Begin Again: New Year’s Resolutions for the New Liturgical Year

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Simple, Soulful Gospel Meditations to Ignite the Busy Person’s Spiritual LifeTake Time For Him Book cover by Angela M. Jendro © 2019. Available on Amazon.  Order your own copy!

          • *Have the Sunday Gospel at your fingertips
          • *Highlight and write in the margins
          • *A place to keep your meditations for the year

First Sunday of Advent

Gospel of Matthew 24:37-44

Meditation Reflection:

Advent marks the beginning of a new year (liturgically speaking). We pause to praise God that we made it through last year on the wings of His grace, and to begin anew for the next. A lot can happen in a year, so we need to re-center ourselves in the Lord, to ground ourselves in His love, His strength, His Wisdom, and His peace. Yoked to Christ, we will be able to embrace unexpected joys and successes with humble gratitude and persevere through sorrows and failures without fear.

In the spirit of new year’s resolutions, Advent also provides the opportunity for Christians to step back, evaluate their lives, and make renewed goals for personal growth. Like most resolutions, we hope to imbue the next year with deeper meaning and healthier living (physically, emotionally, and spiritually). We can’t know when our lives will end or when Christ will come again, but we can be our best selves when it does and try to live with as few regrets as possible.

So how do we do this, especially in our complicated and fast- paced culture? Where do we even begin and what steps can we take? To start, we absolutely MUST make following Christ our first and highest priority. Jesus assures us in Matthew 6:33 that if we “seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness”, everything else will fall into place. The first habit we need to make, is turning to Christ EVERY day and to develop the ability to “Practice the Presence of God”i as Brother Lawrence famously termed it. It’s human nature to grow lax over time and most of us can’t avoid being overwhelmed periodically by daily life. In these moments, when we need prayer the most, it’s usually the first to be neglected. Instead, in your stress, make your prayer the rock that soothes your anxiety or sadness, that calms your anger, and dispels the clouds of confusion. By the same token, during times of success and feelings of happiness, we can easily be distracted from our connection to Christ or our underlying need for Him. Instead, rejoice with Christ, let Him share your joy especially since He was instrumental in achieving it. These annual pauses can reorient us in a positive way if we use our triumphs and our failures as fuel for richer discipleship.

Although goals need to be tailored to the individual, they endure the longest and bear the most fruit if done in community. For example, last year during faculty workshops leading up to the start of school (I’m a middle and high school teacher), a colleague and I decided to go for a walk during our lunch break each day. We lamented that our healthy summer living would be quickly replaced by the frenetic schedule of the school year and our summer habits of regular exercise would fade away leaving us tired and downcast. We resolved to walk together for an hour once a week after school. Plenty of reasons presented themselves every week to cancel the walk, but we stuck to our priority of that small bit of exercise (and friendship and spiritual conversation) together. This was the baby step that kept me in the habit each week and soon I added another day of exercise on my own. Not long after, a friend told me about an opportunity for a family gym membership that was affordable and a good way for our kids to burn off energy together.   When school began the following year, I smiled as I didn’t have to complain to my colleague about the impending physical atrophy and stress. Instead I felt amazing knowing I had been able to develop a much healthier balance in my life and knew I could take care of myself and keep up at work and home.

Like our bodies, our spiritual lives have a tremendous ability to bounce back with a little determination and perseverance. It’s tempting to look back with nostalgia at our previous achievements and make excuses for our current atrophy. Instead, find a friend and make a small, achievable goal to reinvigorate your spiritual life. Over the course of the year, similar to exercise, it will begin to bear greater and greater fruit, spurring you on to take more steps toward spiritual health and endurance. What sometimes begins as feeling laborious and painful eventually becomes something that feels so good you look forward to it and find ways to increase it.

Begin with the basics – go to Mass EVERY Sunday. No excuses. (Unless you are seriously ill of course). My kids and I have a tradition of getting doughnuts afterward to celebrate Sunday. As they’ve gotten older doughnuts are sometimes replaced with McDonald’s breakfast or as teens a mocha latte fun coffee drink. Whatever the treat, find a way to keep the celebration of Christ at Mass going afterward.

