Living in Denial

excerpt from Lenten Journey: Through the Desert to the Eternal Spring by Angela Jendro (download or print)

3rd Sunday of Lent

Gospel of Luke 13:1-9 NAB

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”

 Meditation Reflection:

The mystery of God’s Mercy and Justice extend beyond the limits of our comprehension. Nevertheless, Jesus exhorts us to never forget that God is both. God’s mercy makes salvation possible through even the smallest opening of repentance and desire in our hearts. At the same time, the mercy we experience on a day to day basis, the undeserved blessings God showers as a doting Father, can also lead to complacency.

Mercy means healing and transformation. In our complacency we can begin to think that we deserve our blessings and forget our sins, or worse forget our blessings as well. St. Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 10:1-12 that the Israelites, after witnessing the mighty hand of God liberating them from Egypt and walking on dry land through the Red Sea, reverted to doubt, fear, and grumbling in the desert. In consequence, although liberated by God from Egypt, they died in the desert unable to enter the Promised Land. God can work mighty deeds in our lives. His mercy will cut through any sin. God’s forgiveness is not merely “spiritual dry-cleaning” as Pope Francis has termed it. God’s work heals and transforms. This process ought to bear fruits therefore of virtue, sanctity, and love. In fact, one of the ways St. Teresa of Avila verified the authenticity of a spiritual experience was by the fruits of virtue that accompanied it.

Jesus warned in today’s Gospel that God’s mercy is inextricably united to God’s justice. God has given us free will. He will honor that gift. If we choose to reject the opportunity for life which comes through healing from sin, then at some point we will die. God offers us more chances than we deserve but they are limited by time and by our choices. We cannot receive the fruits of mercy until we choose to acknowledge and repent of our sin.

Unfortunately, the general cultural view denies the reality of sin, excusing it away. In consequence, as Pope Francis has preached on Mercy (recall the Year of Mercy 12/8/2015-11/20/2016) he concomitantly needed to preach on sin. In a First Things article, titled “The Pope’s Theology of Sin”, William Doino Jr. provides context for the relationship between sin and mercy and presents Pope Francis’ insights regarding the process of reaching the first step – acknowledgement and repentance:

“The first part is to recognize the darkness of contemporary life, and how it leads so many astray: Walking in darkness means being overly pleased with ourselves, believing that we do not need salvation. That is darkness! When we continue on this road of darkness, it is not

easy to turn back. Therefore, John continues, because this way of thinking made him reflect: ‘If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’”[1]

Why is seeing our sin so important? Isn’t it a bit depressing? If it was analogous to learning you had an incurable cancer, then yes. But if it’s analogous to learning you had a cancer that can be cured with early treatment, then it’s a huge relief. If we do not suffer under the oppression of sin, we do not need a redeemer. When we live in denial of our sins and addictions, we refuse the opportunity for help. For example, if a person lives in denial of their regular rude or hurtful comments under the rationalization that they are just “speaking their mind”, then they will soon lose relationships and friendship. If a person lives in denial of their intemperance in spending or greed for possessions beyond their means, they will eventually suffer bankruptcy. Similarly, if we live a self-centered life rather than a God-centered life, at some point we will experience the harsh reality of our choices.

After opening our eyes to our sins (with the help of the Holy Spirit), the second part of the process is to take them to Confession; not with an attitude of a quick shower but with a humble, and deeply contrite heart. The word Pope Francis used to describe this feeling is one we shy away from in our culture – shame. Yet, when we feel genuine shame for our sin, it also motivates us to change and open ourselves up to receiving help and grace.

The final part of the process he writes, is:

“having absolute faith in God to renew us: We must have trust, because when we sin we have an advocate with the Father ‘Jesus Christ the righteous.’ And he ‘supports us before the Father’ and defends us in front of our weaknesses.” [2]

Rather than despair at our weaknesses and imperfections, Pope Francis reminds us to put our trust in Christ. We must acknowledge that we cannot change on our own and allow Jesus to apply His healing grace to our souls – enlightening our minds, strengthening our wills, and fanning the flame of love for God and neighbor.

In conclusion, the mystery of God’s Justice and Mercy requires us to make an active decision to turn away from sin and accept God’s help. Because grace is freely given by God, fruits of that grace are expected too. If we do not bear fruit, we can conclude that we have not actually been receptive to grace. If we do bear fruit, it will evoke feelings of gratitude and love because we know who we are, and from where those virtues truly came.

 Consider:

  • How has facing your faults, though painful, made you a better person with the help of Christ? How are you different today than in years past?
  • Has God ever “rebuked” you? Did it have a positive effect later or lead to greater freedom?
  • Are there faults you continue to rationalize? Do you treat your spouse, children, or family members with the love they deserve, or do you excuse your behavior by saying they should love you as you are without an effort to change?
  • Have you ever experienced the pain of seeing someone you love self-destructing or suffering due to living in denial of a serious problem? Have you offered help and been rejected? Consider how this relates to God’s perspective.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Read an examination of conscience and prayerfully reflect on it. Most parishes have a pamphlet by the confessional with an examination, you can also find some online. If possible, look for one tailored to your state in life (e.g. single, married, priest, etc.)
  • Read the First Things article on Pope Francis’ Theology of Sin. (http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/08/the-popes-theology-of-sin)
  • Choose one sin you have been avoiding admitting and actively root it out through prayer and practicing the opposite virtue. (For example – greed is combatted by generosity, a habit of critical remarks by encouraging ones, pride by humility, etc.)

