Desert Decisions

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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1st Sunday of Lent

Read the Gospel of Mark 1:12-15

Meditation Reflection:

The transition from Christ’s hidden life to His public ministry began with His Baptism and then the temptation in the desert.  There, He decidedly chose the path of self-sacrifice over self-gain.

At the Incarnation Christ, though the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, took on a human nature and humbly chose to fully live the human experience with all of its limitations and difficulties.

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:6-7

As man, Jesus grew “in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52), obedient to His parents, embracing the temporal condition of human development.  He did not begin His public ministry until the age of thirty, which marked full manhood at the time and the transition to leadership roles.  It was also the age Levitical priests would enter the full service of the Lord (see Numbers 4:3, 30).

The commencement of His mission was preceded by temptation and trial.  He, like us, had to choose which trajectory His life would take.  In the desert, Satan enticed the Lord to direct His divine gifts to pampering His human nature.  Matthew (4:1-11) details the temptations specifically: bodily pleasure (bread), tremendous fame (leap from the temple pinnacle), and worldly power (all the kingdoms of the earth).  Satan forced the choice before the Lord: the immediacy of the visible world and self-gain without the Cross, or the work of establishing the invisible kingdom of God which would require self-immolation and suffering Crucifixion before rising again.

Each of us faces the same temptations and the same choice.  We can either use our God-given gifts to promote ourselves and worldly achievements or direct them to the Father’s will and the building up of His kingdom.

Lent provides a time to step into the desert with the Lord, to pray and fast, and to re-orient the trajectory of our lives.  As a Church, the People of God, we take 40 days each year to shed the illusion that we can live for both worlds or that we can have the kingdom without the Cross.

Through fasting, with the help of grace, we deny ourselves tempting pleasures to strengthen our will and remember that:

man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). 

Furthermore, it reveals the truth of just how attached we may be and loosens the hold that habit may have over us.  Fasting also unites us to the redemptive value Christ has placed on suffering through His own suffering and death.  In fact, on one occasion Jesus even said to His disciples that some demons “cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).  Thus, through our Lenten fasting, we join our sacrifices to His, to cast out the demons in our lives with His help, so that we might share in His mission and thus share in the hope of His Resurrection.

Through prayer we draw closer to the Lord, that the invisible might become more visible and His grace might transform us.  Encountering Christ in the Scriptures, the Mass, the Rosary, the lives of the saints, Eucharistic Adoration, the Stations of the Cross, and other prayerful devotions, our love for Him is enkindled and our discipleship strengthened.

Finally, the Lenten practice of almsgiving moves us outside of ourselves through service toward others.  This can range from sharing your money with the poor to sharing a blanket with your child.  It also includes sharing your time with someone sorrowing, lonely, or sick. It begins with meeting the needs of your family then your co-workers or neighbors and friends, your local parish and community, and finally the world-wide needs of the Church.  Catholic Relief Service’s Operation Rice Bowl provides an opportunity as a family to make simpler meals during Lent and to donate the money saved to feed the hungry in poor areas of the world.

During Lent, we join Christ in the desert.  We withdraw from the immediate pleasures of the moment and usual temptations toward worldliness.  With that space we can draw nearer to Christ and the eternal, even more real, pleasures of the Heaven.  At the end of this purification we share in the joy of His resurrection at Easter.  Easter is the beginning of a new creation, and we hope to be a new, or renewed, creation Easter Sunday as well. Lent is a time to “repent and believe in the gospel” so that, transformed by grace, we may live in the Kingdom of God which is now at hand in Jesus Christ.

Consider:

  • Consider in prayer the deeper, truer, reality of the spiritual world.  Reflect on the illusory promises of pleasure, fame, and status compared with the enduring graces of Christian love, strength, and joy.
  • Ask Christ in prayer to reveal an attachment you may have, that up until now you have been blind to such as subtle forms of pride, vanity, greed, or pleasures.
  • Take time for gratitude.
  • Ask Mary to help you see the needs around you as she did at the Wedding at Cana.