Pray, EVERY day. Start with saying thank you. Praise God and consider His goodness and greatness. Next, be honest with God about the day ahead and the help you will need to radiate Christ in the situations you will be in. Finally, intercede for others. Consider the needs of those around you, especially your family and people at work. Ask God for his help. Decide ahead of time when this conversation with God will take place. Know yourself and be realistic. For instance, as much as I wish I could end my day with prayer, as soon as I remotely begin to relax, I immediately fall asleep. I’ve considered a midday prayer, but I get distracted by everything in the day. However, when my kids were infants and toddlers, midday during their nap time was the only chance I had for scheduled time with God. Now that my kids are older and I am back at work, I choose morning to pray, when my mind is clear, and I can enjoy a cup of coffee with the Lord. Once I got into this habit however, it was so fruitful I yearned for more time with the Lord but struggled to get up earlier; the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak (cf. Matthew 26:41). So, when day light savings time began and I had to adjust my body to staying up later and getting up later, I decided to stay on the same schedule instead and the extra time for prayer was immediately available!

Next step, read a spiritual book about the faith. Unlike fiction or pop culture, spiritual books are best read a few pages at a time and may take a year or more to complete. A good book about the faith should inspire a movement of love and reflection in your heart and spur contemplation. Don’t get caught up in the progress of pages as much as the progress of personal transformation.

Praying with Scripture is always a great idea. You could read through a book of the bible, especially the Gospels, a chapter or so at a time. You could also read the daily readings for the Mass and reflect on the Gospel of the day. I find tremendous divine providence in these passages. You can go to usccb.org and click on the calendar on the right-hand side of the page to see the readings for the day. You could also pray with the psalms or even pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

Finally, if possible, try to set aside 5 minutes of silence with the Lord into your day. Lots of distractions will fill your mind but gently push them away and try to make 5 minutes of space for being in the presence of the Lord and listening.

Personally, I like to end prayer with 5 minutes of silence. I set a timer on my phone so I don’t have to check the clock. Other times, spiritual reading moves my heart and I pause in the middle of it for the 5 minutes.

Like building any new habit, you will have to make your own prudential decisions about what merits exceptions, versus the slippery slope of letting other things edge out your time with God. I have experienced both. For instance, when I would pray during my kids’ nap time I often felt pulled by the long list of things that needed to get done. I could easily excuse skipping prayer for doing dishes or cleaning up by considering my work as prayer. Although our work is prayerful if offered to God, actual time alone with the Lord is irreplaceable and a higher priority. On the other hand, I have also encountered situations where I was up all night with sick kids or unavoidable extra work at my job or in works of mercy that presented themselves. On those mornings I sometimes had to cut into my prayer time to get the necessary sleep I knew I needed to function for the Lord the next day. I try to be prayerfully prudent though to make sure I’m not letting other things come before prayer and try to say no to things that would interfere. Even on mornings I get a little extra sleep I make sure I still retain some time for prayer and not skip it altogether.

Don’t be afraid to adjust your new year’s resolutions to your current state in life. Things change from year to year, which makes Advent a perfect time to consider where you are now and what your next steps should be. Some periods of life are very peaceful, and you can plan structured times for prayer and methodically work on building needed virtues. Other times you may feel like you are in survival mode and leaning on the Lord takes a different form for the time being as you are in the trenches together. Whatever you decide, make the decision with Christ and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Reach out to fellow Christians and accept the support of others and of grace. In this way, whenever Christ comes, He will find you ready – reaching for him.

Consider:

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you need to grow.
    • How might you grow deeper in prayer?
    • How might you develop more virtuous habits?
    • How might you be more Christ-like toward others?
  • Consider past spiritual resolutions you have made. How have they born fruit in your life? Reflect on the effort it took to begin them and how they grew to become a
  • Where do you need more balance? What undermines higher priorities? How might you put boundaries on those things to keep your priorities better aligned?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Make one prayer resolution. Decide when, how, and what you will do to deepen your prayer
  • Make one virtue resolution. Identify one way you would like to better imitate Christ and make a daily plan to grow in that
  • Make one detachment resolution. Choose one vice or sin to overcome. Ask others to keep you accountable about it, pray daily for grace to overcome it, and practice the opposite virtue.

 

Follow bar

Finding Perspective

by Angela M. Jendro
Fra_Angelico_Last_Judgment

Fra Angelico “The Last Judgment” (detail: Paradise)

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Luke 20:27-38

Meditation Reflection:

As Christians, we profess a belief in life eternal with Christ in Heaven, yet we can sometimes operate in our daily lives forgetful of this mystery. Like the Sadducees we ask Christ silly questions about heaven. When we attach ourselves too much to earthly life, we fall into the trap of imagining heaven as merely an extension of the present but with a few more perks.

