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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The Joy of Loving Watch

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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1st Sunday of Advent

Read the Gospel of Mark 13:33-37

Meditation Reflection:

 It’s the season of watching.  Watching for sales and gifts, watching beautiful Christmas lights, watching school Christmas programs, watching Hallmark movies, watching the mail for Christmas cards and watching for our loved ones to visit.  It can also become watching the calendar fill with a myriad of commitments and watching our to-do list lengthen like the unfurling of a scroll that tumbles across the floor to the end of the room.

The excitement of the season can also be draining.  We endeavor to conserve our energy and find balance between the work to prepare for Christmas, and actually relaxing enough to enjoy it.  The thrill of finding the perfect gift on Black Friday devolves just a few short weeks later into frantic stress over the hard-to-buy-for person.  The hours in the day seem to disappear as fast as the shrinking sunlight.  Upon lighting the first advent candle as a child, I would groan at the long wait ahead of four interminable weeks.  Now, as I pull the advent wreath from my tub of Christmas decorations, I groan that there are only four short weeks left to get everything done.

If we let the activity distract our aim, we may miss the target and lose the opportunity for reconnection and generosity that Christmas offers.   However, if we keep our sight on the purpose of each of our activities, we may hit the mark.  The cleaning, decorating, cooking, shopping, travelling, and planning can either leave us exhausted and cranky toward those we love, or they can invigorate us with energy and joy as we revel in lavishing our love on them and treasuring precious time together.

This time is also rich in opportunities to lavish our love upon Christ.  During Advent, parishes often offer a spiritual retreat or host an evening with a speaker.  The liturgy of the mass includes special prayers and Scriptures, and many people add advent traditions of prayer in their home such as lighting advent candles, reading Scriptures alongside a Jesse Tree with children, or another devotion.  Community outreach is everywhere you turn from winter wear drives at work or school, to food donations, and toy drives. 

Today, the first Sunday of Advent, our Gospel reading serves to focus our sight on the right target – the Good News that Christ has come and will come again.  He has saved us, freed us from sin, and heals our souls.  During the present age we have been entrusted by Him, “each with [our] own work,”(v.34) but we must always remember that He is the Lord and ultimately we watch and await His return. 

So how do we keep watch?  Daily in prayer, weekly at Mass, and at every moment by showing love toward Christ in those around us.  Mother Teresa served others each day with Jesus’ words in mind: “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) 

May this season of Advent and Christmas invigorate rather than drain, as we keep our aim on love and on Christ.

Consider:

  • What do you enjoy most about the weeks leading up to Christmas? How might you enjoy them more, and prioritize your time better?
  • Reflect on the gift of the Incarnation.  Consider the humility of Christ to become man.  Contemplate His love for you, that He desired to be so close.  Reflect on the gift of His grace and redemption.
  • What gifts has Christ given to you over the years?  What gifts has He blessed you with this year?  Are there any spiritual gifts you might put on your Christmas list to Him presently?
  • What gift might you offer to Christ? 

Practical Application:

  • As we spend more time with family, friends, and coworkers this season, spend more time with Christ as well.  Decide on how you will do this – go on a retreat, attend a speaker at your church, read an advent devotional each day, spend 5 minutes a day with Scripture.

© 2020 Angela M Jendro

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It’s Published! Volume 2 of Take Time for Him is ready on Amazon!

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Take Time For Him: Some More is live on Amazon. Order your paperback or e-book now!

Thank you for everyone’s kind words and encouragement. Every time I thought about not writing this, one of you would reach out to me and share your appreciation for the first volume as you were reading it. This kept nudging me forward and confirming it must be God’s will. I hope He speaks in your hearts and embraces you in His profound love.

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Where Truth and Love Reign

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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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Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy Solemnity of Christ the King

Meditation Reflection: Matthew 25:31-46

At first glance, this passage can seem a little harsh. We like to imagine a more sentimental Jesus, gently escorting every person to eternal pleasure, not a rigid judge calculating our deeds and sending some to eternal suffering.

Jesus is king and judge, but as He often reminded His followers – His kingdom is not of this world. When pressed by Pilate to explain this, Jesus answered “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37).

