Category Archives: Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI

Christian Maturity is not Self-Sufficient

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the Day:

20 “I have obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else do I need to do?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich.  Matt 19:20-22  TEV

5  That is why I have sent my prophets to you with my message of judgment and destruction. What I want from you is plain and clear: 6  I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me. Hosea 6:5-6 (TEV)

One encounters Christ throughout the creation, says Luther, but the troubled conscience experiences him as its judge and flees in terror. In the supper, however, the believer meets the Lord unequivocally as the savior who lays his life down for me (“This is the body of Christ given for you; the blood of Christ shed for you”). There is no escaping Christ’s single-minded intention. He proclaims his love to each and every participant and asks only that they take him at his word.

he (Augstine) had a sort of vision, in which he heard a voice saying to him: “I am the bread of the strong, eat me! But you will not transform me and make me part of you; rather, I will transform you and make you part of me.”3 In the normal process of eating, the human is the stronger being. He takes things in, and they are assimilated into him, so that they become part of his own substance. They are transformed within him and go to build up his bodily life. But in the mutual relation with Christ it is the other way around; he is the heart, the truly existent being. When we truly communicate, this means that we are taken out of ourselves, that we are assimilated into him, that we become one with him and, through him, with the fellowship of our brethren.

We measure Christian maturity wrong, and we have for a long time.

We measure it by the level of theological knowledge they have, or by the amount of scripture memorized.  How dynamic they are when it comes to sharing or defending the faith. How much they “have it together” doesn’t really count all that much either, for anyone can put on an act.

The young man in the first reading above would have been counted as mature in the faith.  he did all the right things, he said them all, he knew it all as well.  The Israelites in Hosea’s time had the sacrificial system down, they had all the right movements, they processed sacrifices with the precision of a military unit, yet they too were not mature in their faith.

They didn’t understand, any more than we do today.

Being mature in the faith is not about being self-sufficient, but it is about being dependent on God, about walking with Jesus, about loving Him, about knowing Him!  Being a Christian is about letting God invade your life, about learning to hold no part back, for the Lord would save all of us.

Read again the words about Luther, and the writings of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger above.  Look at how they describe meeting Christ in the Eucharist, the transforming nature of God.  It is encountering the absolute love of God, as He pours out mercy and peace and healing upon us.

This isn’t just about the substitutionary atonement or the discussion of consubstantiation versus transubstantiation. It’s not just about the words of institution or the form of the mass in which this gift is celebrated.  Those things are part, but they mean nothing without the encounter…the encounter with Christ.

It is about this encounter, about meeting God, right then and there. About knowing the purest, most invasive, most intimate love, about taking in the Body and Blood of Christ. It is about being drawn into His glory, for His glory is simply the light of His love.

Christian maturity is about desiring to know this love, about realizing how much we need His presence, about rejoicing as we depend on Him, as we entrust to Him our very souls.

It is what Jesus asked the young man. …drop everything… let it help others… come walk with me.

The mature Christian has learned to do so, even asking God for the help.

Lord, help us grow in faith, depending on You, allowing You in every part of our lives and rejoicing in the His love for us.  AMEN!

 

Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxviii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 78). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Being “Not Ashamed” of the gospel, is harder than we think

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God.   1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (TEV)

16  I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17  For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”   Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)

Poor and lukewarm is the Church that flees from and avoids the cross! She will become only a “polite social” institution in her sterility. This is, ultimately, the price paid, and indeed it is, by the people of God for being ashamed of the gospel and giving in to the fear of giving witness. If we do not confess Christ, what then would we be?