[1] Doino, William Jr. “The Pope’s Theology of Sin.” First Things. August 2013. https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/08/the-popes-theology-of-sin

[2] Ibid.

The Simple Truth – Love

Love alone counts

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 November 3rd, 2018 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 12:28B-34 NAB

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Meditation Reflection:

A couple of weeks into the school year, a new student of mine stopped by my room after the bell and asked, “How does a person become a saint?”.  As a religion teacher, my first thought went to if she was asking about the process of being canonized, but I stopped, thinking maybe she means on a more spiritual level – like the process of detachment from the world or the three stages of the spiritual life, then I stopped again as my mind jumped to other possibilities for the source of her question until I quit guessing in my mind altogether and simply said, “Why do you ask?  What is it you want to know?”

The Holy Spirit must have prompted me to ask instead of assume, because I never could have anticipated the beauty and simplicity of her answer.  In all sincerity, and with a beaming sweet smile on her face, she replied “because I want to be one!” “Ah” I said, “then it’s simple, love God with all your heart.”  “Really?!” she asked.  “Yep,” I said, that’s it.”

God, the Blessed Trinity, is a union of 3 Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He created human persons in His image as a union of persons in relationship of love with Him and with each other.  When we love God, we can’t help but love our neighbor whom we see as God’s image on earth and our brother or sister in Christ.

The answer is simple.  Jesus’ answer was simple.  It was the same command God had given in Deuteronomy over a thousand years before, and the mission He had given Adam and Eve at their creation.

We are the ones who make sainthood difficult.  We turn our eyes from the Beauty of God and prefer baser pleasures instead.  Because of our wounded nature, we worry that obedience to God will somehow restrict our freedom and deter us from our full potential.  This same self-assertion applies to our neighbor whom we view in light of our own pleasure or gain.  If he or she will add happiness or pleasure, we love them.  Otherwise, we tend to suspect them, like jealous siblings, worried that they will steal something from us, compete for the same resources and attention, or annoy us.

Thankfully, as we mature spiritually, we grow out of these childish concerns.  We understand that our Heavenly Father sets us high upon the rock in safety (Ps 27:5) fills our cup to overflowing (Ps 23), corrects the ones He loves as a Father does for His child (Proverbs3:12), and offers true freedom (John 8:32).  We also grow into a more adult relationship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord, realizing they are not a burden but a blessing. Moreover, filled with God’s love it necessarily overflows to others (cf 1 John 4:7)

Loving God means taking time for Him, in prayer and Scripture.  It means learning more about Him and deepening our understanding of His self-revelation.  It’s also the “simple raising of the heart and mind toward God” (CCC par. 2559) and the desires of love from deep within the soul.

As St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, put it:

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy”

The Christian disciple follows the example of Christ, who modelled and taught the way of Love – prayer and sacrificial works of mercy. His prayer life was so deep, His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, upon which He gave them the Our Father.  His merciful actions were so numerous John states at the end of His Gospel that if everything He did was written down, the whole world could not contain it (John 21:25).

Everyone searches for the key to happiness.  It’s simple, Love the Lord with all your heart:

“Find your delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire” (Psalm 37:4)

 Consider:

  • Ask God for the grace to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as Christ as loved you.
  • Reflect on Psalm 27:4 “One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek: To dwell in the LORD’s house all the days of my life, To gaze on the LORD’s beauty, to visit his temple.”
  •  Imagine the people in your life – at work, in your neighborhood, driving on the highway, etc. – as your brother and sister.  What prayer might you have for them if they were family?  How might you see them more personally and with more compassion?
  • Consider this passage from St. Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue which describes how our hearts can be taken up, and on fire, with love for God. It is written from the perspective of God the Father speaking to her:
     No virtue can have life in it except from charity (love), and charity is nursed and mothered by humility.  You will find humility in the knowledge of yourself when you see that even your own existence comes not from yourself but from Me, for I loved you before you came into being.  And in My unspeakable love for you I willed to create you anew in grace.  So I washed you and made you a new creation in the blood that My only-begotten Son poured out with such burning love.

     This blood gives you knowledge of the truth when knowledge of yourself leads you to shed the cloud of selfish love.  There is no other way to know the truth.  In so knowing Me the soul catches fire with unspeakable love…”

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • What sets your heart on fire with love for God?  Do that every day this week.
  • Pray one psalm a day, one chapter of a Gospel, or one chapter of Acts of the Apostles each day.
  • Choose someone from your daily life and imagine them as your brother or sister.  Pray for them by name and do something kind for them.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Hard but Satisfying Work…Gospel Meditation John 6:24-35

by Angela Jendro
Fra_Angelico_coronation of Mary

Fra Angelico – Coronation of Mary

August 5th, 2018; 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(updated and edited from post August 2nd, 2015)

Gospel of John 6: 24-35 NAB

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Meditation Reflection:

Jesus instructs us to “work for the food that endures for eternal life.” The people responded wisely  by asking a follow up question, which in modern language could be phrased “tell us the job description.” The task seems simple enough – “believe in the one God sent.”