Jesus reminds us of the incomparable difference between our journey to God here, and union with God there. As St. Paul says: “But, as it is written,

     ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

     Nor the heart of man conceived,

     What God has prepared for those who love him,’” (I Corinthians 2:9 RSV).

Even the good things we experience here are merely a prelude to heaven. Here we experience a taste, there we will enjoy the feast.

Jesus proposes to the Sadducees that contemplating the life of the angels can provide some insight into this mystery. Like humans, angels are persons with rational intellects, free will, and the ability to love. Unlike humans they do not have bodies, are neither male nor female, and do not procreate. Each angel was individually created by God and is completely unique, so much so that some have compared it to being like different species from one another. Because they live in eternity, their choices are permanent. When God created them they each had the choice to either accept or reject God’s will for their life and His mission for them. Some said yes to God’s will and others rejected it. Those who rejected God’s will we call the fallen angels or demons. Human persons have more than one moment to choose or reject God, but that space of time does have limits. For us it ends when we die; at which moment our choice becomes permanent.

Consequently, the space of time in which we live on earth really is only a preparation for eternal life. During this short period, we either choose to grow our love for God or develop a disdain for Him. Only during our earthly lifespan can we develop and increase our capacity for God. At the moment of death the opportunity for change ends.

In addition, it’s our chance to aid others in their openness to heaven, even in its most basic form – the beginning of life itself. Whereas God created all of the angels at once, He creates human persons over a course of time and includes them in His work. As a result, openness to having children means openness to God’s creation of persons who will live eternally! For those called to spiritual motherhood or fatherhood, they contribute to this mystery as they minister to the birth and development of the child’s love for God which is also necessary for true life.

The Sadducees’ challenge to Christ with the hypothetical situation of a woman married seven times, merely exposed their ignorance of God. On earth marriage develops our capacity for love, self-gift, and sacrifice. It brings new life into the world as well as caring for the development of each family member. Marriage itself is not needed in heaven because no new life will be born there. It is the eternal life of those who already exist. Moreover, love will be perfected as we enjoy the perfect love of God and one another. The relationship of love experienced in marriage will remain a relationship of love in heaven. However, the title of husband or wife will be eclipsed by the fullness of the title son or daughter of God and sister and brother in Christ.

As the liturgical year comes to a close (Advent marks the beginning of the “New Year” in the Church), we contemplate the end times and remember that this experience of earthly life will eventually come to an end. We all get bogged down in our daily routine and anxious over matters that, if we considered our heavenly destination, shouldn’t really weigh us down. Moreover, we could make better use of our limited time if we consider things from an eternal perspective. This life is a preparation and an opportunity to participate in God’s work of spreading His kingdom. The more souls that come to accept His will and love on earth, the more that will join the wedding feast of love in Heaven for eternity.

Consider:

  • How does a heavenly perspective change your earthly perspective?
  • When feeling discouraged, remember that this life is a journey not the destination. Endless, secure happiness cannot be found here but the work to attain it in heaven can.
  • Through prayer, identify one area where you struggle to accept God’s will over your own.
  • Each angel has a mission from God. You also have a mission. How is God calling you to serve?
  • Consider first God’s vocational calling:
    • Is it to work for the salvation of your spouse through love and sacrifice and to possibly grow the human family by being open to life and to raising children in knowledge and love of the Lord?
    • Is it to administer the sacraments as a priest to bring eternal life to spiritual children?
    • Is it to spend your life in prayer and sacrifice for souls as a religious sister or brother?
    • Is it to devote your time and energy to God in a unique way as a single person, ready to do His will at every moment?
  • Consider next God’s occupational calling: How do you grow your love for God and develop it in others through your work?
    • Consider your special apostolate. Does God include you in His work of physical or emotional healing, protecting, providing, instruction of souls, encouragement, etc.?
    • How can you incorporate a heavenly perspective into your daily work? How do your daily activities and duties provide opportunities to detach from selfishness and develop greater love and compassion? How might you help others to heaven through your work?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Begin each day by writing down the tasks, challenges, and opportunities you anticipate that day. Next to each, write one way it can be directed toward helping yourself and others to heaven. For example, will it grow a virtue or minimize a vice if tackled with the help of grace? Is it an opportunity to help others journey to God – either by giving them physical life, sustaining their life, healing, protecting, or developing an aspect of their soul?
  • Identify where your will is most at odds with God’s and do one thing each day to offset it. It could be a refusal or fear to do something God asks of you or an unwillingness to let go of something and trust God in the situation.
  • Pray the Serenity Prayer or the Suscipe of St. Ignatius each day.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert Jendro © 2016 and edited © 2019

Follow bar

For additional reading on this topic here are some suggestions below:

They are linked to Amazon.  As a disclaimer, please know that I am an affiliate and do  make a percentage of sales.

