Sunday Food For Thought: God’s Concern for Our Real, Everyday Problems

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

*excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love

Praise God for His mercy in our everyday lives!  The Wedding at Cana unveils His compassion evident in the watchful heart of Mary and generous intervention by her Son.  As Pope Francis described during the Jubilee of Mercy,

 

The Lord is “merciful”: this word evokes a tender approach like that of a mother toward her child. Indeed, the Hebrew term used in the Bible evokes the viscera or even the maternal womb. Therefore, the image it suggests is that of a God who is moved and who softens for us like a mother when she takes her child in her arms, wanting only to love, protect, help, ready to give everything, even herself. This is the image that this term evokes. A love, therefore, which can be defined in the best sense as “visceral.”[i]

The visceral, or deep inward feelings, of a mother for her children cannot be matched.  It moves her to sacrifice everything, even joyfully.  She is their best advocate, always working for their good and looking to their future.  She offers the most sympathetic comfort and the fiercest protection as Mary did in today’s passage. 

Like His compassionate mother and merciful Father, Jesus protects us as a brother concerned for even the smallest of our struggles and rejoicing with us when we thrive. He demonstrated His selflessness and His commitment to family from the very beginning. Despite His long-awaited public ministry, He bent His plans around a wedding in Cana and performed His first miracle to meet the need that occurred there. 

Consider Christ’s experience from a human perspective.  Prior to His public ministry, Jesus had spent thirty years living a humble and seemingly ordinary Jewish life.  After His baptism by John Jesus spent forty days in the desert praying and fasting.  He returned from this preparation and began calling the apostles.  Imagine Jesus’ excitement to begin after such patient waiting (remember His eagerness at age twelve in the temple?). Instead, He paused to travel back home and attend a wedding in nearby Cana, likely for a relative or family friends. The humanity of Jesus – the reality of His human relationships, real family, the limits of time and space – stand out. Like you and I, Jesus had to respond to various interruptions to His work. Yet, precisely by embracing those interruptions He sanctified them for you and me. 

As usually happens at weddings there occurred a snag, and in this case an acutely embarrassing one which would shift the focus of the celebration to their poverty. Mary’s motherly love was watching out for them however, and she noticed they were nearly out of wine.  Rather than worry the bride and bridegroom, she pleaded to Her Son for help. Like most children in response to parent requests, Jesus vocalized the inconvenience of the situation.  He did not plan for His first miracle to be helping His mom at a wedding.  Yet, in God’s divine providence, it revealed precisely the kind of love God’s miracles were intended for.   God became man to enter our misery and the embarrassing limitations we experience.  As Pope Francis said, “For God is great and powerful, and this greatness and power are used to love us, who are so small, so incompetent.”

What seemed like an interruption to His great messianic work however, precisely exemplified the paradoxical nature of the Kingdom of God and the way of discipleship.  Greatness in God’s kingdom is expressed in littleness.  Even if we love Christ with all our hearts, we can still be misled by worldly assumptions that we project onto our spiritual work.  Consider the apostles and in particular the mother of James and John.  They all expected to reign with Christ over an earthly glorious kingdom and kept being taken aback by the poor and sacrificial nature of Jesus’ kingship.  We too can overlook the poor and sacrificial ministry right in front of us in the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of our family, neighbors, colleagues, and friends while we look to “more important work” for Christ.  Yet it’s precisely these little things He wishes us to do with great love, as He impressed on the hearts of St. Therese and St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

God operates in the real, everyday of individuals.  He did not come to offer propaganda for the masses. He came to care for His beloved children with the self-gift of a deeply loving father, mother, and brother.   We can have confidence that He will have the same response toward our needs, no matter how seemingly insignificant they may seem to the world.  The everyday difficulties and humiliations in our lives matter to God.

Faithfulness in mercy is the very being of God. For this reason God is totally and always trustworthy. A solid and steadfast presence. This is the assurance of our faith. Thus, in this Jubilee of Mercy, let us entrust ourselves to him totally, and experience the joy of being loved by this “God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.”[ii]

We too are called to be the instruments of God’s mercy.  May we act compassionately and promptly with Christ as Mary alerts us to the ordinary needs of those around us.

Consider:

+ Consider the mystery of God’s immanence.  The transcendent God, other from His creation, immune from suffering became man that He might share in our experience of pain so He could give us comfort.

+ How long do you wait to ask God for help? Do you reserve only your biggest problems for Him when you have run out of solutions? Consider bringing to Him every concern as it occurs and sharing the burden with Him.

+ Consider how motherhood or fatherhood has made you more compassionate, merciful, and aware of the needs of others. How has it opened you to spiritual motherhood or fatherhood toward those who aren’t even your biological children?

Practical Application:

+ Intentionally entrust to God your difficulties each day this week – even the simple embarrassments.

