message of repentance and spiritual preparation for our salvation is at the heart of Advent.  In the weeks leading up to Christmas we evaluate how well we have been living as children of God, gifted with the grace of God dwelling in our midst and within our very souls.  It’s also a time to open ourselves to new possibilities and new challenges as disciples of Christ.  Thus, the message of John for repentance produces the necessary disposition for conversion. 

The image of John the Baptist, dressed in camel hair and eating locusts, preaching the message of repentance and authentic sorrow for sins, provides a stark contrast to the marketing images flooding us of jolly Santas, piles of presents, and delicious foods. I can understand why marketers find Santas and reindeer more appealing for sales than a desert ascetic speaking about sin.  People also feel increased pressures to prepare for Christmas by finding the perfect gifts within the time constraints of frantic schedules and limited budgets.  Nevertheless, the Gospel writers remind us that preparation for Christmas is ultimately preparation for the Incarnation of God our Savior.  He brings the gift of heaven, but we must prepare ourselves to receive that gift through repentance. 

The push to start Christmas sales has lamentably encroached on Thanksgiving but has completely replaced Advent in our culture.  It has become increasingly difficult to make the weeks leading up to Christmas a time of introspection, increased prayer, and sacrifice.  By the time Catholics celebrate Christmas on the Eve of Christmas day and for the two weeks following it, the rest of the culture has already moved on to New Year’s preparations and Valentine’s day.

So how can we balance living in the culture that we do and still honor the important process of conversion Advent is meant to procure?  We can no longer wait to buy a Christmas tree until December 23rd because there won’t be any left.  We can’t leave them up for the duration of the Liturgical Christmas season because the tree will be a fire hazard at that point, plus we will have missed our road side tree pick up provided by our garbage companies.  I have surrendered this battle and get a tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.  I also have to admit that I look forward to the Hallmark Christmas movies and, if possible, make a weekend of it with my mother and my daughter.  Black Friday deals make Christmas gifts more affordable although I am too exhausted on Cyber Mondays to get online after work.  However, I reserve some Christmas feasting for Christmas only.  I play Christmas music and keep my Christmas decorations out (with the exception of the live tree) for the duration of the liturgical Christmas season.  In my classroom at school I leave Christmas lights up in my room until Lent, reminding the kids that Jesus is the Light of the World. 

Spiritual sacrifice, examination of conscience, and remorse for sins is harder to find time for.  When my kids were little we would do Bible crafts and the kids had fun placing a felt ornament on our Jesse tree corresponding to a daily Scripture passage we would read.  Now that my kids are older, it’s harder to find a time we are all home to pray together.  As a busy mom, I appreciate that the Church offers practical advice regarding spiritual preparation during Advent, and oftentimes opportunities organized by the parish to help us.  Scripturally, spiritual preparation consists of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Parishes often offer Advent reflections, retreats, and youth ministry events to facilitate more introspective prayer during this time.  We can add one of these events to our calendar just as we would any Christmas party invitation.  Fasting is especially difficult, with so many Christmas parties and cookie exchanges taking place, but consider fasting from something simple and achievable, so that even in those moments you are connected to Christ and honoring the preparation for His coming that He deserves.  I wouldn’t suggest giving up sweets altogether, but maybe you set a limit for yourself or give up something else that’s meaningful to you.  Almsgiving may be the one aspect of Advent that lingers in our culture as generosity during the Christmas season seems to be a sentiment that still resonates in people’s hearts.  Parishes, schools, offices, and neighborhoods band together for charitable causes and provide opportunities for us to give.  Let’s not forget that Christmas also provides less visible opportunities for giving, like keeping our eyes open for family members, neighbors, or colleagues who are lonely and inviting them to our homes.