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

* 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.

 

Finding Peace Amidst Division…Reaching out to Christ

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

August 19th, 2017; 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 15:21-28 NAB

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Meditation Reflection:

The evil of division, prejudice, and animosity between peoples entered the world with original sin.  When Adam and Eve introduced a rift between themselves and God, a rift began between the two of them as well.  It soon spread to their children Cain and Abel.  At the Tower of Babel the rift became complete with the separation of languages.

Some rifts begin with legitimate reasons.  A person, family, or community, treats another unjustly and fails to make amends.  The victim(s) retaliate to achieve justice for themselves or they separate themselves from the dangerous, unrepentant threat.

Other rifts arise from illegitimate reasons.  Prejudice based on sex, race, nationality, disability, religion, or even political positions can cause rifts and violence such as we have seen in the recent news.  Whether motivated by envy, greed, or lust for power, the perpetrators have two things in common – they blame someone or some group for their problems and do not value the dignity of every human life.

ISIS’ lust for power at the cost of genocidal murder, human trafficking, abuse of women, and indiscriminate terrorist attacks illustrates the evil of this sin at its worst.  They de-humanize groups of people in order to assert their own greedy, and lustful agenda.

In our own country, the bastion for human rights and equality, we too have struggled to maintain our value for all human life.  Abortion has been legal for over forty years, marginalizing all persons in the womb.  The child will be protected if he or she is wanted, but eliminated if blame can put on the child for any reason, even simple inconvenience.  Moreover, the pressure to abort children who may have disabilities dangerously erodes the protection of any person with a disability.  The definition of “life support” has become a topic of debate, not just about breathing tubes but even food and water.  In the last election, the problem of violent and visceral division between people of differing political views, as well as the ongoing division caused by sexism, surfaced for the world to see.  Lastly, the evil of racism reared its ugly head in Charlottesville, Virginia with messages of white supremacy and even deadly violence.

In today’s Gospel Jesus ignored the Canaanite woman in a seemingly cold manner.  On the surface it seems prejudiced or at the least nationalistic.  The Jews and Canaanites had been at odds for centuries.  She cries to him for help and He says nothing!  He only speaks to her when the apostles beg Him to quiet her down, not for any reason of compassion, but because her persistence had grown annoying.  Why would Jesus, who should be above such ethnic and religious animosity, have done this?

Jesus reveals that peace and reconciliation requires repentance and mercy by contrasting the hypocritical faith of some Pharisees, with the repentant faith of the Canaanite woman. The Jews had been entrusted with the supreme gift of God’s divine Revelation.  They had the burden and privilege of protecting this gift that they might be a light to rest of the world.  In consequence, they had the privilege of receiving the Messiah as children of God, but they also had greater fault whenever they rejected God.  In the passage just prior to this one, Jesus rebukes some Pharisees for their hypocritical practice of denying support for their parents by donating the money to the Temple.  Their false charity was exposed as actual injustice and a failure to follow the fourth commandment.  Jesus goes on to explain that what makes a person defiled is what comes from their heart, not what goes in to their mouth.  Thus, religious practices without heartfelt faith do not aid a person.

In contrast, Jesus’ very next encounter is with the Canaanite woman.  Whereas she does not belong to the heritage of the Jews, she demonstrates the heartfelt faith that Jesus describes.  God had instructed the Jews to remain separate from the Canaanites so as to protect them from being influenced by their evil practices.  In Deuteronomy 20:15-18 God warns them to destroy the Canaanites “that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices which they have done in the service of their gods, and so to sin against the Lord your God.”  The Canaanite woman in this passage, acknowledged the pitifulness of her dignity which had been degraded by the immoral acts of her people and likely herself.  Nevertheless, her good heart recognized the Savior and pleaded in faith for His mercy.  In humility, and absolute trust in Him, she laid before Him her need.  She persisted despite being ignored, confident His compassion would win out.  When He compared her people to dogs she agreed with Him.  She acknowledged the truth of their sins. Sin not only offends God, but it degrades the sinner.    Nevertheless, she persisted that His mercy had the power to conquer the evil which plagued her daughter and the suffering that plagued her.

Jesus responds to the authenticity of her heart, exclaiming “O woman, great is your faith!”  Her honesty, repentance, and humility opened the door for Christ to shower His mercy upon her and usher in peace and reconciliation.