Jesus’ Last Supper was not one of those meals he held with “publicans and sinners”. He made it subject to the basic form of the Passover, which implies that this meal was held in a family setting. Thus he kept it with his new family, with the Twelve; with those whose feet he washed, whom he had prepared, by his Word and by this cleansing of absolution (Jn 13:10), to receive a blood relationship with him, to become one body with him.3 The Eucharist is not itself the sacrament of reconciliation, but in fact it presupposes that sacrament. It is the sacrament of the reconciled, to which the Lord invites all those who have become one with him; who certainly still remain weak sinners, but yet have given their hand to him and have become part of his family. That is why, from the beginning, the Eucharist has been preceded by a discernment. We have just heard this, in very dramatic form, from Paul: Whoever eats unworthily, eats and drinks judgment on himself, because he does not distinguish the Body of the Lord

Of course, fasting and other physical preparations are excellent disciplines for the body. But anyone who believes these words, “Given for you,” and “Shed for you to forgive sins,” is really worthy and well prepared. But whoever doubts or does not believe these words is not worthy and is unprepared, because the words, “for you” demand a heart that fully believes.


For decades, the two gospel passages above have been burnt into my mind.

This is what we do, or what we try to do.

Preach Christ crucified, and we do it in a way that proves we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

Being not ashamed of the gospel is harder than we think.  It is not being a hire-powered, no holes barred evangelist.  It is about letting our souls be laid bare so that we can be healed!

And yet, to preach Christ crucified we have to deal with our guilt and shame. And it may be that we are afraid of, no terrified of, our shame.

To preach the cross of Christ, means we have to realize something else is there, something God has to deal with, for we cannot.

6  Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the Cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call!
Romans 6:5-6a (MSG)

There we are. preaching the cross of Christ, knowing that on that cross our sins are nailed there, with Him.  All of our dirty, shameful, secrets lifted up on that cross for Him to bear.  Our sin was nailed to the cross with Him, and such a way that we are not ashamed of admitting it. 

Our confession is not that we trust in Him, but that we confess our sins, we give Him permission to deal with them, to heal us of our brokenness. 

That is what faith in Christ, depending upon Him boils down to, our recognition that He will help us deal with our brokennes, that he will take and remove our sin. 

And the power of that salvation is such that we are not ashamed to depend upon Him for that. 

Pope Benedict’s words have an incredible meaning here. For in clarifying that the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist) is not the sacrament of reconciliation, He reminds us of the intimacy of this feast, and the celebration of His Body being broken, His Blood being poured out, the action which brings us, a holy and healing people into the presence of God.  We need to go to the cross, face our sin, and see it nailed there, that is what discerning the Body and Blood means. 

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is my hope, to deal with my brokenness, and to help me help you with yours. (and at times, vice versa)

It is this that is most ironic, that my shame, that yours, can be dealt with in a way of which we are not ashamed, but that brings joy and peace. 

Lord Jesus, draw us to the cross, draw us close to Your side. Help us to not be ashamed of being there, help us as we not be ashamed of handing over all our sin, all our brokenness, letting You remove their hold on our souls. Lord, help us to receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit so that we realize Your presence.
Help us as well, to be willing to help others deal with their guilt and shame… knowing how You deal with ours. And then, lead us all into the Father’s presence.  AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (pp. 59–60). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

*this helps us to understand the difference between a pastoral form of close communion, and the denominational practice of closed communion.  The latter simply says you aren’t like me, you can’t be part of the feast, the latter looks at the common dependence on Christ’s mercy, the discernment of that need, and the desire to see God continue to heal us. 

How to Have a Significant Life…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

18† And Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and also a priest of the Most High God, brought bread and wine to Abram, 19 blessed him, and said, “May the Most High God, who made heaven and earth, bless Abram! 20 May the Most High God, who gave you victory over your enemies, be praised!” And Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the loot he had recovered.  Genesis 14:18-20 TEV

24  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. 25  For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. 26  Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! There is nothing you can give to regain your life.
Matthew 16:24-26 (TEV)

Gregory the Great: “In comparison with eternal life, earthly life might just as validly be called death as life. For what else is the daily wear-and-tear and deterioration of life but a long drawn-out dying?” … The question about death is, therefore, imperiously raised by life itself. It presents itself inescapably to anyone who is really concerned about life. But if one is not concerned merely exteriorly with caring for and preserving this life but seeks to fill it with meaning and so to give it its true greatness and potential, such a one will not ignore the question about the sense or senselessness of death.