How is believing in Christ work though? If believing in Christ were merely an intellectual assent then it wouldn’t be much work at all. However, believing in Christ means believing He is the Savior sent to transform our hearts and lives. This requires not merely an assent of the intellect, but the arduous work of aligning our will with His, and allowing Him to change our lives. Consider the life changing “yes” of Mary, Joseph, the Apostles, all the saints, and the transformation in lives of people you know who have accepted Christ and follow Him intentionally.

In his famous book, What’s Wrong with the World, G.K. Chesterton astutely states the reason why so many people forsake believing in Christ and the reward that comes with it. He writes,

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Jesus does not say “I am the bread of life who will force feed you”. Rather, He states that those who come to Him will never hunger. Still, you may ask, how hard is it to come to Christ? Well, how hard is it to make it to Mass every Sunday? How difficult is it to attend one or more daily masses a week? How hard is it to find 30 minutes to pray with Scripture? How hard is it to listen, with your full attention, to your child, spouse, or friend in need? How difficult is it to turn to Christ in prayer when you are feeling anxious, frustrated, or angry rather than escaping through t.v., drinking, or shopping?

Coming to Christ and believing in Him is work, but like any job it gets easier as you get the hang of it. Imagine the career satisfaction you could experience in a job with that kind of reward. We all want happiness and we go to great lengths to achieve it. Christ promises that if we are wise enough to put all of our efforts toward relationship with Him, we will be guaranteed an abiding happiness we can find nowhere else.

Consider:

  • In your daily life, what is the biggest challenge to seeking Christ?
  • What do you hunger for most? How do you try to fill that hunger? How long does it last before feeling hungry again?
  • When was a time you experienced delight, satisfaction, peace, or happiness from God?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Choose one way to come to Christ this week that has been difficult in the past. (wake up 30 minutes early to pray, spend 10 minutes with each of your kids, download a bible app to your phone, attend a daily Mass, make a holy hour at adoration)
  • Start a gratitude journal for God’s gifts to you each day. Before bed think back on your day and identify God’s grace at work in your heart and life.
  • The next time you feel anxious, frustrated, or angry, stop and sit in silence with God for 5 minutes. Find a quiet spot (even if it’s your car or bedroom), set a timer, and just turn your heart and ears toward God. Gently push away distractions and be in God’s presence. Let Christ fill your hunger and soothe your thirst.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

 

 

It’s Not Magic, but it is Supernatural

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

July 1st, 2018 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 5:21-43 NAB

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?'” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,”which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Meditation Reflection:

The Scriptures today confront our anger at God for death and suffering.  Wisdom 1:13-14 (RSV) however reminds us however that neither of these came from Him:

“God did not make death, and He does not delight in the death of the living.  For He created all things that they might exist.” 

When we read the Creation account in Genesis 1 and 2, nowhere do we find disease, suffering, or death.  Rather, God’s creation reflected His glory and so He commanded all the living things that He made to “be fruitful and multiply.”

Death entered not through God, but through sin.  Satan and the fallen angels sinned against God and chose an eternity of suffering for the sake of prideful rebellion over an eternity of joy at the cost of humble obedience.  Adam and Eve did not experience suffering or death until they joined Satan in sin and disobeyed God as well.  In consequence, Genesis 3-9 relay the sad story of the proliferation of sin and suffering beginning with this first Original Sin.  Toil, pain in childbirth, marital struggles, sibling rivalry, murder, polygamy, sickness, and death each begin with the decision to sin by the free will of individuals.  As much as we want to blame God, the truth is most of our suffering stems from our own poor choices or the choices of others.

Sure, you might say, we’re at fault but can’t God do anything about it?  Why does He sit back in silence?  Doesn’t He care?

YES!  From the beginning, God offered a merciful helping hand to sinful humanity.  When Adam and Eve realized they were naked, He gave them clothes.  When He confronted them about the consequences of their sins He also promised to one day send a Savior (Genesis 3:15).  He made covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and so on.  Finally, His only begotten Son left the glory of Heaven to take on a lowly human nature, freely divesting Himself of His divine power to live the life of a creature so as to carry our Cross and personally meet us in our need.   St. Paul describes it well in 2 Corinthians 8:9 (RSV):

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.”