Practical Application:

  • Swap out 15 minutes of media time for 15 minutes of prayer or silence.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

The Ascension of Christ & the Surprising Nature of the Kingdom of God

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The Ascension of the Lord

Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11 and the Sunday Readings

Meditation Reflection

Christ is so humble in His Incarnation that we, like the apostles in today’s passage, can forget the awesome reality of His divinity.  For most of His earthly life, Jesus chose to veil His divinity.  He humbly lived among us as one of us, choosing a life of poverty and sacrifice. Even when condemned to crucifixion, He told Pilate that He was not powerless in the situation (cf. John 18:36). Jesus chose to be sacrificed to save us. He could have saved Himself, as those taunting Him urged, or defended Himself as Pilate suggested, but love kept Him on the Cross. Christ came down from heaven to be a ransom for our sins. Ascension of Christ_ Getty ImagesAt the completion of His mission however, He ascended back to heaven to reign in glory as the Son of God. Because of His humility during His earthly life, we overlook at times His divine dignity and His rightful place in Heaven. Beyond anything we could have imagined, He promised to prepare a place for us there as well!

Jesus kept surprising His apostles and He continues to surprise us. They imagined the savior as someone who would overpower their persecutors and restore things to how they used to be during the best time in Jewish history. It took a while for them to accept that He would die and rise again.

Confused and scattered at His crucifixion, they rejoiced in awe at His resurrection. Overwhelmed with joy that Christ was alive, and excited by His show of power they still imagined that they would enjoy the booty of His victory in an earthly kingdom. “Finally”, they must have thought, “now He will bring to fruition all our hopes and desires.” Thus, they ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

 Jesus did not come to stay on earth however, but to bring us back to Heaven. He does not put new wine into old wine skins (Matthew 9:14-17). His kingdom exceeds our imagination. The experience the Jews had under King David provided a foretaste and glimpse of the kingdom of God. Jesus reveals that God has much more in store for us.

In order to receive the Holy Spirit and begin their new life in Christ, they had to let go of their previous hopes and plans. To rule in the Kingdom of God meant to surrender worldly power for the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit transforms lives with saving grace, Truth, peace, and love.  No other nation or religion has had the same universal, enduring, transformative effect, of the Christian faith. The only explanation for this miracle is the Holy Spirit.

Jesus makes all things new (Revelation 21:5). As we celebrate the Ascension of Christ into heaven, we let go of our desires for Jesus to make things how they used to be, or how we wish them to be. Christ’s physical absence grieved the apostles and we too can be grieved by the absence of tangible comfort and security. However, by letting Jesus ascend to Heaven, they received Him back even more intimately and powerfully in their very souls on Pentecost when they received the Holy Spirit.

Christian discipleship means sharing in Christ’s death that we might also share in His resurrection. But it doesn’t stop there. Discipleship means accepting the unanticipated, unimaginable “new” that Jesus has for us. He wants so much more for us than we can plan and blesses us with so much more than we deserve. By surrendering our grip on control in our Christian walk, we get to live in the freedom of gift. There are no words to describe this freedom and joy other than surprise; or as John puts it: “From his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16 RSV).

Consider:

  • When has God surprised you? How have His plans for your life exceeded your own expectations?
  • In what areas of your life do you struggle to surrender control? Consider what underlies your resistance.  Is it fear of the unknown or of change, distrust, lack of faith, perfectionism, pride and the desire to accomplish things yourself, or vanity and concern for what others will think?
  • Reflect on your life from the point of view of the kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of earth. Re- value wealth and status from this perspective. What is truly valuable? What is true greatness?
  • Consider God’s love for you. He has prepared a place for you, provided the Way, opened the gates, and given you the Holy Spirit and the Church to guide you and empower you. He has done everything in His mighty power to be with you and shower His love upon you. What can you do to be with Him and love Him in return?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week, be open to God’s surprises. In the morning, offer your day to God and surrender control to Him. In the evening, reflect back on the day and recount when you were resistant or when He surprised you.

