Lighting the Path and Seasoning the Journey Because Blending In is Bland

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5th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 5:13-16

Meditation Reflection:

 People often complain they need to see something to believe it. Although faith requires going beyond sight, the seeds of faith can be planted through allowing others to see for themselves the work of Christ in our lives. Authentic, Christian discipleship causes deep transformation. This supernatural change witnesses in an evidentiary way, the reality of the Holy Spirit and the life of grace.

The first converts to Christianity were moved by the way Christians lived differently than everyone else. Amidst a callous, hedonistic culture, Christians treated one another with love and respect. Christian marriages were marked by mutual kindness and fidelity. Slaves were considered brothers and sisters in Christ. Martyrs sacrificed everything joyfully in witness to their belief in the resurrection. The way martyrs faced their death so peacefully and courageously, converted many onlookers who could plainly see that the dying Christians were acting with a strength and calm that exceeded the limits of human nature. Tertullian famously articulated this phenomenon saying, “The blood of the martyrs, is the seed of the Church” (197 A.D.).

As modern Christians, our lives ought to witness the reality of grace as well, by following Christ beyond our comfort zone. Sometimes we can make our faith life a little too neat and tidy. We make Sunday Mass a casual commitment, and parish fellowship a comfortable social club. We might look to faith for comfort, but we don’t expect the impossible from God, and we ask that He not expect the impossible of us.

Although this sounds like a reasonable relationship, it doesn’t do much to reveal the life of grace, or the reality of God’s supernatural love and aid. After teaching the Beatitudes, the heart of the New Law, Jesus followed up with this analogy to salt and light. The journey of faith, though very personal, also has an evangelistic element; it’s a gift we both receive and give in return. Christ urges us to follow the path of the Beatitudes to its end. He’s right that authentic discipleship will not blend in. Simply living the Christian faith, is a witness to truths that others try to avoid, resulting in numerous pressures from others to be quiet. Those pressures come in many forms – accusations of being overly zealous, judgmental, intolerant, or making one’ private faith public. Secular culture continues to find ways to diminish the witness of faith and put a bushel basket over the light by re-defining religion as personal sentiment and forbidding it to bear external fruit unless that fruit can be limited to, and labeled as, secular humanitarianism.

At the same time, although Christ was persecuted by some, He was also sought out by many others. Jesus promised, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32 RSV). Genuine discipleship can transform us and transform society, adding freedom to both. St. Paul told the Galatians, that the fruits of the Spirit are not of this world. By drawing near to God in prayer, the Spirit bears fruits within Christians of divine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The world needs these fruits and hungers for them. If we keep our faith in a box that we only take out on Sundays or Christmas, we put a bushel over the light of Christ and make it impotent, leaving the world to suffer rather than to offer it hope.

I love Jesus’ analogy to salt. Maybe because I love salt on everything! It’s so basic, but it makes everything taste so wonderful. Our faith is the salt that makes life seasoned and enjoyable. If we offer the world a bland form of our faith, what is the point? We wouldn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable, but we would also deny them the chance to taste something remarkable.

Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He teaches us the path to follow and provides the necessary grace needed to make the journey. When we live in relationship with Him, our life can’t help but radiate His peace, love, and wisdom. If we can have the courage to follow Christ beyond our comfort zone, Christ promises that we can be a light for others shining the truth they need to be free, and the salt that seasons their life with His joy.

Consider:

  • What do you find comfortable about your Christian faith? What’s easy or natural for you?
  • What do you find uncomfortable? What teachings seem “too much”? In which areas of your life, or among which people, do you try to downplay your faith?
  • How might you live your faith more deeply or more authentically?
  • Reflect on the effect of salt and light. Fast from salt for a day and consider the difference without it. Try functioning with only the aid of natural light rather than light bulbs. How does it limit your work and your experience?
  • Consider each aspect of your day – home, work, activities, etc. Reflect on how you can live your faith in each

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • At the beginning of each transition in your day, begin with a prayer for Christ to teach you, and help you, live as His disciple in that part of your
    • The prayer can be a spontaneous prayer of your own words, or a written prayer you recite at each transition. Ideas: Our Father, Glory Be, Hail Mary, Memorare, a verse from a Psalm, a prayer to the Holy Spirit, the Disciple prayer by Cardinal Newman,
    • I personally like the prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Grant O Merciful God, that I may ardently desire, prudently examine, truthfully acknowledge, and perfectly accomplish, what is pleasing to Thee, for the praise and glory of Thy Name”

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~ Written by Angela M. Jendro © 2019

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Shining a Light into The Darkness

 

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

January 27th, 2018 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 1:21-28 NAB

Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus casts out demons with the power and authority of God Himself.  He frees us from their lies and from the darkness of sin.  This is truly a gift and a great relief.

Our present secular culture needs this gift.  Marked by the highest levels of anxiety and depression, the darkness from which these symptoms often proceed need to be cast out with the authority and light of Christ.

The great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), explored the relationship between darkness, sin, and anxiety in his work The Christian and Anxiety (Ignatius Press).  He notes,

The main effect of darkness is that it separates, isolates, makes lonely.”

Similarly, the darkness of sin separates the sinner from others, isolates him from God whose light he evades to continue in sin, resulting in dark loneliness.  In Exodus, the penultimate plague aptly describes the culmination of Pharaoh’s obstinate evasion of God, who had made Himself visibly manifest.  A darkness came over the Egyptians for three days, “a darkness to be felt” (Exodus 10:21) The dense, suffocating, darkness effected a social paralysis, symptomatic of their spiritual sickness.