God literally has some skin in the game.  Not only does He offer healing, in today’s Gospel we see how much He cares when He heals.  He accompanies the grief-stricken father to attend to the dying little girl.  When He enters the room He doesn’t want people gawking or treating it like magic.  Instead Jesus sends everyone out but the parents and a few of His apostles.  When Jesus heals it’s a personal encounter.  Jesus understands our pain and our needs because He lived it.  Being man, He has shared our experience.  Being God, He has the power to re-create us and restore us with a Word.  By His divine power, Jesus commanded the girl to get up, thereby empowering her to do so. “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” From His human experience, He commands the little group with Him to give her something to eat.  What a great little detail!  I imagine her family and the apostles were just standing there in shock when she came back to life.  Jesus moves on to the practical need at hand – after getting well from a long sickness a person is ravishingly hungry.  Therefore He instructed them not to talk about it but instead to give her something to eat.

This encounter with the grieving father and dying girl has all the drama of a great script.  Except, a fiction writer would not have interrupted the momentum with the seemingly tangential account of the woman with a hemorrhage – an encounter with competing drama that would be a distraction to a story.  But, this is not a fictional story, this is real life.    I learned early on as a mom that once you have kids you can say goodbye to uninterrupted focus on any task.  Nothing, not even dishes, can be completed without interruption.  Even now, although my kids are teens, I was interrupted yesterday by all three texting and calling and needing something even though I had said I was travelling for a few hours and would have spotty cell service.  I recall one time in particular that illustrates the mulit-tasking of relational living.  At the time my kids were little.  I was driving home from visiting my dad and my brother caught a ride with me.  As we were talking in the front seat kids asked for snacks, water, help with the dvd, and so on.  I just kept talking, driving, and handing things back or fixing the dvd player with one hand, all while keeping my eyes on the road.  My brother just stopped and laughed and said, “how are you doing this?”.  With my first child I was a rookie for sure, but by three I had practice.

Jesus lived real life and cared for real people.  While helping one family, a woman reached out in faith and needed His help too.  People’s needs are rarely convenient, but love always makes time.  As God, Jesus could easily heal her as He walked along, somewhat like my brother’s astonishment as I tended to needs of three children while we travelled without taking my eyes off the road for even a second.  Here again however, Jesus underscores the relationship between faith, healing, and personal encounter with Him.  He’s not a magic wand or a machine. She was healed because of His power and her faith.  At the same time, He stopped what He was doing to pause and encounter her personally. In asking who touched Him, He invites her to not only receive His healing power, but to be received by Him personally.  He doesn’t want her to feel like a desperate beggar.  He gives her the opportunity to bravely step forward, and then affirms her for her faith and gives her His peace.  How many people must have avoided her for so many years due to her bleeding?  And here Jesus receives her and invites her back into communion with God and with society.

We live in a culture that wants a quick fix with a pill to remedy any ailment.  Thankfully, we live in a time when medicine has produced a pill to fix a myriad of things.  However, some things cannot be alleviated so simply.  Christianity is not a pill that will make you instantly happy and take away all of your problems.  It is however a personal encounter with Christ, Who is both God and man and cares for you.  Suffering and death come from sin.  Life and joy come from God.  Faith does heal.  Sometimes He heals in a moment, other times it takes years of relationship with Him to allow His work to fully take root in our souls.  The Gospel affirms that no matter how dire the situation, Jesus will answer.  We only need to ask in prayer or to reach out to Him and touch Him.   Be prepared though.  After suffering for so long, health can seem foreign.  When Jesus commands you to arise and be at peace, you must leave your sickness behind and live as a new creation.

Consider:

  • Spend some time in silence, reaching out to Christ like the father of the little girl or the woman with the hemorrhage. Bring your troubles and worries to God…be humble like the woman to admit you need help.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Set a reminder on your phone or with sticky notes to pause throughout the day and encounter Christ.  Bring your needs of the moment before Him, no matter how small, and offer Him thanks for His presence and help.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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

 

 

I Can’t Believe My Eyes!

 

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

February 25th, 2018 2nd Sunday of Lent

Gospel of Mark 9:2-10 NAB

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice,  “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

Meditation Reflection:

I can’t believe my eyes!  Peter, James, and John must surely have thought this at the Transfiguration. They would again – though for a different reason – at the Cross; and again at the sight of the risen Lord (their disbelief so great Jesus urged them to touch Him and feel for themselves). There, at the Transfiguration, Jesus’ divinity and Messianic promise radiated unveiled in glory.  Despite the awe inspired by this divine theophany, they struggled to understand what Jesus meant by rising from the dead.

The Apostles believed Jesus to be the Messiah and remained with Him through the entire three-year tenure of His public ministry.  Nevertheless, they often underestimated Christ, and despite the innumerable miracles they witnessed firsthand, regularly regressed to earthly problem solving without calculating the supernatural aid of their divine Master.  Consider the storm on the sea in which they were sure they would drown while Jesus lay asleep (Mark 4:35-41), or their concern over forgetting to bring bread on their voyage even though Jesus had just multiplied loaves and fishes on two different occasions for the multitudes (Mark 8:14-21).  Despite the pervasive modern attitude that “I’ll believe it when I see it,” we like the disciples, tend to ignore the very rule we place on God.  Miracle after miracle He works in our lives, and yet we continue to worry.  Jesus could very well say to many of us, “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:18 RSV).