+ Extend mercy and compassion toward your children or spiritual children this week. Bend toward someone’s need, save someone from humiliation, advocate for someone in need of help.

+ Pray for a tender heart like that of Christ’s.

[i] Pope Francis Wednesday Audience January 13, 2016 http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2016/documents/papa-francesco_20160113_udienza-generale.html

[ii] Ibid

For some practical examples of how you can practice these in your everyday life, read the full reflection in Take Time For Him: Remain in His Love ebook or paperback

 

Order the new set of guided meditations for this year’s Sunday Gospels!

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Sunday Food For Thought: Jesus Christ – God’s Son and Our Warrior

The Baptism of the Lord:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

*excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love

The Baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of His public ministry.  Up to this point He had spent His life quietly as a carpenter in a small town as the son of Mary and Joseph. Now at thirty years old, He began His work as the Son of God ushering in the eternal Kingdom.

When John baptized Jesus, the Spirit of God descended upon Him as a dove and God affirmed His Sonship audibly to those present. After so many long years of suffering under the weight of sin and death, God had finally come to fulfill all His promises to save everyone from those things we cannot overcome on our own. 

“He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, ‘Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’” Luke 4: 16-20

 John had been baptizing many, but his was only a sign of repentance and preparation, it did not have the power to confer the forgiveness of sins or divine grace.  John himself urged that his baptism was only a precursor for the one to come who would baptize with “the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16).   Jesus alone has the power to forgive our debt to God, to heal our wounded souls, and to release us from those sins that we cannot conquer on our own.

Sin that has taken its full course in a soul can be aptly compared to addiction.  Persons may or may not be aware that they have a problem.  Their addiction slowly takes greater and greater hold of their life, consumes their thoughts, directs their choices, and begins to undermine their relationships, their health, and their joy.  Having a glass of wine with dinner will not do harm to a temperate person.  However, someone with an alcohol addiction cannot limit themselves to one glass.  Every human person has one or more weakness that they cannot seem to keep in balance on their own.  It may be pride, vanity, lust, greed, anger, envy, laziness, or gluttony.  Book stores have rows of shelves with self-help books to help you deal with any one of these addictions.  Books, therapists, goals, and gritty resolve can all be helpful, and they can have a real impact in your life.  But their power is limited.  They could be compared to the Baptism of John – they provide awareness of the problem, contrition of heart, and desire for change, but they cannot transform us from within or release us from the power our sin has over us.

God sees us suffering and has come in an intimate way to help each of us personally. Pope Benedict XVI, in his book Jesus of Nazareth, offers moving insights into the meaning of Jesus’ baptism for you and I.  In respect to Jesus’ descent into the water, taking on our sins and putting them to death on the Cross, He writes:

Now God speaks intimately, as one man to another.  Now He descends into the depth of their human sufferings.[i]

God does not point His finger and say “I told you so.” He has compassion for our suffering which is always the consequence of sin.  Jesus did not need to be baptized.  He had no sin to repent.  Rather, at His baptism, Jesus took on our sin.  Pope Benedict XVI describes it in this way:

“Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon His shoulders; He bore it down into the depths of the Jordan.  He inaugurated His public activity by stepping into the place of sinners.  His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross.[ii]

 The primary mission of Christ is to free us from sin.  This will require dying to pay our debt, and providing the transformative grace needed to heal our minds clouded by lies and faulty reasoning, strengthen our wills which can be too weak to make the right choice, and inflame our tepid hearts with divine love.  The magnanimous lives of the saints are not beyond our reach.  They were the result of receptivity to the ordinary working of grace in the soul to the person open to Christ’s transformative fire within.

Through Christ, God no longer remains merely a transcendent God immune from the experience of our condition.  The Son has become man, and as such taken upon Himself every suffering we experience so He may accompany each of us on our journey as an understanding and intimate ally as well to defend us and conquer in His own life every obstacle in our way.

Jesus’ Baptism, then, is understood as a repetition of the whole of history, which both recapitulates the past and anticipates the future.  His entering into the sin of others is a descent into the ‘inferno’.  But He does not descend merely as the role of a spectator, as in Dante’s Inferno.  Rather, He goes down in the role of one whose suffering-with-others is a transforming suffering that turns the underworld around, knocking down and flinging open the gates of the abyss.  His Baptism is a descent into the house of the evil one, combat with the ‘strong man’ (cf. Lk 11:22) who holds men captive (and the truth is that we are all very much captive to powers that anonymously manipulate us!)[iii]

 God had revealed to Mary and then to Joseph that Jesus was God’s Son.  Now, God reveals to all mankind that His Son has come and dwells among us, ready to free us from that which enslaves us if we will let Him.  If we are smart, we will take the Father’s advice heard audibly by those present and “Listen to Him.

[i] Pope Benedict XVI. Jesus of Nazareth, translated by Adrian Walker, New York: Doubleday, 2007)

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

 

Consider:

+ Imagine Christ taking upon His shoulders your particular sins and struggles, putting them to death in the depth of the water, and emerging with you victorious.

