Eyes Wide Open

Ascension of Christ_ Getty Images

Ascension of Christ: Getty Images

by Angela M Jendro

 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Luke 12:35-40 NAB

“Jesus said to His disciples: ‘Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.’”

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus emphasized the need for disciples to be vigilant. According to Wordbook, vigilant means to be “carefully observant or attentive; on the lookout for possible danger.” Discipleship can suffer from the same waning of enthusiasm as any of our other noble goals. How many New Year’s diets or exercise plans end by February? How many books are left only partially read? How many friendships or relationships wither from slow neglect? Jesus exhorts us to head off dangers to our faith by being aware and making efforts to protect ourselves from them. Discipleship requires the same perseverance, effort, and watchfulness as anything else we hope to accomplish and maintain.

Similarly, the same strategies to keep healthy habits can be applied to discipleship. For instance, to achieve the goal of getting in shape, partnering with a friend for accountability will greatly increase your chance of success. Discipleship requires fellowship as well. We need faith-filled friends to keep us accountable, inspire us to be better, and keep us in the habit of prayer and worship. To achieve the goal of developing your mind through reading, you will need to choose a time, place, and frequency or it will never happen. Forming a book club can also provide that boost of a deadline to motivate you. Similarly, to grow nearer to Christ you will need to read Scripture regularly. The same pitfalls apply here so being vigilant about sticking to a routine will be important and joining a bible study could be motivating.

The synonym for vigilance illuminates the essence of discipleship as well: “open-eyed.” Thus, Jesus exhorts us to keep our eyes of faith open to judge things from the perspective of faith rather than the world. In Hebrews 1:1, St. Paul defines faith as: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (RSV). He goes on to illustrate this with the example of Abraham who left for a land God promised without any sight of it beforehand – no map, no appraisal or inspection, no google images – only God’s word. Moreover, after having received a son despite he and Sarah’s old age, Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac at God’s command. Imagine the paradox presented to Abraham. God had promised Abraham many descendants through Isaac, and yet God also asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. How could both of these things be true at the same time? Abraham could find no assurance in natural reason or human experience and power. Abraham merited the title Father of Faith by his response. St. Paul relates, “[Abraham] considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Hebrews 11:19 RSV). Abraham had confidence that God is all-powerful and that God keeps His promises. He didn’t limit God to our human experience. He trusted God and proved his conviction when he risked everything to be obedient to the Lord.

How can we imitate the vigilant, open-eyed faith of Abraham? Every day we need to open our eyes through prayer. We need to ask for the gift of faith and trust. We must stay sharp through fellowship with faithful Christians and spiritual reading. We need to deepen our trust through developing our relationship with Christ and receiving His grace in the sacraments. Finally, many saints and spiritual writers suggest doing an examination of conscience every night. Look back on the day and evaluate your choices. When did you show love for God and for others? What temptations did you overcome? What inspirations of the Holy Spirit did you follow? Secondly, where did you lean on your own understanding instead of God’s? When did you relax into thinking and acting like a child of the world rather than a child of God? What choices were motivated by a lack of faith, hope, or charity? Ask God for forgiveness and an increase in grace to do better the next day.

Even if the end of the day doesn’t work for you, try to at least be more introspective throughout the day. Jesus warned “Be sure of this, if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.” Sins can make little strongholds in our soul if we are not vigilant in identifying them and putting them before the Lord for healing. We never know when we will be attacked by temptation and sometimes it can be very subtle. By developing a habit of staying alert we will be better prepared to avoid or overcome them.

If we vigilantly live in faith, our hearts will be stay open to receive Christ and to respond to the promptings of His Spirit. A habit of holiness characteristic of the saints is their awareness of God’s presence and activity throughout their day. They also witness fidelity to the Spirit when called to serve in a way that makes no sense from a practical perspective unless God is real, all-powerful, and keeps His promises. Like Abraham, the Father of Faith, they have confidence that if God is asking then God will provide. If therefore we seek first His kingdom, we can be assured that everything else will be taken care of (Matthew 6:33), and quite often in ways we could not have foreseen.