Sins of division and prejudice need healing.  God’s divine laws provide the structure for justice needed for peace.  Because of sin however, we can twist those laws to rationalize our sin.  Thus, conversion of heart is needed in addition to the conversion of actions.  This requires the saving grace of Christ.

“Called to beatitude but wounded by sin, man stands in need of salvation from God. Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law that guides him and the grace that sustains him” Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 1949

Christ came to restore the unity of the human family, making us sons and daughters of God by adoption through grace.  The Pharisees and the Canaanite woman illustrate our part in His work.  We must acknowledge our sin (MUCH easier said than done!), realize our need for Christ, and ask for His mercy.  Thankfully, He assures us His answer will always be yes.

Our country and our world need prayer more than ever.  This week, let us pray for reconciliation within broken relationships in our own lives and work toward peace within our families and communities, that God might bring reconciliation between peoples opposed to one another throughout the world.   May we all recognize the inherent dignity of every human person, called by God to live eternally as His son or daughter.

Consider:

  • Who do you find easy to value?  Who is it easy to love and why?
  • Who do you struggle to appreciate?  Who is most difficult to see as a child of God? Have you experienced or seen prejudice firsthand?
  • Consider how sin degrades a person, similar to the way sickness deteriorates a body.
  • How does healing and grace resemble medicinal healing?  Does it sometimes require distasteful medicine, or even amputation?
  • Consider why we must acknowledge sin and the need for help to begin healing.  Have you ever known someone who refused to acknowledge they were sick, even though it was apparent to their loved ones?  Or, knowing they were sick, refused to see a doctor?
  • Imagine yourself as the woman crying out to Jesus.  You know you have no right for Him to listen to you because you have rejected God for so many years.  Would you be tempted to say nothing out of fear of rejection?  Consider the courage it takes for you beg Him for mercy.  Imagine His eyes and His voice as He says to you with undeserved graciousness: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray for, and work toward, peace with someone.  It could be by cultivating more peace in your encounters with your spouse and kids, apologizing and making amends with someone you have hurt or been unjust toward, removing slander or critical personal attacks from your social media and replacing them with positive acknowledgments, removing yourself from contentious and prejudiced conversations among coworkers or neighbors, or making peace with God by going to the Sacrament of Confession.

Related Posts:

Finding Fulfillment in Self-Gift

Getting the Last Word…but Making it a Blessing

How Can God be Both Justice and Mercy?

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 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.

 

 

Stepping Outside Our Comfort Zone & Walking On Water

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

lake superior pic

 

August 13th, 2017; 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 14:22-33

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

Meditation Reflection:

Exhilaration, adventure, a leap of faith – we get brave and step out onto the water…outside our comfort zone.   For a brief moment, his eyes fixed on Jesus, Peter did just that.  Then, a gust of wind distracted him, and Peter’s gaze turned to the strength of the wind rather than the strength of the Lord.  His faith sank and so did he.  Yet, as quick as he had turned from the Lord, he turned right back.  He immediately reached out to Christ for help.  Jesus did not delay, He caught Peter as soon as he asked. Jesus didn’t let Peter flounder in the water gasping for air as He lectured him.  He cast no words of spite, no “I told you so”, or “that’s what you get for not believing more in Me.”   Jesus came to reveal the Father’s love, and on this night He demonstrated the Lord’s compassionate mercy for our weak nature.

Discipleship calls us beyond our comfort zone, and even beyond our natural limits.  Yoked to Christ, He enables us to walk on water.  Like Peter, we might step out of the boat in total confidence in our Lord.  Once on the water however, we become fearful as we realize our total dependence on His supernatural help.  It’s much easier to have faith floating on the water in a boat, than walking on water barefooted.

I remember the excitement of getting my first teaching job, and the enthusiasm of teaching students about God.  Then, the first day of class arrived, and panic struck.  “Yikes!” I thought, “How I am I going to get through the day? What I am I going to say for a whole class period?! What if a student misbehaves? What if I’m a terrible teacher?…”  I also remember the joy of holding my first child in my arms the day he was born.  It was absolutely surreal.  Two days later the nurse walked us out to the car and waved goodbye.  As we put my son in the car seat and drove away anxiety erupted, “They’re just letting us take him?!  We don’t know anything!  What if I’m a terrible mother? What if I say or do something that scars him for life?!…”  Lastly, when I do speaking engagements or workshops, I’m exhilarated at the opportunity to share the joy of God’s saving love with others.  A half hour before the talk however, worried thoughts begin to percolate up, “Why did I agree to do this?  It would be far more comfortable to be at home watching Netflix.  What if I fail? What if everyone is bored? Who am I to do this, I’m a sinner like everyone else?”  Like Peter, I begin to sink but then I cry out to the Jesus.  He reminds me that I teach, mother, and speak because He has called me to.  He assures me that though I am not worthy, He is, and He is with me.  He also pushes me by filling my heart with so much gratitude for His love in my life that I can’t resist sharing it with others.

