Sunday Food For Thought: Excuses, Excuses…Be Brave! Be Determined!

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

*excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love

Meditation Reflection: Luke 9:51-62

Being a Christian means following Christ, wherever and whenever He goes.  Full discipleship requires 100% commitment, not the made-to-order or pick and choose buffet we are accustomed to in our culture.  Consider Jesus’ own example.  He had to journey to Jerusalem and to sacrificial suffering.  Notice the attitude He chose – resolution and determination. 

Followers of Christ need the same resolution and determination.  St. Teresa of Avila, the great Spanish mystic, emphasized repeatedly the necessity of determination to advance in the spiritual life.  In her instructional work The Way of Perfection, she warned against our tendency to draw back and complain when things become difficult:

“Be determined, Sisters, that you came to die for Christ, not to live comfortably for Christ.”[i]

Saint Paul also exhorted the Corinthians to live their faith with bold resolution.  He warned against conditional discipleship and encouraged the Christian community to be generous and steadfast:

“The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

As Jesus journeyed doing the Father’s will, those He encountered each had an opportunity to join Him, but their conditional stipulations determined whether they would accept it or turn it down.  The Samaritans received messengers from Christ but rejected the Lord before He even arrived when they learned accepting Christ meant surrendering their bitterness toward Jerusalem.  The next person took the initiative to seek Jesus out and requested to be in His company. However Jesus, who knows the hearts of each one of us, also knew the man’s interior conditions for discipleship. Thus, Jesus cautioned him that He would provide spiritual security and comfort but not necessarily the feeling of physical security and comfort. 

The next two men Jesus invited to follow Him procrastinated and avoided discipleship by requesting to finish up their other work first.  Their requests seem valid and even noble.  In fact, burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy and honoring your father and mother is the 4th commandment. Is Jesus asking us to neglect our duties?  Does Christian discipleship excuse neglecting our families?  Does God contradict Himself?  No.  Do we sometimes rationalize our cowardice or weakness by twisting God’s commands against Him?  Yes.  It reminds me of kids who try to avoid chores by claiming they need to work on their homework all of a sudden.

Many of us (including myself!), often excuse our lack of time for prayer by pitting it against the active life of charity.  It sounds something like this: “I don’t have time to sit and pray because I need to do [fill in the blank] which God would want me to do.”  A practical example would be, “I could sit and pray/ ‘doing nothing’, or work an extra hour to provide for my family, or do a load of laundry and dishes, or run an errand.  God wants me to care for my family, that is my prayer.”  Sometimes that might be the case.  But, in truth, there’s usually time for both.  This mentality has sometimes been referred to as the heresy of activism. 

Spending quality time with Christ in prayer first is the foundation of discipleship. How can we follow Him if we rarely take time to listen? In addition, without prayer, even our loving activities can tend to be more self-loving rather than other-loving. Jesus knew the hearts of the two men who wanted to return to their families before following Him.  Rather than contradicting His command that we love one another, especially our families, He may have been calling them out on their rationalizations. 

Let’s face it, we have an inner desire for God, and we may even have authentic zeal for discipleship, but we also struggle with attachments that hold us back.  The good news is that if we open ourselves up to Christ in prayer, He will reveal those attachments to us and provide the grace to overcome them.  It requires resolution and determination, but with God all things are possible!  

[i] Kavanaugh, Kieran, and Otilio Rodriguez, translators. The Way of Perfection: A Study Edition. ICS, 2000.

Consider:

+ Like the Samaritans, how many of us hold on to bitterness, anger, or un-forgiveness? Prayerfully ask Christ to reveal if any of these are holding you back from following Him.  Pray for the grace to surrender it to the Lord.

+ Like the man who proclaimed he would follow Christ wherever He goes, consider why you are a Christian. Is your love for the Lord intermixed with some self-love as well?  Do you complain when you encounter trials?  Are you impatient or upset when you experience discomfort?

+ What rationalizations do you use to delay responding to Christ or to responding more generously?

Practical Application:

+ Each day this week thank God for one deterrent He has helped you overcome or from which He has freed you. Invite Him to reveal and free you from a current hindrance you may or may not realize you have.