We, like Pilate, may ask “What is Truth?” (John 18:38). Truth is Reality. As Pope Benedict XVI often said in his writings, it means acknowledging that God is the Creator and we are creatures.  The laws of nature that govern the health of our soul are as real and concrete as the laws that govern the health our body.

The truth is also that God is love and we are made in His image. Though weakened by sin, we have been re-made by Christ and transformed by His grace to image God’s love again.  Thus, St. John can say,

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love…if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. (1 John 4:7-8,12)

So if the Truth is that God is love and we are love, what does that mean on an everyday level? How does that look? How does it translate to our schedules? Pope St. John Paul II defined love clearly and simply: it is self-gift. Thus the paradox of human happiness he concluded, is that we find fulfillment for ourselves in giving of ourselves. For those of you who like lists, Jesus makes it clear and simple for us:

Works of Mercy

The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. (CCC 2447)

  Corporal Works of Mercy
Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Clothe the naked
Shelter the homeless
Visit the sick
Visit the imprisoned
Bury the dead
  Spiritual Works of Mercy
Admonish sinners
Instruct the ignorant
Counsel the doubtful
Comfort the sorrowful
Forgive offenses
Bear wrongs patiently
Pray for the living and the dead

Jesus is Truth and Love. No one can pretend to be something they are not when standing before Him. Those who love will rejoice to be fully united with the King of Love. Confident in His mercy they will say yes to His transforming grace which will free them from any remaining pulls of worldliness or selfishness. Those who prefer the Kingdom of Self will refuse to enter the Kingdom of Self-Gift, preferring to be alone.

We see this in an analogous way during the holidays. Time with family requires a sacrifice of time, generosity of food and travel, hospitality, patience, and attentiveness toward others. The more we love our family, the easier those things become, and are even opportunities of service we look forward to with joy. The less we love, the more burdensome they seem, and some people may choose to remain alone on the holiday rather than deal with it all.

At Jesus’ final coming, it’s not so much that He will decide who “gets” to go to Heaven and who doesn’t, since He came to offer Redemption to all. It’s more the case that He will come as Judge of the Truth about our decision to accept or reject His saving grace in our hearts. The world might say, “show me the money,” but Jesus will say, “show Me your love.”

Life is short, eternity is long. We must begin EVERY day with prayer – even just 5-10 minutes and go to Mass EVERY Sunday, to unite ourselves to the source of Love and Grace.

From this union with Christ, fruits of His Spirit of love will permeate the actions and decisions of our day (see Galatians 5:22-23). If we first love God above all things, we will then love our neighbor as ourselves because we will see God’s image in them and desire as Christ does to mend its wounds of sin that their God-given dignity and glory might shine more gloriously.

Sound too simplistic?  Give it a try.  Compare a day began with 10 minutes of prayer and a day without.  I can attest that I am a far more loving person with prayer and a far more frazzled impatient person without it. See how your week goes after attending Sunday Mass. Try going to one daily Mass in addition and notice the fruits that follow in your interactions with others.

Consider:

  • Consider how love makes everything less burdensome.
  • Consider how selfishness undermines relationship and causes discord in your family, friendships, and work.
  • Consider how Christ’s love and grace has transformed you. How has He changed you for the better over the years? How has His Spirit changed the way you think and act? What are areas of your life that still need transformation?
  • When have you experienced self-fulfillment/happiness through self-gift? How might you continue to give of yourself to those in your daily life?
  • Take a moment for gratitude, to thank Christ for the sins that He has conquered so far in you. Then take a moment for petition, asking Christ to conquer those sins that remain. Finally, take a moment for intercession, praying for those in need of healing too.
  • Close your eyes and imagine the joy of Heaven. Imagine Christ coming in all His glory, shining brighter than the sun, holding out His hand for you to join Him.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Begin every day with 5-10 minutes of prayer. Read the Scriptures, thank God, surrender your day to Christ, spend a couple of minutes in silence.
  • Intentionally practice one corporal and one spiritual work of mercy a day.
  • Read about the life of a saint who is like you in some way to learn from his or her example. You can research “patron saint of    ” to find someone with an affinity to your work or your struggle.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

* 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. You can also follow me @taketimeforhim on Twitter and Facebook.

