Category Archives: The Furrow
Includes citations from The Furrow by St. Josemaria Escriva
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. 28 We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. 29 Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the first among many believers. 30 And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them. Romans 8:26-30 (TEV)
149 I must warn you against a ploy of satan—yes, without a capital, because he deserves no more—who tries to make use of the most ordinary circumstances, to turn us away, slightly or greatly, from the way that leads us to God. If you are struggling, and even more if you are really struggling, you should not be surprised at feeling tired or at having sometimes to “go against the grain”, without any spiritual or human consolation. See what someone wrote to me some time ago, and which I kept for those who naively consider that grace does away with nature: “Father, for a few days now I have been feeling tremendously lazy and lacking in enthusiasm for fulfilling the plan of life. I have to force myself to do everything, and I have very little taste for it. Pray for me so that this crisis may soon pass, for it makes me suffer a lot to think it could make me turn from my way.” I answered only: did you not know that Love demands sacrifice? Read the words of the Master slowly: “Whoever does not take up his Cross quotidie—every day—is not worthy of Me.” And further on: “I will not leave you orphans…” Our Lord allows that dryness of yours, which you find so hard, so that you may love Him more, so that you may trust only in Him, so that you may coredeem with the Cross, so that you may meet Him.
Though I am going to direct these thoughts along the way of St> Josemaria’s discussion of dryness, they could be applied to almost any time of struggle.
Too often I could be the person that St Josemaria was speaking to in the discussion above. Too many times I have been struggling, and don’t have the “enthusiasm for fulfilling the plan of life”, that is working to do His will, to see this world reconciled to Him. I recognize the need to force myself to do the things I love. Part of the struggle is that I feel like I am trying to bail the water out of the Titanic, hundreds of feet under the ocean. Part of it is that for every trauma where people know God’s peace, three more arrive. The work seems unending and overwhelming, and my emotional and spiritual batteries drain too fast…
Then I come across Romans 8, and wonder how in the world these times of struggle fit into the promise of God. How can times where my faith wanders, where I feel so weary and dried out, burnt out, and where God seems silent, how can these times actually work for good?
Or is it that I am not one of those to whom this promise was made? (Yes, I’ve thought that even as I try to make sure others know they are…. and I bet I am not the only one!)
That’s why I included more than verse 28 in the quote from Romans. We know that verse so well, but we fail to see the context is in the midst of a time of weakness, a time of brokenness, a time where even the Holy Spirit groans out in intercession, for the brokenness we endure is great.
But that prayer of the Spirit, that prayer the Holy Spirit interprets and pleads on our behalf with the Father is heard. The Spirit ensures the connection to God’s heart is there, a connection we need to realize is there.
The context also discusses God putting us to right with Him, indeed, as Josemaria tells us, sometimes these moments are necessary so that we realize the connection is viable, that God is caring. That He is here.
I would never say God causes these struggles, these moments when we don’t know what to even say in our prayers, but I do know how He uses them. It is just as Josemaria says, that there I can find the depth of His love, the unlimited faithfulness that sustains me. As well, it from those depths that I find my desire to help people find God as well, that they can find the peace, that they can know He is there. ( I only pray they don’t have to follow as far in my steps before they realize it.) That is how amazing this is, that is how I’ve come to know to trust Him, and even though I don’t like the periods of dryness and despair, I have come to appreciate them, and even (grudgingly at first) embrace them.
For I know He is with me, and with us, and that is not just enough, it is incredibly glorious! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 822-833). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
13 “Find out where he is,” the king ordered, “and I will capture him.” When he was told that Elisha was in Dothan, 14 he sent a large force there with horses and chariots. They reached the town at night and surrounded it. 15 Early the next morning Elisha’s servant got up, went out of the house, and saw the Syrian troops with their horses and chariots surrounding the town. He went back to Elisha and exclaimed, “We are doomed, sir! What shall we do?” 16 “Don’t be afraid,” Elisha answered. “We have more on our side than they have on theirs.” 17 Then he prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD answered his prayer, and Elisha’s servant looked up and saw the hillside covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:13-17 (TEV)
101 The difficulties you have met have made you shrink back, and you have become “prudent, moderate and objective”. Remember that you have always despised those terms, when they became synonyms for cowardly, faint-hearted and comfort-seeking.