+ Pray for an increase in resolution and determination. Choose one concrete thing you can do this week to apply it.  (e.g. pray 15 minutes each morning or evening, say something kind to your spouse when you want to say something critical, hug your child when you want to throw your hands up in exasperation, choose a daily Mass to attend and do what it takes to get there, go to Confession…)

This reflection is an excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain in His Love available in ebook or paperback. Order a copy and don’t miss a single week!

 

Order the new set of guided meditations for this year’s Sunday Gospels!

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Sunday Food For Thought: Attainable Unconditional Love

6th Sunday of Easter:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

*excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love

Meditation Reflection: John 14:23-29

“As the world gives” tends to leave a person bitter and disillusioned.  It begins with promises of security and pleasure but lacks real permanency or loyalty.  After a while we even struggle to relax during periods of calm, worrying that it won’t endure long.    Nothing seems to last, and this causes anxiety in good times and in bad.

[…] 

Christ however offers the peace every human soul longs for – permanent, deep, and healing.  Moreover, we do not have to chase after it like a greyhound that will never catch the rabbit.  Rather, Christ bestows His peace freely as a fruit of His unconditional love.  To receive this peace, we merely need to enter into a relationship of love with Him. Relationship with Christ is merciful and enduring.  Jesus doesn’t throw us away when we become difficult or even when we betray Him. He persists in pursuing us, binding our wounds, and transforming our hearts. His greatest pain, he revealed to St. Faustina, is our lack of trust in Him.  To Mother Teresa, He said, “I thirst”; meaning He thirsts for our souls and relationship with us. 

Relationships are risky – they require two people to both freely choose to love one another.  No matter how faithful, how loving, how sacrificial one partner is willing to be, if the other walks away the relationship ends.  Christ is the ultimate risk taker.  He loves us no matter what, even if that love is unrequited.  Moreover, the partner who walks away suffers the greatest loss because he or she closes himself off from the riches of the other partner’s love.  When we walk away from Christ, we close ourselves off from the love He longs to bestow upon us.

Jesus offers peace, love, and joy.  All we must do is live in a loving relationship with Christ.  To do this He says, we must follow His commands.  We live in a wounded world confused about authentic love.  Jesus teaches us through His commands and offers the perfect example for us to imitate. We can chase after the illusion of love or embrace the God who is love.  If we choose the latter, God will dwell within us and our joy will be complete.  It feels more risky because it’s harder to see at first. Ultimately however, it’s the soundest reality and truest love.

Consider:

+ Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” What do you allow to cause you anxiety and fear?  Surrender each thing to the Lord and entrust your concerns to Him.

Practical Application:

+ Examine your day each night or morning.  Thank God for His blessings.  Recognize when He came to your aid.  Identify when you failed to love Christ or your neighbor and ask for Jesus’ help to do better the next day.

This reflection is an excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain in His Love available in ebook or paperback. Order a copy and don’t miss a single week!

 

Order the new set of guided meditations for this year’s Sunday Gospels!

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Sunday Food For Thought: Secure Relationship

4th Sunday of Easter:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

*excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love

Meditation Reflection: John 10:27-30

We often hear in psychology, parenting advice, or therapy about the importance of attachment and bonding. The intimacy and security derived from these relationships provide critical ingredients for overall mental and emotional health. How might we develop this essential bond with Jesus, the source of our spiritual wellbeing?

First: what not to do.  Jesus described His relationship with His flock in response to stubborn hearted Jews who had pressed Him once again to declare clearly that He was the Christ. Jesus expressed anger at the question because He had demonstrated it so many times at this point, that their blindness was sharply willful and to repeat Himself would be pointless. They did not ask for an answer, they asked simply to argue with no real intent of listening.  You may have experienced this type of frustrating exchange with someone yourself. It’s one of those points at which you must just walk away.    