+ Examine what drives your decisions in a negative way. What weaknesses undermine your joy and/or your relationships?  Surrender them to Christ and ask for His grace to transform you.

Application:

+ Show compassion toward someone struggling with a sin that impacts you.

For some practical examples of how you can practice these in your everyday life, read the full reflection in Take Time For Him: Remain in His Love ebook or paperback

 

Order the new set of guided meditations for this year’s Sunday Gospels!

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Christmas Day: Who Will Be A Witness?

Nativity of the Lord:  Scripture Readings
Read the Gospel of John 1:1-18

Food For Thought

*excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love

Meditation Reflection:

As a prophet of God, John the Baptist “came to bear witness to the light” (John 1:8) and prepare hearts to receive Christ’s Word by his testimony that Jesus’ mission and person were of divine origin.

The apostles then bore witness to Christ from their direct experience with Him.  Rather than merely a charismatic teacher or remarkable healer, the apostle John made clear that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly Man, our Redeemer and Savior Who has approached us in His merciful love. 

Just as Moses and the Israelites testified to seeing the glory of God during their escape from Egypt and time in the desert, John the apostle testified to seeing the glory of God return in the flesh through His only Son. After Moses had a direct encounter with God on Mount Sinai, his face shone so brightly it startled the people and had to be veiled. John’s beautiful proclamation expresses a similar effect emanating from his very soul.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (John 1:14)

Moses, John the Baptist, and the apostles experienced close contact with the Lord, but they were a select few chosen by God, the rest of us have to experience it through them rather than directly right? WRONG.  John the apostle made it very clear that:

The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:9 emphasis added)

On Christmas we celebrate our direct encounter with God incarnate, Jesus Christ.  He has come to us, and the only thing necessary on our part is to believe in Him and receive Him.  From Israelite shepherds to foreign wise men, Christ drew all mankind to His saving presence.

“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Union with Christ means union with God!  How can one not be changed as a result of this reality?!  If Moses’ sight of God’s back caused his face to radiate supernaturally, consider what the indwelling of the Trinity from Baptism radiates in our souls! Caryll Houselander (1901-1954), a British Catholic artist and spiritual writer, who went through her own faith crisis before recommitting to her Catholic identity, described this new reality so well:

“Because of the Incarnation, our natural life is supernaturalized.  Love has become incarnate: God has become human. Because of Christ’s birth, a new stream of goodness is set flowing. Holiness has become the completion of nature: the fulfilling of the law.”[i]

Christ continues to dwell among us through His Eucharistic presence and through us, His Mystical Body. We too have a responsibility to bear witness to the Lord as others have for us.

Christ’s plea to Mother Teresa was:

“Come, come carry Me into the holes of the poor. Come, be My light.”[ii]

Caryll Houselander experienced this need too and writes of it poignantly in a letter to her friend during the war efforts of World War II (when she served at a First Aid Post).

“We were told there would be priests at the Post, but I hear it won’t be so, even in case of a raid – There is only one other Catholic, besides Joan, Iris and I, and that one hardly admits she is Catholic, she told us so as a secret. The atmosphere is incredibly unspiritual – it’s almost frightening, no outward recognition of God at all. It makes me feel how necessary it is for Catholics to carry Christ into these places through our Holy Communions.”[iii]

God is real.  He is here.  He is present.  It has been repeatedly attested to by witnesses. May you and I be added to the witness list!

 Consider:

  • Imagine what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph, holding Jesus for the first time.
  • Reflect on the witness of Moses, the prophets, John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, the apostles, the first Christians, and the saints and all Christians since then.
  • When have you experienced the closeness of Christ? When has God felt the most “real” to you?

Practical Application:

  • As Brother Lawrence would say, Practice the Presence of God. Set a reminder on your calendar or a sticky note in your line of sight to remind you of Christ throughout the day.
  • Spend time with Christ personally for five minutes two to three times daily. Read one of the Gospels or simply close your eyes and spend the time in silence with His image in your mind.
  • Look for an opportunity to do an act of Christian kindness each day.

[i]  Houselander, Caryll, and Wendy M. Wright. Caryll Houselander: Essential Writings. (Maryknoll:Orbis Books, 2005).

[ii]  Teresa, Mother, and Brian Kolodiejchuk. Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. (New York: Doubleday, 2007).

[iii]  Houselander, Caryll, and Wendy M. Wright. Caryll Houselander: Essential          Writings. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2005).

 

Order the new set of guided meditations for this year’s Sunday Gospels!

