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.

Behold, I Make All Things New

by Angela Jendro  Excerpt from Lenten Journey: Through the Desert to the Eternal 20190328_204247219_iOSSpring 

Easter Sunday!

Gospel of John 20:1-9 NAB

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus is risen! Just when we think all is lost, He makes something new. Jesus took His most beloved disciples by surprise, and He takes us by surprise as well.

“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25 RSV)

Death scares us by its finality, and the shroud of the mysterious unknown that surrounds it. Yet, in Christ we can be confident that with death comes resurrection. Jesus had warned, and promised:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24 RSV)

Every change, even welcomed ones, require us to leave the old behind in order to embrace the new. It takes courage to leave a familiar prison, to embrace an unfamiliar freedom. Today, we celebrate the victory of Christ, Who provides both the courage and the freedom we desire.

God’s love for us exceeds all our expectations. His intervention in our lives, especially when we surrender completely to His will, always surprises us. If we trust in Jesus each day, allowing Him to lead, He will bring richness, joy, peace, and deep love to our lives in ways we might not have foreseen.

Today we celebrate new life.   We celebrate God’s love. We celebrate God’s power and His victory over sin and death. We celebrate His victory in our own lives and within our own hearts. Our confidence can be renewed, that no struggle or suffering can stop Christ. If we place our trust Him, He will heal and transform us. Today, we celebrate our fresh start. During Lent, we endeavored to face our sins and bring our guilt before the Lord. Now, we get to leave that shame in the past, crucified with Christ, and begin something new.

Revelation 21:3-5 NAB “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”

 The One who sat on the throne said,

Behold, I make all things new.” 

Consider:

  • Consider Christ’s victories in your life.
    • How have you grown?
    • In what way do you experience greater freedom than before?
    • What were you afraid of before, that you no longer fear?
    • What virtues has Christ developed in you?
    • How has your love for God and others deepened?
  • How has God surprised you?
    • When did He give you something more than you asked for?
    • When did His plan lead you down an unexpected road?
    • When have you experienced His loving mercy when you didn’t think you should?
  • Reflect on Christ’s love for you and His strength.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Resolve to begin anew today. Make a concrete step to leave the old behind, no matter how comfortable it is, and allow Christ to lead you forward.Cross with heart 2

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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Remaining in the Joy of Love

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

May 6th, 2018 6th Sunday of Easter

Gospel of John 15:9-17 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.”

Meditation Reflection:

Here in this passage, Jesus tells you directly, “I love you.”

How much you might ask?  What kind of love?  The term is thrown about loosely these days and unfortunately often conditional.  The popular children’s books Guess How Much I Love You? (by Sam McBratney) and I Love You to the Moon and Back (by Amelia Hepworth) attempt to describe the greatest possible love a person could have for another, making them beloved stories for parents and children.   Jesus too attempts to describe the greatest possible love He could have for you – “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”  As the Father loves Jesus!  To the moon and back is quiet a distance, but the Father loves infinitely, totally, purely, passionately, and eternally.  Jesus has this love for you!

And He invites you to remain in His love.  How wonderful it is to remain in the sun after a long winter, to linger on the beach past sunset during a vacation, or to relax at home with your significant other or your best friend after a busy week.  Relationship with Christ means soaking up the warmth and brightness of His light, lingering on the beauty of His Word in Scriptures, His presence in the Sacraments, and His presence in your heart.  It means enjoying being with Him in activity and in the quiet of home.

Making time to rest in these things can be hard however.  Our schedules fill quickly to overflowing and the pull of work and achievement rushes us away from the joy we desire.  These same distractions work our souls into a frenzy and tempt us to set Christ to the side until we “get everything done first.”

However, experience proves that making the time to step back from activity for rest and relaxation actually increases overall productivity.  Skimping on sleep and vacation days frazzles our nerves, dulls our judgment, and kills our creativity.  Refreshing ourselves on the other hand gives us the energy to approach our work with our best selves and often provides new inspiration.

Remaining in Jesus’ love requires stepping away for time alone with Him.  Just like we need sleep and food every day, we need prayer every day.  Resting in the Lord for 30 minutes will refresh your soul and provide the spiritual energy to approach everything in your schedule with Christ’s companionship and aid.

