Finding Freedom

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

July 15th,2018 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 6:7-13 NAB

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick— no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus conquered Satan, and just as He healed persons afflicted by demons, He also gave His authority to His apostles to drive them out as well. Jesus personally extends this opportunity for freedom to you and I through the ministry of His Church and His grace. The question is only if we will invite Christ and His followers in and accept healing, or refuse to listen and force them out.

Satan and his demons, even if they do not take total possession of a person, can and do take control of pieces of us whenever we allow ourselves to be bound by their lies and their allurements.

Whereas Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).  How can we discern between the two?  Truth builds up and encourages. Even if it’s not what we want to hear, it always leads to our true good and real happiness. In contrast, Satan’s lies derail us from happiness and discourage us, even to the point of despair.

His common tactics include whispers that you are not worthy, that you cannot be loved, that you will never find happiness, that you are a failure, that God is a tyrant and faith is an illusion. Broken with despair, Satan offers false hope through sin.  He promises that happiness can only be found in pleasure so seek it without restraint or any moral boundaries.  He urges you to look out only for yourself and seek total independence – from any need of others and from God, and from anyone relying on you either.  The fruit of these lies however only reveal that the truth is true – that these do not bring happiness but intense sorrow, loneliness, and a degradation of your true dignity.  We need only to look at our secular hedonistic culture to see evidence of this.  In its pursuit of pleasure and freedom without God or morality, it has produced widespread depression, high suicide rates, slavery to addiction, and callousness toward the dignity of human life.

Contrary to Satan’s lies, the truth is in fact liberating.  You CAN find joy and happiness living a moral life in relationship with Christ.  Where do we find evidence of people who experience real freedom of soul, peace of spirit, and radiate joy?  In the lives of the Saints and in the lives of everyday Christians who strive to live a life of holiness with the help of grace.

Christ came to conquer sin and death that we might experience freedom and the fullness of joy (see John 15:11).  In today’s passage we see that He does this by giving His own authority to those He had chosen and sending them out to us.  Christ gave His saving Truth to His Church, not because of the apostles’ perfect character but simply because He willed it and wanted to personally extend His Gospel throughout the whole world.  He continues to do this through the apostles’ successors today, the bishops, who are also flawed human beings, and yet still messengers of the authoritative and saving word of God.  He also does this through every baptized Christian, whom He calls to be witnesses of the truth of the Gospel.

We need witnesses of this reality to give us hope and the strength to choose Christ – who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Consider the battle with addiction. At first it offered relief from pain and promised feelings of happiness for the person.  Instead it brought loss and self-destruction.  Still, the idea of giving up that addiction may feel like facing a life of misery.  The testimony of those who have conquered it and now experience freedom can strengthen the addict to reach for the hope of happiness in sobriety instead of reaching for their drug.

Similarly, in a culture obsessed with lust, chaste love may appear like misery.  The joy and freedom testified by chaste singles and faithful married couples prove the lie to be wrong.  Especially impressive today, are those who struggle with homosexual desires who choose chaste love.  Their witness directly contradicts the current propaganda that they won’t be happy unless they have homosexually physical relationships.  (For examples of their testimonies, see the website couragerc.org).

Satan tempted Jesus to be king without the Cross, and he tempts us the same way.  Nevertheless, Jesus proved that suffering and death brings resurrection and grace.  Following Christ will not be pleasurable all the time, but it will be joyful and meaningful.  The days of my children’s births were not pleasurable, but they were the most joyful and meaningful days of my life.  Any noble and worthwhile pursuit will require sacrifice, but there’s a kind of pleasure in the sacrifice when you know you are working toward something great.  What greater work can we do than taking Christ’s yoke upon us and building up the Kingdom of God?!

Jesus confronts the lies we cling to and our sin.  We must say yes to Him to be free of them, thus the call for repentance before being able to receive healing.  Oftentimes our response to being convicted of sin is to become defensive, attack the messenger, or walk away.  To this response Jesus tells the apostles to “shake the dust from their feet” and move on to those who are open to His Word.  Yet, sin is precisely where the demons have a foothold in our heart and deprive us of true joy.  You may not feel strong enough to overcome a sin, but by acknowledging your sin and inviting Christ in, and His Body the Church, He can drive the demons out and fill you with His peace; and one day you might get to be the hand of Christ to help someone else in your situation.  The choice is up to you.