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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“He’s Not a Tame Lion”

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5th Sunday of Lent

Gospel of John 11:1-45

Meditation:

Jesus is reliable, but He’s not predictable. C.S. Lewis, in his fiction novel The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, illustrated this through his description of Aslan the lion (the Christ figure in his Narnia series).  When asked if Aslan is a safe lion, Mr. Beaver responds, “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”   Jesus isn’t safe either. If you choose to follow Him, He will lead you down uncomfortable and even scary roads at times, He will purify sinful habits by detaching you from them, and He will transform you into the best version of yourself but one you couldn’t even have imagined. So, He’s not safe but His goodness means He can always be trusted.  Much like Psalm 23 assures,

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

     I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

     your rod and your staff comfort me.”

 Or as I say, “I would rather walk in darkness holding God’s hand, than in broad daylight by myself.”

A paradox presents itself regularly in discipleship. On the one hand, Jesus approaches us in the humblest and human of ways. Like the apostles and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, He develops a true friendship with us, one of mutual love and abiding connection. In His nearness however, we can forget His Divine Lordship. As Lewis described, we might try to “domesticate” Him, expecting Christ to fit neatly into the limits of our reason. However, Christ is also God, and came to reveal that which includes, but also surpasses, natural reason. Moreover, some of Christ’s knowledge and power exceed even divine revelation and are known to God alone. In consequence, sometimes Jesus makes perfect sense, like the comfort of visiting your home.  Other times He speaks and acts in utterly surprising ways, like a person setting off to a foreign land.

Christ truly offers friendship, but it’s not a friendship of equals.  Similarly, Lewis writes of Aslan,

“He’ll be coming and going” [Mr. Beaver] had said. “One day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down–and of course he has other countries to attend to. It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

How should we respond if we can’t really predict what Christ will do? When the path Christ takes seems imprudent, we can begin by saying it to Him in prayer, like the disciples who questioned going to Jerusalem since the Jews had just tried to kill Him. We can also bring it to a spiritual director or a spiritually wise friend. Sometimes God speaks to us through natural prudence, and other times He needs us to trust His supernatural prudence – which takes into account God’s will and God’s power. Like Thomas, we can press forward zealously, thinking if Christ wants to die I guess I’ll just die with Him.  We can surrender to Christ’s wisdom, trusting Who Christ is above our own understanding like Martha did. We can come to Jesus with our tears like Mary. She trusted Jesus and didn’t resent Him not being there, nevertheless, the situation was still sad and she poured her feelings out to Him. Whichever person you relate to more, the important thing is to turn toward Christ and not against Christ. He’s not “tame” but He is good.  If we allow Christ the freedom to be Himself, like a good friend ought to do, then we also allow within our own experience the possibility of being astounded beyond all expectations. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead! This had NEVER been done before. No one could have expected it, and it became the event that solidified many followers and provoked His enemies to move forward with their plot to kill Him.

Of course, Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus from the dead back to natural life, pointed to the resurrection of the dead to eternal life. In Jesus we are made NEW. Not refurbished but transformed. Grace builds on nature, a nature given by God and, through Christ, elevated by Him. Marveling at God’s superabundant grace which places us in an even higher state of being, Pope St. John Paul II copied this prayer in His journal (from the eleventh Sunday after Pentecost):

Almighty ever-living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.

God wants to give more than we can even “dare to ask.” Knowing our sins we feel ashamed to think that we could be sons and daughters of a God so perfect and loving. Nevertheless, God wills it and Christ has made it possible.

Baptism changes us interiorly, putting us in relationship with God and orienting us toward Him. The Spirit sanctifies us through a daily working of grace in the circumstances of our lives. These transformations are nothing short of miraculous and the lives of the saints all witness to heroic virtue made possible by grace in the everyday lives of His followers.