Consider many people’s demand to “see it to believe it.” Yet, Jesus says “Come, and you will see” (John 1:39) Faith means walking with Christ, and in that walk your experience will confirm the faith you embarked upon. It entails some risk which is why encouragement from other believers’ experiences is an essential part of vigilance. I still struggle to patiently trust God, but at the same time I have seen God act so many times in my life that I can say I believe it because I’ve seen it. I just need to recall those times to strengthen my faith when it’s difficult. Consider how often in the Scriptures it exhorts the audience to recall a mighty work of God in the past to keep them strong in the present.

I have seen God provide over and again, always in unexpected ways, and just at the right time. He has done this at every level – family, relationships, work, finances, and health. Even though it’s easier to trust the wisdom of the world or our own strength which we can see right before us, we ought to vigilantly keep our eyes open to the wisdom and strength of our loving God which is far more reliable. He is coming, and it will be a day of great rejoicing we won’t want to miss!

Consider:

  • Reflect on what practices have deepened your faith and helped you grow as a disciple of Christ.
  • Consider where you need further growth. Pray about how you could be more vigilant in that area.
  • Meditate on the words Jesus told St. Faustina to have written below His image: “Jesus I trust in You.”
  • Reflect with gratitude on a time(s) when God came through for you in a surprising or powerful way.
  • Is there a part of your life that needs more trust in Jesus? Pray for an increase in faith and hope.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Choose one way to be more vigilant in your faith life. Share your goal with someone who will encourage you and keep you accountable.
  • Pray the short prayer, “Jesus I trust in You” several times each day.
  • Pray Psalm 27 each day this week.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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Suggested Reading: 

Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean Pierre de Caussade

33 Days to Merciful Love: by Fr. Michael Gaitley

Catholic Bible: Revised Standard Version, Compact Edition

 

Food From Heaven: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Gospel of Luke 9:11b-17 NAB

Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.” They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty.” They did so and made them all sit down. Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.

 Meditation Reflection:

Christ loves us with His whole being. He became man that He might personally uplift our hearts with His truth, extend His hand to heal our wounds, and feed us with His own Body and Blood. Mothers have the privilege of experiencing this kind of self-gift. A mother literally shares her body with her child and shares in Christ’s pain at his or her birth. A mother continues to feed her infant with her own body and tend to the constant needs of her newborn. As her child grows a mother does everything she possibly can to care for the child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual development. Mothers take joy when their kids eat and grow, when they can comfort and guide them, and when they can make sure their child knows how loved he or she is.

Christ urges us to trust Him and His love as well. He soothes us in our worries assuring us of His care:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?…But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” Matthew 6: 25-33)

Today’s Gospel confirms that Jesus cares about our needs, even the basic ones like what’s for dinner. Moreover, He can provide in surprising ways since He can do the miraculous. The crowd of thousands ate their fill after having spent the day in a deserted place listening to Christ speak about the kingdom. So many times we try to cure ourselves or numb the pain in ways that only turn out to be self-destructive and leave us hungering. Instead, we should try reaching out to Christ in prayer and receiving the cure for all our pain in His Eucharistic Body and Blood.

Jesus heals our hearts and frees us from the lies that we allow to burden us. He forgives our sins and gives us a new start with the grace and hope to be better. He fortifies us with His strength to persevere and He gently provides rest for our soul with His peace. He does all of this personally, directly, through His incarnate and immanent presence in the Eucharist. Christ gave His Body and Blood on the Cross to give birth to our new life. He instructed us to take and eat of this same Body and Blood which He made the sacrifice of the New Covenant.

The Son of God became man that He might dwell among us and apply His grace to our soul. Today we honor the gift of His Body and Blood through which He feeds us superabundantly, strengthens us, comforts us, and nourishes our growth. Through the gift of His most holy Body and Blood, we receive life. Moreover, He continues to provide this gift that we might grow in health and maturity to the fullness of Christian life in the kingdom of God.

