Soaking Up the Sun of God

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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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

* 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.


Making Room for Christ to Come

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

Order your paperback or e-book from Amazon!

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.

Love Shows Up

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

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26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection: Matthew 21:28-32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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

To Err is Human, To Forgive Divine

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24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection: Matthew 18:21-35

The three essential phrases required in every relationship include: “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.” We all need affirmation of love since our deepest desire as creatures made in the image and likeness of God is to love and be loved. As persons wounded by original sin, we also need to give and receive forgiveness.

The more we love, the greater the offense when we mess up. If I hold up the line at the grocery store because I forgot an item on my list, I will upset the people behind me, but they won’t take it personally. They may utter some unkind words or sigh loudly, but by the next day it’s forgotten. If however I hold up a family member or friend from getting somewhere together on time due to my forgetfulness it can feel more personal and a failure to love the way they deserve.

Moreover, if a person’s in a bad mood and snaps at her coworkers, they’ll be upset but shake it off. Whereas, if she brings that bad mood home and takes it out on her family then it can damage and chip away at those relationships.

Mistakes and stress are daily occurrences, thus the need to apologize quickly and acknowledge the mess-up or failure of character in order to reestablish right relationship. It’s amazing how simply taking responsibility for a mistake or bad behavior can put people in a much more forgiving disposition.

C.S. Lewis, in his essay On Forgiveness, made an important distinction between mistakes which are excusable and mistakes which require forgiveness. All offenses are not equal, and he notes that oftentimes when we attempt to apologize, we in fact try to excuse away responsibility. If something is excusable however then it really doesn’t require forgiveness. By definition, a reasonable excuse implies that the wrong was not your fault.  He observed,

“I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality (unless I watch myself very carefully) asking Him to do something quite different. I am asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says “Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.” But excusing says “I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.” If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive.

This distinction applies to our view of forgiving others as well. By confusing excusing with forgiving, we may think that if we forgive someone, we are saying what they did was okay or accepting that they aren’t really responsible. In consequence it feels inauthentic or false. However, forgiveness does not excuse but rather acknowledges the real offense and mercifully gives reconciliation as a gift. This means surrendering bitterness and ill-wishes, but it does not mean you have to trust the person or like them. C.S. Lewis explains it like this:

[Many people] think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying, “But I tell you the man broke a most solemn promise.” Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise.  It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.)

On the other hand, since forgiveness is a free act of mercy by the offended, it can be intimidating to admit guilt. What if you let down your guard and admit your fault in all truth? You will be in debt to that person and they could hold it over you. They could also look down on you. After all, the root of our sins are ugly – pride, vanity, foolishness, envy, baseness, etc. If I don’t want people to see my house in a wreck, why would I let them see my soul in a wreck?

Unfortunately, this fear of rejection can color our approach to God’s forgiveness too.  Pope Francis commented in The Name of God is Mercy, that most people haven’t experienced mercy in their own lives, so they assume they won’t receive mercy from God.  St. Faustina also decried this attitude as Jesus revealed to her that His greatest wound was a lack of trust in His mercy on the part of souls. He asked Faustina to have the Divine Mercy image painted, and Feast of Mercy established the Sunday after Easter. Pope St. John Paul II recognized the authenticity and timeliness of this message and created the desired feast day. C.S. Lewis described this anguish we feel approaching God for confession and encouraged his readers saying,

A great deal of our anxiety to make excuses comes from not really believing in it, from thinking that God will not take us to Himself again unless He is satisfied that some sort of case can be made out in our favour. But that would not be forgiveness at all.  Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowance have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it.  That, and only that,  is forgiveness, and that we can always have from God if we ask for it.

Lastly, Jesus’ exhortation on forgiveness includes the question of the ongoing repetitiveness of offenses. It’s one thing to forgive big sins, but oftentimes the need to forgive the petty daily jabs can get the better of us, especially from those who do not apologize. Jesus modelled this frustrating kind of love in that He first loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). So, if we are to follow His great commandment to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34), we must bear wrongs patiently. We must graciously excuse the excusable, and mercifully forgive the inexcusable. By doing this, we evangelize about God’s mercy by our action encouraging the offender that if you can forgive them, God can too. We also acknowledge with humility that we too are sinners. We need the forgiveness and patience of others as well. Not only that, but our own forgiveness by God will be measured by our forgiveness toward others.