The challenge of discipleship is living at a level only sustainable if Christ is real, and if He’s someone ready to help.  It requires taking a risk, so much so that if Christ is not real, you would be at a loss.  Consider how many times God tells us in Scripture to be not afraid.  Pope St. John Paul II chose these words for his first statement as Pope, knowing how much we fear as we look around at the dangers that surround us.

When I begin to sink in fear a few verses come to mind that strengthen me.  First, I think of 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

“Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”

St. Paul felt too weak to face a challenge on his own.  Rather than remove the difficulty, Jesus promised to provide the strength.  St. Paul realized therefore, that the weaker he is, the more God’s power must be at work in him to accomplish God’s will.  He moved from anxiety to total confidence, and writes in his letter to the Philippians,

“I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (4:13)

We can trust Jesus to come through for us.  We can answer His call, even if it means going beyond our natural limits.   When we struggle to take that leap of faith beyond our comfort zone, Christ urges us to simply reach out and He will be there for us as He was for Peter.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:7

Ask, seek, knock, and you just might walk on water.

Consider:

  • How has following Christ stretched you beyond what you expected?
  • When has Christ made an endeavor more fruitful than it would have been by your own merits?
  • Have you ever felt like Peter, walking on water, in awe of Christ’s divine power?
  • Have you ever faltered because of fear, worry, or anxiety?
  • What Scripture verses or memories reassure you of Christ’s aid?
  • Is Christ calling you to something outside your comfort zone right now?  What holds you back?  What inspires you forward?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Take one risk each day for your faith.
    • Ideas: Inviting your spouse to pray together, praying as a family, saying “God bless” to someone on the phone or a at work, speaking up when someone is criticizing the Church or using God’s name in vain, sharing your faith with someone in need of comfort, going to the Sacrament of Confession, responding to God’s call in your vocation or job…

Related Posts:

On Taking Risks…Gospel Meditation John 6:1-15 for Sunday July 26th

Do You Have Skin In The Game?

Being a Worrier or a Wildflower

Do Not Let Your Hearts be Troubled… Peace and Surrender in Christ

~ Written by Angela M. Jendro © 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.

 

 

Moments to Remember…A Reflection on the Transfiguration

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

August 6th, 2017; Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Gospel of Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Meditation Reflection:

For most of Jesus’ earthly life, He veiled His greatness.  Nevertheless, He remained God, with all of His divine attributes.  At the Transfiguration, Jesus unveiled a glimpse of His divinity to Peter, James, and John.  It was a sight they would never forget; and one Jesus needed them to see so they could be strengthened when their faith would be put to the ultimate test at the sight of His crucifixion and death.  Imagine John there below the Cross with Mary, Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled as “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance” (Isaiah 52:14).  When all seemed to be lost, John must have clung in faith to the preview of Jesus’ resurrected glory.

Though divine, Jesus was also human.  The Transfiguration served to strengthen His human will as well.  Moses and Elijah appeared to Christ, conversing with Him, as all of the Law and prophecies God revealed through them were about to be fulfilled in Jesus’ suffering.  When “His Hour” finally came, agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane as His fate approached, Jesus could be strengthened by the meaning of His sacrifice and the redemption it would bring upon all those He loved.

We too sometimes experience these Transfiguration moments – both as a disciple of Christ, and in our own personal lives.  Some people describe them as “conversion moments” which may occur through a major life event, the witness of another person’s life, unexpected mercy received, or a deep encounter with God in prayer.  While they aren’t the sum of a person’s faith, they do strengthen one’s loyalty to God and conviction of His truth and love.  They help a person persevere through those times when faith can be tested – either dryness in prayer, personal suffering, or persecution.  When tempted to abandon what we can’t see for what we can, we can think back to those Transfiguration moments and choose to stay with Christ at the Cross, convinced that He will conquer and we will one day see His resurrected form again.