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Sunday Food For Thought

Third Sunday of Advent:   Scripture Readings

Food For Thought

*excerpt from Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love

To prepare for Christ to renew mankind, and ourselves in particular, John the Baptist provides some practical advice.  God is Justice and Mercy, therefore he instructs his followers to image God by practicing justice and mercy in their everyday life, thereby repenting of their own sin (injustice toward God and others) and restoring peace through mercy (forgiveness and reconciliation). Although this cannot be achieved fully without grace, the efforts and desire prepare for receptivity to that grace when it arrives in Jesus. 

For some practical examples of how you can practice these in your everyday life, read the full reflection in Take Time For Him: Remain in His Love ebook or paperback

+ Reflect on the mercy God and others have shown you. Offer God and those persons your gratitude.

+ Pray about the works of mercy and write a list of ways that you could incorporate them into your life.

 

Order the new set of guided meditations for this year’s Sunday Gospels!

 

© 2021 Angela M Jendro

Take Time For Him: Remain In His Love

Take Time For Him: Remain in His Love

Volume three of my guided scripture meditations for the Sunday Gospels is now available on amazon!

Available in PAPERBACK or Kindle EBOOK


Whether with the paperback or ebook, join me as we reflect on this year’s Sunday Gospels. 

 

Introduction:

This year’s gospels primarily follow the evangelist, Luke. Himself both a physician and historian, Luke captured Christ the divine healer and he emphasized the historicity of Jesus – both man and God.  This union of two natures in the one divine Person of Jesus, though articulated more theologically in John, remains at the center of Luke – through Jesus’ empathetic understanding concomitant with His divine healing touch.  At every turn in this gospel account, Jesus addresses our worries and limitations; He shows patience and the kindness of humble condescension to our littleness. 

Beyond merely physical healing, Luke also proclaims the healing effect of the Good News. Jesus’ call to “repent and believe in the gospel” is both a diagnosis and a treatment plan for our most serious illness – sin.  Christ cures every disease, but only those we allow Him. The only terminal spiritual illnesses are pride and despair – pride that refuses treatment or despair that refuses to hope in Jesus.

This year let’s accept the Lord’s free healthcare plan.  He has already paid the price; all it takes on our part is cooperation. Let’s pray for the loyal faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary to say, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), the courage of Simon Peter and the other apostles to respond to the Lord’s call to “Put out into the deep and let down your net for a catch” (Luke 5:4), and the generosity to leave everything and follow Him (Luke 5:11). Let’s listen to Him with the attentive heart and ear of Mary of Bethany who recognized that “one thing is needful” and chose “the good portion” (Luke 10:42). Let’s humble ourselves so we may be exalted (Luke 14:11), and like the blind man on the side of the road who heard “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by” cry out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38).  “The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10), may we come to recognize Him on our journey as the men on the road to Emmaus did. May our hearts burn as He speaks and may we too ask the Lord: “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.”

“So he went in to stay with them.” (Luke 24:29).

Thank you so much everyone for your support, encouragement, and prayers!

Soaking Up the Sun of God

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

Order thekindle e-book (or paperback) to read the Christmas meditation, the meditation for Mary Mother of God, and to reflect on the meditations all year at your convenience.

Feast of the Epiphany

Read the Gospel Matthew 2:1-12

Meditation Reflection:

After the bustle and excitement of Christmas celebrations, the days following often produce mixed feelings.  On the one hand a sigh of welcomed relaxation and the comfort of settling back into normalcy.  On the other hand, a sigh of sadness as we ache from missing our loved ones, along with a moan of pain as the brutal cold and darkness depress our commute.  Although the Christmas decorations may be coming down and routine returning , the true “Spirit of Christmas” (as every Hallmark movie loves to reference), ought to remain present and illuminate our homes.  The Feast of the Epiphany witnesses that the birth of Christ has ushered in a light that radiates with the strength of mid-summer rays and remains enduringly without diminishment.  

The wise men travelled an arduous distance to find this light in the darkness.  As we begin surfing the internet for discount airline tickets and the brief relief of a warm, sunny vacation, we can take a lesson from the magi and intentionally seek out the true and lasting “Sun” of God.  Rather than merely making plans for the Caribbean, make plans to seek the Lord as well, where you can soak in the warmth of His rays of grace and love.  Surf for Christ-destinations such as Eucharistic Adoration, Mass, Confession, Scripture, spiritual reading, or silent prayer. Vacations refresh us with the energy we need to keep going in our daily routine.  Breaking away to soak up quality time with Christ will do the same.  It will refresh our weary spirits, lighten our dark moods, and deepen our lives with purpose and personal connection.

So, wrap up and stack your red and green decor in totes, and without a doubt discard the once fragrant Christmas tree that has now dried up into a mess of needles and a worrisome fire hazard.  Keep the light of Christ however.  After having drawn near to Him at His birth, remain with Him.  Keep close to Him.  Lay your whole self before Him in homage as the magi did, and offer Him every gift and talent you possess. 

            “Then you shall you see and be radiant,

      your heart shall thrill and rejoice”

(Isaiah 60:5).