The resurrection to new life after death will exceed our experience on earth beyond comparison.  God made the human person with both a body and a soul. In consequence the resurrected human person will retain their soul and their body.  However, just as the Spirit has transformed and elevated the soul, the Spirit will also transform and elevate the body.  St. Augustine, in The City of God, explained it this way:

For the [resurrected] body will not only be better than it was here even when in perfect health; it will also be better than those bodies which the first human beings had before they sinned… the first human beings were created in such a way that, if they had not sinned, they would not have been sundered from their bodies by death. Rather, they would have been granted the reward of immortality for maintaining their obedience, and would have lived eternally with their bodies. Further, the saints will at the resurrection possess those very bodies in which they have here labored; but their condition will then be such that no corruption or distress will befall their flesh, nor will their blessedness be marred by any sorrow or unhappiness.

Consider Jesus’ resurrected body. He kept the scars of His crucifixion, but not the various scars He may have accrued as an active little boy. Moreover, the scars caused Him no pain; they served to show the glory of His sacrificial love. Similarly, our resurrected bodies will be in perfect form, but they will still be our bodies, the ones we labored in sacrificial love for the Lord. For example, I really don’t need the scar from the apple core remover I fumbled as a child, but I would like to retain the scars from all the IV’s I endured during my pregnancies.

Another key difference described by both St. Paul and St. Augustine, is that the resurrected body will be maintained by the power of the Spirit. Adam and Eve had to eat for nourishment and relied on fruit from the tree of life to stave off decay and death.  Resurrected bodies will have the power to eat but will not have the necessity of eating, nor will they require fruit from the tree of life to live forever, since the Spirit will maintain their health. Earthly bodies require food, water, rest, etc.  Our heavenly bodies will be maintained by the power of the Spirit, so it no longer has a necessity, only enjoyment. Think about it, God holds our bodies in existence even now, couldn’t He do that in heaven too? The same God who created ex nihilo (out of nothing), can re-create from our earthly bodies, a heavenly one. St. Augustine explains it in this way:

Man will then not be earthly, but heavenly: not because his body, which was made of earth, will no longer be itself, but because, by heaven’s gift, it will have been made fit to dwell in heaven: not by losing its nature, but by changing its quality.

Authentic discipleship is full of risk, change, and surprise, but if we persevere in trusting our Lord, we can count on His goodness to surpass any expectations we had safely and comfortably made for ourselves.  Committing to your vocation (whether marriage or religious vows, priestly ordination, or consecrated single life), saying yes to a change of job or ministry, accepting children, accepting a call to move, losing a friend  or career or health, all can be used by Christ for our sanctification and be worked for good for the glory of God (cf Romans 8:28 and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ) as Jesus did with the death (and resurrection) of Lazarus.

We can’t control Jesus, but we can trust Him. We can’t fully understand all that He does, but He makes Himself near and present. We can’t hold Christ back, but we can hold on to Him in friendship. His determination inspires us like Thomas, deepens our theological understanding like Martha, moves us to tears like Mary, resurrects us like Lazarus, and more.

Consider:

  • Imagine the sorrow Mary and Martha felt at Lazarus’ passing, especially when Christ didn’t get there in time. Have you ever felt like Jesus was taking too long to answer your prayer?
  • Jesus wept. Consider how He feels your pain and has compassion on your suffering.
  • Imagine their surprise when Jesus said “Lazarus, come out,” and Lazarus did. Has Christ ever answered your prayer in a way you didn’t expect? Has He ever taken a situation that seemed like a loss and made it into something amazing?
  • Do you struggle with doubt or with trying to control Jesus by demanding things be a certain way? Consider C.S. Lewis’ description of Aslan as not a tame lion, and as not safe but good.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Read a brief bio on the life of a saint each day. You can find them easily online or as an app.  Reading about a saint each day can inspire you with accounts of how Christ worked all things for good to a surprising end for them and can for you
  • Reach out to other Christians in your walk of life. Schedule a get together – whether coffee with a friend, a double date with your spouse and another Christian couple, host a gathering in your home, or join a group that’s already

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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Behold, I Make All Things New

by Angela Jendro  Excerpt from Lenten Journey: Through the Desert to the Eternal 20190328_204247219_iOSSpring 

Easter Sunday!

Gospel of John 20:1-9 NAB

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus is risen! Just when we think all is lost, He makes something new. Jesus took His most beloved disciples by surprise, and He takes us by surprise as well.