There is a fine balance between presumption and courage, between demanding God act and hearing the Spirit’s guidance.
Some fail to discern this by assuming God will only bless them because they are those who are good, only they are righteous. So their presumption leads them to boldly state they are blessed, and what those blessings are. They are aggressive in their actions because of such a lack of discernment. They talk about a theology that dominates, that takes the perspective that the world is here for us.
Some, like me, fail because we have become prudent, moderate and objective. We want to take our time, especially when we encounter difficulties. We don’t want to cross the line and become those who synthesize God’s will and their own desires, so we back away. We struggle on our own, we fail to hear the promptings of the Spirit. We don’t act as we should, we end up preferring the minimal comfort of just getting along.
And so the church closes up tighter than a clam, afraid of its own shadow, or afraid to be confused with the extreme. But there is a balance.
Like Elisha’s servant, need to have our eyes opened, we need to see God’s work in our lives. For if the servant gained courage seeing the army of God surround him, how much more should we be encouraged by God’s presence?
God is with us, who can be against us?
Do we get this?
We need to know He is with us.
We need to live our lives based on knowing Him, for this is our faith, our hope, our joy!
If we get this – we will manage to avoid the extremes, for there is nothing greater to know!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 631-634). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9His wife said to him, “You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?”
10 Job answered, “You are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” In spite of everything he suffered, Job said nothing against God. Job 2:9-10
75 Miles—soldier—so the Apostle calls a Christian. So it is that in this holy and Christian war of love and peace for the happiness of all souls, there are, in God’s ranks, tired, hungry soldiers, covered in wounds… but happy. For they bear in their hearts the sure light of victory.
It is foolish of us to regard the demands of faith—which makes unwanted demands on us and contradicts our own will—as “legalistic” and “institutional” and whatever similar terms may suggest themselves in order to shake ourselves free of it and so to sink into the leaden emptiness of a lusterless and selfish existence that receives nothing because it gives nothing. This thought should strike us anew: admittedly faith is uncomfortable, but only because it challenges us, compels us, to let ourselves be led where we do not wish to go. In this way, it enriches us and opens for us the door of true life.
There are Mondays, and there are Monday’s in which people around us act like Job’s dearly beloved, wife. Actually out of the 142 days that have passed so far in 2017, too many have been Mondays, and it seems as many have had people like Job’s wife in the background.
Or maybe I’ve met Job’s wife as I look in the mirror, as I see the trauma of this world, the suffering of people, and I utter those words, directed to myself. Maybe not curse God and die, but perhaps curse God and find a cave to hide in, give up, find something else.
I know the tired hungry soldiers, covered in wounds who try to minister to the people of God. Who struggle to work with people, trying to reveal to people the love of God who will cleanse and heal their hearts, their souls, their minds. It doesn’t seem reasonable the pain endured by missionaries and pastors, teachers and other church leaders.
I know the weariness of Job, slammed time after time with disaster and trauma, and I would pray for the faith to praise God when He provides times of discomfort and growth as well as the times where everything clicks right. For there are times we are led where we don’t want to go, there are times trusting in God makes us suppress our own desires and want, and sometimes, even our needs. We also suppress our own despair, recognizing it for what it is, and how Satan would use it to isolate us from the comfort and peace found in Jesus. There are times we are called to be like Jesus and need to rely on His Holy Spirit to sustain us, even as He was sustained.
We can either curse God and run/die, or we can trust in God’s faithfulness in His promise of comfort and peace.
It’s hard, and often we waver, but He is faithful. And when we stumble, we can let Him pick us up, cleanse us again, and lean on Him in this journey of life.
The victory is sure, the hope of glory is ours, and He is here, and will never abandon us.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 535-538). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 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 (NAB)
78 You don’t feel like doing anything and there is nothing you look forward to. It is like a dark cloud. Showers of sadness fell, and you experienced a strong sensation of being hemmed in. And, to crown it all, a despondency set in, which grew out of a more or less objective fact: you have been struggling for so many years…, and you are still so far behind, so far. All this is necessary, and God has things in hand. To attain gaudium cum pace—true peace and joy—we have to add to the conviction of our divine filiation, which fills us with optimism, the acknowledgement of our own personal weakness.
There are days like yesterday when I feel like my faith, which took two steps forward the day before, takes three or four steps back.