Consider:

  • Reflect on the difference between an excuse and an admission of guilt.
    • How do you excuse your guilt away? Why do you think that is?
    • On the other hand, how do you sometimes assume guilt rather than an excuse it when it comes to other people?
  • Take a moment to examine your conscience and come before God in prayer asking for forgiveness.
  • Consider who may need your forgiveness. How might you offer mercy to him or her – whether for a regular fault or for a major injustice?
    • Offer the “justice” or revenge you desire to God
    • Pray for his or her conversion
  • Consider that forgiveness is an opportunity. Since God has forgiven you so generously and joyfully, forgiving someone who has hurt you is an opportunity to do the same for someone else.
  • We need the help of grace to forgive.  Take a moment to ask Christ for the strength to have a merciful heart.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Pray Psalm 51 each day this week. It’s David’s psalm praying for God’s forgiveness and trusting in His mercy.
  • Bear wrongs patiently during the day.
  • Extend mercy and forgiveness to someone who needs it from you.
  • Let an old grudge go.

~ 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.

You can find C.S. Lewis’ essay on Forgivenss in The Weight of Glory: A Collection of Lewis’ Most Moving Addresses

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone & Walking on Water

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19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection: Gospel of Matthew 14:22-33

Exhilaration, adventure, a leap of faith – we get brave and step out onto the water…outside our comfort zone. For a brief moment, his eyes fixed on Jesus, Peter did just that. Then, a gust of wind distracted him, and Peter’s gaze turned to the strength of the wind rather than the strength of the Lord. His faith sank and so did he.  Yet, as quickly as he had turned from the Lord, he turned right back. He immediately reached out to Christ for help.  Jesus did not delay, He caught Peter as soon as he asked. Jesus didn’t let Peter flounder in the water gasping for air as He lectured him. He cast no words of spite, no “I told you so”, or “that’s what you get for not believing in Me more.” Jesus came to reveal the Father’s love, and on this night He demonstrated the Lord’s compassionate mercy for our weak nature.

petersinking

Discipleship calls us beyond our comfort zone, and even beyond our natural limits. Yoked to Christ, He enables us to walk on water. Like Peter, we might step out of the boat in total confidence in our Lord. Once on the water however, we become fearful as we realize our total dependence on His supernatural help. It’s much easier to have faith floating on the water in a boat, than walking on water barefoot.

I remember the excitement of getting my first teaching job, and the enthusiasm of teaching students about God. Then, the first day of class arrived and panic struck. “Yikes!” I thought, “How I am I going to get through the day? What I am I going to say for a whole class period?! What if a student misbehaves? What if I’m a terrible teacher?…”  I also remember the joy of holding my first child in my arms the day he was born. It was absolutely surreal. Two days later the nurse walked us out to the car and waved goodbye.  As we put my son in the car seat and drove away anxiety erupted, “They’re just letting us take him?!  We don’t know anything! What if I’m a terrible mother? What if I say or do something that scars him for life?!…” Lastly, when I do speaking engagements or workshops, I’m exhilarated at the opportunity to share the joy of God’s saving love with others. A half hour before the talk however, worried thoughts begin to percolate up, “Why did I agree to do this? It would be far more comfortable to be at home watching Netflix. What if I fail? What if everyone is bored? Who am I to do this, I’m a sinner like everyone else?”  Like Peter, I begin to sink but then I cry out to the Jesus. He reminds me that I teach, mother, and speak because He has called me to.  He assures me that though I am not worthy, He is, and He is with me. He also pushes me by filling my heart with so much gratitude for His love in my life that I can’t resist sharing it with others.

The challenge of discipleship is living at a level only sustainable if Christ and His grace is real. It requires taking a risk, so much so that if Christ is not real, you would be at a loss. Consider how many times God tells us in Scripture to be not afraid. Pope St. John Paul II chose these words for his first statement as Pope, knowing how much we fear as we look around at the dangers that surround us.

When I begin to sink in fear a few verses come to mind that strengthen me.  First, I think of 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

“Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”

St. Paul felt too weak to face a challenge on his own. Rather than remove the difficulty, Jesus promised to provide the strength. St. Paul realized therefore, that the weaker he is, the more God’s power must be at work in him to accomplish God’s will. He moved from anxiety to total confidence, and writes in his letter to the Philippians 4:13,

“I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me”

We can trust Jesus to come through for us.  We can answer His call, even if it means going beyond our natural limits. When we struggle to take that leap of faith beyond our comfort zone, Christ urges us to simply reach out and He will be there for us as He was for Peter.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:7

Ask, seek, knock, and you just might walk on water.