Jesus encounters the same blind argument today: “How can I be sure Jesus is God if He lived so long ago? What evidence is there that He even rose again from the dead or that the Bible is reliable? Maybe there were miracles back then, but not anymore.  How can I believe if Jesus doesn’t work a miracle in my time?”  Despite the myriad of evidence to the contrary all around us or at our fingertips, we need to choose to open our eyes.  In addition to the tomes of scholarly work in every discipline which has proven the reliability of the bible against every modern standard, or the witness of the apostles and early church that Jesus truly rose from the dead (why die a martyr for this if there is no resurrection?), Jesus is still present today and He works in our lives constantly if we would simply be open minded and open hearted enough to see.  He literally speaks to us through His Word in the Scriptures and His Church. He cares for our needs through His followers and even “the heavens are telling the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). Finally, in the quiet of our hearts His Holy Spirit speaks, gently guiding us. If we really want to see, if we really want to follow, we need only ask the Spirit to heal our sight that we may see all this abundance around us.

When a person truly encounters Christ, their hearts burn with love; their bond and attachment to Him welded solid. They enter the intimate security of being in His flock, from which no one can snatch them from Him (v.28). A person becomes Christ’s sheep through Baptism and permanently marked as Christ’s forever. In consequence, secure in His love, Jesus’ sheep listen to His voice and let Him lead that they may remain near Him and under His protection and compassionate care.

Easter celebrates Jesus’ conquering of evil, sin, and death.  He opened the gates of heaven, the gates of His fold, where He and the Father invite us to share in their love and receive it in our own hearts – the Holy Spirit.

 It takes humility to be a sheep or to be a child. Both require a poverty of spirit that accepts its own dependence.  Just as pride restricts and blinds us however, humility expands and frees us:

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4

 What peace and joy to belong to Christ!  Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751) expressed it well in his spiritual classic Abandonment to Divine Providence:

“The truly faithful soul, well versed in all the secrets of God, lives in peace, and, instead of being frightened by what happens to it, is comforted, for it is quite, quite certain that God is guiding it.”[i]

[i] Jean-Pierre de Caussade. Abandonment to Divine Providence. Translated by  

          John Beevers. (Image Books: New York, 1975).

Consider:

+ To what extent to do you trust Christ, and to what extent to do you resist Him?

+ Do you have the humility to accept your dependence on His grace, to surrender your wisdom to His, to belong to Him instead of yourself?

+ Consider Christ’s strong love and attachment to you. Pause to reflect on His faithfulness and the security that flows from it.

+ Pray to Jesus with these words and reflect on this beautiful gift: “I belong to You”.

Practical Application:

+ Prayerfully pray and recall several times throughout the day: “I belong to You, Jesus”. Be at peace, secure in His love.

This reflection is an excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain in His Love available in ebook or paperback. Order a copy and don’t miss a single week!

 

Order the new set of guided meditations for this year’s Sunday Gospels!

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Sunday Food For Thought: Love and Mercy in Superabundance

3rd Sunday of Easter:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

*excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love

Meditation Reflection: John 21:1-19

I was recently presented with the question, “How can we know that the Christian religion is the true one as opposed to others?”  I responded, “ours is the only one whose founder has risen from the dead”! 

The miracle of Christ’s resurrection affirms the truth of His teachings and the divinity of His Person.  The apostles evangelized by bearing witness to this event, one that they experienced with their own eyes. Many struggle to trust in Jesus because we cannot see Him.  However, the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, and numerous Epistles all testify that our faith does not rely on mere ideology but rather the physical resurrection of our Lord witnessed by reputable persons who all suffered for their testimony.  Not a single apostle recanted his position to avoid martyrdom.  All of them endured severe trials and difficulties with no monetary or physical reward.  They had no ulterior motive.  They did not say they “believed” Jesus had risen from the dead, but rather that they had all “seen” the risen Lord.

God knows we struggle to believe without seeing.  Despite our weak faith, He mercifully became incarnate that we might see Him when He redeemed us.  Moreover, He exceeded all expectations of the imagination by liberating us Himself rather than sending someone in his place.

We have all heard stories of backpackers or journalists who cross an enemy line and become imprisoned in a dangerous or violent country.  Imagine if you were that person, afraid in your cell as to what will become of you, praying that your president will learn of your state and send someone to save you.  You might hope for a diplomatic solution or even military special ops to heroically liberate you.  Consider your surprise however if the president himself were to show up in military gear and break you out of prison at his own personal risk.

