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

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

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

Meditation Reflection: Luke 9:51-62

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

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

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

Practical Application:

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

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

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

 

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© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Sunday Food For Thought: Attainable Unconditional Love

6th Sunday of Easter:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

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

Meditation Reflection: John 14:23-29

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

[…] 

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Practical Application:

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

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

 

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

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Sunday Food For Thought: Secure Relationship

4th Sunday of Easter:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

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

Meditation Reflection: John 10:27-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

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

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

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

Practical Application:

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

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

 

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

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Sunday Food For Thought: Love and Mercy in Superabundance

3rd Sunday of Easter:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

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

Meditation Reflection: John 21:1-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

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

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

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

Practical Application:

Offer mercy toward someone each day this week.

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

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

 

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

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

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

The Domestic Church

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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Feast of the Holy Family

Read the Gospel of Luke 2:22-40

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Practical Application:

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

© 2020 Angela M Jendro

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Love Beats the Deadline

Excerpt from 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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28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection: Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus often compares Heaven to a wedding feast. Weddings celebrate a sacred union in love of two persons. It means total gift of self and lifelong commitment.   Marriage best represents God’s invitation to relationship with us and His desire for mutual self-gift of mind, heart, and action.

God is both the almighty who existed before creation and exceeds our understanding, and the God Who sent His Son to become incarnate, walk the earth with us, and suffer and die for us. Even now His Holy Spirit dwells within us, and Christ is present to us in the Sacraments and His Mystical Body the Church. Moreover, our Trinitarian God has invited us through His Son into a participation of His self-giving love through a union akin to marriage.

Marriage begins with a wedding and weddings require enormous preparation – both for the event planning and for the relational development needed to become one. The Wedding of the Lamb, described in the book of Revelation, celebrates the fruit of this long process when our final union with Christ will become complete. Jesus has already opened the gates of Heaven for us and ascended there. For our part, our earthly pilgrimage from sinner to saint is our marriage prep. The kind of union the Trinitarian God intends for us is nothing short of total, relational, and loving. In consequence, our journey to the alter requires knowing Christ more deeply, trusting Him completely, and loving Him above all things. It means leaving behind our “single lives” for the gift of a shared life in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Weddings can be draining but when the day arrives it’s all worth it. Similarly, Revelation 19:7-9 describes the joy of our long- awaited union as well:

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.”

Christ loves each and every person passionately. He pursues them, woos them, fights for them, and offers eternal union with Him in Heaven. In today’s Gospel however, He laments that not everyone says yes. They come up with excuses, put Him off, or avoid Him altogether. Eventually the door is shut. Harsh, you might say?

Jesus strikes at our complacency. We all too easily forget the gift of salvation, of our eternal destination, and our higher calling. The frenetic pace of life, the constant stream of tasks, or the allure of diversions become a dangerous siren call, singing that we are made for earth and we have all the time in the world.

However, every day we are one day closer to eternity. If we didn’t grow our love for the Lord, then we weakened it. Love needs ongoing nurturing. Relationships are work! Even a relationship with God.

Moreover, sometimes indecision is a decision. Deadlines are part of reality. If I stay undecided about my son playing basketball, eventually the registration closes. If I hem and haw about planning a family trip, eventually a year passes without travel and I have essentially said no. Lastly, if a couple is in a serious relationship of several years and one person drags his/her feet about marriage, eventually the other will need to move on from the relationship to find someone else to build a life with.

Thankfully Jesus waits patiently our entire life.  He reminds us today however, that death is the deadline. By that point we have said yes or no to the Lord and even our indecision reveals itself as a rejection of Christ.

But let’s not wait until the last moment.  I have heard people who put off kids, when they finally held their first in their arms say, “why did we wait so long?” Couples in love when they finally meet say “I wish I had met you sooner.” The more we love, the more we see how much greater it is than anything else we had previously thought to be more important. We will say the same of Christ – I wish I had let you in sooner.

We can ask ourselves, what holds us back from the wedding? What keeps me from union with the Lord? What do I need to do to prepare myself for this marriage? The King of Heaven and Earth has personally invited you. Drop everything, get dressed, and go!

Consider:

  • The Mass is a mystical participation in the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven.
    • What things or habits undermine getting to Mass or distract you during Mass?
      • Is it sleeping in, kids’ activities, running errands, going into work, exercising instead, watching news, or just relaxing?
    • What helps you enter more deeply into the Mass?
      • Getting to know the priest and parishioners so you feel more a part of the community, reading the Gospel ahead of time, learning about the Mass, participating as a musician, greeter, usher, or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, writing down key points from the homily?
  • Imagine you were to enter Heaven today.
    • What aspects of your heart and character would Jesus praise you for, as clothing you in garments for the king?
    • What vices or attitudes would He ask you to change in order to be properly dressed?
  • The lives of the saints illustrate the transformation possible with the grace of God.  Each began like you and me, but through relationship with Christ they were made perfectly ready for heaven by the end of their life. If you were to appear in a book of the Lives of the Saints, what would it say? Where would it begin, and how would you like it to end?
  • We cannot perfect ourselves, but we can cooperate with the grace of Christ and let Him purify our hearts.  Take a moment to offer a prayer of surrender the Lord. Offer to Him all your struggles, worries, imperfections, and desires.
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Do one thing each day this week to prepare for the eternal wedding feast of heaven. Change out of one garment of vice or unforgiveness and put on a garment of virtue and love.  As St. Peter says:
Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. (I Peter 4:8)
  • Resolve to attend Mass every Sunday and make the necessary arrangements for that to happen.
  • Spend five minutes with Christ when you first wake up, midday, and in the evening. Invite Him into your life right where you are at that moment.
  • Read about the life of a saint. You could research a saint whose personality, experiences, or work is like yours. You could also just read about the saint of the day. Catholicculture.org gives a nice summary. Click on the tab “liturgical year” then select “today”.
  • Learn more about the Mass. Attend a “teaching Mass” where the priest explains each of the parts as he celebrates it. Read a book about the Mass. Read The Lamb’s Supper” by Scott Hahn which is about the relationship between the Mass and Heaven based on the book of Revelation.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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In the Image of God…Gospel Meditation for Mark 10:2-12 for the 27th Sunday

by Angela Jendro

Mary undoer of knots

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 10:2-12 NAB

The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Meditation Reflection:

Pope Francis recently visited the United States for the purpose of supporting and building up the family. In a Wednesday audience, he summarized his message in this way, a reminder of God’s beautiful plan for humankind:

The humanism of the Bible presents this icon: the human couple, united and fruitful, placed by God in the garden of world, to cultivate it and to guard it.”

Scripture reveals that the family in fact represents most completely the image of God. Moreover, the image of a God who has revealed Himself to be a communion of Persons of life-giving love. Even though it was Jesus who revealed God’s Trinitarian nature, we can see the Trinity already foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The first instance being when God created humans in His own image. We read in Genesis 1:26-28,

Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness…God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.”

God, who is One, referred to Himself as “us” and created two persons, distinct yet one to be His image. The unity of man and woman as the image of God is again affirmed in Genesis 2:18-24 when man is not complete without the creation of woman. Although we may joke that a dog is man’s best friend, (and at times both men and women feel that way!), the truth is that we were made to be a communion of persons in life-giving love. Woman is created from man’s side, showing that though she is different than man, she is also of the same nature and of equal dignity.

“The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.After creating each of the kinds of animals however, “none proved to be a helper suited to the man. So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.”

Because the family is the icon of the Trinity and therefore of God Himself, it makes sense that it has suffered the most from Satan’s attacks and from the effects of original sin. The unity between man and woman has been harmed and the joy of openness to life undermined. Sometimes we can feel so far of a distance from our nature at creation that it seems like God’s revelation about ourselves in Genesis is just a dream. Rather than unity, we more often see power struggles, selfishness, adultery, use and abuse, and so on. In addition, the gift of fruitfulness has now been categorized as a health problem, worthy of universal “preventative care” as part of women’s health.

After the Fall of Adam and Eve however, God promised a Redeemer. In Genesis 3:15, called the protoevangelium, or “First Good News”, God says to the snake, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel.” At the incarnation, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”(John 1:14). He brought us truth, healing, love, and redemption. Through Christ we now know the fullness of God’s revelation and we have access to the graces needed to become re-made in His likeness.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus juxtaposes the two possible views toward marriage: a skepticism based on the reality of sin, or a hopefulness based on the reality of redemption. Jesus has not given up on marriage and the family, He has come to redeem it. It is the very image of our Trinitarian God.

One of my favorite images right now is “Mary Undoer of Knots.” St. Paul calls Jesus the “New Adam” because by Christ’s obedience He untied the knot of Adam’s disobedience. Likewise, Mary is the New Eve, whose fiat, or Yes to God untied the knot of Eve’s “No”. Sometimes I feel like life is a knotted up ball of a mess and I feel overwhelmed and powerless. It’s then that I look at the image of Mary undoer of knots and I surrender my life back over to our Blessed Mother and Christ, confident that if I am patient, they will undo the knots, one at a time.

Consider:

  • Consider your own feelings regarding marriage and family.
    • What makes you feel discouraged? Surrender it to Christ and pray for Him to redeem it.
    • What makes you feel hopeful? Think of a couple you know who seem to be truly united in love, who will each other’s good and have Christ at the center of their relationship.
  • How might you image the Trinity more in your own family? In what ways do you bring harmony and unity in your family? In what ways do you undermine unity? (usually we all do both!)
  • Reflect on how authentic love is life-giving and creative. Sometimes this produces human life but even when that isn’t a possibility it still expresses itself in ways that are creative and constructive. Consider the phrase “a labor of love.” When we love something we can’t help but express and share it.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

~ Written by Angela (Lambert) Jendro © 2015 and updated © 2018

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* These Sunday meditations are intended to engage the heart and imagination in prayer and include a practical application (resolutions) to your daily life. In our presentation on prayer I offer a more detailed discussion of ways to pray with Scripture that can take 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or half an hour and vary in depth depending on your time-frame and prayer goals.