Consider:

  • How has following Christ stretched you beyond what you expected?
  • When has Christ made an endeavor more fruitful than it would have been by your own merits?
  • Have you ever felt like Peter, walking on water, in awe of Christ’s divine power?
  • Have you ever faltered because of fear, worry, or anxiety?
  • What Scripture verses or memories reassure you of Christ’s aid?
  • Is Christ calling you to something outside your comfort zone right now? What holds you back? What inspires you forward?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Take one risk each day for your faith.
    • Ideas: Inviting your spouse to pray together, praying as a family, saying “God bless” to someone on the phone or a at work, speaking up when someone is criticizing the Church or using God’s name in vain, sharing your faith with someone in need of comfort, going to the Sacrament of Confession, responding to God’s call in your vocation or job…

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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Tunnel Vision

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17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection: Gospel of Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus’ parables illustrate the attitude of people who have discovered the treasure of life with God. To be a citizen in His kingdom, a son or daughter of this good Father, is worth trading everything for. Both the landowner and the merchant shrewdly went all-in for this investment, knowing it was a sure bet and incomparably more valuable than anything else that they owned.

Discovering the love of Jesus Christ, experiencing His liberating grace and forgiveness, is an incredible feeling. It overwhelms a person with joy. Yes, Jesus’ kingdom has laws. He says, if you love me then follow my commands. But His commands are the way of love and the way of living to the highest degree of your dignity and will lead you to the fullness of your development.

On the one hand, we hate rules in our culture. We balk at phrases like “submission to authority” and only like a monarchy for the glamorous magazine photos, not as a political system. Our democratic ideals, although a fruit of our Christian heritage, can also color our vision of faith in a negative way. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy because it’s not akin to a political system governing equals, but rather a family governed by our Heavenly Father who has appointed His Son as king. God has revealed the laws of His kingdom, both through the natural moral law, and the divinely revealed law through Moses and through Jesus. We may resist the faith as an imposition of rules to control us, but it would be to assume those rules were imposed arbitrarily by someone without the right authority and for their own personal interest or gain.  However, God’s laws are at the heart and foundation of creation. He revealed the ultimate science behind our human nature and the instructions for how to flourish. Our adolescent view of our Father’s rules changes when we mature in the faith and realize His wisdom and His benevolence.

So, what must we sell to buy this field or this pearl, this “treasury of truth” as St. Augustine called it? We must relinquish anything that would edge out Christ or drain our spiritual resources. If we delight in the law of the Lord, as the Psalms often repeat, how can we meditate on them if media edges out our time for prayer?  If we wish to love our neighbor as Christ has loved us, how can we see their needs and humbly serve them if our busy schedules consume our thoughts and actions? How can we enjoy the fruits of purity if we are stuck in the mud of lust?  How can we enjoy fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ if we can’t let go of being overly competitive, cynical, or unforgiving?

We must say no to lesser treasures, to possess the greatest treasure. Without love this seems too much, similar to a single person who can’t imagine being tied down to one person their whole life, until they meet that person and suddenly they can’t wait. St. Augustine famously observed:

“Two cities, then, have been created by two loves: that is, the earthly by love of self extending even to contempt of God, and the heavenly by love of God extending to contempt of self. The one, therefore, glories in itself, the other in the Lord; the one seeks glory from men, the other finds its highest glory in God, the Witness of our conscience.”

Praise be to God that Jesus has cast His net to the whole world, inviting every single person into His kingdom. He has no immigration caps or limits. In the end, those who want to enter may, and those who do not may not. Love is total and generous. As a couple approaches marriage, they move from individual lives to a shared life. In their marriage vows they don’t parse percentages; they vow a gift of their whole selves for their whole lives together.  Christ has offered us His perfect love, total and sacrificial. The only proper response is joy, gratitude, and a reciprocal gift of self. You see this joyful abandonment expressed in the life of every saint, beginning with the disciples who “left everything and followed Him” (Luke 5:11).

Consider:

  • When have you experienced the joy described in these parables? When have you experienced the value of faith in Christ?
  • What have you had to sacrifice to follow Christ and to love as He loves? Is there anything presently that competes with your discipleship?
  • Consider the difference between a democracy and a monarchy. How is God’s kingdom different than our own governments? How does it resemble family structure?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Tell one person about a time you experienced Christ and felt tremendous joy.
  • Make a list of your daily and weekly tasks and goals. Look over them and prioritize them in light of the Gospel.
  • Pray a Psalm each day. They are prayers filled with praise and trust.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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When Your Work for Christ Feels Sabotaged

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16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings for Sunday’s Liturgy

Meditation Reflection: Gospel of Matthew 13:24-43

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

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

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

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

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

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2019

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