Consider:

  • Imagine you are one of the persons in the crowd listening to Jesus speak about the kingdom of God and curing all those who needed it.
    • What would you hear Jesus say?
    • From what would He heal you?
    • How might His Truth and His touch free you?
    • Consider how you have this very opportunity at the Mass – to hear Christ preach about the Kingdom through His priest and to touch you through His Eucharistic presence.
  • Consider how a mother gives of her body for her child. A mother’s love tends to be a complete self – gift. Consider how the gift of her very body and blood, given in love, is a unique way to give of her whole self in imitation of Christ.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Reflect on the gift of Christ’s most holy Body and Blood on the Cross and in the Eucharist each day this week.
  • Attend a daily Mass this week in addition to the Sunday Mass.
  • Give Christ your own Body through a physical sacrifice. Cheerfully offer Christ your labor of service for your family or work, look for a providential opportunity to serve Christ with your physical efforts, offer your sickness or suffering, or prayerfully consider something to fast from each day.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert Jendro © 2016

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Learning to Trust

Divine Mercy

Divine Mercy Sunday

Gospel John 20:19-31 NAB

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Meditation Reflection:

We spend so much time and money distracting and soothing ourselves from regret for our mistakes and fear of our mortality. Christ’s victory over sin and death opens the possibilities of a new beginning during this life and life eternal in the next. The Risen Christ finds the apostles in fear and brings them Peace. Thomas misses the opportunity for peace however because he refuses to believe his fellow apostles’ unanimous witness. Despite his own witness of Jesus’ many miracles and the reliability of the disciples’ account, he refuses to receive Christ’s peace without seeing the healed wounds of the Lord for himself. Christ would have been in His right to refuse such a demand but in His mercy He appears directly to Thomas so that his faith could be strengthened and he could receive the riches Christ had suffered to give to him.

Imagine the joy Jesus must have felt, having earned our salvation through such intense suffering, when He could then bestow upon His apostles the administration of His Kingdom which is none other than the forgiveness of sins. Every mother knows the relief of holding her newborn in her arms after a long pregnancy and birth. Jesus must have experienced a similar relief when He enjoyed our new life given through His loving sacrifice.

Pope St. John Paul II declared in 2000 at the canonization of St. Faustina, that today, the Sunday following Easter, be celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. Christ had appeared to St. Faustina, a simple uneducated nun from Poland, in the 1930s and spoke with her about His great desire to bestow His mercy on us. His message did not add anything new to the Gospel, however He re-emphasized His view to the modern world relaying to her His greatest pain which He identified as souls refusing to trust in His mercy. In the Diary of St. Faustina, (recorded at the request of her spiritual director), she relays these words of Jesus to her regarding today:

I desire that priests proclaim this great mercy of Mine towards souls of sinners.   Let the sinner not be afraid to approach Me. The flames of mercy are burning Me – clamoring to be spent; I want to pour them out upon these souls…Distrust on the part of souls is tearing at My insides.   The distrust of a chosen soul causes Me even greater pain; despite My inexhaustible love for them they do not trust Me. Even My death is not enough for them.” (par. 50)

Like Thomas, many of us struggle to trust Christ. We fail to have confidence in Jesus’ ability to change our lives and renew our souls. Using Pope Francis’ analogy, we treat Confession like a dry cleaner. We can imagine being showered off but not truly changed. In doing so we do not emulate humility but rather wastefulness.

Today we reflect on the mercy of Christ and ask that He increase our hope that we might trust in Him. The devil steals our joy, but Christ came to give us joy to the full. He not only forgives us, but enables us to live a supernatural life of virtue and peace. On the Feast of Mercy, God exhorts us in every way possible to receive His mercy, to give mercy, and to trust in Him. Let us pray for the grace to surrender the myth of perfection in exchange for the truth of sanctifying love.

Consider:

  • Reflect on the joy Christ feels when He can shower upon us the mercy He worked so hard to earn for us. Consider the mystery of a mother or father’s love that takes pleasure in sacrificing for their children.
  • Do you struggle with perfectionism? Do you struggle to accept Christ’s help because you feel unworthy of His love if you make mistakes or fall to sins? Do you feel you need to be holy all on your own?
    • Pelagianism, a heresy in the early Church, asserted that Christ came to set a good example for us but we have to live up to that example by our own efforts alone. The Church declared that the human will alone could not perfect itself but rather required supernatural grace. Do you try to perfect yourself to feel worthy of Christ’s love, or do you accept your worthiness of His love and so the possibility of being made perfect by Him?
  • How much do you need to see to believe? What evidence has Christ given you already that you ignore? What witness could you give to others about the reality of His presence?
  • Consider a time when you experienced the peace of Christ.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Do one act of mercy for someone each day this week.
  • Do one act of mercy toward yourself each day this week.
  • Thank Christ each day for His gift of mercy. Make a gratitude list east day of His blessings.
  • Learn about St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Image, and Feast Day.
  • Say the short prayer, “Jesus I Trust in You”, throughout the day.