Sometimes this is caused by my own sin, sometimes by the sins I have to help people find redemption from, sometimes from sin I see or hear about, but am not in the position to help people with, (and sometimes I do not want to) and sometimes it is something that just challenges my faith, like my 46 year battle with my health. Some days are a perfect storm of all of the above, and I struggle to see God,
Sometimes, I do not want to.
My bet is that I am not alone
I think we all have those dark nights of the soul, those moments where we aren’t certain about God helping us, caring about us. We are so overwhelmed, so broken that we doubt his existence, if we bother to think about Him at all.
These are difficult days, it takes an enormous effort to think of God, to not run to something else to console or comfort or distract from the despair.
St. Josemaria talks of adding to the conviction of divine filiation, to put it in our terms, our dependence on God’s love for us, and loving Him in return. I am not going to say this is easy, for it requires us to look away from what is troubling us, and hear His voice, hear his promises, to know they are true. It’s not about our personal strength growing, but our dependence and awareness of His strength, His faithfulness. To see them as a measure of His love, His care, His work. The way we add to our conviction of His love is to hear it, and experience it through His word, through prayer, through the Sacraments. For all point to that day Paul tells the church in Ephesus is coming, the day when all is finished, all is complete.
A work that will be completed, a work that will be finished, a work that draws us into Him, into His eternity. This is our hope, this is our faith, in a God that comes to us, that we might come to Him. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 547-552). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. 1 John 1:5-10 (NLT)
65 Once again you had gone back to your old follies!… And afterwards, when you returned, you didn’t feel very cheerful, because you lacked humility. It seems as if you obstinately refuse to learn from the second part of the parable of the prodigal son, and you still feel attached to the wretched happiness of the pig-swill. With your pride wounded by your weakness, you have not made up your mind to ask for pardon, and you have not realized that, if you humble yourself, the joyful welcome of your Father God awaits you, with a feast to mark your return and your new beginning.
The divine embrace: The appropriate image for biblical and ancient spirituality.
I once again find myself struggling with those I would term sinful, even, in my more cynical moments, evil. Some are in bondage to sin and struggle to realize it, even though all around them can see it. Others seem to revel in their evil, and they will go to great length to defend the sin that so dominates and controls them.
There are days I want to oppose them, to fight the evil. There are other days I simply want to walk away, leave them to their own consequences, to by my absence curse them to remain locked into their evil. It is tempting to want to remove myself from their crap, whether that crap is found in what we call a secular arena, or in one that is supposed to be sacred.
To even think that way reminds me that I am no different, for my sin can dominate me as easily, and as St Josemaria points out, my lack of humility conveniently assumes their sin is far worse than mine. My crap, or the pig slop that St Josemaria identifies, is no better than theirs, my desire to fight or flee is really more about my pride that it is about the distaste for their sin.
It is hard, not at this point to want to condemn myself as much as I would condemn them. Don’t I know better? Don’t I hear John’s words regularly about the reality that exists when I deny my own sin? Those questions run over and crush my heart and soul, for how will I be ever delivered from this life and its struggle with sin? Well, those are my thoughts deep in my heart until I encounter something in someone else that is sinful or evil. Then I forget all about self-condemnation to condemn the easy target.
The only way out of this is to encounter what Webber calls the “Divine Embrace”, the Prodigal’s Father who runs out to embrace his son, casting aside all dignity, all hurt from his son’s betrayal, to embrace Him.
We are that prodigal, God is that Father who embraces us! We are that sinner who can’t deny our sin but confesses it, and finds not only that sin forgiven, but our lives cleansed of all unrighteousness.
A cleansing that enables us to do more than finding others sins revolting, but to actually hurt for them, to beg God to deliver them, to help them. We may even find ourselves led and empowered by the Holy Spirit to reach out and minister to them, to be the agents through whom God reconciles them to Himself, and to His people. Then we will be blessed to witness that which St James about,
19 My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20 remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (TEV)
May we all rejoice at being brought back, together.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 490-495). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. 3 Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3 (TEV)
83 Faced by all those men without faith, without hope; by minds desperately near the borders of anguish, seeking for a meaning in their life, you found your purpose: Him! This discovery will permanently inject a new happiness into your existence, it will transform you, and present you with an immense daily hoard of beautiful things of which you were unaware, and which show you the joyful expanse of that broad path that leads you to God.