God’s Treasure: Knowing Your Value

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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29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection: Matthew 22:15-21

Consider the value and meaning we place on money. First, there’s the cultural pressure to value ourselves based on our bank account. We call name brand clothes, luxury vehicles, the size and elegance of a home, or exotic vacations “status symbols” because they reflect our monetary power and therefore our personal value. Consider how many people struggle with low self-esteem, no matter what age, because they lack the apparent wealth of others.

Our perception of the value of our work can also be tied to the numbers. How many decisions do we make based on how much money it pays rather than based on whether it’s God’s will? How many opportunities do we miss because we are afraid of having less and worry that we will thereby be less?

Currency further identifies our national ties. Each country has its own currency with images of its leaders and heroes.  To buy or sell in another nation requires exchanging your local money for the proper foreign coins.

These habits of mind might belong in the kingdom of fallen man, but not to the Kingdom of God. God created everything from nothing and continues to govern it and hold it in existence. He imprinted His image on man and woman and placed a value of infinite worth on each. The only way to devalue this currency is to distort God’s image within us, which we all do through sin (except Jesus and Mary) since Adam and Eve. Jesus came to restore God’s image within us, and even elevated it to a higher degree and dignity by uniting our human nature with His divine nature through His Incarnation.

Jesus doesn’t condemn Caesar’s image on Roman coins because it’s an earthly currency for an earthly political system. Rather, Jesus reminds us that our citizenship in His kingdom transcends our human institutions.

God desires that we revere Him as the King of kings, worship Him as Creator, and love Him as Father and Redeemer. He has bestowed His royal dignity upon us and urges us to return to Him His image. We don’t earn heavenly currency, we become it and we receive it.

Jesus says that we are God’s treasure. If we want to chase the dollar, we should chase God’s dollar. Through deeper union with the Lord, His grace transforms us more and more into His likeness. We also begin to see God’s image in others and their corresponding value and beauty. Thus one person, no matter how broken, is worth more than as many images of Ben Franklin you could stack.

I was reminded of this truth again when my sister and brother-in-law welcomed my new baby nephew into the world. From everyone’s reaction you would have thought they had won millions of dollars in the lottery and just told us they would share it with everyone – from the grandparent’s jubilation down to the youngest of their newborn’s siblings and cousins. The mark of status for us became who got to see him first!

Love sees the whole person. When a family member or loved one becomes ensnared in a serious sin, addiction, or suffers under mental illness, we feel sorrow because we see how these things distort the image of the true person we know, and all they could be. We want the ones we love to flourish. We value them for simply them, not anything they have accomplished or not. I love family reunions just because I enjoy being around those I love. I have grown up with my brother, sister, and cousins for many years now.  I have seen us all go through ups and downs, great strides and tough struggles.  I love them all when they are doing well, and just as much when they are struggling. I hate anything that would hold them back from the fullness of Christ’s joy, and I also know that God can work all things together for good.

Money can buy temporary pleasures and momentary experiences. However, the more we image the Lord, the deeper we experience a well-spring of joy, and far richer experiences than we can find anywhere else. It can hardly be described in words, so I won’t even try. Christ doesn’t explain it either.  He simply says, “Come, and you will see” (John 1:39).

Come and see Jesus, and see your true worth in His eyes.

Consider:

  • Think of the people you love the most. Why do you love them? Why do their failings not make you love them less? How do you see them differently than they may see themselves?
  • We make decisions based on our priorities. Make a priority list based on what you value
  • Prayerfully ask God to show you how He sees you. Take 5 minutes of silent listening. (If distractions pop up just push them away. If you need an image to look at, meditate Then, compare the decisions you have been making to that list. How well do they match up? Where does there need to be some adjustments? What worldly values or fears are compromising your freedom to choose the higher good?)
  • Prayerfully consider, with the help of the Holy Spirit, if you tend to value things more than people, or people more than things? Do you take your identity in what you have or your job title, or in being a child of God and a brother or sister of the Savior?
  • Pray for Christ to give you His vision. Ask Him to enable you to see yourself and others as God

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each morning, “give to God what is God’s” – His image in you. Pray the Disciple’s Prayer by Cardinal Newman 
  • This week try to see yourself and others as God does. Pray for their freedom and yours from sin, fear, or addiction, and the gift of Christ-filled  joy.
Disciple’s Prayer by Cardinal Newman
 
God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

* 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. You can also follow me @taketimeforhim on Twitter and Facebook.

