Sunday Food For Thought: Open Arms of the Father

4th Sunday of Lent:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

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

Meditation Reflection: Luke 15:1-3,11-32

We often live in denial of ours sins and this can make it easy to imagine God as loving since we see ourselves entitled to His affections.  However, when our hearts are really struck by the realization of a failure, when shame settles in our stomach at our weakness or self-centeredness, we can mistakenly assume God views us as a failure too and wants nothing to do with us.  Jesus corrected this false view by describing God’s unconditional love in His Parable of the Prodigal Son, also known as the Parable of the Merciful Father.

Return of the Prodigal Son By Rembrandt

In this parable, the father had freely given his sons everything he could – life, love, nurturing, and even inheritance of his estate.  The first son responded with obedience, loyalty, and service.  The second son responded with ingratitude, an entitlement attitude, and complacency.  When he arrogantly wished his father dead and demanded his future inheritance, his father not only allowed him to leave but also gifted to him the undeserved future inheritance.  Mistaking license for freedom, the son lived foolishly for pleasure and self-gratification.  Eventually however his funds ran out and the difficult times that followed revealed the short-sightedness of his choices.  The glamour of evil wore off when he found himself desperate enough to take a job caring for pigs (considered unclean by the Jews) and even more desperate when he felt tempted by his insatiable hunger to ask for some of their slop but was denied. As he hit rock bottom, he finally realized the generosity and goodness of his father.

Some Christians take their faith for granted.  The spiritual gifts they had enjoyed from the sacraments, living in Christian fellowship, and possibly growing up in a Christian home seem less glamorous and more restrictive than worldliness.  At first, missing mass on Sunday to sleep in, put in an extra day at work, travel, or any number of things might not seem that big of a deal.  Next, spending time with worldly friends begins to outweigh Christian friends.  As seeming independence and success increase, a person may feel he or she no longer needs God.  They too mistake license for freedom and, taking their gifts from God, leave. 

Over time however they begin to experience life without grace.  The absence of God’s peace, the kindness of His followers, the richness of Scriptures wanes and they begin to hunger.  When hard times hit, without that spiritual connection to God, a person finds themselves starving and desperate.  Where can one turn for help?  A person who uses others, finds themselves being used by others.  Alcohol or drugs lose their ability to satiate and only make matters worse if not out of control.  All former numbing mechanisms – shopping, eating, gaming, gambling, travelling, even over-working cannot help but rather become enslaving.  

When one hits rock bottom, crawling back to God can seem unthinkable and disingenuous.  How could you ask God for help now when you so brazenly rejected Him earlier or slothfully let Him fall by the wayside.  Don’t you deserve to be miserable?  Maybe God is saying “I told you so”?

Jesus tells us otherwise.  Our pride imagines God reacting this way.  Jesus reveals that God is watching the horizon, waiting hopefully, and running to embrace us when we return.  The father in this parable doesn’t accept the demotion suggested by his son.  He embraces him, and raises him back to the dignity he had left behind; transforming him from servant of pigs to a son of the father. 

The older son’s jealousy reveals a hint of the same mistaken view as the younger son.  Although he made the loyal choice, he still considered his brother’s prodigal lifestyle as glamorous.  As a result, it appears to him that his brother was rewarded for leaving so disrespectfully and rewarded for returning so degraded.  However, the father and the younger son know the terrible poverty, anxiety, and shame his choices had brought upon him.  The older son, though working in the fields all those years, also enjoyed the peace and dignity of living as his father’s son.  He did not experience the “glamour” of debauchery nor did he have the impoverishment of it either. 

God loves us as a merciful father.  He pours out blessings in our lives even if we will eventually take them for granted.  A little time on our own however and we realize how much we rely on God’s supernatural aid and relationship.  He assures us that He is waiting anxiously for our return, running to meet us if we come back to Him and offering us the peace and protection of His home.

Consider:

+ Reflect on the father in the parable looking out at the horizon and seeing his son in the distance. Consider how God is waiting for you with the same longing.

+ Have you ever fallen for worldly deceptions? How did they turn out differently than what you first expected?

+ How does your dignity as God’s son or daughter outweigh and outshine the false beauty of the world?

Practical Application:

+ Read Psalm 51 each day this week.