285         Although you don’t amount to much, God has made use of you, and He continues to make use of you to perform fruitful work again and again for his glory. Don’t put on airs. Think what would an instrument of iron or steel say about itself, when a craftsman uses it to set golden jewelry with precious stones?

One of my favorite treatises on philosophy and apologetics is Douglas Adam’s much acclaimed five-book trilogy known as the Hitchhiker’s Guide ot the Galaxy.  With the exception of an odd comment in the prologue, one might think it an Agnostic’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress, or Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Regress.

Journeying through the universe, the characters are searching for meaning, (except the Vogons who simply love to write modern poetry and contemplate the dried snot that escapes them.)  It is a hilarious, cynical and sarcastic look at the world, and manmade religions.  But it gets to the question – why are we here? What meaning does our life have?

Or a better question, do I have significance in this world?  even in my small lonely corner of it?

Can we really stop caring about preserving this life, can we stop trying to delay this long drawn out process of dying, long enough to fill our lives with meaning?

Abraham found significance in life, after having rescued Lot and his family from captivity, as the King/Prince of Peace comes and gives him a meal of bread and wine.  It was significant enough for Abraham to give a tenth of his earnings, recognizing this man as having come from God, to provide for and minister to Abraham.  (for that is what the tenth is!)

That time with God, eating at His table, with the bread and wine, Body and Blood of Christ is the place where we find significance, it is the place where we are ministered to, because God values us. It starts there, and then, as we dwell in His presence, God uses us, even as the jeweler uses tools of iron or steel ( or aluminum today) to work with the gold and gems.

Our significance comes, not from what God uses us to make, the works he’s planned for us to do, but from the relationship, we have with God.  THat He will then use us, our gifts and abilities to do things are indeed wonderful, but it doesn’t matter what is made… it matters the fellowship we have with Him in the process.  We are guided by His hand, His eyes not only see what we are doing but imagine the end result we can’t see.

That is an amazing thing…

And as we go about our day, it is what we need to recall, what we need to remember, this presence of God, this walking with Him, because we are loved by Him… we are significant.

AMEN

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 353). San Francisco: Ignatius Press

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1378-1381). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

An Overwhelming, Overlooked Verse in Genesis

photoDevotional Thought for the Day:

Seth had a son whom he named Enosh. It was then that people began using the LORD’s holy name in worship.  Genesis 4:26 TEV

To speak about “heaven”, therefore, does not mean to lapse into rapturous fantasy but rather to learn to know more deeply that hidden presence that lets us truly live and that we continually allow to be masked and withdrawn from us by whatever is in the foreground of our awareness. Heaven, consequently, is above all christological. It is not an extra-historical place “into which” we go. The very existence of “heaven” depends on the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man and has given human existence a place in the existence of God himself

“The Church originates, and has her continuing existence, in the Lord’s communicating himself to men, entering into communion with them, and thus bringing them into communion with one another. The Church is the Lord’s communion with us, which at the same time brings about the true communication of men with one another.”

It is an odd comment, sitting there at the end of chapter 4 of the first book of the Bible.

They began to worship him using the Lord’s Holy name….

They are talking about the name YHWH, or as it can be translated, “I AM”

It is a name that is amazing, even in its simplicity.  And for Seth and Enosh, it is a profound thing, once that doesn’t have a further explanation because.. well, how do you explain it?  It is too overwhelming.

God, who was betrayed by Seth’s parents, so much they were kicked out of Eden.  Betrayed by one brother as he killed his other brother in a rage of jealousy, this God still cares for and provides for people. 

“here is my name, YHWH, use it to call out to me.  

God wants us to identify Him, not just as GOd, not just as the Divine, not just as Master or Lord (which is why I hate the tendency to translate YHWH as LORD) but to reach out and call Him by name.  He wants us to call out with an intimate form of address, He wants that relationship with us.

We have to understand this, that Christ’s mission was not just to cleanse us from sin, but the purpose was to draw us into communion with God the Father, the Son and the Hoy Spirit.  That Jesus’s work was to draw human existence into the existence of YHWH, into existence in God.

