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

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Love Beats the Deadline

Excerpt from Take Time for Him: Simple, Soulful Gospel Meditations to Ignite the Busy Person’s Spiritual Life  Get your own papercopy from Amazon!

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28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection: Matthew 22:1-14

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

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

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

Let us rejoice and be glad
     and give him glory.
For the wedding day of the Lamb has come,
     his bride has made herself ready.
She was allowed to wear
     a bright, clean linen garment.
(The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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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

* 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 Shows Up

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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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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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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Finding Fulfillment in Self-Gift

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Readings for this Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection:

Trinity Consider for a moment this incredible fact: we are made in the image and likeness of the Trinitarian God. Although God’s essence exceeds our understanding, He has nevertheless chosen to reveal His nature to us and even given us an experience of it imprinted on our own human nature.

So what did God reveal about Himself?

God has revealed that He is Love (1 John 4:8) and that He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).  From the Father, we observe that God is creative. From the Holy Spirit, we observe His immanent might and love operative in our souls.  And from the Son, we learn that God’s creative, mighty, love, is sacrificial.

What does this mean for you and me?

We live in a culture that forms us to be autonomous, independent, and self-seeking.  Humanitarian works and acts of kindness may be valued to the extent that they make life more pleasant in general, but not to the extent that it requires personal sacrifice – a real loss of some kind.

Human happiness does come through self-realization and self-fulfillment, but not in the way our culture defines those terms. The Trinity is a relationship of three divine Persons in mutual self-gift and love.  This means that, as creatures made in the image of the Trinity, we achieve self-fulfillment through self-giving love. It’s a paradox, but one that Christ emphasized over and over in both His teachings and His life.

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it.”  (Matthew 16:25 RSV)

Christian discipleship means living and being as Christ. In his book, Introduction to Christianity, Pope Benedict XVI described Jesus’ mission as being from the Father, for us. In other words, he says, Jesus’ whole “being itself is service”. Avoid imagining Jesus as just a nice guy, however. Pope Benedict isn’t referring to volunteering more. He means that Jesus’ whole existence is one of relationship, and a relationship of service. Thus, Christian discipleship transforms us from self- centered lives, to God and others-centered lives.

To be God-centered, from God and for others as Christ was, requires a radically different worldview than our secular culture. Pope St. John Paul II, as he examined God’s words in Genesis asserted that this relational character lies at the heart of our nature and our happiness.  He wrote:

When God-Yahweh said, It is not good that the man should be alone,” (Genesis 2:18) he affirmed that “alone,” man does not completely realize this essence.  He realizes it only by existing “with someone”– and even more deeply and completely – by existing “for someone.”     (Pope St. John Paul II. “General Audience of January 9, 1980.” The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan. Pauline Books and Media, 1997)

He’s not saying that we must become slaves with no individual identity. Rather, he’s saying that men and women find self-fulfillment through self-gift. Self-gift, by definition, means giving yourself to someone. It means we find happiness in loving sacrifice.

St. Mother Teresa said that everyone has an opportunity to love as Christ did, and therein find happiness. To find that someone we simply need to look around us.  As we celebrate the Blessed Trinity today, let us celebrate the gift of relational love. Mary always perceived the needs of others around her, let us pray for her intercession to see opportunities for self-gift around us as well, even when it requires personal sacrifice.

Consider:

  • Consider the eternal relationship of love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  • Imagine the joy of heaven, where the saints share in that relationship of love.
  • Reflect in a prayer of gratitude for each experience of loving relationship God has gifted you with.
  • Pray for reconciliation in relationships that need healing.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, find one way to concretely show love to another person.  Ask for Mary’s intercession.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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Finding True Love

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6th Sunday of Easter

Gospel of John 14:15-21 and the Sunday readings

Meditation Reflection:

Every human person yearns for love, intimacy, and understanding. We may not need to be loved or understood by everyone, but we desire that connection with at least one person and preferably a whole community. Without it, we suffer an oppressive loneliness leading to depression, anxiety, and confusion.

Given the rapid advances in communication, it would seem we should feel more connected than ever and therefore happier than ever. Yet, consider the high rate of depression and suicide in our culture, despite the unprecedented wealth and physical well-being compared to any other time in history. So, if we are relatively wealthy, healthy, and connected, why aren’t we happy?