How could there be so much intimacy with the incarnate Lord – so much love, and so much loyalty – and yet so little trust?  They lacked the gift of the Holy Spirit and sanctifying grace won for us by Christ’s Paschal Mystery.  The bridge from human weakness and anxiety to the strength of Christian peace is the beams of the Cross.

Everyone’s spiritual journey is unique.  At the same time, we are all human and so the stages of our spiritual development share some commonality just like our physical development.  We begin more easily trusting that which is familiar to us in the natural, visible world, and distrusting that which is possible only to God who transcends our understanding.  Discipleship requires the movement of grace and receptivity to the invitation of Christ. We need the Holy Spirit to enable us to follow the Lord where He leads, even though it may mystify and surprise us.  As God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” RSV

Every disciple of Christ struggles to move from the immediacy of visible world, to consistent sight of the even deeper reality of the invisible world.  The two are not mutually exclusive, but rather intimately related to one another.  As Catholics we call it the “sacramental principle.” God knows our struggle, which is why “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1: 14 RSV).

During Lent we take a step back to evaluate just how deep our faith really goes and to examine what “safety nets” of ours we keep erected in case God doesn’t come through for us.  These attachments hold us back from full freedom in the Lord.  Like the apostles, we worry about things like bread and tents (financial and physical security), when Christ has provided everything we need and more…including life itself and a room in His Father’s house.

During Lent, as we contemplate the awesome, sacrificial love of Christ, we are challenged to invite Him more fully into every aspect of our lives.  Certainly He has proven that we can trust Him – the man that died and rose again for us, the man who is also God!

So, consider: What limits do you place on God? Where’s the boundary of your faith? Do you trust God to secure your eternal home, but doubt with matters related to your earthly one?  Sometimes the visible world can seem more real than the invisible.  The immediacy and demands of each day’s tasks can beguile our imagination into feeling as if God is remote and unrelated to the day’s needs, at least in any concrete or practical way.   But, God is Lord of Heaven and Earth.  His power and His love know no bounds.

Abraham believed this to his very core.  He trusted God to be Who He claimed to be.  His faith was so confident that he didn’t even hesitate when he raised the knife to sacrifice his only beloved son and his only hope of a legacy.  St. Paul described Abraham’s magnanimous faith in his letter to the Hebrews saying:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.’  He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence he did receive him back, and this was a symbol.” (Hebrews 11:17-19 RSV).

The eyes of faith see the visible and the invisible.  They “understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (Hebrews 11: 3).  Faith trusts that God is who He says He is, and who He has shown Himself to be time and again.  Yes, it exceeds our understanding, because “with God, nothing is impossible.”  So, as we journey through Lent, may we spend more time with the Lord and develop greater awareness of His daily presence.  Hopefully by the end, we will be somewhat closer to the confidence of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans:

“Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” Romans 8:31-32 NAB

Consider:

  • Sarah conceived Isaac despite being barren and past the natural age.  St. Paul writes that God did this because of her faith saying, “she considered Him faithful Who had promised” (Hebrews 11: 11 RSV).
    • Consider God’s faithfulness.  How has God been there for you when it counted?  How has He answered prayers in a way you didn’t expect?  How has He brought good out of a bad situation?
    • Consider God’s generosity. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you look back on the day, week, year, and course of your life and see God’s blessings.  Then spend a few minutes in prayers of gratitude.
    • Entrust to God your cares.  Make a list of your worries or of what’s weighing on your heart, and place them in the care of Christ in prayer.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Desert Decisions

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

February 18th, 2018 1st Sunday of Lent

Gospel of Mark 1:12-15 NAB

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

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 had to decide whether to work for self-gain in this world, or self-sacrifice for the next.

At the Incarnation Christ, though the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, took on a human nature and humbly chose to live the human experience.

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:7

In consequence, Jesus grew “in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52 RSV), obedient to His parents, embracing the temporal condition of human development.  He did not begin His public ministry until the age of 30, 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 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” (MT 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 says 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 takes us outside of ourselves through service of the needs of 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 (https://www.crsricebowl.org/about)

Together as Christians, we join Christ in the desert during Lent.  We draw away from the immediate and tempting pleasures of the moment and of this world, and 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.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Where Truth & Love Reign

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 love one another

November 26th, 2017 Solemnity of Christ the King

Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Meditation Reflection:

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

Jesus is king and judge, but as He often reminded His followers – His kingdom is not of this world. When pressed by Pilate to explain further, Jesus answered “I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice” (John 18:37).

We, like Pilate, may ask “Truth? What is that?” (John 18:38).

Truth is Reality.  As Pope Benedict XVI often said in his writings, it means acknowledging that God is the Creator and we are creatures.  The laws of nature that govern the health of our soul are as real and concrete as the laws that govern the health our body.

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

My dear friends, let us love one another, since love is from God and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love…as long as we love one another God remains in us and His love comes to its perfection in us.” 1John 4:7-8,12

So if the Truth is that God is love and we are love, what does that mean on an everyday level?  How does that look?  How does it translate to our schedules?