Christ reveals the love of God that exceeds any possible expectation or imagination.  He condescends to our limitations even though He deserves better.  He liberates us at His own painful expense.  Moreover, He gives us a share in His resurrection and a chance at new life. 

The Christian life is a response to the love and mercy we have first received from our Lord.  Peter fed the Lord’s sheep because of his love and gratitude for His mercy.  Jesus did not throw away their friendship after Peter’s betrayal.  Instead, He gave Peter a second chance, an opportunity for contrition, forgiveness, and conversion.

Jesus gives each of us this same opportunity.  He comes to wherever we are, offering us something to eat and an outstretched hand of friendship.  He asks each of us the same question: “Do you love Me?”  If the answer is yes, then He insists we respond in kind by extending a hand up to others and accompanying them in their conversion.

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation The Joy of Love addresses in a comprehensive way the joy of love in families – both the ideal as the gift God has given to us, and the painful “irregularities” that need careful healing.  The love of Christ and the call to feed His sheep begins in our families.   Jesus asks that if we love Him, we ought to give generously and tenderly to those placed by Him in our daily lives, beginning with our families and reaching out from there.

Consider:

+ It’s easy to be discouraged by our failures.  Consider the encounter of Peter with Christ.  What failure would weigh heavy on your heart if you faced the Lord?  How would you respond to His hand up and His offer of mercy?

+ Who in your life needs your mercy? How might you offer him or her a hand up?

+ Consider how Christ can be recognized by His superabundance. When the apostles pulled in such a large catch, John knew immediately it was the Lord. 

  • When has Christ surprised you by exceeding your expectations?
  • Ask for the gift of surrender and openness. Rather than giving Christ a list of tasks you would like Him to help accomplish, surrender the logistics to Him and do the tasks He sets before

Practical Application:

Offer mercy toward someone each day this week.

Offer Christ your work week. Give him one week of being in charge and trust Him to accomplish His will.  Just do the tasks He sets before you and let Him bring things together.

This reflection is an excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain in His Love available in ebook or paperback. Order a copy and don’t miss a single week!

 

Order the new set of guided meditations for this year’s Sunday Gospels!

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Wednesday Boost!

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 45: 6c-8, 18, 21c-25

Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above,

    like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.

We often think of God’s justice negatively, but justice orders things and restores peace. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s work of justice can also be gentle and refreshing.

+Pray for the Lord to renew and refresh your heart, your relationships, and your life by restoring them to order.

Christian Witness:

St. Mary di Rosa (1813-1855) served God with remarkable courage, even opening the door to invaders during a war and turning them back with a crucifix and her fierce faith as she protected the sick and the sisters with whom she served. She tackled one need after another applying her intelligence, her energy, and her love toward those in need beginning with her parish when she was seventeen, to poor girls in a work house during her 20’s, and finally the sick in hospitals. May we put all of our energy toward the work of Christ before us today.

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Wednesday Boost!

Scripture Readings

Luke 21:12-19

because of My Name

At our Baptism, we took the name of our Lord becoming His – Christians.

Because of His holy Name, we take His yoke upon us – suffering and dying with Him, but also rising with Him.

+ How is Christ calling you to share in His sacrifice of love today?

Christian Witness:

Saint Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions died for the name of Christian. Read about their heroism HERE

Staying Connected

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.

45th Sunday of Easter

Read the Gospel of John 15: 1-8

Meditation Reflection:

Life in Christ is all about connection. Jesus emphasized it over and again: “Abide in me and I in you,”(v.4), “I am the vine, you are the branches” (v.15),  “Take my yoke upon you…and you will find rest for  your souls” (Matthew 11:29), “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), “Come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21), “and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age”(Matthew 28:20) “ No longer do I call you servants,… but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). 