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

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

Like living in denial of a physical illness,  one can only self-soothe by justifying sin for so long before the underlying dread and pain of spiritual illness becomes too intense to leave untreated.

Sin can become paralyzing.  Moreover Satan, the “Accuser” as Jesus calls him, whispers fearful lies into the darkness so as to keep a person from reentering the light.  The demons of shame, despair, and distrust bind the sinner to his dark loneliness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May the light of Christ shine in us!

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Lighting the Path and Seasoning the Journey…Because Blending in is Bland

by Angela Lambert

 

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February 5th, 2017; Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Meditation Reflection:

People often complain that they need to see something to believe it.  Although faith requires going beyond sight, the seeds of faith can be planted through allowing others to see for themselves the work of Christ in our lives.  Authentic, Christian discipleship causes deep transformation.  This supernatural change witnesses in an evidentiary way, the reality of the Holy Spirit and the life of grace.

The first converts to Christianity were moved by the way Christians lived differently than everyone else.  In a callous, hedonistic culture, Christians treated one another with love and respect.  Christian men and women treated each other with kindness, dignity, and fidelity.  Slaves were considered brothers and sisters in Christ.  Martyrs sacrificed everything, joyfully, in witness to their belief in the resurrection.  The way martyrs faced their death so peacefully and courageously, converted many onlookers who could see plainly that the dying Christians were acting with a strength and calm that exceeded the limits of human nature.  Tertullian famously articulated this phenomenon saying, “The blood of the martyrs, is the seed of the Church” (197 A.D.).

As modern Christians, our lives ought to witness the reality of grace as well, by following Christ beyond our comfort zone.  Sometimes we can make our faith life a little too neat and tidy.  We make Sunday Mass a casual commitment, and parish fellowship a comfortable social club.  We might look to faith for comfort, but we don’t expect the impossible from God, and we ask that He not expect the impossible of us.

Although this sounds like a reasonable relationship, it doesn’t do much to reveal the life of grace or of the reality of God’s supernatural love and aid.  After teaching the Beatitudes, the heart of the New Law, Jesus followed up with this analogy to salt and light.  The journey of faith, though very personal, also has an evangelistic element; it’s a gift we both receive and give in return.  Christ urges us to follow the path of the Beatitudes to its end.  He’s honest that authentic discipleship will not blend in.  Simply living the Christian faith, is a witness to truths that others try to avoid, and can result in numerous pressures from others to be quiet.   Those pressures come in many forms – accusations of being overly zealous, judgmental, intolerant, or making one’ private faith public.  Secular culture continues to find ways to diminish the witness of faith and put a bushel basket over the light by re-defining religion as personal sentiment, and forbidding it to bear external fruit unless that fruit can be limited to, and labeled, secular humanitarianism.

At the same time, although Christ was persecuted by some, He was sought out by many others.  Jesus promised, “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).   Blending in cannot transform us, and it cannot transform society.  Rather, discipleship can make us free and add freedom to our culture.  St. Paul told the Galatians, that the fruits of the Spirit are not of this world.  By drawing near to God in prayer, the Spirit bears fruits within Christians of divine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  The world needs these fruits and hungers for them.  If we keep our faith in a box that we only take out on Sundays or Christmas, we put a bushel over the light of Christ and make it impotent, leaving the world to suffer rather than to offer it hope.

I love Jesus’ analogy to salt.  I love salt.  It’s so basic, but it makes everything taste so wonderful.  Our faith is the salt that makes life seasoned and enjoyable.  If we offer the world a bland form of our faith, what is the point?  We wouldn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable, but we would also deny them the chance to taste something remarkable.

Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  He teaches us the path to follow and provides the necessary grace needed to make the journey.  When we live in relationship with Him, our life can’t help but radiate His peace, love, and wisdom.  If we can have the courage to follow Christ beyond our comfort zone, Christ promises that we can be a light for others to shine the truth they need to be free, and we can be the salt that seasons their life with His joy.

Consider:

  • What do you find comfortable about your Christian faith?  What’s easy or natural for you?
  • What do you find uncomfortable? What teachings seem “too much”?  In which areas of your life, or among which people, do you try to downplay your faith?
  • How might you live your faith more deeply or more authentically?
  • Reflect on the effect of salt and light. Fast from salt for a day and consider the difference without it.  Try functioning with only the aid of natural light rather than light bulbs.  How does it limit your work and your experience?
  • Consider each aspect of your day – home, work, activities, etc. Reflect on how you can live your faith in each place.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • At the beginning of each transition in your day, begin with a prayer for Christ to teach you, and help you, live as His disciple in that part of your life.
    • The prayer can be a spontaneous prayer of your own words, or a written prayer you recite at each transition. Ideas: Our Father, Glory Be, Hail Mary, Memorare, a verse from a Psalm, a prayer to the Holy Spirit, the Disciple prayer by Cardinal Newman, etc.  (I personally like the prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Grant O Merciful God, that I may ardently desire, prudently examine, truthfully acknowledge, and perfectly accomplish, what is pleasing to Thee, for the praise and glory of Thy Name.)

Additional Links:

The Beatitudes: Climbing the Mountain of God by Way of the Valley of Humility

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.

 

Hope in Christ in Times of Darkness

by Angela Lambert

light-in-dark

October 9th, 2016 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Luke 17:11-19 NAB

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

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

light-2

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

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

light-shine

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.