I Can’t Believe My Eyes

Excerpt from Take Time For Him: Some More

by Angela M Jendro

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2nd Sunday of Lent

Read the Gospe1 of Mark 9:2-10

Meditation Reflection:

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

The Apostles believed Jesus to be the Messiah and remained with Him through the entire three-year tenure of His public ministry.  Nevertheless, they often underestimated Christ, and despite the innumerable miracles they witnessed firsthand, regularly regressed to earthly problem solving without calculating the supernatural aid of their divine Master.  Consider the storm on the sea in which they were sure they would drown while Jesus lay asleep (Mark 4:35-41), or their concern over forgetting to bring bread on their voyage even though Jesus had just multiplied loaves and fish on two different occasions for the multitudes (Mark 8:14-21). 

People often say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Yet, despite witnessing miracle after miracle in our own lives, we continue to worry anyhow.  Jesus could very well say to many of us, “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:18).  

Every disciple of Christ struggles to move from the immediacy of the visible world, to consistent sight of the even deeper reality of the invisible world.  Discipleship requires the movement of grace and the Holy Spirit to enable us to follow the Lord where He leads, even though it may mystify and surprise us.  As God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9:

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

During Lent we take a step back to evaluate just how deep our faith really goes.  For example, do you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, trusting wholeheartedly that if you do so He will provide for everything else (Matthew 6:33)?   Or do you hedge your bets, keeping up worldly-minded safety nets in case God doesn’t come through for you?

These attachments hold us back from full freedom in the Lord.  Like the apostles, we worry about things like bread and tents (financial and physical security), when Christ has provided everything we need and more…including life itself and a room in His Father’s house. As we contemplate the awesome, sacrificial love of Christ, we are challenged to invite Him more fully into every aspect of our lives.  Certainly He has proven that we can trust Him – the man that died and rose again for us, the man who is also God! 

So, consider: What limits do you place on God? Where are the boundaries of your faith? Do you trust God to secure your eternal home, but doubt with matters related to your earthly one?  Sometimes the visible world can seem more real than the invisible.  The immediacy and demands of each day’s tasks can beguile our imagination into feeling as if God is remote and unrelated to the day’s needs, at least in any concrete or practical way. However, God is Lord of Heaven and Earth. 

Abraham believed this to his very core.  He trusted God to be Who He claimed to be.  His faith was so confident that he raised his knife to sacrifice his only beloved son and his only hope of a legacy, believing God could raise Isaac from the dead if need be. St. Paul described Abraham’s magnanimous faith in his letter to the Hebrews saying:

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

The eyes of faith see the visible and the invisible.  They “understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (Hebrews 11: 3).  Faith trusts that God is who He says He is, and who He has shown Himself to be time and again.  Yes, it exceeds our understanding, because for us many things are impossible, but “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). 

As we journey through Lent, may we place our trust more fully in Jesus Christ. Maybe by the end, we will be somewhat closer to the confidence St. Paul expressed in his letter to the Romans:

“If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” Romans 8:31-32

Consider:

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

Practical Application:

  • Pray the Act of Faith, Divine Praises, Serenity Prayer, or Suscipe Prayer each day this week.
  • Make a gratitude list each day.

All Rights Reserved © 2020 Angela M Jendro

I Can’t Believe My Eyes!

 

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

February 25th, 2018 2nd Sunday of Lent

Gospel of Mark 9:2-10 NAB

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

Meditation Reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018

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Moments to Remember…A Reflection on the Transfiguration

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

August 6th, 2017; Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Gospel of Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Meditation Reflection:

For most of Jesus’ earthly life, He veiled His greatness.  Nevertheless, He remained God, with all of His divine attributes.  At the Transfiguration, Jesus unveiled a glimpse of His divinity to Peter, James, and John.  It was a sight they would never forget; and one Jesus needed them to see so they could be strengthened when their faith would be put to the ultimate test at the sight of His crucifixion and death.  Imagine John there below the Cross with Mary, Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled as “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance” (Isaiah 52:14).  When all seemed to be lost, John must have clung in faith to the preview of Jesus’ resurrected glory.