There are times where the actions of people affect us. Times where evil or unjust actions cause us to struggle, to even despair and sink into depression. Some of us are more susceptible to this than others, as we do not understand how in the world they justify their actions.
This kind of trauma can paralyze us, make us ask unanswerable questions, we can even begin to doubt God, for how can he allow this level of brokenness, this sin to dominate and evil to flourish. As we ask these questions, out hearts and souls receive hit after hit, even as we try to determine if this is the time to fight, or flee.
I hate to say it is “natural” to enter such struggles but after 50 years, I find that I don’t have the strength to avoid such, nor the power to overcome the tendency to be so affected. Simply put, you can’t care for people, you can’t try to love them without opening yourself up to such burdens, to such struggles.
So how do you cope?
St. Josemaria and St. Paul agree. The answer is to look to Jesus, to find our purpose is Him. They agree that our relationship with Jesus is so precious that we can look to Him and discover the greatest joy. This is the same joy that Jesus saw as he walked to, and was nailed to the cross.
Looking to Him, finding our life our breath and very being located in Him, allows us to see that our trust in Him is true. He will sustain us from the beginning to the end, it will reveal to us the incredible vastness of the love of God, and we will experience it more as we see ourselves as part of His story.
That’s what I need to know, that is why we need to go to the cross when we are feeling this way. Our hearts and souls and minds need to understand what happened when God baptized us when God drew us to Jesus and united us to His death and resurrection, When God declared us righteous, cleansing us of sin, and declared we are His children. We need to allow His presence to dominate our awareness, to let, for then His peace settles over us. Assured He is our fortress, we can then begin to respond in love, and in prayer for those who actions or words drew us deep into despair.
This is what we need, to focus in on Jesus, and be forewarned, it isn’t easy. Satan will buffet us all the way. This is where the communion of saints is so precious, for their testimonies in scripture and in the millennia since demonstrates God’s faithfulness. This is where the sacraments and the word of God come into play, ministering to our hearts, souls, and minds, bringing the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Here is our hope and joy are restored, renewed, here in this sanctuary we call the presence of God, for know this my friends, “the Lord is with you!”
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 571-576). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 When Jesus noticed the crowd around him, he ordered his disciples to go to the other side of the lake. 19 A teacher of the Law came to him. “Teacher,” he said, “I am ready to go with you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus answered him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lie down and rest.” 21 Another man, who was a disciple, said, “Sir, first let me go back and bury my father.” 22 “Follow me,” Jesus answered, “and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:18-22 (TEV)
9 When they talked to him about committing himself personally, his reaction was to reason in the following manner: “If I did, I could do that…, I would have to do this other… “ The answer he got was: “Here, we don’t bargain with the Lord. The law of God, the invitation of the Lord, is something you either take or leave, just as it is. You need to make up your mind: go forward, fully decided and without holding back; otherwise, go away. Qui non est mecum…— whoever is not with Me, is against Me.”
Our culture seems in love with negotiating, or at least the idea that if we negotiate we can get a better bargain. We negotiate for our homes, our cars, computers, vacations, our pay, never mind the fun of going to a swap meet or yard sale and negotiating to pay 3 dollars instead of 4 for something we don’t need or have room for in our garage.
We even try to negotiate with God.
This is not something new, people have been trying to negotiate with God for since the beginning. Or at least they imagine they are negotiating. They take his lack of a counteroffer as a kind of approval, or simply don’t listen to what God has already told them.
Why am I saying “them”, I am just as guilty of trying to make deals with God. Though we can couch this in pious prayers, offering God what we should already have given Him, what is His by right, if only he would bless us in this way or that, or remove this or that. I
I am not saying we shouldn’t pray, but prayer isn’t a negotiation. Neither is salvation or sanctification. And to try and make a deal, or to set the conditions means that we need to go back and examine what the word faith means.
It means trust, it means to depend upon, rely upon.
We don’t bargain with God just out of respect or fear. We learn not to bargain with Him because we’ve learned to trust Him, to know that He has our best interest at heart. That His love, His patience, His desire is to make all things work for good. We can’t negotiate a better deal that He offers in the New Covenant.
That is what God being Lord is all about, it is what being in the Kingdom of God is all about, knowing the Lord who loves us, and calls us to be His special people.