+ Return to God in the sacrament of 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: Living in Denial

3rd Sunday of Lent:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

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

Meditation Reflection: Luke 13:1-9

The mystery of God’s Mercy and Justice extend beyond the limits of our comprehension.  Nevertheless, Jesus exhorts us to never forget that God is both.  God’s mercy makes salvation possible through even the smallest opening of repentance and desire in our hearts.  At the same time, the mercy we experience on a day-to-day basis, the undeserved blessings God showers as a doting Father, can also lead to complacency. 

Mercy means healing and transformation.  In our complacency we can begin to think that we deserve our blessings and forget our sins, or worse forget our blessings as well.  St. Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 10:1-12 that the Israelites, after witnessing the mighty hand of God liberating them from Egypt and walking on dry land through the Red Sea, reverted to doubt, fear, and grumbling in the desert.  In consequence, though liberated by God from Egypt, they died in the desert unable to enter the Promised Land.  God can work mighty deeds in our lives.  His mercy will cut through any sin.  God’s forgiveness is not merely “spiritual dry-cleaning” as Pope Francis has termed it.

God’s work heals and transforms.  This process ought to bear fruits therefore of virtue, sanctity, and love.  In fact, one of the ways St. Teresa of Avila verified the authenticity of a spiritual experience was by the fruits of virtue that accompanied it, especially that of love. 

Jesus warned in today’s Gospel that God’s mercy is inextricably united to God’s justice.  God has given us free will.  He will honor that gift.  If we choose to reject the opportunity for life which comes through healing from sin, then at some point we will die.  God offers us more chances than we deserve but they are limited by time and by our choices.  We cannot receive the fruits of mercy until we choose to acknowledge and repent of our sin. 

Unfortunately, the general cultural view denies the reality of sin, excusing it away.  In consequence, as Pope Francis has preached on Mercy (recall the Year of Mercy 12/8/2015-11/20/2016) he concomitantly needed to preach on sin.  In a First Things article, titled “The Pope’s Theology of Sin”, William Doino Jr. provides context for the relationship between sin and mercy and presents Pope Francis’ insights regarding the process of reaching the first step – acknowledgement and repentance:

“The first part is to recognize the darkness of contemporary life, and how it leads so many astray: Walking in darkness means being overly pleased with ourselves, believing that we do not need salvation. That is darkness! When we continue on this road of darkness, it is not easy to turn back. Therefore, John continues, because this way of thinking made him reflect: ‘If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’”[i]

Why is seeing our sin so important?  Isn’t it a bit depressing?  If it was analogous to learning you had an incurable cancer, then yes.  But if it’s analogous to learning you had a cancer that could be cured with early treatment, then it’s a huge relief.  If we do not suffer under the oppression of sin, we do not need a redeemer.  When we live in denial of our sins and addictions, we refuse the opportunity for help.  For example, if a person lives in denial of their regular rude or hurtful comments under the rationalization that they are just “speaking their mind”, then they will soon lose relationships and friendships.  If a person lives in denial of their intemperance in spending or greed for possessions beyond their means, they will eventually suffer bankruptcy.  Similarly, if we live a self-centered life rather than a God-centered life, at some point we will experience the harsh reality of our choices. 

After opening our eyes to our sins (with the help of the Holy Spirit), the second part of the process is to take them to Confession; not with an attitude of a quick shower but with a humble, and deeply contrite heart.  The word Pope Francis used to describe this feeling is one we shy away from in our culture – shame.  Yet, when we feel genuine shame for our sin, it also motivates us to change and open ourselves up to receiving help and grace.

The final part of the process he writes, is:

“having absolute faith in God to renew us: We must have trust, because when we sin we have an advocate with the Father ‘Jesus Christ the righteous.’ And he ‘supports us before the Father’ and defends us in front of our weaknesses.” [ii]

Rather than despair at our weaknesses and imperfections, Pope Francis reminds us to put our trust in Christ.  We must acknowledge that we cannot change on our own and allow Jesus to apply His healing grace to our souls – enlightening our minds, strengthening our wills, and fanning the flame of love for God and neighbor.

In conclusion, the mystery of God’s Justice and Mercy requires us to make an active decision to turn away from sin and accept God’s help.  Because grace is freely given by God, fruits of that grace are expected too.  If we do not bear fruit, we can conclude that we have not actually been receptive to grace.  If we do bear fruit, it will evoke feelings of gratitude and love because we know who we are, and from where those virtues truly came.

[i] Doino, William Jr. “The Pope’s Theology of Sin.” First Things. August 2013. 