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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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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Love Shows Up

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26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection: Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus knows us so well! How often do we pay lip service to God? How many spiritual goals and good intentions fall quickly by the wayside left undone? In the morning, the first words on our mind and lips should be an expression of gratitude to the Lord, entrusting the day to His care. Instead, we hit the snooze button and possibly let less godly words be the first on our lips. As the day progresses, opportunities arise at every moment to be at the service of the Lord. Do we embrace the tasks at hand and the duties before us, or do we try to avoid work and get by on minimal effort?

At the same time, if we hear God’s call, often it may seem outrageous at first, especially His insistence on forgiving others. God challenges us to live beyond our natural limits, to participate in His divine love.  Our first response may be no, but upon further reflection and with the softening effect of grace, we may rise to the challenge after all.

Inauthentic love disappoints. It makes big promises and grand plans only to fail to follow through on them. Real love acts. It proves itself by keeping promises, showing up, and responding to the needs of the beloved.

When St. Mother Teresa began her ministry to the poorest of the poor, she simply went out into the streets and showed up to comfort and aid those she met. For the children she found aimless and alone, she began to teach them by gathering them together and writing with a stick in the dirt. For the sick, she begged the pharmacist for medicine.  For the dying, she offered what comforts she could along with loving companionship. God grew the ministry; Mother Teresa simply went out into the vineyard each day to work.

Practical goals and intentional habits form a framework of love that infuses our day with charity. However, when we don’t know where to begin, Jesus reminds us to start by jut showing up when asked. It’s amazing how deep of an impression it can make.

When I consider who has touched my life, it has been those who laughed with me, shouldered burdens with me, encouraged me, or reached out in ordinary ways when I needed it. I remember when my mom chose to leave a law firm she enjoyed, so she could open her own and have more time available for her kids. It meant that despite the many responsibilities she had at her job every day, I could count on her to listen when I needed some advice, to cheer for me at school events, and to be there when I had a tough time. Even now as a grown adult, I can still count on my mom to show up no matter what.

Above all, the Lord shows up. He created our souls at the moment of our conception.   He became man, suffered and died on the Cross, and rose again for our salvation. His angels guide and protect us. His Mother intercedes for us. His very Spirit dwells within us as His Temple (1Corinthians 6:19). He is united to us as a Head to a body (Colossians 1:18), and as a vine to its branches (John 15:5).  God is always faithful.

“The LORD is my shepherd,
     there is nothing I lack” (Psalm 23:1)
“I will rejoice and be glad for thy steadfast love. 
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
     all you who wait for the LORD! (Psalm 31: 7, 24 RSV)
“Better one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”
(Psalm 84:11)
“Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
     who seek him with all their hearts.” (Psalm 119:2)

Love is about showing up and being there for someone. Love for Christ answers yes to His call and shows up for prayer.

Love has the strength and perseverance to do the right thing even when it’s hard. It may not be glamorous, but following through on our daily duties, even if we resist at first, makes an eternal impression on God.

Consider:

  • How can you make yourself more available to God? How can you hear His call more acutely and act more faithfully?
    • In times of prayer – when, where, and how do you pray.  How much do you listen in prayer?
  • In the duties of family life – what do your spouse, children, or parents need from you?
  • In the duties of your work life – how might your work become more of an offering to God?
    • Ask God what He desires from you and spend a few minutes listening to Him.
    • Is He asking you for greater diligence, or do you need better boundaries on your work?
    • Is He asking you to reign in some of your conversations with co- workers, or is He asking you to make a greater effort at reaching out to them?
  • How do you respond to the work God asks of you each day?
    • What often derails you from following through with your commitments? Is it distractions, tiredness, apathy, fear…?
  • Reflect on the times God has shown up for you. When has He proven His faithfulness in a time of need?  What blessings has He showered upon you?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • The Psalms sing God’s praises, especially of His faithful love. Pray one Psalm in the morning, one midday at lunch, and one at night.
  • Identify one thing you have said “no” to God about and do it today.
  • A great resource for learning to hear God’s voice is St. Ignatius’ Rules of Discernment. Fr. Timothy Gallagher has an excellent podcast series explaining each one and giving practical examples.  You can listen to them HERE
  • I also recommend the spiritual classic, The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. It’s a small, thin book but a little goes a long way.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

* 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. You can also follow me @taketimeforhim on Twitter and Facebook.