These Transfiguration moments can occur in our vocations and jobs as well.  We need to treasure those moments of confirmation and joy to push through normal frustration and tedium.  The first time I held each of my children after they were born is etched forever in my mind and heart.  This got me through days where they all had the flu and I felt like all I did in one day was change diapers.  When my oldest picked me up from the airport, I marveled the whole time at how grown up he had become.  A week later, when he lost his keys and I had to invest multiple hours into looking for them, then rearrange my plans for the day to be with him while it got towed to a dealership and re-keyed, I reflected back on those two moments I just mentioned. My frustration was changed to peace as I thought, “My growing up, sweet baby, still needs me.  It might be a tedious day, but it’s worth it.”

Two weeks ago I was blessed to marry a dear friend of mine (thus the absence of posts these last two Sundays, and the new last name!).  We have a blended family and hesitated to leave for a honeymoon.  In the end, we decided to go.  We knew we needed to make memories that would last through tough times.  We also foresaw that after the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding and moving in, we would need to take time to remember our love and appreciate one another without distractions.

We forget so easily.  Today, let us remember the Transfiguration moments in our faith, our relationships, and our work, so we might deepen our appreciation for God’s active love in our lives.

Consider:

  • Reflect back on times you have encountered God in a powerful or meaningful way.
    • Can you recall a special time in prayer, at Mass, or when receiving a sacrament?
    • Was there a time God helped you out of a tough situation?
    • Did you experience His mercy through one of His followers?
    • Is there someone whose life inspired you?
  • Reflect on your vocation (single, married, nun/monk, or priest).
    • When/how did you know God was calling you to this vocation?
    • When have you felt deep joy and peace in your calling?
    • When has your vocation been particularly challenging?
  • Consider how you have been transfigured in Christ.  How has Christ and His grace changed you?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each morning, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to God’s presence and activity throughout the day.  Each evening, reflect back on God’s blessings.
  • Encourage someone who is struggling – through words, actions, prayer, or all three.

 

~ Written by Angela (Lambert) Jendro © 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.

 

 

Because of Your Name….

by Angela Lambert

person in prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 25th 2017; 12th Sunday Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 10:26-33

Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

Meditation Reflection:

Because of Christ’ Name, we suffer.  But by His Holy Name, we are saved.

As long as you remain lukewarm in your faith, keep it private, and compartmentalize it from the rest of your life, you will likely enjoy peace with the world.  If you proclaim Jesus to be a great teacher like Buddha, but refrain from calling Him God, people will respect you and your “spirituality.”  If you acknowledge Christ as one way and not The Way, most people will put up with your belief, since they afford everyone a little bit of foolishness.

One problem…to proclaim a nice moral teacher who isn’t God and isn’t the Way, the Truth, and the Life, is not to proclaim Jesus Christ.  Jesus promises that “Everyone who acknowledges Me before others I will acknowledge before My heavenly Father.”  To do that however, we must  proclaim the God Who became Man, that He is the fullness of Revelation – Divine Truth, the Savior of all mankind, and Love incarnate.  To proclaim a myth of our own making, and worse to belittle Christ by using a weakened, distorted, version of Him as our inspiration, is to deny Christ.  Jesus warns “But whoever denies Me before others, I will deny before My heavenly Father.”

To proclaim Christ takes serious guts, and I don’t’ just mean speaking about Christ.  Simply living your faith in everyday life will incite criticism and even personal attacks by others.

If you go to Church every Sunday despite competing demands for your time, you may be accused of being too rigid or too zealous.  Those who would prefer you prioritize them over God will accuse you of being uncharitable or having an unhealthy scrupulosity.  Those whose own church attendance looks lackluster in comparison will more likely try to find fault with your devotion rather than to imitate it.

If you believe that Jesus is the Truth – the Word of God, prepare to be accused of intolerance, close-mindedness, and archaic thinking.  Even if you do not “push your beliefs on others”, your simple rejection of the religion of Relativism will offend its many followers (note: Relativism states that there is no objective truth, except, paradoxically, Relativism).  Moreover, no matter how hard persons try to rationalize sins, their God-given consciences sense the truth and can’t help but react at reminders.  People who want to live in darkness hate the light. It happens at every age.  Teens who don’t drink or engage in pre-marital sex, get left out of parties and certain social groups. Adults who put God and family first, get left out of some events or opportunities at work, or in neighborhood gatherings.

It’s hard to follow Christ, especially when it means staying up at night with a newborn, while colleagues or friends fly off to sunny vacations.  It takes humility to make time for Mass and soccer games, knowing others will “get ahead” in their career because of their willingness to work all hours and days.  And what do you get for your sacrifice and virtue? Consider, how did Cain react toward Abel? How did Joseph’s brothers treat his piety? You will be honored by God and those who are Godly, but you will be scorned by those of the world.