[ii] Ibid.

Consider:

+ How has facing your faults, though painful, made you a better person with the help of Christ? How are you different today than in years past?

+ Has God ever “rebuked” you? Did it have a positive effect later or lead to greater freedom?

+ Are there faults you continue to rationalize? Do you treat your spouse, children, or family members with the love they deserve, or do you excuse your behavior by saying they should love you as you are without an effort to change?

+ Have you ever experienced the pain of seeing someone you love self-destructing or suffering due to living in denial of a serious problem? Have you offered help and been rejected?  Consider how this relates to God’s perspective.

Practical Application:

 + Read an examination of conscience and prayerfully reflect on it.  Most parishes have a pamphlet by the confessional with an examination, you can also find some online.  If possible, look for one tailored to your state in life (e.g. single, married, priest, etc.)

+ Choose one sin you have been avoiding admitting and actively root it out through prayer and practicing the opposite virtue. (For example – greed is combatted by generosity, a habit of critical remarks by encouraging words of affirmation, pride by humility, etc.)

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: Mount Tabor Moments & Transfiguration in Christ

2nd Sunday of Lent:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

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

Meditation Reflection: Luke 9:28b-36

The relationship between Jesus’ divinity and humanity will always be veiled in mystery.  Nevertheless, at times the Lord pulls aside the veil and lets the glory of His divine love for man shine through the humanity of His Son.  Jesus became man to share in our human experience, to walk in our shoes and our struggles, and thereby conquer them for us and in us through grace. As a result, He provides the perfect example for us to follow. 

Today’s Gospel account is instructive for our own faith journey.  Notice how Jesus went up the mountain to pray, a task that required effort and endurance.  He took with Him only a few of His closest companions.  He spent time alone in prayer persisting even when the apostles fell asleep. 

During this solitude Moses and Elijah appeared to Him, representing the Law and the Prophets, both of which Jesus would fulfill.  They spoke with Him about His mission and the Father overshadowed them in a cloud speaking words of confirmation and encouragement. Similar, if we persist in prayer, the Lord will guide and encourage us Himself and through others.

Seeing Christ so transformed, Peter, John, and James didn’t know what to think or do.  Peter offered to pitch tents for everyone, not comprehending what was happening, but trying to at least offer some kind of service.  Christ usually appears humbly in our lives, veiled in His humanity.  He does this so well that we too often react with surprise and an awkward response when we awake to moments of His glory.

This experience of light and glory strengthened Christ as well as the apostles for the upcoming darkness and suffering of Calvary.  It was an experience so profound that they “kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen” (v. 36) Peter and James would still abandon Christ in His direst moment but later repented at their actions. Of the apostles John alone would remain with Jesus at the Cross.  Through darkness, disillusionment, and intense pain, that confidence in God’s call and the experience of His encouragement strengthened them to persevere. 

Conversion tends to be a slow process of turning away from sin and toward Christ daily.  However, during this long road, we sometimes experience a Transfiguration moment wherein God reveals His plan, His mission, or His love for us in a profound and tangible way.  St. Paul’s moment occurred on the road to Damascus.  St. Peter’s occurred when Jesus appeared to him after His resurrection and asked him three times if he loved Him then asked him to feed His sheep.  These moments may confirm our call to the Christian faith, or they may confirm our call to our vocation.

Mother Teresa began her mission to serve the poorest of the poor after a profound experience in prayer.  She had already been a nun for 15 years when, while on a train travelling to the Loreto Convent in Darjeeling for a retreat, she heard the voice of Christ speak to her.  Missionary of Charity and postulator of the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Mother Teresa, Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk recounts in his book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, that,

“Though she would persist in letting the details remain veiled in silence, she later revealed:

‘It was a call within my vocation.  It was a second calling.  It was a vocation to give up even Loreto where I was very happy and to go out in the streets to serve the poorest of the poor.  It was in that train, I heard the call to give up all and follow Him into the slums.’”[i]

Fr. Kolodiejchuk further records that Mother Teresa considered the date of this mystical experience (September 10, 1946), as the beginning date of, and her entrance into, the Missionaries of Charity. Christ had asked her to “Come, be My light” in the darkness of the poorest of the poor.  Jesus continued to speak with her through a gift of interior locutions into the middle of the next year.  During this period, she presented her concerns to Christ, her happiness serving as a Loreto nun, and her feelings of inadequacy. In her letter to the Archbishop she wrote, “These thoughts were a cause of much suffering – but the voice kept on saying ‘Wilt thou refuse?’”  Her love for Jesus could not refuse Him anything and so she said yes to His request.