Though divine, Jesus was also human.  The Transfiguration served to strengthen His human will as well.  Moses and Elijah appeared to Christ, conversing with Him, as all of the Law and prophecies God revealed through them were about to be fulfilled in Jesus’ suffering.  When “His Hour” finally came, agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane as His fate approached, Jesus could be strengthened by the meaning of His sacrifice and the redemption it would bring upon all those He loved.

We too sometimes experience these Transfiguration moments – both as a disciple of Christ, and in our own personal lives.  Some people describe them as “conversion moments” which may occur through a major life event, the witness of another person’s life, unexpected mercy received, or a deep encounter with God in prayer.  While they aren’t the sum of a person’s faith, they do strengthen one’s loyalty to God and conviction of His truth and love.  They help a person persevere through those times when faith can be tested – either dryness in prayer, personal suffering, or persecution.  When tempted to abandon what we can’t see for what we can, we can think back to those Transfiguration moments and choose to stay with Christ at the Cross, convinced that He will conquer and we will one day see His resurrected form again.

These Transfiguration moments can occur in our vocations and jobs as well.  We need to treasure those moments of confirmation and joy to push through normal frustration and tedium.  The first time I held each of my children after they were born is etched forever in my mind and heart.  This got me through days where they all had the flu and I felt like all I did in one day was change diapers.  When my oldest picked me up from the airport, I marveled the whole time at how grown up he had become.  A week later, when he lost his keys and I had to invest multiple hours into looking for them, then rearrange my plans for the day to be with him while it got towed to a dealership and re-keyed, I reflected back on those two moments I just mentioned. My frustration was changed to peace as I thought, “My growing up, sweet baby, still needs me.  It might be a tedious day, but it’s worth it.”

Two weeks ago I was blessed to marry a dear friend of mine (thus the absence of posts these last two Sundays, and the new last name!).  We have a blended family and hesitated to leave for a honeymoon.  In the end, we decided to go.  We knew we needed to make memories that would last through tough times.  We also foresaw that after the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding and moving in, we would need to take time to remember our love and appreciate one another without distractions.

We forget so easily.  Today, let us remember the Transfiguration moments in our faith, our relationships, and our work, so we might deepen our appreciation for God’s active love in our lives.

Consider:

  • Reflect back on times you have encountered God in a powerful or meaningful way.
    • Can you recall a special time in prayer, at Mass, or when receiving a sacrament?
    • Was there a time God helped you out of a tough situation?
    • Did you experience His mercy through one of His followers?
    • Is there someone whose life inspired you?
  • Reflect on your vocation (single, married, nun/monk, or priest).
    • When/how did you know God was calling you to this vocation?
    • When have you felt deep joy and peace in your calling?
    • When has your vocation been particularly challenging?
  • Consider how you have been transfigured in Christ.  How has Christ and His grace changed you?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each morning, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to God’s presence and activity throughout the day.  Each evening, reflect back on God’s blessings.
  • Encourage someone who is struggling – through words, actions, prayer, or all three.

 

~ Written by Angela (Lambert) Jendro © 2017

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Mount Tabor Moments & Transfiguration in Christ

transfiguration-of-Jesus

by Angela Lambert

February 21st, 2016; 2nd Sunday of Lent

Gospel of Luke 9:28b-36 NAB

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

Meditation Reflection:

The relationship between Jesus’ divinity and humanity will always be veiled in mystery. However, we do know that God became man so as to share in our experience and thereby conquer our sin and weakness. Jesus provides us the perfect example to follow and the grace to do it. As a result, we can look to this Gospel account as instructive for our own faith journey.

Jesus went up the mountain to pray, a task that required effort and endurance. He took with Him only a few of His closest companions. He spent time alone in prayer persisting even when the apostles fell asleep. During this solitude Moses and Elijah appeared to Him, representing the Law and the Prophets, both of which Jesus would fulfill. They spoke with Him about His mission and the Father overshadowed them in a cloud speaking words of confirmation and encouragement. Peter, John, and James didn’t know what to think or do. Peter offered to pitch tents for everyone not comprehending what was happening but trying to at least offer some kind of service. Christ usually appears humbly in our lives, veiled in His humanity. He does this so well that we too often react with surprise and an awkward response when we awake to moments of His glory.