Consider:

  • Think of one sin you struggle with the most.
    • What are the lies and rationalizations that keep you tied to this sin?
  • People were free to accept or reject the apostles.  Consider how receptive or defensive you are toward those Christ sends to you.  Who specifically are those persons in your life?
  • Invite Christ to free you with the help of His grace, to accept His Truth and to detach from the lie or sin you are struggling against.  You don’t have to do it alone, He gives you the whole Church, infused with His own authority and grace, to strengthen and support you.
  • The Truth is true.  How might you witness to this by your words and life?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Identify one specific, practical way you will reach out to accept the support of Christ’s Church to help you overcome your sin and receive freedom and healing.
    • (Examples: talking openly with a spiritual friend or your priest; receiving grace through attending a daily Mass; meditating on Scriptures or spiritual books that address your particular struggles; going to the sacrament of Confession…)

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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The Peace of Christ

By Angela (Lambert) Jendro

February 4th, 2018 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 1:29-39 NAB

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Meditation Reflection:

Everyone encounters suffering in some form.  Whether physical sickness, the sickness of a loved one, spiritual or emotional sickness from Satan’s lies and those of the secular culture, the pain of divorce or the loss of a job, or just the “drudgery” of life Job complained of in the first reading (Job 7:1).  Even worse, underlying every difficulty is the grating anxiety to find an escape, and the fearful suspicion there may not be one.

Science, medicine, psychology, exercise, achievements, and vacations can only provide a partial remedy.  Escapes into addiction only worsen the problem.

It has always stuck me how many times Jesus says, “Peace be with you” together with His admonition to “Be not afraid.”  Jesus, both man and God, has experienced our suffering and even our anxiety.  He has compassion for our weakness and reaches out with His divine power to save us.  As David proclaimed in today’s Psalm,

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3

Jesus, the Word of God, through whom all things came to be (John 1:3), came to heal the wounds of sin and restore us to wholeness.  Moreover, because God always gives in abundance, Jesus imparted gifts upon us even greater than those lost by Adam and Eve (CCC, par. 420).

Jesus Christ not only heals the brokenhearted, He embraces them in His own Divine Love.  The lonely He makes children of God and their souls His dwelling place.  A Christian can never be truly lonely, since they only need to look interiorly to find their Lord.  In addition, each Christian is incorporated into Christ’s Mystical Body the Church, and shares in the stream of grace that runs through it, and connects us one to another.  Any suffering you endure can be offered up as a grace and blessing for someone else, and vice versa.   Christ therefore transforms the “drudgery” of daily work by making even the smallest task, if done in love, a noble and efficacious participation in His work of redemption.

Even death no longer hangs over us as a futile end.  In Christ it has become the consummation of our earthly service, and the commencement of our heavenly reward.  The longing for God which begins here, finds it’s fulfillment and joy in eternity; much like a wedding marks the transition from the growing love of engagement, to the total union of marriage.  Thus, heaven is described by God as a wedding feast in the book of Revelation:

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory.

For the wedding day of the Lamb has come,

his bride has made herself ready.

She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment.” – The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

Revelation 19:7-9

No wonder “the whole town was gathered at the door” in today’s Gospel.  Jesus is the savior every human person longs for and needs.  He gives freely and abundantly.   May we seek Him out for ourselves, and also bring Him to others in need of His healing.

Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Everyone is looking for you.”  His words remain true today and in every age.

Consider:

  • Take a few minutes to lay your burdens and anxieties before Christ in prayer.  Approach Him with trusting faith to help you.
  • Take a few minutes to bring the burdens and anxieties of those you love before Christ.
  • Consider the difference between the temporary or partial relief you find in natural comforts, compared to the fullness of the peace of Christ found in prayer.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

Like the people in Simon Peter’s town, seek out Christ.   Choose one concrete way to encounter Him each day this week.

  • Ideas: Take 5 minutes for silent prayer, visit Christ in Eucharistic Adoration, spend 10 minutes with Christ in Scripture, attend a daily Mass, read about the life of a saint or one of their writings, make time to visit a Christian friend who always seems to make Christ visible to you.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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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.

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~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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