Christmas celebrates the appearance of our long-awaited Savior which lasts eternally not just one day. His coming should be transformative and therefore change the way we think and act, and re-prioritize our hopes and desires.  The New Year doesn’t mark the end of the holidays.  Rather, it marks the beginning of our new, and renewed, life in Christ.  The Magi left Bethlehem filled with joy and hope.  Mary left Bethlehem with Jesus in her arms close to her heart.  May we leave this Christmas season in the same way.

Consider:

  • Spend a few minutes in prayer drawing near to Christ like Mary, Joseph, and the Magi.  Surrender to Him in humility, love, and homage as they did.
  • How might you keep close to Christ daily and weekly?  Where might you encounter Him?
  • What gifts might you offer to Jesus? 
    • Gold (wealth) – how well are you doing at tithing? Do you give the Lord your first 10% in thanksgiving and faith? Is there some way He is asking you to be more generous with your money or with your time and service?
    • Frankincense (used in worship of God) – How can you offer Christ your worship?  What might you offer to Him as a sacrifice?  How can you apply your talents and abilities to advancing the Kingdom of God? 
      • [For example: offer patience with a family member as a sacrifice, offer your daily work as a sacrifice – especially the most tedious aspects, or offer living your faith authentically in the workplace rather than joining in un-Christian jokes, conversations, or activities.]
    • Myrrh (used as ointment for burial) – How can you honor Christ’s death for you?  Do you live as one saved or persist in certain sins?  Consider how to live more intentionally as one freed by Christ.  Meditate on the sufferings of Christ and unite your own suffering to His.

Practical Application:

  • Choose one “gift” to present to Jesus for this year.
  • Seek Christ this week in an intentional way.  Set aside 10-15 minutes for prayer or spiritual reading, or seek Him in the sacraments.

Keeping Christ in Christmas & John the Baptist in Advent

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

3rd Sunday of Advent

Read the Gospel of John 1:6-8, 19-28

Meditation Reflection:

For the second week in a row, we have a Gospel passage about John the Baptist.  John is considered the last, and greatest, of the prophets of the Old Covenant.  Jesus even said of him, “among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).   Yet, both John and Jesus proclaimed that the best was yet to come.  The Covenant of the Jewish people with God would be elevated inexpressibly in the New Covenant established in Jesus Christ.  Thus, Jesus finished his sentence with: “yet he who is least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

John the Baptist’s message of repentance and spiritual preparation for our salvation is at the heart of Advent.  In the weeks leading up to Christmas we evaluate how well we have been living as children of God, gifted with the grace of God dwelling in our midst and within our very souls.  It’s also a time to open ourselves to new possibilities and new challenges as disciples of Christ.  Thus, the message of John for repentance produces the necessary disposition for conversion. 

The image of John the Baptist, dressed in camel hair and eating locusts, preaching the message of repentance and authentic sorrow for sins, provides a stark contrast to the marketing images flooding us of jolly Santas, piles of presents, and delicious foods. I can understand why marketers find Santas and reindeer more appealing for sales than a desert ascetic speaking about sin.  People also feel increased pressures to prepare for Christmas by finding the perfect gifts within the time constraints of frantic schedules and limited budgets.  Nevertheless, the Gospel writers remind us that preparation for Christmas is ultimately preparation for the Incarnation of God our Savior.  He brings the gift of heaven, but we must prepare ourselves to receive that gift through repentance. 

The push to start Christmas sales has lamentably encroached on Thanksgiving but has completely replaced Advent in our culture.  It has become increasingly difficult to make the weeks leading up to Christmas a time of introspection, increased prayer, and sacrifice.  By the time Catholics celebrate Christmas on the Eve of Christmas day and for the two weeks following it, the rest of the culture has already moved on to New Year’s preparations and Valentine’s day.

So how can we balance living in the culture that we do and still honor the important process of conversion Advent is meant to procure?  We can no longer wait to buy a Christmas tree until December 23rd because there won’t be any left.  We can’t leave them up for the duration of the Liturgical Christmas season because the tree will be a fire hazard at that point, plus we will have missed our road side tree pick up provided by our garbage companies.  I have surrendered this battle and get a tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.  I also have to admit that I look forward to the Hallmark Christmas movies and, if possible, make a weekend of it with my mother and my daughter.  Black Friday deals make Christmas gifts more affordable although I am too exhausted on Cyber Mondays to get online after work.  However, I reserve some Christmas feasting for Christmas only.  I play Christmas music and keep my Christmas decorations out (with the exception of the live tree) for the duration of the liturgical Christmas season.  In my classroom at school I leave Christmas lights up in my room until Lent, reminding the kids that Jesus is the Light of the World. 

