Category Archives: st josemaria escriva
Devotional Thought of the Day:
When it was late in the day, his followers came to him and said, “No one lives in this place, and it is already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the countryside and towns around here to buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But Jesus answered, “You give them something to eat.” Mark 5:35-37 NCV
191 When I speak to you about “apostolate of friendship”, I mean a personal friendship, self-sacrificing and sincere: face to face, heart to heart.
On any given morning my email box is filled with thirty to a hundred emails, and about 80 percent I simply delete. What really irritates me are the ones that are form letters sent out by a contact management software, that try to make it look like they are personal messages.
One recently even mentioned that if I had already responded to the previous email, they apologize for the software not being updated to recognize this and that they would stop sending the email eventually! I get the feeling that if I called the person, they would not know that they “contacted” me. I know some of the programs are set up to send letters, pre-written, on a schedule.
They didn’t. Their software program did.
I don’t mind bulk mail, I understand that missionaries and other churches are busy, and I appreciate copying me along with many others for support and prayer. I don’t even mind advertisements that are automated. It’s the idea that someone thinks that they will gain by making the advertisement look like a personal contact.
In the gospel reading this morning, the disciples were amazed by the people wanting to hear Jesus. I imagine they loved the accolades, the great joy (and a little frustration) that comes with being a superstar, or at least part of His crew. They were learning about the kingdom of heaven, and they would learn a lesson today.
” the show’s over, they need to go eat!” they tell Jesus. We are done with them, you taught, they listened, some were healed. Good day, let’s pack it up and get the rest, relaxation, and prayer you mentioned.
Jesus’ reply, “you feed them”
Don’t care from a distance, actually care Don’t just see their need, make sure the need is met. You can do it, (Jesus knowing he would supply the food) just do it.
That’s how the Missio Dei works, the apostolate of friendship as St Josemaria describes it. Laughing with them, crying with them, being involved. Not just monitoring responses to a contact system, but actually getting involved in their lives. Not just keeping in contact, but being in communion with them. And as St. Josemaria said, this means there is a sacrifice, there is something personal, face to face, heart to heart. There is cost, but there is also immeasurable grace, mercy, and love. For God is there.
As I was writing this, I think back to several conversations recently. The basic idea of each was that the pastor seemed to be writing the sermons directly to the person that heard it. Pastors who hear this often reply, “that was one I was preaching mostly to myself.” They are astonished when they realize how that sermon also touched their people’s hearts as deeply as they struggled with it.
I believe this is evidence of the relationship of people and pastor in communion with each other. It is the evidence of the apostolate of friendship, the communion of saints that we confess in our Creed. It is about learning what sacramental and incarnational ministry mean, and it is imitating Jesus.
Get to know those people around you, be their friends, share their struggles, rejoice with them in their celebrations. Whether pastor or layperson, you need to understand you were sent into their lives, and you get to help them explore the love of God. And as you do, with them you will find His love ever more true, every more bright, ever more glorious! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1012-1014). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. 7 My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. 8 O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT)
179 Days of silence and of intense grace… Prayer face to face with God… I broke out into thanksgiving, on seeing those people, mature in years and experience, who opened out to the touch of grace. They responded like children, eagerly grasping the chance to convert their lives, even now, into something useful… which would make up for all the times they have gone astray and for all their lost opportunities. Recalling that scene, I put it to you: do not neglect your struggle in the interior life.
These days are filled with noise, and if it weren’t enough to have noise, it is noise that in many cases can’t be trusted, no matter where it originates. And as the noise grows, it gets louder and louder, as those making noise want to grab our attention
As I sit here in my home, I have no television on, no music playing through my Groove Ap, there is just the odd bird chirp, my fingers making noise on the keyboard, and my artificial valves clicking away.
It is odd, and uncomfortable at first, this silence.