Jesus reveals the answer in today’s Gospel passage.  The world offers superficial connection, defining love as self- gratification rather than self-gift. Self-centered love uses others to make oneself feel good or to advance one toward a personal goal. It might demonstrate a modicum of virtue, but only insofar as it provides personal reward. Intimate married love has been replaced with casual sex and pornography. Intimate family love through the gift of children has been replaced with pets (not that pets are bad, just that they are not kids). Intimacy of friendship or shared work carry some comradery, but disillusionment ensues when they are quickly exchanged for a personal advancement. All these experiences leave people feeling used and alone, rather than loved.

Pope Francis shed light on our pain by identifying the source of our wounds. He connected our pain with our disconnect from Truth and the experience of mercy. In his book, The Name of God is Mercy, he wrote,

“…humanity is wounded, deeply wounded. Either it does not know how to cure its wounds or it believes that it’s not possible to cure them. And it’s not just a question of social ills or people wounded by poverty, social exclusion, or one of the many slaveries of the third millennium.  Relativism wounds people too:  all things seem equal, all things appear the same…

Pope Francis identified relativism as a wound because it disables our ability to determine right from wrong and truth from error. Christ forbids us from judging other people because only He knows what is in their hearts. However, we must be able to make moral judgements about actions and choices.  It’s just as important to know the dangers of sin to the spiritual life, as it is to know the dangers of gravity when leaping from high places.  I tell my boys all the time, especially in the summer when they are careening down the hill on their bikes or scooters, “Force = Mass times Acceleration – think about how fast you are going, because you could get hurt badly!”  The same truth becomes even more important as they get older. Now that my oldest has his driving permit and is nearing his license, I try to curb the teenage boy’s “need for speed” with the same physics lesson. I’m not being judgmental; I’m being loving by teaching him the truth. The same applies to the spiritual life. Sin wounds, hurts, and can even kill.  The Truth of Christ is a saving gift.

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches that Truth, Goodness, and Love are inseparable. Without truth and without virtue, we will miss out on love. Jesus said that He is the Truth (John 14:6), and those who love Him follow His commands. God is a relationship of three distinct Persons in one divine nature.

The three Persons of the Trinity share a unity that exceeds our understanding, but Jesus unveiled a glimpse of its experience. He speaks on numerous occasions of the unity of He and the Father. That unity comes from a relationship of love and obedience through an eternal self-gift. The Holy Spirit is described as the Love between the Father and the Son. For us to share in the intimate relationship of the Trinity, we must share in God’s love through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In-the-World-Not-of-the-World-DESKTOPWhen we place our faith in Christ, He sends the Holy Spirit that we may live by His Truth, following His commands, and thereby grow in intimate love.  Jesus told the apostles,

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

In other words, we must not only love in general but love like Christ – sacrificial, unconditional, and merciful. Merciful love means forgiveness, and it also means speaking the Truth instead of enabling someone in their self-deception or rationalization. It means never helping someone sin, but always helping them when they try to leave their sin.

To love in this way, we need supernatural grace which flows from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. AD 375 – 444), a bishop and Doctor of the Church, describes the Spirit’s transformative power in a beautiful way in a commentary he wrote on the Gospel of John:

“After Christ had completed his mission on earth, it still remained necessary for us to become sharers in the divine nature of the Word. We had to give up our own life and be so transformed that we would begin to live an entirely new kind of life that would be pleasing to God. This was something we could do only by sharing in the Holy Spirit…

Only by his own presence within us in this way could he give us confidence to cry out, Abba, Father, make it easy for us to grow in holiness and, through our possession of the all-powerful Spirit, fortify us invincibly against the wiles of the devil and the assaults of men.

It can easily be shown from examples both in the Old Testament and the New that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell; he so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life…

Does this not show that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives? With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage.”

The Holy Spirit infuses us with Divine Love which bears fruit in our lives. This love is so exceptional, that Jesus tells His disciples it will be evident to the world that they are His followers. The fruit of worldly love is loneliness, anxiety, and depression. The fruit of Christian love is intimacy with God and His followers, peace, and joy. Worldly wisdom wounds, but Christian wisdom heals. The great paradox of happiness, which Pope St. John Paul II re-iterated time and again, is that self-fulfillment can only be found in self-gift. Christians experience the intimacy of friendship in their shared vision of the Truth, the intimacy of true love in living their vocational call to sacramental married love, Holy Orders, vows of religious life, or the single vocation, and above all – the deepest, most intimate, abiding love of our Trinitarian God dwelling in our soul as His very own Temple. Happiness is loving and being loved, Truly.