Spiritual sacrifice, examination of conscience, and remorse for sins is harder to find time for.  When my kids were little we would do Bible crafts and the kids had fun placing a felt ornament on our Jesse tree corresponding to a daily Scripture passage we would read.  Now that my kids are older, it’s harder to find a time we are all home to pray together.  As a busy mom, I appreciate that the Church offers practical advice regarding spiritual preparation during Advent, and oftentimes opportunities organized by the parish to help us.  Scripturally, spiritual preparation consists of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Parishes often offer Advent reflections, retreats, and youth ministry events to facilitate more introspective prayer during this time.  We can add one of these events to our calendar just as we would any Christmas party invitation.  Fasting is especially difficult, with so many Christmas parties and cookie exchanges taking place, but consider fasting from something simple and achievable, so that even in those moments you are connected to Christ and honoring the preparation for His coming that He deserves.  I wouldn’t suggest giving up sweets altogether, but maybe you set a limit for yourself or give up something else that’s meaningful to you.  Almsgiving may be the one aspect of Advent that lingers in our culture as generosity during the Christmas season seems to be a sentiment that still resonates in people’s hearts.  Parishes, schools, offices, and neighborhoods band together for charitable causes and provide opportunities for us to give.  Let’s not forget that Christmas also provides less visible opportunities for giving, like keeping our eyes open for family members, neighbors, or colleagues who are lonely and inviting them to our homes.

Fasting and almsgiving can further be applied in our interactions with one another.  The increased social contact brings with it both joy and discord; providing many more opportunities for spiritual works of mercy.  Christmas get-togethers bring out the best and worst in people.  It provides opportunities to fast from gossip and to give encouragement; to fast from pettiness and to bear wrongs patiently, to fast from competitiveness and to give comfort.  When we encounter persons we find annoying, frustrating, or difficult to be around, we can reflect on the compassion of the Lord, who became man, for love of that same person.  When we are moved by the generosity and love of others towards ourselves, we can praise Christ as we tangibly experience His love in our own lives. 

Advent has become an uphill battle, but the view from the top makes climbing it worth all the effort.    This Advent I hope we can find a way to prepare our hearts and our lives for Christ a little more in some small way.  I hope we acknowledge and surrender to Him sins we need Him to heal.  Let’s demonstrate our authentic gratitude for his grace through prayer and acts of love.  Finally, let’s try to keep Christ in Christmas, and John the Baptist in Advent.

Consider:

  •  “Emmanuel” means God-with-us.  Consider the gift of the Incarnation, that God became man, and dwelt among us.
  • How has your heart and life opened to Christ over the years?  How has He dwelt more and more in your life?
  • Are there any areas of your life from which you keep Christ closed off?  Are there any places, people, or activities you wouldn’t feel comfortable having Christ present?
  • Reflect on the people you will encounter this season.  Consider them from Christ’s point of view.  How might you be the hands and heart of Christ to them in your interactions?

Practical Application:

  •  Choose one way this Advent to pray, fast, and give.
  • Put a church sponsored Advent or Christmas event on your calendar, then attend it.
  • Fast from gossip and critical remarks.
  • Intentionally give to Christ, above your regular tithing.  Choose a charity or a particular person and be generous to Jesus by being generous to them.

© 2020 Angela M Jendro

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Making Room for Christ to Come

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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2nd Sunday of Advent

Read the Gospel of Mark 1:1-8

Meditation Reflection:

It’s a good time of year for making room – in our closets, our homes, our schedules, and our lives for all the gifts, parties, and people that accompany Christmas. We live in a challenging culture for this.  Its obsession with stuff has gotten out of control, necessitating storage units just to hold the overflow. Rampant competitiveness in seemingly every area of life adds pressure to our schedule, forcing our waking hours to overflow into the late night and early mornings just to keep up.  You may be able to stay afloat in this atmosphere for a while, but the pressure and the pace are unsustainable without sacrificing more important things. In an effort to combat this, I regularly sort through our things and reassess our schedule of activities to ensure we can prioritize what matters.

Advent provides an opportunity for us to do the same thing in our spiritual lives. In anticipation of the greatest gift – Jesus Christ, the Son of God – we must make room in our souls, our schedules, and our lives.  Its a time to step back and make an honest examination of what occupies our hearts.  Much like when I hold up an old sweater and debate whether I will really wear it again or not, I must examine the things I spend time and energy on and ask if they are still worth it, or just taking up valuable space.

If it’s so difficult to let go of an old ratty sweater overrun with pills, how much more difficult to let go of old bad habits or frames of mind?  We hold on to useless or worn out things simply because we hate change and we love nostalgia.  We may rationalize that we will “use that someday” but we don’t even know all the “thats” we have anymore.  In truth, we simply don’t want to let go of something that’s been with us for so long.