It takes a moment to adjust, to move past the temptation to close my eyes,
And as I write, my mind drifts to Sunday morning, and the Body and Blood of Christ that I will give to HIs people, the nourishment they need. My mind drifts to the people I know are dealing with high stress. who need healing of body, mind, and soul. My mind drifts then to my own failures and stresses, some I would rather not deal with, but the silence drives me there, and there in the midst of my own brokenness, I find Jesus…
Hard at work, the craftsman of life, transforming my brokenness into something glorious, something that others can see that will cause them to praise God, and desire such a journey for themselves. If that alone were the reason for my journey into silence, into the place where I have to leave my anxieties, grief, guilt, shame and pain in Christ’s hands, it would be perhaps enough…
Yet there He is, welcoming me into this place, relieving my burdens, and my sin, and in doing this, I realize the what defines His glory far beyond His power, authority, wisdom. What defines His glory is, His love for us!
Do not be afraid of the silence, but be still, and find in that silence, your refuge in God. Amen
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locatitemptation63). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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:
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:
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:
28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. 30 The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 CEV
853 Use this prescription for your life: “I don’t remember that I exist. I don’t think of my own affairs, because there is no time left.” Work and service!
Don’t stop reading this post after the next paragraph. Keep going, it will be worth it.
The word submission has taken on a very negative tone in the last few decades. Especially the idea of submitting to God, to allowing Jesus to be the Lord of your life. I could give twenty or thirty examples of why, including the fact that some people abuse the idea of submitting to God, in order to get people to submit to them. Men have done this to get women to submit, parents have done this to get children to submit, some in government, and even in church leadership want their people to submit.
But they don’t understand what submission is, they don’t get the paradox. And they don’t understand that submission isn’t about wielding authority and controlling others, it is about freeing them from things that shouldn’t bind them, that shouldn’t oppress them, that shouldn’t such life and joy from them.
Instead, this paradox of submission is about freeing them to live life, to know God’s love, to experience peace.
You see this in Jesus words above in red, quoted from Matthew’s gospel. Submitting to God means giving Him all the things that wear you down, that stress you out, that cause anxiety. The things that burden us, that tire us out. The stuff that leaves us exhausted, because they are out of our control. Jesus would have us submit our lives, where we get so fixated on our life that we don’t ever really live it.
Worry’s about family, friends finances, health or eve facing death.
Guilt and shame from past sins we struggle with daily.
Resentment and anger from those sins that have been committed against us,
All this stuff Jesus asks us to give to Him, to submit to His care. He would free us from these concerns of life. Which is why St Josemaria talks the way he does, saying I don’t remember that I exist, I am not concerned with my own affairs, I am free to just live, to do and to serve others.
Biblical submission is not about recognizing someone’s authority over you, it is not about becoming their robot. It is about realizing God’s care for you, HIs love, and allowing Him to do what He has promised. It is about trusting Him, depending upon Him, knowing that He cares.
And living in the freedom of not worrying about, not hyper-focusing upon those things we cannot change.
But instead to live in peace… unexplainable, glorious, restful peace.
Even on Monday!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3021-3023). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 You are reasonable people. Decide for yourselves if what I am saying is true. 16 When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 17 And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. 1 Corinthians 10:15-17 (NLT)
We have quoted all of this here, not to begin an argument on this subject (his Imperial Majesty does not disapprove this article), but to make clear to all our readers that we defend the doctrine received in the whole church—that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present and are truly offered with those things that are seen, bread and wine. We are talking about the presence of the living Christ, knowing that “death no longer has dominion over him.”7
826 You have to make your life essentially, totally eucharistic.
My father’s 88th Birthday was on Monday, and one picture of my dad continues to come to mind. It was him, kneeling at the altar rail, wearing his sunglasses (with a light brown tint )
I knew the reason he wore him, he was afraid of people seeing the tears that would flow as He received the body and blood of His Savior Jesus. The presence that would lay his broken and wounded heart out, and allow healing to happen. The tears couldn’t stop while he was there, the was nothing he could do about them. And there was, in the midst of the tears caused by ripping open the scars, a sense of wonder at the peace. It overwhelmed him. There are two pictures of my dad that come to mind when I think of him in his older years, and this is the primary one.