Consider:

  • Consider the relationship between Truth and Love. Why is honesty necessary for relationship? How does honesty deepen intimacy?
  • Have you ever had to make a decision that required you to choose between worldly wisdom and Christian wisdom? Which did you follow and why? What were the results?
  • Consider the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us. Have you experienced spiritual healing, transformation, or love through the Holy Spirit? Have you witnessed it at work in another person?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Grow in your relationship with Christ who is the Truth, by studying Scripture or studying the faith. Read a spiritual book, join a bible study, listen to Christian talk radio or podcasts, or visit with someone advanced in the faith who can teach you.
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to bear more fruits of love within you by connecting with Him in prayer and/or the sacraments. Add just 5-10 minutes of prayer to your day (or if possible, I highly recommend adding a daily Mass), and note the change in your reactions to others and to situations, or to the level of peace you feel amidst whatever is happening around

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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Keeping it Real

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6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 5: 17-37

Meditation Reflection:

 Freedom in Christ is founded on freedom from being fake. We are masters at the false front. By an early age most of us can pull off “I’m fine” to anyone who asks, no matter how untrue it may be. Keeping up appearances, looking successful, and seeming to be more than we are occurs in every time period and culture. Social media amplifies today’s version, as we can literally craft our public persona via selective posts and pictures.

We not only mask our imperfections; we often mask our sins as well. From the back-handed compliment, to disparaging remarks prefaced by “God bless her soul, but…”, to shallow mantras like “You only live once” or “it’s not like it’s against the law”, we rationalize our viciousness in countless ways. Like addicts, we deny we have a problem with sin, and we excuse and blame our behavior on everyone and everything but ourselves.

Just as sobriety can only be achieved through facing reality, so human freedom from sin being realcan only be wrought from an utter realness about ourselves. When Moses asked God to reveal His Name, God responded that it is “YHWH” or “I AM”. God revealed that He is. God is being and existence, He is the source of all that is real. Thus, union with God requires utter realness and authenticity.

Lewis wrote about this mystery in a brilliantly imaginative way in his book The Great Divorce. The divorce in this case refers to the divide between heaven and hell and describes the process of purgation for those still travelling to heaven. Drawing from scriptural imagery, he describes inhabitants of hell as phantoms. On the opposite spectrum, he calls those in heaven “solid people.” The main character arrives at a gray bus stop, phantom-ish, and his journey toward heaven is one of becoming more solid – or more “real”. To do this he must surrender all that he keeps false within himself. I won’t give away more than that, as I highly recommend this read! I will only offer this teaser – Lewis creates numerous characters whose struggle to move from ghostish versions of themselves to the authentic provides deep insight into the rationalizations with which most of us struggle, the pain of conversion, and the joy of letting it go and experiencing authentic freedom.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus directly calls us out on how we tip toe around the truth and avoid real virtue and, in consequence, real love and relationship. How many times have we heard the excuse, “well, it’s not like I’ve killed anyone. I’m a decent person.”? Yet, harboring anger can be deeply destructive and emerge in violence that might be more subtle, but no less real. Passive-aggressive behaviors, online bullying, slander, gossip, critical remarks and callous attitudes prevent relationship and they hold us back from heaven.

Jesus states clearly, “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20) and “so be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) A man who loves his wife, doesn’t look lustfully at other women. A woman who loves her husband, doesn’t flirt with other men. Does it matter whether it’s technically adultery? Jesus calls out the dishonesty. Either way, it certainly feels like cheating to the other spouse. Why? Because love is total, exclusive, and lifelong. Our love for our spouse should mirror love for God. In fact, God created the first man and woman in the state of marriage because as two persons in a relationship of life- giving love, they imaged the Triune God!

Authenticity begins by simply letting our Yes be yes, and our No be no. Drop the exaggerations and minimizations. Leave the white lies. Take down the false fronts. It feels like going a day without make-up at first, but not forever. As we become more at peace with ourselves, we become more comfortable in the truth. Eventually the fake-ness we clung to in the past will feel like too much make-up, caked on, that you can’t wait to wash off at the end of the day.

Jesus wants us, not the façades we create. He accepts us as we are and helps us become the truest version of ourselves. When this happens, we can begin to experience the real relationship, and real love necessary for heaven.

Consider:

  • List your most common struggles in a day, then pray about what interior attitude or disposition underlies them.
    • Consider the 7 Capital Sins for ideas (pride, envy, greed, anger, sloth, lust, and gluttony)
  • What is your most common/tempting rationalization?
  • In what ways have you grown in authenticity over the years? Reflect on how good it feels to be yourself.
  • Who is someone you can be completely yourself around; who knows the “real” you?
  • Consider how honesty is necessary for relationship.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Tackle one rationalization this week. Be direct with yourself and with God. Name the struggle, occasions of temptation, and the rationalization you use. Decide on how you will avoid the temptation or create a counter-mantra to repeat when you hear yourself rationalizing.