As Paul taught the Athenians, 

27  “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28  For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts 17:27-28 (NLT2)

This is what it all boils down to, a God who would come to us, with the express desire of having a relationship with us.  YHWH, whose wisdom we should realize is so incredible, and in relationship with Him, we realize that His best interests are guided by that wisdom. That’s why we hear and walk with Him. (Obey is simply  to hear in both Greek and Hebrew)

They began to worship Him, using His holy, precious, intimate name….

I pray you and I do the same today, and all this week.

Question to discuss:

What is hard about talking to God by His name?

 

 

 

 

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 351). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 7). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Where Are We Headed?

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:
4 Then the word of the LORD of Hosts came to me: 5 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and in the seventh months for these 70 years, did you really fast for Me? 6 When you eat and drink, don’t you eat and drink simply for yourselves? l 7 Aren’t these the words that the LORD proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem was inhabited and secure, m along with its surrounding cities, and when the southern region and the Judean foothills were inhabited?”   Zechariah 7:4-7 HCSB

Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things e have passed away.   Rev. 21:-3-4  HCSB

Speaking with God must be a progression in and for ourselves—a progression in the literal sense of the word, that brings us forward, that moves us toward God and away from ourselves.

Many Christians have a routine for how they relate to God.   For some, it is a walk, every day meeting Him, and traveling with Him.  For others, it is a weekly, thing, as they pray with others on Sunday and Wednesday night.  Some only react to God when facing a challenge.

While I would desire that all interact with God more and more, it is not just the amount of time invested that matters.  It is also about how we interact with Him.  The prophet Zechariah writes of this, as the words of God are given through the prophet to challenge us all.

Why do we pray, fast, go to church and Bible study?  Is it just to feel good about ourselves?  Is it just to appease our own feelings of guilt or inadequacy?  Is it just to be assured that we won’t spend eternity in hell?

Or is it because of the glorious promise we see in Revelation.  When we shall dwell with God, in all of His glory!  Is it because, having seen revealed in part how much God loves us, we need to explore it, we need to adore Him, we find ourselves craving His presence?  For as we find we are loved, that unbelievable fact must be explored, its height, its depth, its width, and breadth.  We want to experience it more, no, we need to! 

This transformation we need to be patient with, it needs to be nurtured, it needs to be guided.  This journey happens in community, it is the nature of communion. It ebbs and flows, and this means we need to look out for each other and be there for each other.  For it is to easy to be dragged away by the cares of the world, it is too easy to be trip and fall off the path (one of the definitions of is exactly that!)

And yet it happens, as we look to the end of the journey, as our hope is found in God’s promise that He will draw us to Him.  As prayer, speaking and hearing God causes that progression, and the Holy Spirit’s presence assures us, comforts us and enables us to see God’s love.

Prayer isn’t important in and of itself  Every religion prays, even atheists.  Gathering with people to study religious doctrine doesn’t either, every religion does that, including those who are agnostics, or secularists. What makes the difference is the loving God who loves us is who draws us to pray, to commune together, to celebrate the love which drove Jesus to cross, looking forward to the eternal relationship cleansing us from sin would bring.

It’s all about the end, the end which is a glorious, wonderful moment, when we see God face to face!

Lord Jesus, help us to encourage each other, as the day of Your return draws closer, as the Holy Spirit draws us closer, and into the relationship that You have with the Father.  Help us to do the things we do, adoring You more and more, as we realize Your love for us.  AMEN!  

 

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 344). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

The Secret to the Revitalization of the Church, or a church

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7 Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near. Indeed, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests.   Zeph 1:7

Unfortunately, although Christianity is not a department store that must anxiously gear its advertising to the tastes and desires of its clientele because it has merchandise to sell off that it neither wants nor needs, it is all too often compelled to act as though it were. But if this were its nature, we could confidently predict its imminent bankruptcy. Actually, however, the Christian Faith is rather (to use an admittedly one-sided and weak image) the divine medicine that should never adapt itself to the wishes of its clientele and to what pleases them, for that would be to destroy them utterly. Its role must be to require them to turn away from their imaginary need, which is in reality their sickness, and to entrust themselves to the guidance of faith.