Similarly, we resist honestly evaluating our priorities, bad habits and sins.  In some ways they can begin to feel like a part of our identity.  However, the process of decluttering our soul can be marvelously freeing and enable us to move forward in our lives.  The questions we must ask will vary as much as the clutter in our homes.  You may have to consider, “Am I a hard worker, or have I become a workaholic?” Or the opposite: “Do I have a healthy amount of down time in my life, or have I just become lazy?”  About attitudes one might ask “Am I someone who doesn’t get riled up about much, or am I just complacent?” or the opposite: “Am I someone who cares passionately about things, or do I make an idol out of causes or get too involved in other people’s business?” 

Outside perspective can help.  If you share a closet, garage, or home with someone, they will quickly tell you which items have been hogging space for no reason.   Loving family and friends can also offer valuable insight about your life.  They can more easily identify the ways you have grown as a person and the things that hold you back.  The Holy Spirit can also guide you if you ask.  He can enlighten your mind to see things from God’s perspective and soothe you with grace to let the lesser goods go.

After decluttering, the final preparations for Christmas celebrations involve cleaning.  Mineral build up on the faucet, sticky fingerprints and globs of ketchup on the refrigerator, half-finished projects that have become an eyesore or safety hazard, and dusty surfaces dull the beauty of our homes.  It takes time and sweat, but the shiny glean in every room renews our appreciation of God’s gifts and the warmth of home. In the same way, our virtues and gifts can dull from the challenges of everyday life.   Stepping back for a little introspection can help us reclaim those pieces of ourselves we love and let them shine again. 

During our Advent soul-work, we may find some things need to go, some things may be reasonable to keep, and some things may need a deep clean. Yet, at the end of the process our souls will glimmer with the beauty God has given us, and Christ will have more room to fill with the gift of His divine presence and peace.  

Consider:

  • Prayerfully list your priorities.  Where do God, work, family, friends, hobbies, and self-care rank?
  • Consider your schedule: How well do you balance time for God, time for taking care of yourself, time for helping others, and time to accomplish your work well?
  • Consider your possessions:  How well do your things represent your priorities?  Are there ways your possessions could better reflect what matters to you?
  • Consider your heart:  What occupies your desires most?  Be honest.  Then relate them back to your priority list.  Prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to increase your desire for the Lord and for loving relationship with others, and to decrease your desire for what competes with them.
  • Consider your mind:  What occupies your thoughts?  What do you spend time learning about?  How well are you making time for introspection and spiritual growth?  Do you take the time to think of others or to identify your own needs?  What tends to distract you or consume your mind? How might you detach somewhat?

Practical Application:

  • Make room for Christ in your home, your schedule, and your heart.  Declutter your biggest horde, simplify your time commitments, and increase your prayer and spiritual reading by 10 minutes.
  • Do an examination of conscience and encounter Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

© 2020 Angela M Jendro

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address. You can also follow me @taketimeforhim on Twitter and Facebook.


Where Truth and Love Reign

Watch for next year’s volume coming soon!

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

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Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy Solemnity of Christ the King

Meditation Reflection: Matthew 25:31-46

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works of Mercy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address. You can also follow me @taketimeforhim on Twitter and Facebook.

Climbing the Mountain of God by Way of the Valley of Humility

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

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Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy All Saints Day

Meditation Reflection: Matthew 5:1-12a

Mountains make us think of God. Their height, their beauty, and their majesty inspire a sense of our smallness, and of God’s greatness. Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to encounter God.

When the LORD had finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant, the stone tablets inscribed by God’s own finger. (Exodus 31:18)

He prayed and fasted for 40 days and nights, during which God spoke to Him “face to face, as a person speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). To form His People in wisdom, justice, and peace, God gave to Moses the Law, written by God’s own hand.

After this encounter, Moses’ face radiated such glory that Aaron and the other Israelites feared being near to him; so much so that Moses had to wear a veil over his face when in their presence (Ex 34:29-34).

Moses’ relationship with God and the immediacy of God’s interaction with him was unparalleled. At the end of Moses’ life however, he prophesied that God would one day send a New Moses.

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kindred, and will put my words into the mouth of the prophet; the prophet shall tell them all that I command.  (Deuteronomy 18:18)

Jesus ascended the Mount as the New Moses when He taught the Beatitudes. Christ affirmed the Law given to Moses, but he extended it further to its fullness intended by God. Through Moses, God had liberated the Jews from physical slavery and reformed their outward actions through the wisdom of the 10 Commandments. Through His Son, God now liberated His people from spiritual slavery to sin and, empowered by grace, directed them to conversion of interior intentions and desires.  As He set about the task of establishing the eternal Kingdom of God, the Beatitudes mark the fullness of God’s rule for His People – one of authentic love for God and one another.

The best teachers use examples to illustrate their lessons. The beatitudes are the heart of the New Law, but their application can be obscure. On All Saints Day the Church recognizes the lives of the saints throughout history to remember those concrete examples of how to live the beatitudes and apply them.  Saints, those who have been fully transformed in Christ, have come from every age, place, and walk of life. You can find examples of nearly every type of personality, spirituality, vocation, and occupation.