Mother Teresa had a “Transfiguration moment”.  She was thirty-six at the time.  The next fifty years of sacrifice and suffering would be motivated by this single call of Christ.  She faced many setbacks, rejections, and challenges both materially as well as spiritually.  She experienced an interior darkness (meaning lacking in light to see) in which she couldn’t see God or feel the closeness of union that she had enjoyed before.  At first, she worried that her own sinfulness had caused the feeling of absence.  On the contrary however, Fr. Kolodiejchuk records that,

“With the help of her spiritual directors, she progressively came to grasp that her painful inner experience was an essential part of living out her mission.  It was a sharing in the passion of Christ on the Cross – with a particular emphasis on the thirst of Jesus as the mystery of His longing for the love and salvation of every human person.”[ii]

As a result, what seemed a loss at first turned out to be an extraordinary gift.  Some saints have been given the stigmata – the physical wounds of Christ.  Mother Teresa was given a share in the suffering of Christ’s heart.  She could not have done this however, without being firmly rooted in her faith in Christ first.  She could look back to that Transfiguration moment on the train and confidently press forward in humility that Christ would bring to perfection the good work He had begun.

When we feel like we can’t see God or we become disillusioned in our vocation or work, rather than ask for another sign, think back to that first call.  Remember your Mt. Tabor and the time you saw Christ transfigured in glory.  When you feel most near to Christ’s experience of darkness on the Cross (“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”), draw strength from your experience with Him during the Transfiguration.

[i] Teresa, M., & Kolodiejchuk, B. Mother Teresa: Come be my light. (New York:           Doubleday, 2007).

[ii] Ibid.

Consider:

+ Reflect on a time when you felt the presence of Christ or saw His glory. 

  • Have you witnessed a mighty deed of His like the apostles when He calmed a storm or cast out demons?
  • Did you experience His mercy or love like the Prodigal Son or Peter?
  • Were you healed like the blind, lame, and sick in the Gospels?
  • Were you stopped in your tracks and knocked down like St. Paul?
  • Did you hear Him in “a still small voice” like Elijah?

+ Reflect on times of “darkness” when you could not see or feel the presence of Christ?

  • Did it cause you to doubt?
  • Was Christ still with you even though you couldn’t see it at the time?
  • Did it increase your longing for Christ?
  • Did it deepen your connection to His experience on the Cross?

Practical Application:

 + Journal about your Transfiguration moment(s) and keep it to look back on during times of darkness.

+ Encourage or visit someone struggling or suffering.

+ Read the lives of the saints. Read one a day or at least one a week. 

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: Strength in the Lord

1st Sunday of Lent:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

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

Meditation Reflection: Luke 4:1-13

Directly after Jesus’ Baptism, the inauguration of His transition from His Hidden Life in Nazareth to His public ministry, the Spirit led Him into the desert for a time of preparation first – to fast, pray, and face temptation.  In the same way, the Holy Spirit periodically draws us away from the noise of life and the distractions of the senses to be able to connect with God in a deeper interior way.  In some cases, we choose to place ourselves in quiet reflection by going on a retreat or planning a weekend of solitude.  At other times, the circumstances of life create that solitude for us.

It reminds me of standing ankle-deep in the waves of the ocean on the beach.  As the water cascades over my feet, it carries with it a flurry of sand, shells, seaweed, and teems with life and energy.  Then it recedes, drawing back everything it had just placed before me.  Even the sand around my feet recedes leaving me only two small mounds beneath my arches. 

Times of solitude can feel lonely and a little barren like the desert.  However, they can be opportunities for prayer and preparation for the next mission God has for us when the water will return, replenished and shimmering.

The devil of course hates for us to follow Christ and he especially despises when we build the kingdom of God.  He therefore attempts to derail us in any way possible. He prevents us from God’s work in a myriad of ways tailored to our own personal weaknesses.  The devil distracts us with physical pleasures and the lie that if we don’t satisfy our body’s whims and desires, we will die, or at least be so miserable it’s not worth living. 

During Lent, we face this lie and temptation, strengthening or will over our body and seeking joy in the Lord by giving up sweets, pop, alcohol, snacking, over-sleeping, staying up too late, etc., and replacing them with added prayer or spiritual exercises.