Love and Work – The Good Shepherd Who Loves His Job

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

good-shepherd.jpg

 January 27th, 2018 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of John 20:19-31 NAB

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”

Meditation Reflection:

Consider the common exchange at first introduction.  After sharing our name, the usual question to follow is “what do you do?”  Why?  Since our work occupies most of our day it reveals something of our values, our unique personality and talents, and it shapes us over time.

I’m a wife, mom, and teacher.  In consequence, I value family and the development of persons.   I also have a knack for explaining things and a zany side that works well with kids.  My roles have shaped me too.  After teaching for so many years, I catch myself conversing in a Socratic way in every day conversation.  Before sharing something, I ask if the person happens to know the answer.  As they talk, I ask more questions.  By the end, I might recommend a book or article to read.  At the grocery checkout or fast food restaurant, I can’t help but see teen employees as students (of course, sometimes they are!).  I catch myself gently guiding them as they navigate taking my order.  Even when I try to just relax, the teacher comes out in me.  At the beach with my children, some teens started arguing and inappropriate words rose above the hum of swimmers.  Without even thinking I marched over to these young men much taller than me and, in my loud authoritative teacher voice, told them their behavior was inappropriate and needed to be taken elsewhere.  The other teens who had circled around to see the altercation looked at me with wide eyes expressing the warning “you are crazy lady!”.  The mom in me is here to stay too.  I was at a Master’s class and one of my classmates had a runny nose and cough, and no Kleenex.  As I took notes and listened to the lecture I grabbed Kleenex out of my purse and passed it down.  She laughed and afterward said, “I should have known you’d have Kleenex with you.  You’re such a mom.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd.  It reveals that He values the care of His flock with nurturing and protective love.  He lives with them, guides them, feeds them, and protects them at all costs.  Moreover, His Sheep belong to Him.  The hired hand works transitionally – for the day and for income.  He may be providing for a family or saving for a pasture of sheep of his own, but the flock he watches temporarily is not his love.  In consequence he won’t risk anything for it.

Like a shepherd compared to sheep, Jesus’ dignity and nature is far above ours.  Yet He loves us intimately and personally.  He lives with us and cares for even the smallest details of our lives.

Pope Francis emphasizes this as well in his Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate:

the Lord is ever mindful of you; he never forgets you. So it makes sense to ask him to shed light on the smallest details of your life, for he sees them all.” par. 153

Jesus’ love is also total which is why He lays down His very life for us.

I lay down my life and take it up again.  No one takes it from Me.  I lay it down on my own.”

Before His Ascension into Heaven, Jesus entrusted His flock to Peter.

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’  He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’  A second time He said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do  you love Me?’ He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’  He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’”  John 21:15-16

Each Christian at baptism receives a mission from God, a flock to tend – the persons Christ has placed in your life and your care.  It includes your family, co-workers, and the particular ministry to which God has called you.  The flock remains the Lord’s so we must first unite our heart to His in prayer.  In doing so, He pours out His love into us, from which we receive the generosity and joy to serve.  He opens our eyes to see others with the love in which He sees them, and to see their needs as He does, down to the smallest detail.

Pope Francis writes:

The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts…We are called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness.” (Gaudete et Exsultate par. 11)

Each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel.” (par. 19)

Holiness is about loving our Good shepherd and in turn loving the sheep whose care He shares with us.  Wherever God has placed us, we can witness Him to others through our sacrificial love.  After learning to trust Jesus’ little shepherd, they may take a leap of faith and trust the Good Shepherd Himself.