When Your Work for Christ Feels Sabotaged

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16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection: Gospel of Matthew 13:24-43

weeds and wheatThese parables have been a rock of hope for me as a mother and teacher. I feel like I put so much time and effort into carefully forming my children and students in the faith only to be discouraged by the worldly attitudes that apparently pop up overnight like the weeds in Jesus’ first parable. Like the servants I exclaim with surprise, Lord did we not sow good seed in your field, where have the weeds come from?  One day we’re listening to Christian music in the car, and the next the kids are streaming explicit rap music on Spotify. Whereas before the kids couldn’t wait to read bible stories together, suddenly, they start dragging their feet and complaining. The values of prayer, service, and modesty now seem to be riddled with competing values of constant activity and entertainment – from sports to social media to video games, the goal of making lots of money, and popular clothing styles that degrade their God-given dignity.

For most people these weeds pop up as they near middle school and intensify in high school. Developmentally, kids sense their need to become independent and separate from mom and dad.  Unfortunately, the culture they reach out to for acceptance is riddled with weeds of atheism, hedonism, consumerism, a degraded definition of personhood, and individualism. The less Christian our culture has become, and the more virulently anti-Christian it has grown to be, the more it feels like our contribution as formators (whether as parents, teachers, aunts & uncles, youth ministers, counselors etc.) is as small as a mustard seed in comparison.

Woman praying by Barbara Jackson pixabay_comWhen I feel this surprise and frustration I’m encouraged by Jesus’ lack of surprise and calm confidence.  Jesus expected the weeds. He knows they didn’t come from us (well, maybe some of them – none of us are perfect yet!). He advises us to persevere with confidence because the mustard seed of our work, the hidden leaven of our efforts toward their formation, will grow with supernatural grace. In the end, Christ will be victorious, and the weeds will be separated out and tossed aside.  As St. Paul declared to the Philippians:

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

St. Monica (331 AD – 387 AD) and St. Augustine (354 AD – 430 AD) provide the perfect example of this. St. Monica raised Augustine Catholic and prayed for him and her pagan husband diligently. Nevertheless, as Augustine got older, his experience at school and within the culture rooted weeds of pride and vain ambition. He abandoned the Catholic faith altogether deeming it unintelligent and unappealing. Instead he pursued the spiritual in a cult called Manichaeism and worked toward advancing his career as a rhetorician in Rome.

Monica, left behind at their home in North Africa, cried torrents of tears for her son’s conversion. At the time Augustine spent his workday developing a rich lifestyle, and his free time partying and living with a woman he wasn’t married to. Nevertheless, Monica persevered. When Augustine had still lived in North Africa, she had endeavored to connect him with any priest or bishop she could find who would be willing to speak with him about the faith and try to convince him of the errors of Manichaeism. When Augustine ran away from home (he snuck out on a boat for Rome and only told his mother after the fact) she increased her prayer and sacrifice.  Augustine credits his mother’s sacrificial prayers for his eventual conversion.

Augustine would eventually be intrigued and persuaded by the preaching of a bishop, but it would be St. Ambrose in Milan. Ambrose’s teaching was a turning point and God continued to lead Augustine toward the truth. He eventually saw the errors in Manichaeism and the falsehoods at its foundation. He also encountered stories of lives of the saints as well as the example of the conversion of one of his colleagues, both of which stung at his conscience to convert as well. Eventually he made the turn, was baptized, and lived a reformed life becoming a bishop and one of the greatest saints and doctors of the Church.

After pulling the weeds in Augustine, God harvested all that intelligence, passion, and skill for the building up of His kingdom. At the end of Monica’s life she even had a beautiful mystical experience in prayer together with Augustine.