In addition, it will grow our love and each stage of love brings out our best selves at ever deeper levels.  First, love makes us joyful, energetic, and generous. Think of newlyweds or those newly in love. They’re easy to spot by their glow, their bubbling joy, and their extra energy.  They see all the best in each other and look forward to every little opportunity to demonstrate their love.  When we abide in Christ’s love, that same excitement bubbles up and we look for ways to demonstrate our love for Him in even the smallest of details.  Moreover, just as young love relates everything back to their beloved (sometimes obnoxiously so to those around them!), Christian love sees Christ in every person they encounter and every event of their day.  This love then imbues their activity, bearing even richer fruit and produces works of charity towards those around them.

As the love grows deeper and the relationship develops history together with time, the commitment and concern for one another becomes apparent in a couple’s intimate knowledge of each other and patient forgiveness.  As relationship with Christ develops it runs deeper as well.  We get to know Him more intimately and experience His patient forgiveness with a heart of respect and gratitude.  This can’t help but extend to our neighbor as an opportunity to show Christ the love and commitment He has shown us.

Finally, perfect love sacrifices joyfully and immediately for the beloved.  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  I’ve experienced this as a mother as have most parents – I wouldn’t stop to think for even a split second if I had to lay down my life for my child.  Christ chose to become man and He chose to lay down His life on the Cross for us.  Although He suffered immensely every step of the way to Calvary and for the three hours nailed to the Cross, He didn’t consider even for a split second walking away at the expense of our salvation. How can we give Him anything less than our entire selves and our whole lives in return?

When we abide in His love, we abide in Him, His love for us, and His love for others.  In this relationship of reciprocal love, He assures us that “Whatever you ask the Father in My Name He will give you.”  If we love authentically, for what would we ask other than to increase our love for the Lord, to become better disciples, and for the things Jesus wants for us.  Moreover, we will see others with the heart of Jesus and desire the blessings He desires for them.

As the Father loves the Son, the Son loves us; and as the Son loves us, we are to love one another.  Jesus wants us to share in His ministry, to share in His love for us and others.  Therefore, when we abide in Him, whatever we ask in His Name, He will give because He wants us to bear fruit in His work.

So today, let us remain in Jesus’ love for us.  May He “lead us beside still waters and restore our souls” (Psalm 23:2-3).  Then, may that joyous love overflow into every detail of our day and every encounter with Christ in those we meet.

Consider:

  • Meditate on Jesus words “so I also love you.”  Jesus is Truth and His words are true.  He loves you as you truly are, to your very core.
  • Consider the joy inherent in love.  Even in the midst of trials or suffering, it remains and even increases when that suffering is for the person loved.
  • Pray for the gift of seeing Christ in others.  Ask for His love for them to be poured into your heart as well.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray Psalm 23 each day.
  • Do intentional acts of love toward Jesus throughout the day by acts of love toward others.  For instance, Christ is forgiving toward us, but we never have the opportunity to be forgiving toward Him back.  Be forgiving toward someone else today as an act of loving forgiveness for Jesus.  Jesus is so generous with us, but what could we give Him that wasn’t already a gift from Him?  In consequence, be generous with someone today as an act of generosity toward Christ.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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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

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Finding True Love

by Angela Lambert

May 21st, 2017; 6th Sunday Easter

Gospel of John 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Meditation Reflection:

Every human person yearns for love, intimacy, and understanding.  We may not need to be loved or understood by everyone, but we desire that connection with at least one person and preferably a whole community.  Without it, we suffer an oppressive loneliness leading to depression, anxiety, and confusion.

Given the rapid advances in communication, it would seem we should feel more connected than ever and therefore happier than ever.  Yet, consider the high rate of depression and suicide in our culture, despite the unprecedented wealth and physical well-being compared to any other time in history.  So, if we are relatively wealthy, healthy, and connected, why aren’t we happy?

Jesus reveals the answer in today’s Gospel passage.  The world offers superficial connection, defining love as self-gratification rather than self-gift. Self-centered love uses others to make oneself feel good or to advance one toward a personal goal.  It might demonstrate a modicum of virtue, but only insofar as it provides personal reward.  Intimate married love has been replaced with casual sex and pornography.  Intimate family love through the gift of children has been replaced with pets (not that pets are bad, just that they are not kids).  Intimacy of friendship or shared work carry some comradery, but disillusionment ensues when they are quickly exchanged for a personal advancement.  All of these experiences leave people feeling used and alone, rather than loved.