The Word of God which created us in love, wishes to re-create us by grace. He personally heals wounds, corrects faults, frees from oppression, and inspires to higher greatness. Parents don’t give birth to their children and then consider the relationship over.  Instead they devote themselves in love to the development and flourishing of their child throughout his or her entire life. Their ability to do this depends on how much connection the child is willing to reciprocate. That connection strengthens their foundation in who they are, anchoring them against the confusion of the world’s conflicting messages and pressures. Similarly, connection to Christ anchors us in our true selves, beloved children of God Who has a plan and a purpose for our lives. 

There are paths to holiness, steps one could say that mark advances on the road. Nevertheless, each person’s sanctification is unique and includes steps forward, setbacks, bumps in the road, etc. It’s more of a winding, curvy road than a straight shot.  Sanctification isn’t a to-do list with a report card at the end.  Rather, it’s the deepening of a relationship with the Lord through His Son and a richer experience of our authentic self.  St. Josemaria Escriva encouraged people to just keep turning back to Jesus, Who we find is already there to guide us.  

In this adventure of love we should not be depressed by our falls, not even by serious falls, if we go to God in the sacrament of penance contrite and resolved to improve. A Christian is not a neurotic collector of good behavior reports…Jesus understands our weakness and draws us to himself on an inclined plane. He wants us to make an effort to climb a little each day. He seeks us out just as he did the disciples of Emmaus whom he went out to meet.”Josemaria Escriva, Christ is Passing By: Homilies)

Jesus is the life of our soul.  He guides the seed of faith to sprout, grow, blossom, and bear fruit. We remain connected to the vine through prayer and the sacraments.  Intimate union with Christ through a strong interior life keeps the flow of nutrients and hydration from the roots flowing into the branches.  Jesus also prunes away useless or harmful growth which drains nutrients and fruitlessly redirects them.  This may be sin, unholy attachments, or even unhealthy people or places in our lives. 

Developing an interior life of prayer, of constant connection to Christ, takes time and effort, but will eventually become second nature.  Josemaria encouraged, “Although it is not a question of sentiment, little by little the love of God makes itself felt like a rustle in the soul.”

St. Francis de Sales offered wonderful spiritual counsel for how to remain attached to the vine of Christ in his work, Introduction to the Devout Life.  First, he distinguished the difference between true and false devotion.  Essentially, true devotion is marked by a generous love for Christ that is quick to act when it perceives something that will delight Him, much like a couple in love takes pleasure in doing things that make the other happy.  Next, he laid out the purgations necessary to detach us from weeds that choke our relationship, a pruning we do not do by ourselves, but rather intentionally cooperate with the Lord in doing as He cuts them away.  Finally, He spends a great deal of time directing how to develop an interior disposition wherein Christ remains always present to our hearts.  

“I especially counsel you to practice mental prayer, the prayer of the heart, and particularly that which centers on the life and passion of our Lord.  By often turning your eyes on him in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with him.”

In this way we abide in Christ, and by spending so much time with Him we inevitably become like Him.  In truth we all pick up the habits and attitude of those we are around – for better or worse.  If we want to become proficient in something, we particularly need to spend time with someone accomplished in it and allow them to train us.  Similarly, de Sales asserted, by abiding in Christ through cultivating meditation on His life, we will pick up His habits: 

“…just as little children learn to speak by listening to their mothers and lisping words with them, so also by keeping close to our Savior in meditation and observing his words, actions, and affections we learn by his grace to speak, act, and will like him.”

I have found this to be so very true in my own life.  When I get too busy for prayer or quiet with Christ, my virtues quickly wither along with my joy and love.  I become easily agitated, distracted, and far less productive. When I begin with connection to Christ, and recollect Him throughout the day, I feel like the tree planted by running water (cf Jeremiah 17:7-8). 

Consider:

  • What fruits do you experience from spending time with Christ in prayer?
  • When has Christ pruned something in your life away? How did it cause greater growth afterward? What might He be pruning now?
  • Pray with the image of the vine and branches, of Jesus’ connection to you in such a personal way.