I then think of a phenomenon that occurs when the youngest of children approach the rail in my church. It started with one girl during an Ash Wednesday Communion service. She was 2 and a half, and so comfortable at the rail next to her mother that communed that she grabbed hold of it, and wouldn’t let it go. Her scream pierced the darkened church a moment later, “No I want to stay with Jesus!” she said! Since then, almost always on their first visit, we’ve seen children do this, again and again, grasping onto the rail, or trying to come back after their parents returned to their seat. Far too many times for it to be a coincidence, and my elders and deacons know well to simply tell the parents it is okay for them to stay there. They are welcome, and they are at peace.
When I read St. Josemaria’s words this morning, as he advises us to make our lives eucharistic, ( or some Lutherans might use the word Incarnational) it resounded to me. The words were supported by the observation in the Lutheran Apology of the Augsburg Confession – as Melanchthon reminds us we are communing with the Body and Blood of Christ, the presence of the living resurrected Messiah, Jesus.
We are in His presence, He gives us Himself in this bread, in this wine. It is something that should leave us in awe at His sacrifice of love, at His desire to be part of our lives, part of us. That in this meal, at this moment, we find ourselves in the same place as the elders of Israel in Moses day.
9 Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain again. 10 There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. 11 And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Exodus 24:9-11 (NLT)
He did not destroy Him, they were so at peace in the glorious presence of God that they ate and drank ( the NLT adds in “a covenant meal, ” but they were indeed celebrating the Mosaic Covenant – God’s promise to care for them, to make them His people)
I know my dad felt that overwhelmed, even if he had great trouble describing it with words. Just the thought would bring tears to his eyes, and cause him to struggle to speak. He would be so overwhelmed he didn’t want to approach it too often, he had to work himself us to go to that place, so overwhelming was the peace and his need for it. I think kids are more aware of the presence of God than we could credit them for, which is why the altar is a joyous, peaceful place they don’t want to leave.
I could tell you the story of others, whose body language shared how crushed they were by the world, or by the weight of their own sins, only to approach the altar and have all that pressure dissipate, all that weight lifted.
Not because of the pastor/priest, not because of the building, but simply because of the presence of God, Because of the gift, the grace He gives us in this holy sacrament, for He gives us Himself….. and like the elders, we do not die in the presence of God, but He nourishes us, as He reminds us of the covenant, of His promise that we are His.
I pray that you and I could be like the kids, who never want to leave, as we experience His presence, as He heals our broken hearts and souls. May we yearn for it, not to be considered pious by the world, but to experience the foretaste of heaven, and share in His glory.
May we receive His gift with gladness and joy! AMEN!
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2935-2936). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)
24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. Romans 7:24-25 (NLT)
223 Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.
For decades I think we’ve bought into an idea of spiritual growth that is both childish, and damaging. It begins with telling stories of the great people that precede us in the faith as if they were perfect, as if they had no faults, as if they weren’t broken.
King David was perfect, and not an adulterer and murderer. St Paul was a theologian par excellence, without a doubt or any struggle with sin. ( I can even find commentaries that say the above quote from Romans was St. Paul talking about prior to his conversion! ) We will whitewash Luther’s bi-polar nature, or Mother Theresa’s dealing with both depression. We do this all the time, even with the modern folks we believe will be the next generation’s heroes of the faith.
That idea seems to be revealed for what it is, immature at best and perhaps deliberately misleading.
Paul struggled with sin, he realized that he had to battle for what was his in Christ, not to achieve it, but to receive it, to believe in, to depend on it. Even when our heart is trying to get us to focus on our sin, on our failures, on our spiritual growth not being as great as it should be.
St. Josemaria describes in a way that resonates with me, that there are times where we are going backwards, rather than forwards, that things are getting worse rather than better. I resemble this at times, more often that I want to admit.
Which makes it challenging, because my mind will then move to why be a pastor, if I can’t grow deeper in faith myself?
Evaluating our spiritual growth is good, if we understand what spiritual growth is, what it really looks like, how it is measured.
The struggle with our sinfulness is part of it, we should never become complacent with our sin. It shouldn’t haunt us, for Christ has won the victory over it, but we shouldn’t become complacent either. Our sin still needs to irritate us, disgust us, make us uncomfortable.