Pope Francis sheds light on our pain by identifying the source of our wounds.  He connects our pain with our disconnect from Truth and the experience of mercy.  In his book, The Name of God is Mercy, he writes,

“…humanity is wounded, deeply wounded.  Either it does not know how to cure its wounds or it believes that it’s not possible to cure them.  And it’s not just a question of social ills or people wounded by poverty, social exclusion, or one of the many slaveries of the third millennium.  Relativism wounds people too:  all things seem equal, all things appear the same…  Pius XII, more than half a century ago, said that the tragedy of our age was that it had lost its sense of sin, the awareness of sin.  Today we add further to the tragedy by considering our illness, our sins, to be incurable, things that cannot be healed or forgiven.  We lack the actual concrete experience of mercy. The fragility of our era is this, too:  we don’t believe that there is a chance for redemption; for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save you, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with infinite, patient, indulgent love; to put you back on your feet.  We need mercy.”

Pope Francis calls relativism a wound because it disables our ability to determine right from wrong and truth from error.  Christ forbids us from judging other people because only He knows what is in their hearts.  However, we must be able to make moral judgements about actions and choices.  It’s just as important to know the dangers of sin to the spiritual life, as it is to know the dangers of gravity when leaping from high places.   I tell my boys all the time, especially in the summer when they are careening down the hill on their bikes or scooters, “Force = Mass times Acceleration –  think about how fast you are going, because you could get hurt badly!”  The same truth becomes even more important as they get older.  Now that my oldest has his driving permit and is nearing his license, I try to curb the teenage boy’s “need for speed” with the same physics lesson.  I’m not being judgmental, I’m being loving by teaching him the truth.  The same applies to the spiritual life.  Sin wounds, hurts, and can even kill.  The Truth of Christ is a saving gift.

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches that Truth, Goodness, and Love are inseparable.  Without truth and without virtue, we will miss out on love.  Jesus said that He is the Truth (Jn 14:6), and those who love Him follow His commands.  God is a relationship of three distinct Persons in one divine nature.  The three Persons of the Trinity share a unity that exceeds our understanding, but Jesus unveiled a glimpse of its experience.  He speaks on numerous occasions of the unity of He and the Father. That unity comes from a relationship of love and obedience through an eternal self-gift.  The Holy Spirit is described as the Love between the Father and the Son. For us to share in the intimate relationship of the Trinity, we must share in God’s love through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

When we place our faith in Christ, He sends the Holy Spirit that we may live by His Truth, following His commands, and thereby grow in intimate love.  Jesus told the apostles,

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Christians must not only love, but love like Christ – sacrificial, unconditional, and merciful.  Merciful love means speaking the Truth instead of enabling someone in their self-deception or rationalization.  It means never helping someone sin, but always helping them when they try to leave their sin.

To love in this way, we need supernatural grace which flows from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  St. Cyril of Alexandria, a bishop and Doctor of the Church, describes the Spirit’s transformative power in a beautiful way in a commentary he wrote on the Gospel of John:

 “After Christ had completed his mission on earth, it still remained necessary for us to become sharers in the divine nature of the Word. We had to give up our own life and be so transformed that we would begin to live an entirely new kind of life that would be pleasing to God. This was something we could do only by sharing in the Holy Spirit…

Only by his own presence within us in this way could he give us confidence to cry out, Abba, Father, make it easy for us to grow in holiness and, through our possession of the all-powerful Spirit, fortify us invincibly against the wiles of the devil and the assaults of men.

 It can easily be shown from examples both in the Old Testament and the New that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell; he so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life…

Does this not show that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives? With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage.”

The Holy Spirit infuses us with Divine Love which bears fruit in our lives.  This love is so exceptional, that Jesus tells His disciples it will be evident to the world that they are His followers.  The fruit of worldly love is loneliness, anxiety, and depression.  The fruit of Christian love is intimacy with God and His followers, peace, and joy.  Worldly wisdom wounds, but Christian wisdom heals.  The great paradox of happiness, which Pope St. John Paul II re-iterated time and again, is that self-fulfillment can only be found in self-gift.  Christians experience the intimacy of friendship in their shared vision of the Truth, the intimacy of true love in living their vocational call to sacramental married love, Holy Orders, vows of religious life, or the single vocation, and above all – the deepest, most intimate, abiding love of our Trinitarian God dwelling in our soul as His very own Temple.    Happiness is loving and being loved, Truly.