Pope St. John Paul II defined love clearly and simply: it is self-gift.  Thus the paradox of human happiness he concluded, is that we find fulfillment for ourselves in giving of ourselves.

This means fighting the pull of self-centeredness and mere consumerism.  We have to turn our attention from acquiring things, to giving of ourselves.  Should we try to over-complicate the matter or pay mere lip service, Jesus states clearly the fruits of authentic love: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick or imprisoned…

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

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

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

Life is short, eternity is long.  We must begin EVERY day with prayer – even just 5-10 minutes and go to Mass EVERY Sunday, to unite ourselves to the source of Love and Grace.  From this union with Christ, fruits of His Spirit of love will permeate the actions and decisions of our day (see Galatians 5:22-23). If we first love God above all things, we will then love our neighbor as ourselves because we will see God’s image in them and desire as Christ does to mend its wounds of sin that their God-given dignity and glory might shine more gloriously.

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Begin every day this week with 5-10 minutes of prayer.  Read the Scriptures, thank God, surrender your day to Christ, spend a couple of minutes in silence.
  • Intentionally practice one corporal and one spiritual Works of Mercy a day.
  • Read about the life of a saint who is similar to you in some way to learn from his or her example.  You can research “patron saint of__________” to find someone with an affinity to your work or your struggle.  You could also try researching someone with your same vocation such as married, single, or religious. You can find saints who were young or old, men or women, from small towns or big cities, were well educated and travelled or simple and hidden.  You may also like to research a saint who shares your name.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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Keeping it Simple and Keeping it Real

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

 

October 29th, 2017 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 22:32-40 NAB

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Meditation Reflection:

St. John tells us that “God is Love” (I John 4:8).  He actively loves you and I at every moment.  He created the world out of nothing to be a home for humankind and continues to hold all things in existence and guide them by His divine providence. He created each of our souls at the moment of our conception.  The Second Person of the Trinity even became man, suffered, and died for our Redemption after we sinned so we could become new creations by grace.  Even before creation however, He was Love.  In His very essence God is a union of three divine Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  His very nature is an eternal relationship of love.

Moreover, Genesis reveals that God’s love is so great He made humankind in His image to participate in His love. Thus the God who is love, created us to also be love. In the first creation account He created man and woman at the same time, that they too might be a union of persons, capable of love and creativity like God.

“God created mankind in His image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply.” Genesis 1:27-28

In the second Genesis account God created man first but he felt alone and unfulfilled.  There was no suitable partner for him among all of God’s animals.  Why?  Aren’t dogs and cats adorable?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to enjoy God-given reign over all of creation without having to share it with anyone? Adam had water front property, lush gardens, and plenty of food.  He had everything a single person could desire – power, pleasure, abundance, security, and was surrounded by affectionate pets.  Why was he unhappy?

“The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him. Genesis 2:18

Made in the image of God, Adam could only find fulfillment through being a union of persons.  Together Adam and Eve could unite both body and soul.  They could know one another, choose one another, and love one another, both spiritually and physically.

In the Beginning, living in God’s image was simple and joy-filled.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden.  Their work was without toil and they rested each Sabbath to worship God and rejoice in gratitude.  As Pope Benedict XVI explains:

In the creation account the sabbath is depicted as the day when the human being, in the freedom of worship, participates in God’s freedom, in God’s rest, and thus in God’s peace.” (In the Beginning…A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, 1990)

Things only get complicated after the Fall, that first dreadful sin.  God is a realist.  He made everything according to a rational order and taught Adam and Eve those laws so they might be safe and flourish.  In their moment of temptation however, they rebelled in pride, chasing the illusion that they could be the creators of reality rather than creatures already a part of reality.  Yet, the truth is always true.  God said their choice would bring death, the serpent said it wouldn’t, and Adam and Eve chose based on their senses – “it seemed good and looked delightful.”  They chose against God and they found He was right – death entered the world.

It’s easy to point the finger at their foolishness, but consider our own common teenage rebellions.  Despite the love and trustworthy guidance of good parents, how often do teens think to themselves, “I know more than mom and dad.  I’m going to do this my way and ignore their rules,” only to find themselves suffering the results their parents had warned them of?

When have you thought the same thing about God’s guidance?  God guides us through the natural law, Scriptures, and the Church.  Yet, we still struggle with the tempting thought that what we feel like doing is better than what we ought to do.  Again and again, we suffer when our feelings prove illusory and God’s guidance true.

People will often say, “The Church isn’t realistic.  It needs to get with the times.”  Abstinence for unmarried persons instead of birth control? Fantasy.  Truthfulness at work?  You’ll never get ahead.  Children instead of pets?  Maybe one or two, but beyond that will be misery.  Church every Sunday?  That’s excessive.  Resting on Sunday?  Who will get all the work done?

Yet, the truth remains the truth.  Our illusions do not change reality.  We chase where our impulses lead only to find ourselves depressed and unhappy.

Happiness is simple.  It means being a real realist. It means living as a human person not something else you or the culture imagines.  It may not be easy, but God gives us grace to live in His truth.