One such saint, St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897), asserted that we ascend the mountain of God, by way of descending the valley of humility. She was a young, cloistered Carmelite nun in France who pursued sainthood by doing small things with great love; a theme St. Mother Teresa (1910-1997) took as inspiration in her own life. Through the humility and simplicity of Thérèse’s life, she lived the beatitudes in the confines of her small world, but God raised her up as a Doctor of the Church and her Story of a Soul gained worldwide readership after her death.

Using Thérèse ’s analogy of descending the mountain, let’s consider each beatitude as steps on the journey of sanctification.  The first step, poverty in spirit, establishes right relationship with God by recognizing one’s creatureliness and dependency. The poor in spirit surrender the illusion of self-sufficiency and accept their dependence on God as His creature and His child.

How often have you experienced the frustration of wanting to help someone, but they refused to be receptive to your advice or your aid? Common obstacles to accepting dependence on God stem from a desire for security located in things we think we can control – such as wealth, career, relationships, status, self-help, etc. If we cling to a desire to redeem ourselves, we will resist the mercy of our only Redeemer. The poor in spirit have hit rock bottom, they are in the valley.  Regardless of their wealth or accomplishments, they are keenly aware that only God can heal their wounds, release them from self- destructive addictions or thoughts, and provide them with security which isn’t dependent on the market, the weather, what other people think of them, or even their employer.

Once a person looks to God, who is full of mercy, whose Son demonstrated His sacrificial love, they are moved to sorrow. This sorrow wells up from an honest view of themselves and their sins – free of the rationalizations and false beliefs they had clung to in the past. They see sin for what it is: degrading, a trick they fell for, and ingratitude.

Having shed false pretentions about oneself, a person develops a beautiful authenticity which is characterized by meekness. Meekness is not weakness! Meekness means a person has greater compassion and patience toward others because they know that “but for the grace of God, there go I.” In consequence, surrender to God, gratitude for His mercy and comfort, and humble authenticity, causes one to bear much more fruit in their life and work.

As gratitude for God’s love, and experiential knowledge of the wisdom of His ways increases, a person begins to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  They desire even greater freedom and deeper joy, which they know with deep conviction, can only be found in Christ. This is a prayer to which God always says yes.

The joy of freedom in Christ’s love creates so much gratitude that it spills over in a person’s heart and they can’t help wanting to give back to Christ the kindness He has shown to them. Thus, they show mercy to others because they empathize with the struggle of sin and desire to follow the example of Christ who has shown them mercy in their weakness.

Union with Christ in the Beatific Vision is the essence of Heaven. Thus, those that have forsaken all for Him, whose heart is pure, begin to experience a taste of the vision of God. Reconciled to God through His son, they extend this peace to others as it radiates from their own interior peace from union with the Lord.

Finally, the more perfect a union one has with Christ, the more others will treat that person the same way they would of Him. Jesus warned His apostles that those of the world who persecute Him, will persecute them; and those that love Him, will love them (John 15:18-25). Thus, Christ ends the Beatitudes with the summation of the spiritual life – when one is persecuted because of Christ, they ought to rejoice, because it means they are finally living in union with Him and following in His example. In a sense, it’s confirmation that one is conformed to Christ. Others wouldn’t bother with you if you were worldly enough to leave their consciences undisturbed.

Jesus provides the Way by teaching us the Beatitudes and showing us how to follow them by His example.  Moreover, He provides the supernatural grace, virtues, and love we need to live such a profoundly spiritual life and the examples of the Saints to illustrate how it looks in everyday life.

The world offers countless distractions to discourage us from introspection, and our own pride can further resist taking an honest look inside our hearts. Christ exhorts us to bravely journey within, promising to accompany us and to conform what we find to His own perfect love.  If we descend the valley of humility through poverty in spirit, we will ascend the mountain of God and enjoy the beatific view from the top.

Consider:

  • Have you ever seen a mountain up close or hiked up one?  How did it affect your perspective?
  • Consider the immanence of God – His revelation to Moses and His revelation through Christ. In what way does His closeness make you somewhat afraid, like the Israelites? In what way, does it comfort or strengthen you to have Him so near?
  • God continues to dwell with us in an immanent way in the Eucharist. Consider how it has pleased God in every age, to draw near to us. In what ways, do you appreciate His gift? In what ways, do you sometimes take it for granted? How might you increase your appreciation?
  • Consider the spiritual journey laid out by the beatitudes. How does your spiritual life correspond to some of the stages?
  • Which beatitude touches you the most? Is there one that sticks out to you as the most moving?
  • How has your love for God grown through the years as a response of gratitude for His grace at work in your soul. What do you know is His work and not your own?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Reflect on one beatitude each day this week and try to live it out in an intentional way.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

* To receive these weekly posts automatically in your email just click the “follow” tab in the bottom right hand corner and enter your email address. You can also follow me @taketimeforhim on Twitter and Facebook.