Practical Application:

  • Build in reminders and opportunities for yourself to turn inwardly to Christ throughout the day. 
    • This could be index cards with Scripture passages taped in frequented spots, wearing a crucifix so you see it each time you glance in a mirror, having a piece of religious art in your common view to remind you of Christ, a small spiritual book you can carry along with you and read for a few minutes periodically, a rosary in your car to pray as you drive, or your music preset to a Christian radio station or playlist.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

“You are Witnesses of These Things”

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, Easter, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

3rd Sunday of Easter

Read the Gospel of Luke 24:35-48

Meditation Reflection:

Christ’s parting words summon every disciple to be a witness of their encounter with Him, repentance for sin, and God’s merciful love. 

In our frenzied culture many people vacillate from anxious stress to temporary escape through superficial pleasures.  In contrast, disciples of Christ rest in His Peace and rejoice in all circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:18).  When others wonder if anything can be true or lasting, Christians make decisions with confidence knowing that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that He has a plan for their lives.  Although choices may not be easy, Christ’s disciples can look to His teachings, His Church, and to the Holy Spirit to guide them, Who “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). 

Worried about the future or how to find meaning in life, many turn to psychics, gurus, ideologies, pop culture, or other general spiritualities.  In contrast, Christians encounter Jesus – who is alive and real, and therefore has the power to truly act in their lives on their behalf. They know that everything will be okay, because Jesus has conquered death and made them adopted children of the Father.  They experience the deepest kind of meaning in their lives because they believe that every act of love and kindness will reverberate into eternity.  Wealth, status, beauty, health, fame, and honor can all be taken away in a moment against one’s will.  Faith, hope, love, goodness, joy, and peace cannot – as so many martyrs and persecuted Christians have witnessed in the past and continue to do so today.

Our witness requires speaking about our faith at times.  We need to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” as St. Peter instructed (I Peter 3:15).  This means immersing ourselves in Scriptures and prayer and making an effort to keep learning more about our faith.  In this way, we can then pass on our faith to our children and stand up for the truth in society.

Our encounter with Christ is also witnessed in our silence.  I once had the opportunity to attend a private Mass at the Vatican with Pope St. John Paul II in 2001 along with about 20 other people.  When we entered the chapel, he was already there kneeling before the Lord intense in prayer.  His silent conversation with Christ was so real it was palpable.  When Moses returned from Mount Sinai the people knew he had encountered God because “the skin of his face had become radiant while he spoke with the Lord” (Exodus 34:29 NAB).  People often say of new mothers or new couples in love, that they are “glowing”.  Love has a way of doing that. When we spend time with Christ in prayer, when we walk with him throughout the day, we too glow with His love.  Imaginary myths or wishful thinking cannot produce this kind of radiance.

Finally, Christ becomes visible to others through His work from within us.  If I came home and the house were a mess, I wouldn’t believe my husband if he said that he had hired a maid for us.  If, however, when I returned home all the dishes were done, the floors vacuumed, laundry washed, and surfaces dusted, I would believe his word without even having met the person – their work would be evidence of their existence.  In the same way, if we tell others of Christ’s redeeming grace but remain the same mess of sin and confusion, it may be hard for them to believe.  However, when we tell them of how Christ transformed us, and they see our anger replaced with love, envy replaced with gratitude and contentment, and selfishness replaced with loving relationship, His grace will be evident to them in a real way.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).  God is here.  He is real.  We struggle to see because we are blinded by things – pleasure, over-ambition, anxiety, fear, anger, greed, and other distractions.  The more we cooperate with Christ to remove these obstacles the more easily we will see God, and the more easily others will see Him in us. 

Consider:

  • Who do you know that seems to “glow” with love for Christ?  Who seems to radiate His peace?
  • When have you experienced the peace of Christ?
  • When have you found Jesus’ words to be true?
  • How might you become more pure in heart?  What obstacles blur your vision?  How might you grow your love for the Lord?

Practical Application:

  • Try to keep Christ present in your heart throughout the day.  Spend 10 minutes in prayer every morning, pause for a prayer midday, and close with 5 minutes of prayer in the evening. 
  • Learn more about the faith by joining a bible study, attending Faith Formation at your parish, or reading a book about the faith with a group of Christian friends.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

The Domestic Church

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 and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

Feast of the Holy Family

Read the Gospel of Luke 2:22-40

Meditation Reflection:

And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord…” (vs. 22-25)

We often think of someone having a vocation to mean being called to priesthood or religious life.  However, during the Second Vatican Council, the Church emphasized that marriage and family life is also a holy vocation, and part of the universal call to holiness.  In fact, it described the family as the “domestic church” since children first learn of Christ from their parents and how to follow Him through a life of prayer and sacrificial service in the home.