Afterward, she expressed to Augustine the feeling St. Paul did in Philippians, that God had brought to completion the good work He had entrusted to her. Moved by her love and faith, her husband had been baptized before his death.  Once her son was secured in Christ, she felt at rest and died shortly after.

St. Augustine’s youth resembles that of our own youth today. Even though his Confessions (the book he wrote about his conversion) was written in the 5th century, it resembles our own age in a remarkable way. We can take heart, as Monica did, that God’s work won’t go unharvested and to persevere in prayer and sacrifice.

It reminds me of the classic scenario where a child has one parent who only promises what he or she can deliver on and provides for the seemingly small but daily sacrifices the child needs, while the other parent neglects the daily work and present needs but compensates with big promises that they never keep. At the time, the big talker overshadows the real gifts the child is receiving. However, in time, the truth gets revealed and the value of those real gifts outshines the shadow of the imagined gifts.

The Truth is true. Eventually, the world’s false promises come up empty and Christ’s promises prove real. Hopefully some of our kids and loved ones will trust in Christ and resist the weeds to begin with, and they will experience the peace of Christ permeate their life early on.  Some of our loved ones will be more lured by the weeds and may experiment with the glamour of the worldly values. Yet, even this may lead them back to Christ as they begin to feel the anxiety and degradation that it produces.

For your part, keep on planting good seed. Keep praying, teaching, role modeling, and working on your own conversion. Elisabeth Leseur (1866-1914) did just that, and shortly after her death her atheist husband became Catholic, and later a Dominican priest! In her journal, Elisabeth wrote,

“Whatever suffering this [isolation of faith] entails, I offer for the souls who are so dear to me. Nothing is lost, not one grief or one tear.”

She was right. Like St. Monica, God blessed her tears and sacrifice with a rich harvest of the seeds she had planted and the leaven of her charity. Jesus said that “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Elisabeth’s husband Felix testified to this saying of her life, especially in her final years as she was bedridden from illness:

She did indeed uplift all who surrounded or approached her, and it was a strange thing to see this woman, so modest, so humble of heart, condemned to practical immobility, shedding around her far and wide the light of her great influence.

One friend of theirs (also an atheist) said of Elizabeth after her death:

Some beings are a light toward which all turn who need light to live by!

The culture may feel louder and stronger but persevere. Have hope in Christ and battle for your loved ones with prayer, sacrifice, and kindness. We already know the winning side and it’s Christ!

Consider:

  • How have you planted seeds of faith in others? How might you continue to do that in similar or new ways?
  • How can you add leaven to the dough through Christian acts of love? What are common situations in your daily life that offer opportunities for patience, gentleness, strength, or forgiveness?
  • Who has planted seeds of faith in you? Consider how they have grown over time and with age and experience.
  • What weeds of worldliness are growing alongside the wheat in you?
  • What are the present challenges against the faith in your family and friendships? How might you entrust them to Christ and battle with prayers and sacrifices?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • When confronted with frustration this week, turn to Christ with a prayer (such as Philippians 1:6), or battle by praying a rosary (St. Padre Pio called it his weapon because of its power against Satan and for conversion of souls), or asking the prayers of the guardian angels or a favorite saint.
  • Read about the lives of St. Augustine and St. Monica.
  • If you know someone who has made it to the other side of a struggle you are currently in, reach out to them and listen to their story to gain greater hope.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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Share your thoughts or experiences in the comments to build each other up in hope!

Finding Yourself

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13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection: Gospel of Matthew 10:37-42

I would think of this passage often when my kids were little. After finally getting them tucked into bed, just as I would sit down to finally relax, I would hear a little voice call out “Mooooooooom. I’m thirsty.” Fighting the frustration in my thoughts and body, I would remind myself, “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink…”

Following Christ means loving Him above all things, including all people, and most importantly above ourselves. If He were only a man this directive would be ridiculous and arrogant. Jesus gives this command because He is God. St. Augustine famously wrote in The City of God:

“There can only be two basic loves… the love of God unto the forgetfulness of self, or the love of self unto the forgetfulness and denial of God.”

As much as we may try to avoid this decision, the limits imposed on us by time and space force a choice. Sometimes it means a clear fork in the road, while at other times it may mean small daily sacrifices.