This experience of light and glory strengthened Christ as well as the apostles for the upcoming darkness and suffering of Calvary. It was an experience so profound that they “fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.” Peter and James would still abandon Christ in His direst moment but later repented at their actions. John alone of the apostles would remain with Jesus at the Cross. Through darkness, disillusionment, and intense pain that confidence in God’s call and the experience of His encouragement strengthened them to persevere.

Conversion tends to be a slow process of turning away from sin and toward Christ on a daily basis. However, during this long road, we sometimes experience a Transfiguration moment wherein God reveals His plan, His mission, or His love for us in a profound and tangible way. St. Paul’s moment occurred on the road to Damascus. St. Peter’s occurred when Jesus appeared to him after His resurrection and asked him three times if he loved Him then called him to feed His sheep. These moments may confirm our call to the Christian faith or they may confirm our call to our vocation.

Mother Teresa began her mission to serve the poorest of the poor after a profound experience in prayer. She had already been a nun for 15 years when, while on a train travelling to the Loreto Convent in Darjeeling for a retreat, she heard the voice of Christ speak to her. Missionary of Charity and postulator of the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Mother Teresa, Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk recounts in his book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, that,

“Though she would persist in letting the details remain veiled in silence, she later revealed:

‘It was a call within my vocation. It was a second calling. It was a vocation to give up even Loreto where I was very happy and to go out in the streets to serve the poorest of the poor. It was in that train, I heard the call to give up all and follow Him into the slums.’”

Fr. Kolodiejchuk further records that Mother Teresa considered the date of this mystical experience (September 10, 1946), as the beginning date of, and her entrance into, the Missionaries of Charity. Christ had asked her to “Come, be My light” in the darkness of the poorest of the poor. Jesus continued to speak with her through a gift of interior locutions into the middle of the next year. During this period she presented to Christ her concerns, her happiness serving as a Loreto nun, and her feelings of inadequacy. In her letter to the Archbishop she wrote, “These thoughts were a cause of much suffering – but the voice kept on saying ‘Wilt thou refuse?’” Her love for Jesus could not refuse Him anything and so she said yes to His request.

Mother Teresa had a “Transfiguration moment”. She was thirty-six at the time. The next fifty years of sacrifice and suffering would be motivated by this single call of Christ. She faced many set-backs, rejections, and challenges both materially as well as spiritually. She experienced an interior darkness (meaning lacking in light to see) in which she couldn’t see God or feel the closeness of union that she had enjoyed before. At first she worried that her own sinfulness had caused the feeling of absence. On the contrary however, Fr. Kolodiejchuk records that,

“With the help of her spiritual directors, she progressively came to grasp that her painful inner experience was an essential part of living out her mission. It was a sharing in the passion of Christ on the Cross – with a particular emphasis on the thirst of Jesus as the mystery of His longing for the love and salvation of every human person.”

As a result, what seemed a loss at first turned out to be an extraordinary gift. Some saints have been given the stigmata – the physical wounds of Christ. Mother Teresa was given a share in the suffering of Christ’s heart. She could not have done this however, without being firmly rooted in her faith in Christ first. She could look back to that Transfiguration moment on the train and confidently press forward in humility that Christ would bring to perfection the good work He had begun.

When we feel like we can’t see God or we become disillusioned in our vocation or work, rather than ask for another sign, think back to that first call. Remember your Mt. Tabor and the time you saw Christ transfigured in glory. When you feel most near to Christ’s experience of darkness on the Cross (“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”), draw strength from your experience with Him during the Transfiguration.

Consider:

  • Recall and reflect back on a time when you felt the presence of Christ or saw His glory.
    • Have you witnessed a mighty deed of His like the apostles when He calmed a storm or cast out demons?
    • Did you experience His mercy or love like the Prodigal Son or Peter?
    • Were you healed like the blind, lame, and sick in the Gospels?
    • Were you stopped in your tracks and knocked down like St. Paul?
    • Did you hear Him in “a still small voice” like Elijah?
  • Reflect on times of “darkness” when you could not see or feel the presence of Christ?
    • Did it cause you to doubt?
    • Was Christ still with you even though you couldn’t see it at the time?
    • Did it increase your longing for Christ?
    • Did it deepen your connection to His experience on the Cross?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Journal about your Transfiguration moment(s) and keep it to look back on during times of darkness.
  • Encourage or visit someone struggling or suffering.
  • Read the lives of the saints. Read one a day or at least one a week.

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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