Consider:

  • Reflect on Christ’s love for you, down to the smallest detail of your life.  Take a moment to lay your worries and your hopes before Him and to rest in His care.
  • Pray for your little flocks.  Who has Christ placed in your life?  How might you serve them in love and joy?
  • Meditate on the love of Mary, who cares for everyone who belongs to her Son and consecrated her whole life to His mission.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray Psalm 23 each day this week.
  • Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for an increase of Trust in Christ’s Merciful Love.
  • Read the Biography of Blessed Stanly Rother – an American priest who returned to his mission in Guatamela to die with his people so they wouldn’t die without him. https://relevantradio.com/2018/04/homegrown-holiness-american-priest-on-the-path-to-sainthood/

How do you love your flock?  Share in the comments!

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~ 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.

 

 

I Can’t Believe My Eyes!

 

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

February 25th, 2018 2nd Sunday of Lent

Gospel of Mark 9:2-10 NAB

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice,  “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

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 (their disbelief so great Jesus urged them to touch Him and feel for themselves). 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 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 fishes on two different occasions for the multitudes (Mark 8:14-21).  Despite the pervasive modern attitude that “I’ll believe it when I see it,” we like the disciples, tend to ignore the very rule we place on God.  Miracle after miracle He works in our lives, and yet we continue to worry.  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 RSV).

How could there be so much intimacy with the incarnate Lord – so much love, and so much loyalty – and yet so little trust?  They lacked the gift of the Holy Spirit and sanctifying grace won for us by Christ’s Paschal Mystery.  The bridge from human weakness and anxiety to the strength of Christian peace is the beams of the Cross.

Everyone’s spiritual journey is unique.  At the same time, we are all human and so the stages of our spiritual development share some commonality just like our physical development.  We begin more easily trusting that which is familiar to us in the natural, visible world, and distrusting that which is possible only to God who transcends our understanding.  Discipleship requires the movement of grace and receptivity to the invitation of Christ. We need 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.” RSV

Every disciple of Christ struggles to move from the immediacy of visible world, to consistent sight of the even deeper reality of the invisible world.  The two are not mutually exclusive, but rather intimately related to one another.  As Catholics we call it the “sacramental principle.” God knows our struggle, which is why “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1: 14 RSV).

During Lent we take a step back to evaluate just how deep our faith really goes and to examine what “safety nets” of ours we keep erected in case God doesn’t come through for us.  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.

During Lent, 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’s the boundary 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.   But, God is Lord of Heaven and Earth.  His power and His love know no bounds.

Abraham believed this to his very core.  He trusted God to be Who He claimed to be.  His faith was so confident that he didn’t even hesitate when he raised the knife to sacrifice his only beloved son and his only hope of a legacy.  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 RSV).

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 “with God, nothing is impossible.”  So, as we journey through Lent, may we spend more time with the Lord and develop greater awareness of His daily presence.  Hopefully by the end, we will be somewhat closer to the confidence of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans:

“Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” Romans 8:31-32 NAB

Consider:

  • Sarah conceived Isaac despite being barren and past the natural age.  St. Paul writes that God did this because of her faith saying, “she considered Him faithful Who had promised” (Hebrews 11: 11 RSV).
    • 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 to God your cares.  Make a list of your worries or of what’s weighing on your heart, and place them in the care of Christ in prayer.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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God’s Treasure – Knowing Your Value

image by aint_he_faithful

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

October 21st, 2017 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 22:15-21 NAB

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Meditation Reflection:

Consider the value and meaning we place on money.

First, there’s the cultural pressure to value ourselves based on our bank account.  We call name brand clothes, luxury vehicles, the size and elegance of a home, or exotic vacations “status symbols” because they reflect our monetary power and therefore our personal value.  Consider how many people struggle with low self-esteem, whether in grade school or retired, because they lack the apparent wealth of others.

Our perception of the value of our work can also be tied to the numbers.  How many decisions do we make based on how much money it pays rather than based on whether it’s God’s will? How many opportunities do we miss because we are afraid of having less and worry that we will thereby be less.

Currency further identifies our national ties.  Each country has its own currency with images of its leaders and heroes.  To buy or sell in another nation requires exchanging your local money for the proper foreign coins.