I just spent a few days with guys who are called to be pastors. In many ways, they feel like they’ve been drawn ot the ministry, they seen the people’s needs and the call of the people for them for shepherds. I was on a team that had as its goal the task of assuring that these men were ready to take on this burden, and/or what steps would prepare them for it.

They, with one or two exceptions, are called to serve smaller churches, in most cases groups of 20 or 30 people that gather around God’s word, that receive the promises of God delivered through them, as they speak God’s word, and as they feed them the Body and Blood of Jesus.  These churches would possibly close without these men or someone like them.  But these men need to revitalize these churches, they need to see life breathed into them.  Their churches, like mine and every other church I know of, need to have the vitality and life of the bride of Christ.

And of course, in my readings this morning, I come across two passages that deal with revitalizing our lives.

The second one is more obvious than the first.  While there is a necessity to understand a church’s context and ensure the church is speaking to the people instead of at the people, all too often that takes the nature of a marketing plan.  It requires compromise in the nature of the mission.  Marketing cannot compromise the mission, and methodologies cannot change the message, the messenger, or change what the means of change.  That is it cannot change the grace, God’s love and mercy delivered to sinners to heal them and give them life, shared in the peace with God.  If you do that, you have changed the mission.

Pope Benedict is, in this Lutheran Pastor’s opinion, absolutely correct. We have the medicine, delivered through word and sacrament, that treats what really has broken people.  God’s love binds them to Him, having cleaned them of sin, and of its shame and guilt.  It also heals us of the anger and resentment that has broken us, as we’ve been the victims of sin.

We can’t change that. To do so would be to fail to deliver what people need the most, Jesus.  Nor can we hide it, causing people to need to discover it, and then decode our language and actions we tried to protect and hide it within.

All this brings us to the first, and far more important quote.  It brings us to the point of this devotion.  And while it is what you and I need to do, right now, and often each day, It is what these pastors (de jure and soon de facto) need to do to revitalize their church.

Realize you are, right now, in the presence of God.

God who is drawing all things together through the blood of Jesus.  For that is what the Day of the Lord is, for Christ has become our sacrifice, prepared to deliver us from the power and oppression of sin.

ANd to consecrate us, His guests, to make us holy as we have been drawn into His presence. To be set apart for this relationship with our Heavenly Father, our Almighty God. To be re-vitalized, freed of all that weighs us down. Healed of all the damage a life of sin can cause, restored to be who we were created to be.

This is who we are, in congregations and parishes that make up the Church, His Church, His beautiful bride.

And be in awe… incredibly aware of the glory and power and love of God, which makes this all possible.   AMEN

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 340–341). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Is Jesus your Lord? Is that all? That’s a problem!

Jesus_knocks_on_door_heartDevotional Thought of the Day:

In that day— this is the LORD’s declaration— you will call Me, “My husband,” and no longer call Me, “My Baal. (my master)”   Hosea 2:16 HCSB

Faith needs intellect if it is to be understood and practiced. But it needs, above all, an intellect that will not only be productive but will also be able to understand what is proper to it. It needs an intellect that hears.

There is a big difference in the relationship between a husband and wife, and a master and his servant. Even in the days of Jesus, or in the days of Hosea, there was a huge difference.

And yet, for many today, the idea of a relationship with God is one where we are the slaves and God is the Master. While Jesus is indeed Lord of Lords and King of Kings, for the people of God there is a relationship that is more important,

Far more important.

Far more meaningful, far more amazing, far more, dare I say it?