Consider:

  •  Consider the relationship between Truth and Love.  Why is honesty necessary for relationship?  How does honesty deepen intimacy?
  • Have you ever had to make a decision that required you to choose between worldly wisdom and Christian wisdom?  Which did you follow and why?  What were the results?
  • Consider the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us.  Have you experienced spiritual healing, transformation, or love through the Holy Spirit?  Have you witnessed it at work in another person?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Grow in your relationship with Christ who is the Truth, by studying Scripture or studying the faith.  Read a spiritual book, join a bible study, listen to Christian talk radio or podcasts, or visit with someone advanced in the faith who can teach you.
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to bear more fruits of love within you by connecting with Him in prayer and/or the sacraments.  Add just 5-10 minutes of prayer to your day (or if possible, I highly recommend adding a daily Mass), and note the change in your reactions to others and to situations, or to the level of peace you feel amidst whatever is happening around you.

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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

by Angela Lambert

May 14th, 2017; 5th Sunday of Easter

 Gospel of John 14:1-12

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Meditation Reflection:

Do not let my heart be troubled? Jesus knows what it’s like to work, to have family, to experience crises.  He should know the stress we encounter.  How can He order such a thing?

Then I remember, I say the same thing to my loved ones.  I remind them that everything will be okay.  We can get through anything together and that I am here for them.  Jesus assures us that He is near and that He cares.  When we cry out to God, “where are you?!”, “how can you let this happen?!”, “do you see or care?!”.  He answers, yes.  Jesus tells us, that He and the Father are one. If we wrestle with whether God cares about our struggles, we need look no further than Jesus.  Christ witnesses the Father’s love.  A love that isn’t remote or detached.  Rather, an immanent, incarnate, self-sacrificing, and eternal love.

When Christ says, “everything will be okay,” we can trust Him.  Many of the apostles doubted as Jesus hung on the Cross and died.  His mission appeared extinguished and their hopes dashed.  They reeled in confusion and fear.  We too can experience times like this.  When God allows suffering without revealing His reason, our faith gets tested – we either succumb to the confusion and fear like most of the apostles, or we remain with Him at the Cross like Mary and John.  Mary and John remained because they loved Jesus unconditionally.  They trusted Him when all visible signs were removed.  The more we draw near to Christ and develop our relationship with Him, the stronger our trust will be in times of darkness.  The saints experienced unshakable peace because they cooperated with grace and reached a state of total surrender to the Lord.

St. Teresa of Avila, declared a doctor of the Church, composed this beautiful prayer which describes this union:

Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices. — St. Teresa of Avila

In His Father’s house there are many rooms, and one especially prepared for you by Christ.  Trust in His love, Trust His Wisdom, Trust His Goodness…and let nothing trouble your hearts, that His Peace may be with you always.

Consider:

  • When have you experienced the peace of Christ?  After Mass, in praying with Scripture, in nature, through other Christians?
  • Consider the fears and anxieties you carry.  Lay them before the Lord in prayer and surrender them.  Consider the power of Christ to provide, the love of Christ which motivates Him, and the faithfulness of Christ who remains near us in every trial.
  • In what areas of your life do you trust God completely?  In what areas do you rely on yourself or conventional wisdom rather than Him?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Choose your biggest worry.  Begin and end each day surrendering it to God in prayer.
  • Pray the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila each day this week.
  • We make an act of trust in God when we tithe.  If you do not tithe already, begin this week.  If you tithe already but feel called to tithe more (10% is the commonly suggested amount), prayerfully make a financial act of trust in the Lord.
  • Pray Psalm 23 each day this week.
Why do you trust Jesus Christ?  Post in the comments section below!

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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We All Need a Loving Gate-Keeper and Filter…Christ the Good Shepherd

by Angela Lambert

May 7th, 2017 4th Sunday of Easter

 

Gospel of John 10:1-19

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them. So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Meditation Reflection:

Quite often as a mom, I feel like a gate-keeper.  Before my kids go somewhere I need to know with whom, who the parents are, and approve.  Technology plagues me even more, with parent controls, ratings evaluations, and restrictions. The ever-multiplying accounts, passwords, devices, programs, and updates can feel like an interminable game of whack-a-mole.  Christmas and birthdays used to be fun, now they feel like a migraine-inducing tidal wave of gate-keeping duties, with impatient children complaining as I set the perimeter that I am being too slow, and of course, too controlling.  I’ve at least developed a one-line response to save my overtaxed brain from responding to the myriad of “logical” arguments and pleas of trust from my young teens. “It’s as simple as this,” I say, “You will not have unfiltered access to the internet.”  The Church could consider adding that as the 11th Commandment for the modern era.