These habits of mind might belong in the kingdom of fallen man, but not in the Kingdom of God.  God created everything from nothing, and continues to govern it and hold it in existence.  He imprinted His image on man and woman, and placed a value of infinite worth on each.  The only way to devalue this currency is to distort God’s image within us, which we all do through sin (except Jesus and Mary) since Adam and Eve.  Nevertheless, Jesus came to restore God’s image within us, and to elevate it to an even higher union and dignity by uniting our human nature with His divine nature through His Incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection.

Jesus doesn’t condemn Caesar’s image on Roman coins because it’s an earthly currency for an earthly political system.  Rather, Jesus reminds us that our citizenship in His kingdom transcends our human institutions.

God desires that we revere Him as the King of kings, worship Him as Creator, and love Him as Father and Redeemer.   He has bestowed His royal dignity upon us and urges us to return back to Him His image.  We don’t earn heavenly currency, we become it and we receive it.

Jesus reveals that we are God’s treasure.  If we want to chase the dollar, we should chase God’s dollar.  Through deeper union with the Lord, His grace transforms us more and more into His likeness.  We also begin to see God’s image in others and their corresponding value and beauty.

Thus one person, no matter how broken, is worth more than as many images of Ben Franklin you could stack.

I was reminded again of this truth just a couple of weeks ago when my sister and brother-in-law welcomed my baby nephew into the world.  Our whole family rejoiced at such a precious gift and my heart aches until I can visit and hold him in my arms. The only addition possible to this joy, was the preciousness of the love which my sister’s children showed toward their baby brother, and the sweet love my children expressed over him too.

Love sees the whole person.  When a family member or loved one becomes ensnared in a serious sin, addiction, or suffers under mental illness, we feel sorrow because we see how these things distort the image of the true person we know, and all they could be.  We want the ones we love to flourish.  We value them for simply them, not anything they have accomplished or not.  I love family reunions just because I enjoy being around those I love.  I have grown up with my brother, sister, and cousins for many years now.  I have seen us all go through ups and downs, great strides and tough struggles.  I love them all when they are doing well, and just as much when they are struggling.  I hate anything that would hold them back from the fullness of Christ’s joy, and yet I also know that God can work all things together for good.

Money can buy temporary pleasures and momentary experiences.  However, the more we image the Lord, the deeper we experience a well-spring of joy, and far richer experiences than we can find anywhere else.  It can hardly be described in words so I won’t even try.  Christ doesn’t explain it either.  He simply says, “Come and see” (John 1:39).

Come and see Jesus, and see your true worth in His eyes.

Consider:

  •  Think of the people you His vision.  Ask Him to enable you to see yourself and others as God does.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Each morning, “give to God what is God’s” – His image in you.  Pray for trust that “the One who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)
Prayer by St. Cardinal John Henry Newman

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.

  • This week, try to see yourself and others as God does.  Pray for their freedom and yours from sin, fear, or addiction, and the gift of Christ-filled joy.

Related Posts:

Becoming Rich: Investment Strategies From Christ

Preparing the Soil…Spiritual Receptivity

Finding Fulfillment in Self-Gift

Authentic Love

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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Hope…When Least Expected

by Angela Lambert

woman at well

March 19th, 2017; 3rd Sunday of Lent

Gospel of John 4:5-42

 Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.— Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.  Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?” They went out of the town and came to him. Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

Meditation Reflection:

What a long passage.  Why?  Why does John give this much space in his Gospel to one woman’s conversion?  Jesus encountered multitudes of people during His brief public ministry.  John even gives a disclaimer at the end of his Gospel, apologizing that he could only include a handful of Jesus’ miracles, enough to make the point that He is the Son of God, because they were too innumerable to recount in written form.

The woman at the well’s encounter with Christ, models the process of conversion.  Jesus approached her when she least expected it.  She went to the well at noon, the worst time of the day, to avoid the other women.  Sin has a way of isolating us from others as we try to cover up our sins or rationalize our choices.

Jesus initiated the conversation.  He sought her.  He began with a request, but in fact desired to offer her healing and salvation.  Every Christian’s conversion begins with an encounter with Christ, and the experience of Him having sought us before we sought Him.  Discipleship is not a project, club, or philosophy.  It’s a response.  It’s a realization that what Christ asks of us, is in fact His invitation to receive from Him.