Another tactic favored by the devil is to redirect the trajectory of our work by aiming our talents at building the kingdom of self rather than the kingdom of God.  He tempted Jesus with an enticement of kingship without the cross.  Similarly, Satan attempts to promise us success and happiness without the suffering of the cross, if only we would exchange our faith in God for faith in ourselves. 

Lastly, if we thwart both pitfalls through strength of faith and love, the devil makes his last attack by twisting God’s own words and attempting to skew our relationship with the Lord.  The devil hates the Church because Christ empowered it with His authority to preach truth and correctly interpret Scripture by the power of the Holy Spirit, as well as the grace of Christ to live it.  If we listen to the Holy Spirit through Christ’s Church the devil loses his power to trick us “and will depart for a time”. 

If we pay careful attention, we can learn the tricks of the devil in our own lives.  St. Ignatius of Loyola began to notice this too and developed rules of discernment that have become a classic in the Christian life.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow in self-knowledge and provide the grace to overcome temptation so as to live in the freedom of the kingdom of God and work unhindered for His glory.

Consider:

+ Spend some time in prayer reflecting on your average day. Consider what things unnecessarily slow you down, distract you, make you late, frustrate your work, or prevent you from getting started on something.   Implement a plan to combat one of them. 

+ Consider the three categories of temptations from the Gospel today and how each one applies to you. This Lent build strength by combatting the pleasure that has a hold over you, the suffering you are trying to avoid or the status you are trying to achieve, and grow in knowledge of your faith to protect you from the deceptions of the devil.

+ Look back on your life and reflect on how God prepared you before raising you up for something. How did you feel beforehand and after?  Have you experienced deeper and richer faith after a time of solitude or difficulty?

Practical Application:

 + Commit to a Lenten resolution even if you fail at it periodically. Give something up and/or do something extra to strengthen your relationship with Christ and weaken your relationship with sin.

+ Read (or listen to the audiobook) C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. It’s short, entertaining, and enlightening.  It’s a satirical work which features letters from an experienced demon to a lesser experienced one about how to tempt humans.

+ Listen to Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s podcasts on St. Ignatius’ discernment of spirits. He presents Ignatius’s ideas in an understandable and relatable way. (discerninghearts.com)

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

That Others May See More of Christ In You

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

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

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Read the Gospel of John 12:20-33

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like Jesus, we might pray to the Father:

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Practical Application:

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

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

I Can’t Believe My Eyes

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

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

2nd Sunday of Lent

Read the Gospe1 of Mark 9:2-10

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Practical Application:

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

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

Desert Decisions

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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1st Sunday of Lent

Read the Gospel of Mark 1:12-15

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

man shall not live by bread alone,

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Practical Application:

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

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

“He’s Not a Tame Lion”

Excerpt frTake Time For Him Book coverom Take Time for Him: Simple, Soulful Gospel Meditations to Ignite the Busy Person’s Spiritual Life  Get your own papercopy from Amazon!

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5th Sunday of Lent

Gospel of John 11:1-45

Meditation:

Jesus is reliable, but He’s not predictable. C.S. Lewis, in his fiction novel The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, illustrated this through his description of Aslan the lion (the Christ figure in his Narnia series).  When asked if Aslan is a safe lion, Mr. Beaver responds, “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”   Jesus isn’t safe either. If you choose to follow Him, He will lead you down uncomfortable and even scary roads at times, He will purify sinful habits by detaching you from them, and He will transform you into the best version of yourself but one you couldn’t even have imagined. So, He’s not safe but His goodness means He can always be trusted.  Much like Psalm 23 assures,

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

     I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

     your rod and your staff comfort me.”

 Or as I say, “I would rather walk in darkness holding God’s hand, than in broad daylight by myself.”

A paradox presents itself regularly in discipleship. On the one hand, Jesus approaches us in the humblest and human of ways. Like the apostles and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, He develops a true friendship with us, one of mutual love and abiding connection. In His nearness however, we can forget His Divine Lordship. As Lewis described, we might try to “domesticate” Him, expecting Christ to fit neatly into the limits of our reason. However, Christ is also God, and came to reveal that which includes, but also surpasses, natural reason. Moreover, some of Christ’s knowledge and power exceed even divine revelation and are known to God alone. In consequence, sometimes Jesus makes perfect sense, like the comfort of visiting your home.  Other times He speaks and acts in utterly surprising ways, like a person setting off to a foreign land.