Example:

  • Daily struggle: Crabby toward your spouse and kids
  • Occasions of temptation: Getting out the door in the morning, right after a long day at work, or when interrupted during a project
  • Rationalizations: “They’re my family and should love me unconditionally – this is just who I am”; “I work hard to care for my family, and it just means I will be stressed out”
  • Counter-mantras: “They’re my family – they deserve my best behavior” or “I need to find balance in my life so I can be a peaceful person to my family”
  • Avoiding temptation –
    • Begin the day 10 minutes earlier so you aren’t stressed about running late (even better, begin with a prayer!);
    • create transition time between work and home – listen to Christian music on the drive and count your blessings so you arrive with a positive attitude;
    • adjust expectations for completing projects – expect to get interrupted by kids and be grateful for them, try to include them in the project if possible
  • ~ Written by Angela M. Jendro © 2019
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Sometimes the Small Stuff Matters

by Angela Jendro

 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Luke 16:10-13 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Meditation Reflection:

Few things of importance are gained overnight with little to no effort. As tempting as the get rich quick scheme can be, it never proves to be reliable or lasting. The temptation appears in many forms but inevitably produces the same results. Diets that promise to drop weight fast only leave you gaining it right back because they don’t involve long-term lifestyle changes. New clothes, cars, or homes you hope will boost your self-confidence leave you with the same empty feeling at night if you haven’t become the person you can be proud of on the inside. Stress might be soothed by pills or substances temporarily, but only the hard work of managing stress through healthy ways will actually change your situation or give you authentic contentment.

True change comes through the hard, slow, daily process of building character. The Plato and Aristotle_Raphaelphilosopher Aristotle, in his famous book on Ethics, defined virtue as a habit of doing the good. He taught that a person only acquires a virtue after having chosen it regularly over a long period of time and in many circumstances. For instance, if I tell the truth once, it doesn’t make me a truthful person. To say that I have the virtue of honesty means I have told the truth regularly for many years. As Jesus points out in this passage, a person’s character is shown as much, if not more so, in the small matters as in the larger ones. A truthful person will be pained by lying, even in small exaggerations. On the other hand, a person who lies easily about daily matters to avoid responsibility or make things easier, will certainly lie when the stakes are much higher.

It can be tempting to compartmentalize our life, especially our faith life, and not uncommon in our culture for a person to think they can act one way at work, another at home, and another at church. However, our choices become our habits and our character. Like the fast, easy, changes marketed to us, compartmentalization is only a temporary illusion. If you swear around your friends often, you will eventually let a swear word slip at work or in front of your children. If you are dishonest at home with your spouse, you will be dishonest with your boss. We can’t sit in the pew and believe ourselves to be disciples of Christ, if we distort His Gospel the rest of the week by not following Him at work and home too.

Jesus wants to bring us interior peace and this requires being authentic. We build Christian virtues by practicing them daily in all situations. We make choices based on what we care about most. This is why we can’t serve God and the world. Those daily choices build a path one way or the other, like everything else in life. Jesus lived this teaching as well.  He did the Father’s will in everything. Then when in the Garden of Gethsemane He feared His impending crucifixion, He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

If we love God and if we truly believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then we will try to imitate Christ in every choice no matter where we are. The beautiful result is that the more Christ like you grow, the more He will shine in every work you do. The Church calls this “sanctifying the temporal world.” It may be the slow, difficult, unglamorous path, but it will certainly be more lasting and, thankfully, Jesus gives us His Spirit and grace to help us.

Consider:

  • What virtues would your family or friends confirm that you have already? What kind of person do you try to be?
  • What virtues would you like to acquire that you presently struggle with? How might you begin working on them?
  • In what way do you compartmentalize your faith? Are there places, persons, or circumstances you hide your beliefs or act contrary to your faith?
  • Consider how you might apply Jesus’ teaching to your everyday responsibilities and the people you interact with. Mother Teresa touted the greatness of doing small things with great love. How might you incorporate that into your daily work?
  • Aristotle was right about the necessity of practice to build virtue. However, we often still struggle to overcome our own weakness and we can’t become truly Christ-like without the aid of grace. Consider the power of prayer, reading Scripture, and the sacraments through which the Holy Spirit can strengthen and change your heart.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Focus on faithfulness to God in the small matters this week. Be especially diligent in the everyday little tasks or interactions to act Christ-like.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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