Next, He addressed her sins.  She skirted the issue, and even when confronted directly, she tried to distract Him with a theological debate.  By the end however, she felt relief and joy. From her encounter, she learned that the Christ, the anointed one of God, had come.  Moreover, He had come to her – despite her personal unfaithfulness, as well as the unfaithfulness of her people the Samaritans. Jesus revealed Himself as the Savior, come through the promise of the Jews, and at the same time for the salvation of all.

Imagine her hopelessness as she approached the well in the heat of the day.  Women of her time would view success as a good marriage and large family.  She had already had five husbands and given up on marriage altogether with the man she was living with. She had no friends and was excluded from the community of women.  There was no way back for her, and no opportunity going forward.

God gives surprisingly and super-abundantly.  Met with physical thirst, Jesus offered her the living waters of eternal life.  It took awhile for her to wrap her mind around what He was saying.  Eventually however, she recognized the work of God and ran to the people of her town to tell them.  She left her water jug, despite her physical thirst and needs.  She boldly told everyone of her experience, despite the shame of her reputation among them.

Her witness was so moving that they went to Jesus to see for themselves.  They too encountered Christ in an unexpected and surprising way – through the seemingly least religious woman in town.  By the end of their encounter however, they too were converted.

During Lent, Jesus comes to meet us in our shame and our thirst.  As a Church, we endeavor to hear Him through increased prayer and introspection.  We recall that He came to save us, while we were still sinners.  We remember that He first sought us, but we must respond.  Thankfully, He is patient.  Our transformation in Christ will become our witness, and our witness will bring Christ to others.  But first, we must set aside our tactics for avoiding our sins, and allow Christ to lead us through them.

Consider:

  • The woman went to the well at noon instead of morning because of shame:
    • What are you ashamed of? What do you hide from others?
  • Imagine meeting Jesus there.
    • Would you feel surprised? What excuses might you make?
  • Imagine Jesus calling you out on your sins.
    • What are your competing loves? Be honest.
  • How is Jesus the living water compared to these other “spouses”?
  • How are the other pleasures you seek temporary and always needing replenishing, whereas Christ’s joy is abiding?
  • Jesus offers her life, and commands her to sin no more.  Let Jesus confront your sin.  You too must choose. You cannot have both.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • When God confronted King David about his sin through the prophet Nathan, David responded by composing Psalm 51.  He acknowledged his sin, asked for forgiveness, and trusted God to transform his heart.
  • Do an examination of conscience this week.  If possible, meet Christ in the sacrament of Confession.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Hope in Christ in Times of Darkness

by Angela Lambert

light-in-dark

October 9th, 2016 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Luke 17:11-19 NAB

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Meditation Reflection:

On His way to Jerusalem, where He would be rejected and killed for our sins, Jesus encountered ten lepers.  Since leprosy is highly contagious those who suffered with its physical harms additionally suffered from social isolation and rejection as well, banished to stay separate from healthy people.  When the lepers saw Jesus they called out because they could not approach in their condition.  Jesus’ instructions to show themselves to the priests required them to make an act of faith and hope.  Faith believes God’s words and hope acts upon those promises before necessarily seeing them.   At that time, if someone believed they had been healed from leprosy, they had to show themselves to the priests for examination before being cleared to reenter the community.  The lepers did not question Jesus’ command but did as He instructed before they had been healed.  They acted with hope based on belief in Jesus and His words.  As they walked in hope, they were cured.

The virtues of faith and hope direct one toward the highest of all virtues – charity.  Charity is the love of God above all things and love of neighbor out of love for God.  Only one leper demonstrated this higher virtue.  Jesus, who knows the hearts of all men, indicated that the man who returned had a deeper and more fruitful faith than the other nine.  Why?  He returned to Jesus to say thank you.

Consider how many of us quickly forget God’s miraculous work in our lives shortly after the crisis is over. We fall back into our regular routines and grow complacent or even complain about mundane things. Even worse, when the next crisis upsets our lives, we sometimes forget God’s power and fall to discouragement and negativity.  How can we avoid this common mistake?