Let’s face it, even adults, as children of God, need filters.   We too can be easily allured by promises of pleasure, freedom, status, or adventure from false advertisers; and I don’t just mean commercially.    Despite having everything, Adam and Eve fell prey to Satan’s proposition that God’s single rule (not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) was controlling, and denying them fun out of selfish motivations.  Satan continues to deceive us through similar false promises.

Just as predators try to find ways to get around parents to manipulate children, spiritual “thieves and robbers” try to get around Christ to attack us, God’s children.  First, they try to separate us from His influence by undermining our trust in Him, His Word, or His Church.  Common attempts sound something like: “Christ’s teachings hold you back. If you want to get ahead in life you have to be willing to get your hands dirty”, or “It’s not that you are going against Christ’s teachings, you are just modernizing them.”  In regards to those difficult passages in Scripture, the ones that really strike at your conscience, you will be urged to simply pass over them or interpret them in a more relaxed way – “Forgive others, yes, but forgive my ex?, I don’t think He meant that…”  Jesus stresses that we must die to ourselves in this life and deny ourselves.  Instead we rationalize that He only meant that symbolically, or at least in a modest way – like going on a diet or not aiming too high. Finally, the Church, Christ’s living voice of authority, is the clearest voice of our Shepherd and therefore the harshest recipient of worldly criticism.

We are children of God, in need of a loving gate-keeper.  Christ’s commands, given through Scripture and the Church, can seem restrictive and controlling if we have an adolescent view.  However, as we develop in spiritual maturity, we begin to appreciate the wisdom and the love underlying them.  When I’m tempted to brush off a Church teaching or a little pull at my conscience, I stop and recall that Christ loves me more than I love myself, and He is far wiser than me.  Who am I going to trust?  Any other false shepherd – whether secular culture, another person, or my own impulses – eventually drains rather than fills and proves a destructive, rather than uplifting force.

Christ, our Good Shepherd, leads to green pasture. He refreshes our souls and leads us beside peaceful waters (Psalm 23).  Jesus lamented to St. Faustina that distrust on the part of souls causes Him the greatest pain.  As a mom of teens, I know what He means.   I want my kids to trust me too, and so I repeat the prayer He gave to St. Faustina, “Jesus I trust in You.”

Consider:

  •  When have you been steered wrong – by others, by cultural norms, or by your own impulses?  What was the reason?  What did you learn?
  • When have you been steered right by Christ?  How has His wisdom brought deeper joy and fullness of life, even amidst suffering, than these other voices?
  • Have you ever had to be the gate-keeper for loved ones?  Consider the love it takes to be strong and the need for them to trust you.
  • How can you trust Christ more and listen to His voice more often?  Could you attend Church more regularly?  Could you invest more time into Christian friendships?  Do you make time to study your Bible, read quality devotionals, or learn more about your faith?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Choose one way to listen more to the voice of Christ this week.
    • Ideas:  Add 10 minutes to your prayer time, pray the rosary in the car, listen to Christian radio, listen to Christian podcasts, read the daily Scriptures (these can be found at usccb.org), post inspirational Scripture quotes in places you will see them often, meet with a Christian friend.
  • Consider adding a filter, rating restrictions, or accountability software to your personal technology.

Related posts:

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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We Have Seen His Glory! Awe of God and Christmas Witness…

by Angela Lambert

nativity

December 25th, 2016; Christmas Liturgy

Gospel John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.

Meditation Reflection:

Why, on Christmas, do we read John’s lofty, deep, theological reflection on Jesus as the Word, or Logos, rather than a quaint story of Mary and Joseph in the stable? Let’s consider.  For the past four weeks, we have contemplated the coming of Christ.  We examined the spirit of repentance necessary to receive Him, which John the Baptist so boldly and faithfully proclaimed.  We reflected on Mary’s fiat, her “yes” that made the Incarnation and our redemption possible, and Joseph’s “yes” which provided the incarnate Lord with a family.  Hopefully we have developed a deep appreciation for the Lord’s covenantal relationship with humankind, His desire for relationship, and His gracious condescension to include us in some small way in His work of our redemption.