Christ truly offers friendship, but it’s not a friendship of equals.  Similarly, Lewis writes of Aslan,

“He’ll be coming and going” [Mr. Beaver] had said. “One day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down–and of course he has other countries to attend to. It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

How should we respond if we can’t really predict what Christ will do? When the path Christ takes seems imprudent, we can begin by saying it to Him in prayer, like the disciples who questioned going to Jerusalem since the Jews had just tried to kill Him. We can also bring it to a spiritual director or a spiritually wise friend. Sometimes God speaks to us through natural prudence, and other times He needs us to trust His supernatural prudence – which takes into account God’s will and God’s power. Like Thomas, we can press forward zealously, thinking if Christ wants to die I guess I’ll just die with Him.  We can surrender to Christ’s wisdom, trusting Who Christ is above our own understanding like Martha did. We can come to Jesus with our tears like Mary. She trusted Jesus and didn’t resent Him not being there, nevertheless, the situation was still sad and she poured her feelings out to Him. Whichever person you relate to more, the important thing is to turn toward Christ and not against Christ. He’s not “tame” but He is good.  If we allow Christ the freedom to be Himself, like a good friend ought to do, then we also allow within our own experience the possibility of being astounded beyond all expectations. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead! This had NEVER been done before. No one could have expected it, and it became the event that solidified many followers and provoked His enemies to move forward with their plot to kill Him.

Of course, Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus from the dead back to natural life, pointed to the resurrection of the dead to eternal life. In Jesus we are made NEW. Not refurbished but transformed. Grace builds on nature, a nature given by God and, through Christ, elevated by Him. Marveling at God’s superabundant grace which places us in an even higher state of being, Pope St. John Paul II copied this prayer in His journal (from the eleventh Sunday after Pentecost):

Almighty ever-living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.

God wants to give more than we can even “dare to ask.” Knowing our sins we feel ashamed to think that we could be sons and daughters of a God so perfect and loving. Nevertheless, God wills it and Christ has made it possible.

Baptism changes us interiorly, putting us in relationship with God and orienting us toward Him. The Spirit sanctifies us through a daily working of grace in the circumstances of our lives. These transformations are nothing short of miraculous and the lives of the saints all witness to heroic virtue made possible by grace in the everyday lives of His followers.

The resurrection to new life after death will exceed our experience on earth beyond comparison.  God made the human person with both a body and a soul. In consequence the resurrected human person will retain their soul and their body.  However, just as the Spirit has transformed and elevated the soul, the Spirit will also transform and elevate the body.  St. Augustine, in The City of God, explained it this way:

For the [resurrected] body will not only be better than it was here even when in perfect health; it will also be better than those bodies which the first human beings had before they sinned… the first human beings were created in such a way that, if they had not sinned, they would not have been sundered from their bodies by death. Rather, they would have been granted the reward of immortality for maintaining their obedience, and would have lived eternally with their bodies. Further, the saints will at the resurrection possess those very bodies in which they have here labored; but their condition will then be such that no corruption or distress will befall their flesh, nor will their blessedness be marred by any sorrow or unhappiness.

Consider Jesus’ resurrected body. He kept the scars of His crucifixion, but not the various scars He may have accrued as an active little boy. Moreover, the scars caused Him no pain; they served to show the glory of His sacrificial love. Similarly, our resurrected bodies will be in perfect form, but they will still be our bodies, the ones we labored in sacrificial love for the Lord. For example, I really don’t need the scar from the apple core remover I fumbled as a child, but I would like to retain the scars from all the IV’s I endured during my pregnancies.

Another key difference described by both St. Paul and St. Augustine, is that the resurrected body will be maintained by the power of the Spirit. Adam and Eve had to eat for nourishment and relied on fruit from the tree of life to stave off decay and death.  Resurrected bodies will have the power to eat but will not have the necessity of eating, nor will they require fruit from the tree of life to live forever, since the Spirit will maintain their health. Earthly bodies require food, water, rest, etc.  Our heavenly bodies will be maintained by the power of the Spirit, so it no longer has a necessity, only enjoyment. Think about it, God holds our bodies in existence even now, couldn’t He do that in heaven too? The same God who created ex nihilo (out of nothing), can re-create from our earthly bodies, a heavenly one. St. Augustine explains it in this way:

Man will then not be earthly, but heavenly: not because his body, which was made of earth, will no longer be itself, but because, by heaven’s gift, it will have been made fit to dwell in heaven: not by losing its nature, but by changing its quality.