Discipleship applies to every vocation – priest, religious, married, and single. Priests and religious give a clear witness of total gift of self to God. Their remarkable vows and their counter-cultural lives attest to their faith in eternal life since they must sacrifice worldly goods for heavenly.  For example, a friend of mine who’s a nun, came by with three sisters to take some furniture I was giving away. That same day two workmen were at the house working on taping and mudding the basement that was being finished. As they came upstairs to take a break, they saw three nuns in full habit and me carrying a large bookshelf out of the house.  Imagine their surprise! One offered to help when he saw us struggle to lift it to the truck. Later one of the sisters asked him to help us tie down the furniture and he generously assisted. I have no doubts that will be a sight they remember forever, and a story they will tell for some time.

Married and single persons blend into society more since even non-believers marry or remain single.  However, it doesn’t take long for Christians to stand out even in these vocations. The disciple of Christ remains faithful to marriage vows even when the culture dismisses them.  Catholic families notoriously stand out as they tend to (though are not required to) exceed the usual one girl and one boy trend. Every mother I know who has more than three kids, has recounted to me rude comments made to them about the number of children they have.  These comments come from family members as well as complete strangers in places as random as the grocery store.  Openness to life necessitates losing your “life” to receive it back from Christ. It affects your body, your sleep, your emotions, your free time, your career choices, your travel, your finances, and so on. Once when I was congratulating a couple I know who were pregnant with their sixth child, the father conveyed his struggle that now they would have to get a 12-passenger van. Many a parent has lamented the min-van transition, but this step was tough for him to swallow. That is sacrifice. However, any mother or father will tell you, when you hold that baby in your arms you realize it’s completely worth it.

Finally, single persons stand out in their discipleship too. The Christian who lives chastely and temperately, puts others before themselves, and makes decisions prayerfully, shines a bright light in a culture that glamorizes promiscuity, partying, and self-advancement. They use their freedom to give of their time generously rather than selfishly. A single woman I know put it this way to me – she said that she was totally free for the Lord to call at any moment. Whereas others served God through their obligations to their family or religious order, she said, God needs some people who can be available any time anywhere.  I hadn’t thought of it like that before.  Of course she had to go to work and take care of her home, but she recognized that she had tremendously more “free” time and flexibility than the other vocations and intentionally chose to consecrate that time and freedom to God.

Discipleship comes at a cost but it’s a solid investment. Things of this world will always be insecure. Jobs can be lost, stock markets dive, beauty and health get marred by illness, and so on. Every investment we make in the Lord however will merit glory in heaven forever.  When I drag my tired body off the couch to give my thirsty daughter a cup of water at night, it remains treasured by God forever along with every sacrifice of love that we make.

We can’t be in two places at once and there will always be only 24 hours in a day. We must make choices. Jesus encourages us to be strong against temptations no matter where, or from whom, they come. He also sent the Holy Spirit to provide the gifts of fortitude and counsel we will need to make those decisions prayerfully and follow through on them courageously. He also gave us the gift of the Church to guide us and inspire us.

Jesus pointed out that you can tell a tree by its fruits. Even though self-love appears prudent, in our culture it has produced the highest levels of depression, “anger issues”, and suicide in history. Love of God above all things is only prudent from an eternal perspective, it requires faith. However it has produced thousands upon thousands of saints, the first mark of which is Joy.

Consider:

  • When have you chosen yourself over God? How did you rationalize it? How did you feel afterward?
  • When have you chosen God over yourself? How did God provide for you in that decision and bless you afterward?
  • Reflect on Jesus’ paradoxical words that we find ourselves in losing ourselves. Pope St. John Paul II expressed the same idea saying that we find self- fulfillment through self-gift. Others have expressed this phenomenon by saying that when they volunteered somewhere, they received more than they gave.
  • Who has been a witness to you by their Christian discipleship?  What struck you about them?
  • In what ways do you witness to Christ in your life? What makes it difficult? What makes it rewarding?
  • How can you practice works of mercy in your everyday life and your vocation?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray for an increase in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety, and Fear of the Lord), and the grace needed to follow Christ
  • Intentionally practice one work of mercy each day this week. Do small things with great love for your family members, coworkers, friends, or neighbors.

 

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