Choosing between Adolescent Illusions or Adult Freedom

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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27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection: Matthew 21:33-43

Spiritual growth, like physical and emotional development, must move from childhood and adolescence to reach mature adulthood. As our Heavenly Father, the Lord patiently endures our annoying behaviors of immaturity and lovingly guides us into adulthood. Unfortunately, just as some grown adults seem stuck in adolescent thinking and habits, so too many of us hold on to immature spiritual attitudes and resist the leadership of our Father, thus stunting our spiritual growth.

Weighed down by the effects of original sin, tempted by the Enemy and bolstered by our own pride, most often we substitute a false sense of entitlement and independence for rightful gratitude and obedience to God. Like the teen who begins to think his parents owe him everything he desires, or defies their rules with a sense of superiority, we can get stuck in the trap of demanding God’s goodness while denying His Lordship.

Pope Benedict XVI related this struggle to the original temptation of Adam and Eve, which he described as a denial of their “creatureliness” (In the Beginning). Having grown accustomed to the paradisiacal gift of their existence and the beautiful Garden, the Enemy introduced the idea of entitlement and ingratitude. Satan himself had refused to live in gratitude, preferring his own self-centered pride. He then enticed Adam and Eve to distrust God, deny their state as creatures, and become their own creators.

Called “the father of lies,” Satan lives in eternal anger at God who is reality itself (as revealed to Moses when He shared His Name – YHWH – “I AM”). The Enemy prefers his Illusions of entitled independence to a life of gift. However, illusions are just that – empty and unreal. Angry at God, he tries to recruit others to his side. He hates to see persons living in the joy of God’s love; therefore he proposed an alternative, distorted view of the Lord to Adam and Eve. He suggested that their experience was not in fact paradisiacal, but rather quite impoverished. To depend on God or obey His laws, he proposed, would be to accept slavery to a selfish and manipulative deity. 

In truth Satan was the selfish, manipulative one with a god-complex, whereas the Lord had been nothing but generous and truthful with Adam and Eve. Satan argued that contrary to their experience, freedom and happiness lay in rebellion rather than rightful relationship with the Lord. Rather than rebuking the serpent for such hateful lies, they thought about the serpent’s words and chose to reject what they knew about God from experience for the false hope of a more liberated life without God.

This same temptation infects each of us, their children, both from within our own rebellious hearts and the sly lies of the Enemy. Jesus’ parable tells of God’s care for us, providing everything we need. He rightly expects only His due, and yet we resist Him. God blesses us with every good thing, but envy looks outward and turns back to God in complaint that we don’t have more. Every week that God blesses us with life, He asks only for one day in return.  Moreover, as our loving Father, He doesn’t even ask that the day be spent in chores but rather that we rest and spend time with Him and our family. Yet, how often do we complain that setting aside work to worship the Lord is burdensome!

Consider also our prayers of entreaty for God to provide – a job, a home, possibly a spouse and children.  We praise God for a short while when He bestows these gifts, but soon begin to complain about them.  Even worse, we easily forget that they were even gifts at all and delude ourselves into thinking we have achieved them single-handedly. Confident now in our own abilities we fall into the destructive cycle of always grasping for more, never satisfied and never at rest, spiritually alone; producing the hell-ish existence that Satan hoped for us.

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” (James 1:16-17)

Today’s Gospel reiterates the theme of The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Luke 10:11). Christ has come and He invites every human person to relationship with Him. We must make a choice and take responsibility for the consequences like adults.

Moreover, we must examine or attitude toward those whom Jesus has sent with His authority to bring God’s truth to us. Jesus told His apostles that:

“Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

Jesus established the Church to preserve, protect, and promulgate His Word. When we feel like characterizing the moral law or Church teaching as oppressive rather than freeing, we can remember from whom that lie comes. We must decide if we trust God or tempting illusions.

Jesus invites us into mature relationship with the Lord. He offers the freedom and dignity of spiritual adulthood through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and the Church. He even provides the grace to transform our hearts from weakness to strength, from selfishness to self-gift, and from illusions to Truth.  He asks each and every one of us, “which do you choose”?

Consider:

  • Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you in a prayer of gratitude; to open your heart and mind as you reflect on every good thing that comes from God.
  • Consider where envy, greed, or pride distorts your perception and causes discontentment to fester.
  • Consider how an adult views freedom in contrast with an adolescent. Do you trust God’s guidance to be freeing, or do you prefer your own judgment or worldly wisdom?
  • How is the Lord visiting you today? What fruits is He asking for as produce of the gifts He has bestowed upon you? How might you put your gifts more at the service of God and others?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Make a list of each of God’s gifts in your life.
    • For each gift, offer one fruit a day for each back to God. For example:
      • Your Job: Offer the fruit of Christian witness by refraining from vulgar language or joining in crude jokes. Be truthful where you are tempted to lie or exaggerate. Do one act of service for a co-worker. Be joyful for the day and refrain from complaint.  Refuse to begin or join gossip.
      • Your Family: Do one act of humble service for your spouse, children, or parents. Combat taking your spouse or parents for granted by recognizing them with a word of thanks or deed of kindness, out of gratitude their contributions.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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Holy Spirit, Help Me!…Gospel Meditation for the Feast of Pentecost

by Angela Lambert

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May 15th, 2016; Pentecost

Gospel of John 14:15-16, 23b-26 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always. “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Those who do not love me do not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.