Authentic discipleship is full of risk, change, and surprise, but if we persevere in trusting our Lord, we can count on His goodness to surpass any expectations we had safely and comfortably made for ourselves.  Committing to your vocation (whether marriage or religious vows, priestly ordination, or consecrated single life), saying yes to a change of job or ministry, accepting children, accepting a call to move, losing a friend  or career or health, all can be used by Christ for our sanctification and be worked for good for the glory of God (cf Romans 8:28 and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ) as Jesus did with the death (and resurrection) of Lazarus.

We can’t control Jesus, but we can trust Him. We can’t fully understand all that He does, but He makes Himself near and present. We can’t hold Christ back, but we can hold on to Him in friendship. His determination inspires us like Thomas, deepens our theological understanding like Martha, moves us to tears like Mary, resurrects us like Lazarus, and more.

Consider:

  • Imagine the sorrow Mary and Martha felt at Lazarus’ passing, especially when Christ didn’t get there in time. Have you ever felt like Jesus was taking too long to answer your prayer?
  • Jesus wept. Consider how He feels your pain and has compassion on your suffering.
  • Imagine their surprise when Jesus said “Lazarus, come out,” and Lazarus did. Has Christ ever answered your prayer in a way you didn’t expect? Has He ever taken a situation that seemed like a loss and made it into something amazing?
  • Do you struggle with doubt or with trying to control Jesus by demanding things be a certain way? Consider C.S. Lewis’ description of Aslan as not a tame lion, and as not safe but good.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Read a brief bio on the life of a saint each day. You can find them easily online or as an app.  Reading about a saint each day can inspire you with accounts of how Christ worked all things for good to a surprising end for them and can for you
  • Reach out to other Christians in your walk of life. Schedule a get together – whether coffee with a friend, a double date with your spouse and another Christian couple, host a gathering in your home, or join a group that’s already

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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The Better Deal

March 27th, 2020

Today’s first reading from Wisdom 2:21-22,  reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis in his famous essay The Weight of Glory.  Both point to the truth repeated by every saint to us who wrestle with giving so much up for God – you feel like you are losing something but in fact you are being freed to receive so much more.

The crux of the problem is that we can’t understand the difference until we experience it, and we can’t experience it without making that leap of faith.  Thus Jesus says, “Come and see” . But to follow Jesus, we must leave our present location – it requires a movement and a decision.  When tempted to remain in the lesser pleasures we know, reflect on the deeper pleasures offered by God; or has Lewis puts it – exchange the mud pies for a beach vacation!

Wisdom 2:21-22

These were their thoughts, but they erred;
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they knew not the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense of holiness
nor discern the innocent souls’ reward. 

C.S. Lewis The Weight of Glory

It would seem Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea.  We are too easily pleased.”

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2020

Interceding and Conversion

Thursday of the 4th week of Lent. 

Readings: Exodus 32:7-14; Psalm 106:19-23; John 5:31-47

Christ at prayer

Today we are reminded of the power of intercessory prayer.  St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica (II.II.Q.83A.5-8), addressed the question of whether our prayers really matter.  If God is all good, all powerful, and all knowing, then why would our prayers make a difference?  He concluded that in fact our prayers are sometimes the means by which God wills for something to happen!

Jesus includes us in the work of salvation, not only that of our own souls but others as well.  We need to share the Gospel in word and example like St. John the Baptist in the Gospel.  But we also need to work for the conversion of others through praying for them.  In Exodus, the people had turned against God but Moses’ prayer spared them and gave them an opportunity for conversion.  John the Baptist prayed and fasted in an effort to prepare hearts for the savior and Jesus said that some things can only be overcome by prayer and fasting. (cf Mark 9:29)

Jesus made the ultimate saving sacrifice for all mankind and He is the source of all graces of healing and transformation.  At the same time, He also instituted the Church as His Body and with His sacraments to be the living streams of His grace by the gift of His Holy Spirit.  During Lent, our added prayer, fasting, and works of love can be especially fruitful if we offer them to Christ as a prayer for the conversion and deeper conversion of souls. 

~ Written by Angela M. Jendro © 2020