“The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children.” (Lumen Gentium n. 11)

God calls every person to a life of holiness with the grace to become a saint.  Daily prayer, sacrifice, and charitable service are not reserved for priests and nuns.  In fact, Pope St. John Paul II repeatedly emphasized the essential and foundational work of the family, especially in his papal encyclical Familiaris Consortio – The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World. Consider his insights below regarding the noble mission of the family, the “Church in miniature” as he calls it. 

“Each family finds within itself a summons that cannot be ignored, and that specifies both its dignity and its responsibility: family, become what you are…the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord the Church His bride.” (n. 17)

Beautiful words, but how does this ideal get realized amidst the messiness of everyday life?  Surprisingly, by way of that very messiness.  “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Spouses demonstrate this through their commitment to one another despite each other’s imperfections.  The daily interactions of patience and forbearance reveals God’s love which is always faithful.  Parents teach their children of God’s love through their sacrificial care and loving concern even when their child is at his or her worst.  Whether it’s a screaming baby, an embarrassing toddler tantrum in the store, the struggle to discipline and form good habits during childhood, or teenage rebellion, the inexhaustible love of a mother and father witness to the mystery of Christ’s love for us.  In turn, kids know early on their parents’ weaknesses as well.  As they mature, those limitations become even more evident.  Yet, the love and acceptance given precisely in this imperfect state is mutually formative.  Families live and work together on an intimate level that provides the opportunities needed to form habits of virtue.  The philosopher Aristotle said that virtue can only be acquired through practice.  Well, family life offers plenty of practice in the most important and most difficult virtues!

“Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and ‘a school for human enrichment.’ Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous – even repeated – forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1657)

In addition to training up children in the way of the Lord through virtue, parents are also the first apostles of the Gospel to their kids and teach them Christian worship through participating in the faith together.  Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in accord with the prescriptions of the Law.  They exercised faithfully both personal prayer as well as communal. Christian parents can imitate their example by praying at home together daily, as well as faithfully attending Sunday Mass and actively participating in the sacramental life.  Moreover, in our present culture they witness their faith in Christ’s sacramental presence by prioritizing it amidst the myriad of competing activities and work that try to bully their way into the schedule.

New parents rightly invest time feeding their kids nutritious foods, taking them to activities such as sports or the arts, and working to ensure they are learning in school.  Nevertheless, as Christian parents, we must remember that our most important concern should be living as one baptized in Christ and raising our kids to be followers of Christ as well.  Something beautiful happens when this takes place, the kids who received faith from their parents, witness it back to them.  They become part of the Mystical Body of Christ which lifts one another up during trials and inspires to be even more prayerful.

“The family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel radiates.  In a family which is conscious of this mission, all the members evangelize and are evangelized.  The parents not only communicate the Gospel to their children, but from their children they can themselves receive the same Gospel as deeply lived by them.  And such a family becomes the evangelizer of many other families, and of the neighborhood of which it forms part.” (Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 71)

Jesus Christ became man and grew up in a family, in a town, and in a Church.  He knows first hand our struggles, our joys, and our anxieties. Contemplating the life of the Holy Family can bring focus to decisions about how to live in our lives.  Today’s Gospel highlights the number one priority – go to Church and bring our kids.  Love Christ and love each other as Christ loves you.

Consider:

  • No family is perfect, and that includes in practicing the faith.  What are the faith traditions you already have that you love, and what would you like to change or add to make Christ more present in your family routine?
  • What virtues have you acquired through your interactions with you family over the years?  What virtues would you like to grow in yet? 
  • Meditate on the family life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph at each stage of His life.

Practical Application:

  • Be intentional about your family prayer life and worship this week.  Whether attending Mass, meal prayers, or adding something new, make a plan to honor Christ in your family life.

© 2020 Angela M Jendro

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