 Meditation Reflection:

Christ’s greatest gift to us – the first fruit of all of His suffering, death, and resurrection, the first thing He asks the Father on our behalf from His throne in Heaven – is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  In the gift of the Holy Spirit we experience the mystery of the Trinity.  God is one and therefore the Spirit makes Christ present in our soul along with the Father.  At the same time, God is three Persons, and therefore Jesus explains that He must ascend to Heaven so that the Spirit may descend upon us.  Because Christ merited the forgiveness of our sins, His Spirit could begin His work of cleansing us and sanctifying us.  The Spirit applies the healing balm of Christ’s sacrifice to the wounds of our sins and works as fast as we will allow to help us regain spiritual health and freedom.

The Spirit is the primary mover in our conversion.  He prompts us to turn to God, provides the strength to actually make the conversion, sanctifies our souls with the grace of Baptism and the sacraments, then guides the ongoing process of union with Christ.  At the same time, the Spirit requires our cooperation.  We can hasten or hinder His work.  It reminds me of trying to clean the house with my three kids.  Granted, a mother has to come to peace with a certain level of mess if she ever wants to survive motherhood.  At the same time, order and cleanliness lend beauty and peace to a home.  During those times when I attempt to clean everything up and restore order to the house my kids’ cooperation (or lack there of) unavoidably determines the success and timeframe of my effort.  When my kids were little I felt like a gerbil running in it’s wheel.  As soon as I cleaned up one mess I would turn around to find my kids had made another.  If I stopped to read with them or take them outside where they couldn’t mess up the house, I couldn’t clean it up either.   As they got a little older I could finally kick them outside to play while I cleaned inside or “quarantine” off rooms one by one from the kids as they were cleaned.  Still, work was often slowed by needs for water or snacks, complaints and fighting, etc.  My kids are now at an age where these challenges remain but they are old enough to pitch in and help. Our life is busier with activities and the house gets neglected by our rush in and out.  As a result, on days where we are all home I will tell the kids “We all have to work together for one hour and we can get everything back in order.”  I remind them that I can no longer do it on my own and I need their help.  I am amazed at how the house can turn around so fast when everyone pitches in.  That’s not to say that I don’t take the opportunity to clean when they are all away from the house and I can get things done uninterruptedly.  However, I’ve learned that I have to employ their help on a more regular basis with the schedule of the new stage we’re in.

Similarly, the Holy Spirit can work in our souls to the extent that we cooperate.  When our faith is still immature we tend to act like little kids – creating one mess after another.  We may feel like progress is slow and that God isn’t doing very much.  However, we need to be honest about our expectations.  Every parent who has ever stayed at home with the kids knows how hard they work all day with nothing visible to show for it.  The other parent may leave for work and return with the house looking the same or worse than when they left.  However, what’s not reflected in that picture is the hundreds of other messes cleaned up constantly, the love and nurturing that took place, and the work at developing a child’s heart and mind.  The Spirit works in our souls in a similar way – drawing our minds up to God, comforting us in our sorrows, forming our conscience, encouraging us, and cleaning up our constant messes.

As we mature in the faith we become less of a hindrance to the Spirit and He works more efficiently in our soul.  As we become less attached to sin the messes slow (some) and the Spirit can make greater progress teaching us about Christ and deepening our love.

Finally, the mature Christian cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the work of following Christ and grows quickly in union with God.  The Sacrament of Confirmation celebrates this as we receive an increase in the Holy Spirit and prepare to be soldiers of Christ, contributors to the faith we have received.

It’s natural for children to depend on their parents more heavily when they are young.  It’s also an expectation that they contribute to family life as they get older.  The Holy Spirit makes us adopted sons and daughters of the Lord.  Through His indwelling we experience the nurturing necessary for sanctification and mature love of God.  Moreover, He blesses us with gifts to strengthen and nurture the faith of others.

May we all this Pentecost, reflect on the gracious work of God in our lives, that others may say of us as the crowd did in Acts 2:11“we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

Consider:

  • Consider your cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
    • Ask the Holy Spirit to show you habitual sins you struggle with and pray for His help to overcome them.
    • Consider how you can grow in virtue so that the Holy Spirit can act even more powerfully within you. The virtue of purity especially increases the Holy Spirit.
  • Christ calls the Holy Spirit the “Paraclete.” Consider each of the meanings of Paraclete – “advocate”, “intercessor”, “teacher, “helper”, “comforter”.
    • When has the Holy Spirit advocated on your behalf? Consider the sins you have been freed from because the Holy Spirit advocated for you before the Father.  Consider a time when you need the Holy Spirit to advocate for you in the heart of another person.
    • The Spirit intercedes for us and teaches us how to pray.  Thank the Holy Spirit for His prayers on your behalf.  Spend 5 minutes of silent prayer just letting the Holy Spirit speak for you to God.
    • Ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind and heart to God’s word in Scripture. Ask Him to help you see God’s truth in the events of your daily life.  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to you.
    • Consider a time the Holy Spirit gave you profound peace when you were suffering and in pain. Invite the Holy Spirit to bring His comfort now and for the grace to turn to Him first.
  • Paul tells us in I Corinthians 12 that the Spirit bestows different gifts upon Christians for the upbuilding of the whole body. Read I Corinthinas 12 and pray about what your gift is and how you can put it at the service of Christ.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the presence of Christ, to your sins, and to God’s will.
  • Determine one way to grow in the virtue of purity and do it each day this week.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit for the opportunity to serve God with the gifts He has given you. Then take that opportunity each day.
  • Each day, take a minute to praise God for His mighty works in your life.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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