God’s laws only become complicated inasmuch as we make them complicated.  In my classroom I have a mini basketball and hoop for kids to play during passing time.  I begin the year with two rules: when the bell rings the ball gets put away, and no blood (I don’t want kids getting hurt and there’s a reason I’m a teacher and not a doctor or nurse).  Some classes get it and those are the only two rules that I ever need.  They have a little fun and our class begins on a positive note.  Others overcomplicate things.  They start fighting over the ball, becoming overly rough or competitive, launching it over people’s heads, or they keep trying to shoot the ball into its rightful place despite missing many times.  In consequence, they force me to make more rules to ensure that my basic two are met and what began as simple fun becomes a frustration.

Jesus teaches that God really only has two rules as well.  If we simply love God with our whole self – heart, mind, and soul, everything else falls into place.  Living in union with God we find our true selves and the source of all happiness.  From our free relationship of love with God, we then seek to love others, His image among us.  Through self-gift and loving relationship, we find self-fulfillment and deep joy because we are living in reality, feeding on real food and journeying toward our real end.

All the other rules are in response to the myriad of ways we violate the basic two.  If we loved God first then our neighbor, we would have the common sense to do the other things as well.  If I love God, I’m going to spend Sunday with Him.  If I love my neighbor, I’m not going to lie or cheat him, and if I see him in need I will want to help.

Developing Christian common sense may take time, depending on your past formation or experiences.  Jesus knows our brokenness, blindness, and weakness.  He came to be our Healer, the true Light to guide us, and the source of Strength to transform us.  Love has a mysterious and beautiful power to melt away sadness and hurt, and fill us with joy.  You might begin by needing a rule to go to Mass on Sunday, but once you experience the touch of Christ’s love, you will find it a gift instead.

Consider:

  • When have you experienced God’s love – through another person, in prayer, or at Mass?
  • When has God’s truth been a sure guide for you during a confusing time?
  • Which laws of God, either through Scripture or the Church, do you find most difficult to accept or to live out?
  • How has God’s grace enabled you to live virtuously or love at a level you couldn’t have imagined before?
  • How might you love God more?  What areas of your heart, mind, soul, or strength do you still withhold from him?  Is there a teaching of Christ you struggle to accept?  Is there someone you find difficult to give generously of your heart to? Do you spend Sunday with the Lord and family or use your strength for more work instead? Do you spend time thanking God and being in His presence, or do you love something else more?
  • Reflect on Mary’s perfect love exemplified by her simple Yes at every moment.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week give God more of your heart, mind, or strength.  Ask Him to increase your love for Him in each of these areas then do one concrete thing a day to act on that love.
  •               Ideas:
    • To love God more with your mind spend 5 more minutes a day with Scripture, listen to Christian podcasts or radio, learn about the faith at your parish or by reading a spiritual book.
    • To love God more with your heart, increase your affection for Him by making a gratitude list, praying a Psalm  (especially 23, 27, 119, or 139), meditating on the rosary, or attending a daily Mass.
    • To love God more with your strength, do something of service for someone in need.  Care for someone who is sick, help out a co-worker who is swamped, volunteer to help at your church by taking care of the building or grounds or by helping with the service as a greeter or usher.   Most importantly, resolve to avoid servile work on Sunday and instead play with your kids or go visit a friend.

Related Posts

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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Love Shows Up

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

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October 1st, 2017  26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 21:28-32 NAB

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘ but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

Meditation Reflection:

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 de 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 (1Cor 6:19). He is united to us as a Head to a body (Col 1:18), and as a vine to its branches (Jn 15:5).  God is always faithful.

But so great is Your faithful love, I may come into Your house, and before Your holy temple bow down in reverence of You.”  (Psalm 5:7)

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1)

I will delight and rejoice in your faithful love. Be brave, take heart, all who put your hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31: 7, 24)

Better one day in Your courts than a thousand at my own devices.”  (Psalm 84:10)

Blessed are those who observe His instruction, 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 does 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, sloth, 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?
  • Offer prayers of thanksgiving and blessing for those who have loved you over the years and those who continue to be there for you today.  Consider especially the persons you may be taking for granted.

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 for free online at this link:  Fr. Timothy Gallagher “Discernment of Spirits”

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.

Related Posts: 

Authentic Love

Stepping Outside Our Comfort Zone & Walking On Water

Preparing the Soil…Spiritual Receptivity

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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

 

 

How To Be Happy For Others and Like It

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

i tim 6

September 24th, 2017  25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 20:1-16a NAB

 Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Meditation Reflection:

The kingdom of Heaven, from which Jesus came, far exceeds any social construct we observe on earth.  Here our relationships, all the way from the inter-national to the personal, become skewed due to our two greatest weaknesses – pride and envy.

It’s childish really. Parents and elementary school teachers tire from the petty cases brought to them over and again throughout the day by children seeking “justice.” Moreover, in family life it can spiral out of control as one act of pride or envy against another is fought with counter measures of pride and envy and so on.  Rather than accept their own guilt for their personal bad reaction, kids try to pass on blame and push parents to the classic question, “Who started it?”  As everyone points fingers and clamor for justice, the poor mom and dad beg the kids to settle down and just be merciful with one another.