Now, on Christmas Day, the Church invites us to stand in awe together, as God the Son, the Logos, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, who took a human nature at the moment of His conception, makes the invisible God visible at His holy birth.  Jesus Christ, God and man, born to die, once and for all debunked any misconceptions we may have formerly held; whether that of the distant god of the desists, or the hedonist, narcissistic gods of the pagan mythologies.

I love so very many verses in the Scriptures, but John 1:14 is my absolute favorite.  John the beloved disciple, passionately gives witness to his ineffable gift of seeing God: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory.” John identifies Jesus as the Word, or Logos in Greek.  In doing so, he affirms Jesus’ eternal divinity.  Lest we be deceived into thinking Jesus existed merely as an exceptional human person in history, John makes clear that the Son of God, through Whom all things were created, has taken on a human nature to redeem His creation.

Recall in Genesis chapter 1, the way in which God created.  “And God said, ‘let there be light’, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).  God created out of nothing, by speaking.  To speak, we employ words.  Thus, Church Fathers have described the Trinitarian work of creation as God the Father speaking, God the Son as the Word spoken, and God the Holy Spirit as the goodness by which everything was declared good.  On Christmas day, therefore, we contemplate this beautiful and gracious mystery, that the Word through whom we received our existence, also became man to restore our fallen nature to its original end – union with God.

God’s love however. always exceeds our expectations and knows no other possibility than generosity.  Thus, John describes Jesus’ mission from the Father as establishing “grace upon grace”.  By this he means that instead of merely restoring us to our original manufacturer settings, Christ elevated our nature to an even higher order.  Through Baptism, God dwells in our very soul.  Through the Incarnation, our human nature became forever united to the divine nature in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Not even the angels can boast of this.

People first encountered Jesus as a man who then demonstrated He was God.  John invites us today to contemplate that Jesus is the eternal God, who became man.  Moreover, the God made man, Who opened for us entirely new horizons of living through the power of His grace and the gift of being children of God.

God literally dwelt among us, and He continues to literally dwell among us in His Eucharistic presence.  He united Himself with our human nature, and He unites with our soul personally at Baptism and ever more deeply the more times we give Him our own “yes.”  When we do this, we, like John, “see His glory.”  Christianity, at its foundation, is not a religion of “the book”, it is a religion of “witness to the risen Lord.”  Yes, this is expressed infallibly and inspired by the Holy Spirit through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  However, contrary to secular assumptions about our faith, we do not believe because we have found a convincing philosophy in a book we read by a great guru (similar to say Buddhism), but because we have encountered the risen Christ – real, alive, and active in our lives.  We have proof because we have seen the transformation that He has accomplished in our souls, which we know is not false modesty but a true miracle.  Like the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter 4, overcome with joy and astonishment, we witness to this encounter and invite others to “come and see.”  Eventually they can say, as her fellow villages exclaimed, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

God has made His dwelling with us – Halleluiah! His light has cut through the darkness and given us hope. The Word has become man and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory!

Consider:

  • Consider Christ’s divinity.
    • Reflect on His divine attributes – eternal, perfect, infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving.
    • Reflect on His eternal Sonship to the Father.
    • Contemplate His work in Creation. Re-read Genesis chapter 1 and consider Christ, the Word, at work in our original beginning.
  • Consider Christ’s Incarnation and Redemptive work.
    • Reflect on how the Son became man, to suffer and die for our salvation.
    • Human persons are made in the image and likeness of God. Because of Original Sin and the Fall, we distorted that image.  Consider how Christ is at work in a new creation, restoring and elevating human kind to an even higher level of union with God.
  • Consider your witness of seeing Christ’s glory.
    • How has Christ transformed you. How has He freed you, strengthened you, enlightened you, and loved you?
    • In what ways do you experience Christ’s nearness?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • If you, like John or the Samaritan woman, were to give witness to meeting the Christ and seeing His glory, what would you say?  Write a testimony of your own eye witness of Christ’s true presence and saving action in your own life.
    • You don’t have to share it with anyone. You can simply take it to prayer and offer it as a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.
    • At the same time, as St. Peter advises, “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1Peter 3:15). If an opportunity arises to share your testimony, pray for the grace and courage to give loving witness.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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