Far more intimate. (not in a sexual way, but a spiritual/emotional manner)

Hosea talks of God as our spouse, noting the incredible change from our identifying His as Lord, to identifying Him as our spouse, our beloved. That is the nature of faith, of a relationship in which we learn to depend completely on God, on His presence, His mercy, His incredible deep love for us all.  We need to learn that God desires to spend time with us, desires that we know the width and breadth, the height and depth of His love!  That He wants us to experience it, even if we can’t explain it.  (Modern forensic apologists and theologians take note!)  This is the God who calls us His own, who makes us His own, no matter the cost, and shows the greatest love, in dying that we might live.

That’s not the love of a master, a lord, a Ba’al.

That’s the love of a husband,  who adores His precious bride. (see Eph. 5!)

We know from scripture that even demons can see Jesus as Lord. (Mark 5. Matt 8, James 2:19) and that many will identify Him as Lord, whom he doesn’t know.

But He knows the ones He loves, and who love Him. He knows those who hear His voice and walks with Him. (this is why Pope Benedict/Cardinal Ratzinger talks about the need of the theologian to hear God to properly understand Theology.)  We need to hear him, to hear of his love, to hear of His care, to know He is with us.

So rejoice in the love of God!  Talk with Him, listen to Him, and rejoice in His presence!

And if you don’t know how to do that, let’s talk and listen and see what His word, His self-revelation to us says.  AMEN

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 329). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Meditation – the rest that isn’t an escape…

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. You know who your teachers were, 15  and you remember that ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17  so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (TEV)

We are witnessing today a kind of meditation in which religion becomes a drug. Its object is to find, not an answer to truth, but a liberation from the burden and misery of each individual existence.

Though Pope Benedict’s quote is nearly 20 years in the past, I see it coming true today as well.  There is a definite tendency in Spiritual Development to create a modern monasticism.  There is a tendency to want to turn out the world, not to contemplate the mysteries of God as much to escape the rat-race.

We want to be freed from the brokenness of the world, we want to be saved from the misery and anxiety of today.  We want respite, a rest that would refresh us.

We don’t want to leave our mountaintop experiences and return to our broken lives. I’ve seen this on too many retreats, and those who would easily volunteer to work on such retreats, experiencing the refreshing nature by observing others going through a process exploring what it means to depend on God.

But we need to meditate, we need to contemplate the mysteries of God.  Meditation is not to escape life, but to embrace life in Christ, To explore the how wide, how long, how deep, how high the love of God is, by experiencing it in the midst of life.  To treasure the guidance of God in His law, because we depend on His wisdom and mercy, to be amazed at the promises He has made us, and delivers in the sacraments.

That is why Paul urges Timothy to study the scriptures, to treasure them continually, for they give us the wisdom that comes from knowing we are saved, for we dwell in Jesus.

Meditation is not an escape from the world, it is the rest we need in the midst of the world, the chance to remember that the Lord is with us, the chance to take a rest and concentrate on His love, on His presence.  To remember the cross, to remember our baptism and what it means, to remember the Body broken and the Blood shed for us.  To see His place in our lives, revealed in the pages of the scriptures.

This is what we need, this gives us peace in the storm, a peace that can be far more powerful than the peace we find escaping the storm.

So take a moment, breathe deep, and remember you dwell in Him, and in His peace.


Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 328). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Is Optimism always Positive?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

35  Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36  (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (NLT2)

In the Christian catalogue of virtues, despair—that is, the radical opposite of faith and hope—is listed as a sin against the Holy Spirit, because it fails to take into account his power to heal and to forgive and thus rejects redemption. Correspondingly, in the new religion, “pessimism” is the sin of all sins, for doubt with regard to optimism, progress, and utopia is a frontal attack on the spirit of the current age: a contesting of its fundamental credo, on which its certainty rests, although it is, nonetheless, constantly threatened in view of the weakness of talk about a “make-believe” God………….
It was once again evident that there is no greater sin against the spirit of the age than to put oneself in a position where one can be accused of a lack of optimism. The question was certainly not: “Is what has been said true or not true? Are the diagnoses right or wrong?” I have been able to find no evidence that anyone took the trouble to investigate such outmoded questions. The criterion was very simple: “Is it or is it not optimistic?” And given this criterion, the book was, of course, condemned.