Fasting and almsgiving can further be applied in our interactions with one another.  The increased social contact brings with it both joy and discord; providing many more opportunities for spiritual works of mercy.  Christmas get-togethers bring out the best and worst in people.  It provides opportunities to fast from gossip and to give encouragement; to fast from pettiness and to bear wrongs patiently, to fast from competitiveness and to give comfort.  When we encounter persons we find annoying, frustrating, or difficult to be around, we can reflect on the compassion of the Lord, who became man, for love of that same person.  When we are moved by the generosity and love of others towards ourselves, we can praise Christ as we tangibly experience His love in our own lives. 

Advent has become an uphill battle, but the view from the top makes climbing it worth all the effort.    This Advent I hope we can find a way to prepare our hearts and our lives for Christ a little more in some small way.  I hope we acknowledge and surrender to Him sins we need Him to heal.  Let’s demonstrate our authentic gratitude for his grace through prayer and acts of love.  Finally, let’s try to keep Christ in Christmas, and John the Baptist in Advent.

Consider:

  •  “Emmanuel” means God-with-us.  Consider the gift of the Incarnation, that God became man, and dwelt among us.
  • How has your heart and life opened to Christ over the years?  How has He dwelt more and more in your life?
  • Are there any areas of your life from which you keep Christ closed off?  Are there any places, people, or activities you wouldn’t feel comfortable having Christ present?
  • Reflect on the people you will encounter this season.  Consider them from Christ’s point of view.  How might you be the hands and heart of Christ to them in your interactions?

Practical Application:

  •  Choose one way this Advent to pray, fast, and give.
  • Put a church sponsored Advent or Christmas event on your calendar, then attend it.
  • Fast from gossip and critical remarks.
  • Intentionally give to Christ, above your regular tithing.  Choose a charity or a particular person and be generous to Jesus by being generous to them.

© 2020 Angela M Jendro

* 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. You can also follow me @taketimeforhim on Twitter and Facebook.


Making Room for Christ to Come

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

2nd Sunday of Advent

Read the Gospel of Mark 1:1-8

Meditation Reflection:

It’s a good time of year for making room – in our closets, our homes, our schedules, and our lives for all the gifts, parties, and people that accompany Christmas. We live in a challenging culture for this.  Its obsession with stuff has gotten out of control, necessitating storage units just to hold the overflow. Rampant competitiveness in seemingly every area of life adds pressure to our schedule, forcing our waking hours to overflow into the late night and early mornings just to keep up.  You may be able to stay afloat in this atmosphere for a while, but the pressure and the pace are unsustainable without sacrificing more important things. In an effort to combat this, I regularly sort through our things and reassess our schedule of activities to ensure we can prioritize what matters.

Advent provides an opportunity for us to do the same thing in our spiritual lives. In anticipation of the greatest gift – Jesus Christ, the Son of God – we must make room in our souls, our schedules, and our lives.  Its 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.  In truth, we simply don’t want to let go of something that’s been with us for so long.

Similarly, we resist honestly evaluating our priorities, bad habits and sins.  In some ways they can begin to feel like 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 about your life.  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 God’s gifts and the warmth 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. 

During our Advent soul-work, we may find some things need to go, some things may be reasonable to keep, and some things may need a deep clean. Yet, at the end of the process our souls will glimmer with the beauty God has given us, and Christ will have more room to fill with the gift of 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?

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.

© 2020 Angela M Jendro

* 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. You can also follow me @taketimeforhim on Twitter and Facebook.


The Joy of Loving Watch

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

1st Sunday of Advent

Read the Gospel of Mark 13:33-37

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 devolves just a few short weeks later 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 opportunity for reconnection and generosity that Christmas offers.   However, if we keep our sight on the purpose of each of our activities, we may 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,”(v.34) but we must always remember that He is the Lord and ultimately we watch and await His return. 

So how do we keep watch?  Daily in prayer, weekly at Mass, and at every moment by showing love toward Christ in those around us.  Mother Teresa served others each day with Jesus’ words in mind: “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) 

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 gift might you offer to Christ? 

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 5 minutes a day with Scripture.

© 2020 Angela M Jendro

* 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. You can also follow me @taketimeforhim on Twitter and Facebook.