“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25 RSV)

Death scares us by its finality, and the shroud of the mysterious unknown that surrounds it. Yet, in Christ we can be confident that with death comes resurrection. Jesus had warned, and promised:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24 RSV)

Every change, even welcomed ones, require us to leave the old behind in order to embrace the new. It takes courage to leave a familiar prison, to embrace an unfamiliar freedom. Today, we celebrate the victory of Christ, Who provides both the courage and the freedom we desire.

God’s love for us exceeds all our expectations. His intervention in our lives, especially when we surrender completely to His will, always surprises us. If we trust in Jesus each day, allowing Him to lead, He will bring richness, joy, peace, and deep love to our lives in ways we might not have foreseen.

Today we celebrate new life.   We celebrate God’s love. We celebrate God’s power and His victory over sin and death. We celebrate His victory in our own lives and within our own hearts. Our confidence can be renewed, that no struggle or suffering can stop Christ. If we place our trust Him, He will heal and transform us. Today, we celebrate our fresh start. During Lent, we endeavored to face our sins and bring our guilt before the Lord. Now, we get to leave that shame in the past, crucified with Christ, and begin something new.

Revelation 21:3-5 NAB “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”

 The One who sat on the throne said,

Behold, I make all things new.” 

Consider:

  • Consider Christ’s victories in your life.
    • How have you grown?
    • In what way do you experience greater freedom than before?
    • What were you afraid of before, that you no longer fear?
    • What virtues has Christ developed in you?
    • How has your love for God and others deepened?
  • How has God surprised you?
    • When did He give you something more than you asked for?
    • When did His plan lead you down an unexpected road?
    • When have you experienced His loving mercy when you didn’t think you should?
  • Reflect on Christ’s love for you and His strength.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Resolve to begin anew today. Make a concrete step to leave the old behind, no matter how comfortable it is, and allow Christ to lead you forward.Cross with heart 2

~ 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.

 

Behold, I Make All Things New…

by Angela Lambert

April 16th, 2017  Easter Sunday

 Gospel of John 20:1-9

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus is risen! Just when we think all is lost, He makes something new.  Jesus took His most beloved disciples by surprise, and He takes us by surprise as well.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (MT 16:24-25)

Death scares us by its finality, and the shroud of the mysterious unknown that surrounds it.  Yet, in Christ we can be confident that with death comes resurrection.  Jesus had warned, and promised:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

Every change, even welcomed ones, require us to leave the old behind in order to embrace the new.  It takes courage to leave a familiar prison, to embrace an unfamiliar freedom.  Today, we celebrate the victory of Christ, Who provides both the courage and the freedom we desire.

God’s love for us exceeds all our expectations.  His intervention in our lives, especially when we surrender completely to His will, always surprises us.  If we trust in Jesus each day, allowing Him to lead, He will bring richness, joy, peace, and deep love to our lives in ways we might not have forseen.

Today we celebrate new life.   We celebrate God’s love.  We celebrate God’s power and His victory over sin and death.  We celebrate His victory in our own lives and within our own hearts.  Our confidence can be renewed, that no struggle or suffering can stop Christ.  If we place our trust Him, He will heal and transform us, putting to rest the old for good and making something new.  Today, we celebrate our fresh start.  During Lent, we endeavored to face our sins and bring our guilt before the Lord.  Now, we get to leave that shame in the past, crucified with Christ, and begin something new.

Revelation 21:3-5“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.  He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”

 The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Consider:

  • Consider Christ’s victories in your life.
    • How have you grown?
    • In what way do you experience greater freedom than before?
    • What were you afraid of before, that you no longer fear?
    • What virtues has Christ developed in you?
    • How has your love for God and others deepened?
  • How has God surprised you?
    • When did He give you something more than you asked for?
    • When did His plan lead you down an unexpected road?
    • When have you experienced His loving mercy when you didn’t think you should?
  • Reflect on Christ’s love for you and His strength.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Resolve to begin anew today.  Make a concrete step to leave the old behind, no matter how comfortable it is, and allow Christ to lead you forward.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address.