When I was growing up, there was a book my parents had me read called, “The Power of Positive Thinking.”  It took a lot of criticism, as did Pastor Robert Schuler,  who preached a message of positivity and wrote books which talked about how faith helped people go from trauma to healing.

They received a lot of criticism, and while I am not sure they deserved it, some took their thoughts and words and turned it into a narcissistic, “I will be blessed” religion.

We’ve gone a lot further than that today.  Now as Benedict indicated in the quote above, anything that is not optimistic is considered negative, and even evil.  An example is bringing to light the problems in our city where young men are besieged by violence, some of which is gang-related, and some of which is an overreaction by authorities in fear of being victims themselves.  

We don’t want to hear about that, it is such a negative thing to talk about.

Or the situations of kids “in the system” who bounce from house to house, unable to ever relax in a home.  There are other injustices out there, elder abuse, child abuse, the damage done by drugs to individuals and their families, 

But let’s not mention these problems, because if we do, the idea of America being utopia could be called into question.

Blind optimism is one of the worst curses today, it is the enemy of faith. It denies reality, and therefore it denies our need for God to be involved in our lives!   Jesus said the well do not need a doctor, and yet we optimistically go around saying all is well.

Paul talks in Romans 8 that all things work for good, and that nothing can separate us from God.  These statements are certainly true, yet they are an inventory of the challenges we will face.  True faith and the positive thinking approach cannot exist without hardship, without facing the reality of our brokenness, and then, depending on God, be assured that He will not let go of us.

God is here with you, comforting you, healing you, renewing you.  

The challenge is in realizing you need Him, and that takes an openness to the truth of wh you are…without him.  Not an overly optimistic one, (or overly pessimistic one… but one that rejoices sin that we were once, lost, but now found, once blind, but now we see…HIM!

May God’s peace, which goes so far beyond our comprehension, guard your hearts and mind… as you realize you dwell in Christ Jesus!  AMEN!

 

 

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 293–294). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Why do Christians endure burnout?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Lk 21:36Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”

Ro 12:12Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

Eph 6:18Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Col 4:2Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

1Th 5:17Never stop praying.

Lk 11:5-9Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, 6 ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ 7 And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ 8 But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

“To be with him”—this “with him” is needed not just for a certain initial period so that it can be drawn upon later. It must always be at the heart of the priestly ministry. But it has to be used, it has to be learned so that eventually it will have acquired a certain ease and we can take for granted that it will not fail us in times of trial. It is important that we do not cultivate prayer only when we find joy in it. Just as nothing important can be attained in this life without discipline and method, so, too, our inner life has need of both of these

The quote from Pope Ratzinger above comes out of a quote that starts with a serious question. Back when he was a bishop, he was trying to determine why those who enter the ministry with zealous, that many had high expectations of, why would these potential superstars in ministry collapse, burn out, losing the zeal, only to replace it with emptiness.

It is a good question for us, not just for those in “ministry”, but for all who are in the priesthood of all believers.

And I think the answer is the same.

it is the lack of prayer, the lack of fellowship time with God.

We have to get away from the idea that prayer is something we have to do, or that prayer time should be a time of great joy and being uplifted.  We have to realize that the times where prayer is a lament, the attempt to vent and leave God with all our burdens.  To pray with the tears running full, even to the point where our prayer ends in exhaustion and a release into sleep.

That is why Jesus and the apostles kept encouraging people to pray, to speak, to listen, to communicate with God. You see it over and over, through the psalms, throughout the New Testament, there are invitations to walk in the presence of God.  There are the invitations to give Him all of our burdens, to find peace in His presence, and to know we are safe there.

And if the lack of pray results in burnout and loneliness, then prayer, these times of fellowship with God, allow us to see how He sustains us. To know He is there, to know He is listening, to know we can enter into those hard times of prayer with ease, confident of His love. This is what we need, this is what keeps us going, even in the darkness.

This is our guard against burnout, against losing our zeal, against the feelings of emptiness and loneliness in the storm.

Prayer helps you to know this… God is with you!

So keep praying my friends!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 291). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

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