A simple thank you and a disposition of gratitude express, as well as develop, the essential virtues of the spiritual life. Every day, and many times throughout the day, we have to choose our attitude.  We regularly experience the temptation to succumb to negativity, skepticism, disgust, and even despair.  Our present culture, especially during the current election cycle, presents seemingly constant negative and depressing messages.  From mainstream news to social media to conversations at work, the temptation to view the state of our nation in an overly negative light and give up in despair is constant.  However, with faith in Christ’s promise and hope in His transformative love, we can work through this crisis with the aid of the Holy Spirit and supernatural grace.

If everything depended on us alone, then discouragement and despair would be a sensible response. Take for example the Gospel passage.  The lepers would have considered their future to consist merely of painful physical deterioration and utter loneliness. Their lives took a completely new trajectory when they encountered Christ.  This surprising, unexpected event, liberated them their illness and gave them new hope for their future.

Propping up hope that man can save himself, then deepening discouragement at the realization that we can’t, are two common ways the devil tries to lead us away from the Lord.  We can benefit from doing a daily attitude check and remembering that when we encounter Christ, surprising, unexpected things can happen and change our lives and our world.

A favorite author of mine and Catholic historian, Christopher Dawson, wrote an essay entitled “The Six Ages of the Church” which gives me perspective for our current situation as a Church and as a nation.   In this essay he proposed that throughout the course of its 2000 year history, the Church has (and continues) to experience a cycle of three stages: crisis, response, and flourishing. With each challenge the Church experiences setbacks and loss.  In response, new apostolates arise and face the challenge resulting in a time of flourishing and achievement.  The next crisis sets the Church back again but new responses emerge again as well, and so on and so forth.

Viewing history from this perch inspires hope as we consider every age poses its challenges and Christians have felt the same confusion, disillusionment, and fear that we do.  Yet, in every age the Holy Spirit worked in the hearts of God’s people and inspired them with new ways to meet those challenges, adapt, and overcome.

light-2

This cycle applies to our individual lives as well.  We will encounter challenges that leave us feeling confused and helpless.  Nevertheless, if we call out to Jesus and walk forward in faith and hope, He will transform our lives and we will indeed flourish.  During times of peace, the challenge is to remain grateful and to return to the Lord, remembering that He is the source of our health.  We are always dependent on Him.  During times of crisis, we need to remember God’s power to transform, possibly even through us.  Thanksgiving, counting our blessings, and confidently surrendering to the Lord should be our daily response.  No matter what our crisis – individually, locally, or nationally – there are always things for which to be grateful and always hope for renewal.  As St. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5: 18 In all circumstances, give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

Consider:

  • Reflect back on times that God helped you through a difficulty.  Consider the feelings you experienced beforehand and the joy afterward.
  • Consider how your faith, hope, and charity have grown over the years. How have your encounters with Christ in your daily life deepened your convictions?
  • When do you feel discouraged, pessimistic, and negative? What areas of your life are particularly vulnerable to this attitude?  How might you change your perspective?  What might you be overlooking or taking for granted in the situation?  How might you make a positive difference in it?
  • If you have children, consider what kind of formation they will need to be Christian leaders in our present culture. What virtues could you help them develop?  What persons or saints could you point them to for inspiration?  How might you nurture and develop their faith and their conscience?  How can you teach by example in your own life?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Make a gratitude list. Each day reflect and thank God for three things from that day.
  • Do one thing this week to make a positive contribution or change where you are usually negative.
    • (examples: bring a treat for everyone to a meeting you would rather avoid and choose to smile; pray for our leaders each day this week; tell someone thank you each day for something; if you don’t like the music at church, volunteer your musical talents; if you don’t like what your spouse cooks for dinner, cook something yourself for everyone; if you keep having negative encounters with your child, proactively plan an activity or time together that will be positive; etc.)
  • Reduce discouraging messages this week (either via media or negative friends), and increase encouraging messages (read Scripture, listen to uplifting music or inspiring biographies).

*note of thanks to reader Carl Cadwallader for the topic suggestion of hope in Christ in times of darkness.

light-shine

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

* 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.