Rejoice, the best is already yours. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 274-279). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12 He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13 And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14 Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16 Under his control, all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)
1 There are many Christians who are persuaded that the Redemption will be completed in all environments of the world, and that there have to be some souls—they do not know which ones—who will contribute to carrying it out with Christ. But they think it will take centuries, many centuries. It would be an eternity, if it were to take place at the rate of their self-giving. That was the way you yourself thought, until someone came to “wake you up”.
The first office, that of the ministry of the Word, therefore, is common to all Christians. This is clear, from what I have already said, and from 1 Pet. 2[:9], “You are a royal priesthood that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I ask, who are these who are called out of darkness into marvelous light? Is it only the shorn and anointed masks? Is it not all Christians? And Peter not only gives them the right, but the command, to declare the wonderful deeds of God, which certainly is nothing else than to preach the Word of God. But some11 imagine a twofold priesthood, one spiritual and common to all, the other external and limited, and say that Peter here speaks of the spiritual one. But what is the function of this limited and external office? Is it not to declare the wonderful deeds of God? But this Peter enjoins on the spiritual and universal priesthood. In truth these blasphemers have another, external, ministry in which they declare, not the wonderful deeds of God, but their own and the pope’s impious deeds. So, as there is no other proclamation in the ministry of the Word than that which is common to all, that of the wonderful deed of God, so there is no other priesthood[i]
In the ancient creeds, the church is described as “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” But how often do we look at what those words mean?
One, the church is a unit, a body, whose mind must be Christ’s mind. Whose work, whether it is hands or feet, mouth or ears, eyes, whatever part, works based from HIs lead. (As we heard yesterday – He is the cornerstone of this body, to which all are joined and measured)
Holy, the church is to be holy, which means to be set apart for a special purpose, one that is sacred. To be holy means to be embraced by God, and to embrace Him. To cry out for a deeper taste of which we see a small portion of in our salvation. We are to walk (together) with God.
Catholic, the church is to be the church of all people, in all places, throughout history. When this was written there wasn’t the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and the myriad of Protestant bodies out there, there was simply the people of God, united by Christ’s blood across georgraphy, across time. We have a tendency in our fractured body to turn on ourselves, to devour those we think threaten us, rather than love and pray for each other. We tend to cast those out who, like us, struggle in our faith.
Apostolic, the church seems to forget this, despite the words of Escriva and Luther. Some want the pastors and priests to do all the work (and then only those on the front line on the mission field) Others think that only the pastors and priests can do this work. Some don’t even bother with this, thinking that somehow, magically, the kingdom of God will grow into its fullness, without our growing into our fullness as those sent by God to change the world.
Not to make it heaven on earth, but to bring about the change that occurs as people know the love of God for them. As they start to explore that love as the Holy Spirit transforms them. This is the life of the church, not matter the label, no matter the location, no matter whether it is 20 people or 20,000. meeting together.
We have been sent by God, we have been given work to do, work that requires us to love people, not just on Sunday morning, but throughout the week. To love those who are friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, enemies, adversaries and even those who are a pain in the ass.
No one retires from this, no exceptions, we are a holy priesthood. This is our identiy as the people of God.
Time to wake up and serve those in need of God’s love.
But remember – God goes with you through it all!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 242-245). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
11 For example, Jerome Emser. WA 8, 247.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
Luke 15:7 (NLT)
18 When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”
Acts 11:18 (NLT)
994 If you really want to be a penitent soul—both penitent and cheerful—you must above all stick to your daily periods of prayer, which should be intimate, generous and not cut short. And you must make sure that those minutes of prayer are not done only when you feel the need, but at fixed times, whenever it is possible. Don’t neglect these details. If you subject yourself totally to this daily worship of God, I can assure you that you will always be happy.
Imagine for a second that you’ve been told on the other side of a chain link fence there is 4 million dollars. That it is yours if you can get past the fence. There are ways to get through it, over it, under it, but it can be done. Those ways might include a little pain, but your mortgage is due, your card just died, and the kids are just a few years from needing money for college, and your tax due just wiped out your bank account.
You grit your teeth, determine which way will work, and get to it. After all, the peace of being debt free for a while is worth the effort.
A change of scenario, the debt is not financial. It is spiritual. Do you set your mind on the end result and embrace what it takes to get to the peace you need? Or do you stay where you are at, hounded by guilt and shame, crushed by the resentment and anxiety you feel? Yet we avoid the very blessing that would free us from all that oppresses us, all that holds us bondage.