Jesus is the Truth, and Satan is the father of lies.  Those who live by Truth will threaten those lies.  In retaliation, just as Satan spread lies to Adam and Eve about God, and just as he continues to spread lies about Jesus, Satan will spread lies about Jesus’ followers too.  We can feel helpless in these situations because it’s hard to defend ourselves when the other person fights dirty.  Jesus knows our struggle and has experienced our pain.  Thus, He assures us beforehand to “Fear no one.  Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed.”  Jesus promises that the Truth will conquer in the end.  It requires more patience, a lot of faith, and Holy Spirit courage though.

It’s hard to suffer unjust treatment and unwarranted animosity, especially when you are simply trying to live your own quiet Christian life.  Take heart however, people don’t get bothered by the lukewarm or the mediocre; whereas greatness is always challenged.  The more you are treated like Christ (the real Christ, not the mythical nice guy in sandals), the more it means you are becoming Christ-like.  So, as Pope St. John Paul II repeated again and again, “Be not afraid.”  Let Christ’s love in you soften hearts, even if they scream at you first.  Let the light of Christ radiate in you and cut through the darkness.  As the prophet Jeremiah witnessed in today’s first reading (Jer 20:10-13), “the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.”

Consider:

  • When did Jesus experience the most criticism and rejection?  Consider how His mighty works of healing and love, were met with envy and anger by some of the Jews.
  • Consider the mystery of the Cross.  Christ suffered out of love for us and was rejected.  Yet He rose again to new life and brought about our salvation.  How might we offer our pain and suffering from others’ rejections for their salvation, like Christ has done for us?
  • Reflect on a time when you “preferred darkness to light.”  How did you rationalize your sin or your way of thinking?  How did you react toward someone whose life shined a light on it?
  • Reflect on a time when you preferred light to darkness.  When have you experienced joy and freedom when the Truth in someone else’s life, freed you from a lie in your own?

 Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, pray an Our Father or a Hail Mary for someone who is persecuting you.
  • Each day this week, pray Psalm 69.
  • Offer this prayer each day:
Lord, I don’t want my light to be so dim as to not make a difference.

I beg You to make Your Divine Light shine through me with such radiance,

That it frees with Your Truth, those held captive by lies,

Guides those who are lost, back to You,

And lifts up lonely, discouraged souls with Your Love.

 

~ 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.

 

 

 

 

Attainable Unconditional Love…Gospel Meditation for the 6th Week of Easter

by Angela Lambert

sacred-heart-jesus-chambers-w600x810

May 1st, 2016; 6th Sunday of Easter

Gospel John 14:23-29

Jesus said to his disciples: “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. Whoever does not love me does 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. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’
If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.
And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”

Meditation Reflection:

“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 awhile 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.

The philosopher Pascal lamented that man is but a feeble reed, easily brought to its end by the smallest ailment.  Most of our lives, he asserts, are spent trying to distract ourselves from the unsettling dread we feel when we take time to think about the purpose of our lives or the reality of our mortality.  He concludes that this universal experience supports the fact that happiness can be found in God alone:

“All men seek happiness. This is without exception…And yet after such a great number of years, no one without faith has reached the point to which all continually look. All complain, princes and subjects, noblemen and commoners, old and young, strong and weak, learned and ignorant, healthy and sick, of all countries, all times, all ages, and all conditions…A trial so long, so continuous, and so uniform, should certainly convince us of our inability to reach the good by our own efforts.” Pascal Pensees

Pope Francis observed that we have created an entire “throwaway culture,” marked by the readiness to discard even relationships and people as soon as they become inevitably difficult.  Consequently, he says, people begin to despair and make the assumption that they will never experience unconditional love.  Because they have never experienced mercy, they conclude that they never will.  As a result, they struggle in the darkness of sin, feeling alone and without the possibility of healing.

The fragility of our era is this,  too:  we don’t believe that there is a chance for redemption; for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save you, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with infinite, patient, indulgent love; to put you back on your feet.  We need mercy.” Pope Francis, The Name of God is Mercy

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.
  • Reflect on the love of Christ. Consider the freedom and joy experienced by the saints in every generation for the last two thousand years.
  • Reflect on how Christ has blessed you over the course of your life. Then reflect on how He has blessed you this week. What needs has He met?  What has He conquered for you?  When have you felt the embrace of His love?  When have you experienced His beauty or glory?

Make a Resolution (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.

 

~ 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.