St. Paul tells us, “Love is patient, love is kind…”  In other words, love tries to be understanding instead of over-reacting.  Love shows compassion toward weakness, even weakness of character. Love is generous rather than miserly.  Love doesn’t look out for #1, it looks out for the beloved.

Jesus’ parable of the landowner and day laborers illustrates the striking difference between our natural inclination and experience and the kingdom of Heaven. When I hear this parable I know that I shouldn’t agree with the laborers who were upset, but I can’t help feeling their disappointment with them.  I hate to admit that even thoughts of, “why weren’t the guys the landowner found in the afternoon not there in the morning?”  Even worse, my imagination considers multiple reasons they were late, all being their own fault or the product of vice.

However, Jesus knows our fallen thoughts so He includes important details in the parable to counter such accusations.  Thus, prior to hiring the last crew at 5:00, he asks them why they have been standing there idle all day.  They respond with an innocent explanation – no one had hired them.   “Exposed!”, as my kids would say.  My thoughts reveal a childish attitude of rivalry rather than a mature disposition of love.

But what about the unfair pay?  And why did the landowner pay the last men first in front of everyone else?  Every parent knows if you plan to treat one kid and not the others on a particular day, at least keep it on the down-low.  You spontaneously stop for DQ with one of your sons on the way home from a baseball game?  Only a rookie parent would fail to have the ice cream finished being eaten and all evidence thrown away in an inconspicuous garbage before entering the house.  Never mind that you make a point treat the other kids individually  too at various times.  If one kid walks in the house with a half-eaten blizzard, mutinous anarchy erupts.  One stray DQ napkin, and the moment the door to the van opens the other kids point and yell “What?!  You went without us?  Unfair!!!”  Their envious rivalry takes all spontaneity out of love.

On the surface, the laborers’ disappointment seems fair, however Jesus reveals that it stems from envy.  Next to pride, envy is the most cited root of the many social and personal ills discussed in the Catechism.

Jesus invites us to consider a different way of thinking, living, and being. To imagine a kingdom free of pride, envy, ambition, lust, and selfishness we have to think of it in terms of love.  Not the fluffy, emotional kind of love.  Rather, courageous and deep love which wills the good of the other and finds joy in sacrifice if it means enriching or healing the beloved.

Jesus compares His relationship with us to the love a groom has for his bride, willing to give everything even at a sacrifice, and with great joy.  He compares our interconnection with one another to a body united to Him as its head.  Thus, one person’s pain is shared by everyone, and one person’s gain is rejoiced in by everyone.

Consider the parable again from Christ’s perspective.  The men the landowner found late in the day were aimless, anxious, and in danger of starvation.  If they did not work that day, they would not have a day’s wage and would be unable to provide for themselves and their families.  They owned no land to provide them with some kind of security.  They had no annual salary, health insurance, or any kind of future protection.  They lived day to day, always uncertain about tomorrow.

The first men hired physically toiled longer, but they also had the peace of mind that at least for that day they would have a wage and therefore food. Moreover, there’s a certain dignity related to putting in a hard day’s work.

If those without work were strangers, it would be easier to rationalize competitiveness.  Imagine however that the ones hired later are your sons or daughters, or close friends.  It would be hard to truly enjoy your wage knowing how worried you might be that they only worked a few hours that day and would earn too little to eat enough on.  Upon seeing your beloved child or friend provided a full day’s wage, you would rejoice with them as well as enjoy your own wage more because your friend received the same.  You would also rejoice that they had the opportunity to be productive and their work valued.

Jesus invites us all into His Kingdom.  He finds us standing idle, looking for meaning and purpose, waiting for Truth and Mercy.  He promises a just wage for working for Him – the gift of enduring love, authentic meaning, and eternal happiness with Him.  If we love our neighbor, we will feel pained seeing them still standing idle, wasting the day, impoverished and anxious.  We would want the same reward for them that we received from Christ no matter when they joined His crew.  In fact, to have labored with the Lord, is a gift in and of itself.  When it comes to serving our beloved, we don’t ask how little can I do for them but rather how much?

Consider:

  • Consider how quickly we tend to assume the worst about a person.  When have you misjudged someone’s intentions or situation?  How might you see others through the lens of love rather than rivalry?
  • Consider the dignity of work.  When have you put in a hard day’s work and loved it?  Why does it feel good to be productive?
  • Consider the joy connected to laboring out of love.  Which tasks would seem ridiculous to take pleasure in if you didn’t love the person?
  • Consider the contrast between envy and love.  Envy becomes angry at another’s blessings, love rejoices when another is blessed.  Envy competes for what it believes to be limited resources or opportunities.  Love understands that God can bless everyone.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Combat envy with the opposite virtues of contentedness and gratitude.  Do one thing each day this week to nurture contentedness and express gratitude.

Related Posts:

How can God be both Justice and Mercy?

Prepare for the Coming of Christ’s Mercy by Giving Mercy

The Beatitudes: Climbing the Mountain of God by Way of the Valley of Humility

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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