I can understand those who do not know God’s love for them avoiding repentance, but what about those of us who do? What about those of us who teach about it, and call people to repentance? Why are we so afraid of it? Are we worried how people will react? Or are we worried we will realize how much we need repentance as well?
I chose the three readings above, in hopes that they will show that there is way to get through the fence, to find the peace we need. That even as we do, all heaven, and all those who know that peace will be rejoicing, that they will be rejoicing for us and with us. And as St. Josemaria indicates, a repentant life is one of happiness, a life of cheerfulness, a life that is abundant and worth living.
Because what is on the other side of the fence brings that joy. It is the life that is intimate with God. That lets Him bear our burdens, that lets Him rid us of the anxiety, the resentment, the guilt, the doubt, the pain. It allows us to cast off this sin which so hand us in its grasp, crushing us with its bondage.
No wonder heaven rejoices when one of us repents. (and we all need to!) It is no wonder that the early church rejoiced and praised God, singing of His glory.
Today we enter the season of lent. It is not that we shouldn’t repent daily, but it is a time of learning why, of taking the time to seriously examine our lives, and not for a season, but for life make adjustments. either ridding ourselves of that which distracts us from God, or taking on something which will make us more aware of His presence. I prefer the latter, as it helps our transformation -not because of our efforts – but because we will find His peace life-changing.
Don’t fear repentance, it is time to embrace it, for the joy set before us… is amazing.
So amazing, all heaven rejoices, as will those who love and care about you.
Cry out with faith, “Lord, have mercy!” and then rejoice that He has!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 4019-4023). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 Jesus said, “This is how you should pray: “Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. 3 Give us each day the food we need, 4 and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.” 5 Then, 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. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Luke 11:1-13 (NLT)
445 If you abandon prayer you may at first live on spiritual reserves… and after that, by cheating.
Of course, God’s name is holy in and of itself, but by this request, we pray that He will make it holy among us, too.
One would think that we have enough examples in scripture, that we wouldn’t forget its importance.
One would think we have had enough examples from our own lives, and from the lives of those who disciple, teach and pastor us.
A few days ago, my devotion quoted the Lutheran Confessions, specifically the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, which said if we called it a sacrament, maybe, then maybe, men would realize the blessing and do it more often.
Far too often I hear people tell of feeling distant from God, who are troubled because He doesn’t seem to be there. Or they feel overwhelmed and challenged, and the anxiety levels continue to climb. Who struggle to know any kind of peace in their lives. It may start in one place, let’s say their workplace. The stress soon affects other places in their life, their home, their friendships, it can even drive them away from the one place they will be reminded of the answer, and the encouragement that helps us realize that God isn’t so far away, that He isn’t so uncaring.
What our forefathers found so incredible, so necessary, so much a preventative against feeling disconnected is simple prayer.
Not because in prayer we do something that proves our holiness, not because the more time in prayer, the more you cause yourself to grow holier. It is not a spiritual discipline in the manner of lifting weights, or working out, where our suffering and pain builds us up.
It is because we are being heard, and as we pray, we become more aware of it. As we become more aware of it, we trust God more and more, we dump the stuff we are trying to deal with at His feet.
Like the idea that we drift away from prayer slowly, it takes us some time to develop a life that is one lived in conversation with God. It is one where our confidence in His presence, in His listening, in His fulfilling His promises grows. Not because of our skill, not because of how eloquent we are, but it grows as we learn to trust Him, as we learn to depend upon Him. And that growth does take time and a continued transformation.
That is why Jesus talks of such persistence in Luke’s account. It is why Jesus talks about the love of a father that will answer his children’s requests. It is to cause us to draw near, to drop our self-defense mechanisms, to show God our wounds, the wounds that are healed because Jesus was wounded on the cross.
The more we see that love, the more we find ourselves exploring it, the more we find salvation to make a tangible change in our lives, the more we learn to desire to prayer. And the more we see those prayers answered….
So pray my friends, and if you don’t know how simply start with the prayer Jesus taught us…. in it all things are prayed for anyway.
Lord have mercy on us, teach us to approach the throne with confidence, and give you all, including that which causes guilt, share, fear or anxiety. Help us be confident that you never will leave us disconnected. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1975-1977). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained, WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “The First Request”