Not so we hide from God, but that we depend upon Him to purge that sin from us, that He would transform us. Growth that has as its goal that we would treasure His love and mercy more than we treasure the sin.
This is growth, this battle, this fight, a growth which seems unending, but it will end. He has promised and He is faithful. As He hangs on to us, we learn to hang on to Him.
May we be transparent enough with the generations that follow us, that they clearly see our trusting in God, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when we think we don’t deserve His mercy and love.
For then they will know this growth as well.. and not be as dismayed when Satan assails them.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 959-964). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. 12 I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. 13 I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. Philippians 4:11-13 (TEV)
117 “What do I have to do to maintain my love for God and make it increase?” you asked me, fired with enthusiasm. Leave the “old man” behind, my son, and cheerfully give up things which are good in themselves but hinder your detachment from your ego… You have to repeat constantly and with deeds, “Here I am, Lord, ready to do whatever you want.” (1)
e need to stopIt is rare these days for pe]eople to ask how to grow stronger in their faith. I am not sure whether that is good or bad. Some might not care to grow, some might be afraid to grow. While others are growing, their faith being stretched like taffy, or a balloon expanding so fast that you wonder if it will burst.
There is a secret to this growth, a need for freedom from things that tether us down, box us in, that define the boundaries that we think define us, but in reality simply constrain us, and eventually choke out our faith.
Let me give you an example. As a young man wanting to be a pastor, I set a boundary on where I would serve. I asked God to send me anywhere, except for the desert. I narrowed the scope of my vision, and I would come to realize that the people in that desert needed the comfort and peace, the contentment that only comes from when you realize you live in the presence of God. (Yes, my first three churches I served were in the desert – and I needed to be there more than the people needed me)
I still occasionally do that, narrowing down where I will serve, or to whom I would “allow” God to send me. God, you couldn’t have me in that kind of position, or ministering in that kind of church. God you couldn’t use someone like me like that, etc.
And so do you.
We need to stop setting boundaries, we need to stop tying ourselves down, tethering ourselves to things that stop us from growing in our faith. St Josemaria considers that might even include good things that hinder our detachment. Things our ego depends upon to identify us as individuals, and therefore stop us from trusting that God knows what He is doing.
For growth, maturity in the faith is not confidence in ourselves, it is confidence in God, a deepening sense of contentment. Whether it means we have to go without, or we have to learn to deal with having more than we need. ( I know some of us find that harder to deal with! ) Spiritual growth is the abandonment of self, assured that God will develop what in us, and dependent on His promises.
Whatever He wants, where ever He wants, however long He wants; depending on the presence of Jesus, the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit
This is faith, a faith that grow and be stretched, a faith without boundaries, a faith that grows significantly, because God causes the increase.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 614-617). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
97 Renew each day the effective desire to empty yourself, to deny yourself, to forget yourself, to walk in novitiate census, with a new life, exchanging this misery of ours for all the hidden and eternal grandeur of God. (1)
Since teaching through Colossians a couple of years ago, these words in red above seem to resonate with me more and more. I have written about them before, and will probably do so again.
I think they are critical for us to understand, this idea of our “real life”, a life which seems hidden, a life which is easily overlooked and forgotten, a life that is found at the throne of God.
THat’s where we belong, it is our eternal life. The life that began when God circumcised our hearts, cutting away the sin and unrighteousness as He baptized us. That was the conversation in the previous chapter in St. Paul’s letter to these saints.
But in chapter 3 he gets to the impact of that cleansing, the difference it makes in our lives today, and every day that will come. He talks of our eternal life as our real life, our reality. He urges us to set our hearts on this dance with God the Father, Son and Spirit. The dance we’ve been invited too, and see glimpses of, even if our mind cannot clearly picture it.
If our mind cannot, our hearts and soul can be set on this. For our hearts are better at knowing we are loved, knowing we are forgiven, and being able to accept the mysteries that our minds can’t fathom.
But as our hearts settle there, we dwell in the peace of God, we lose ourselves, yet find our life in Jesus. For everything changes, from our priorities, to our relationships, from what we “need” to how we view those around us.
So today, think about the glory of heaven and come to realize with your heart that not only do you have a place there… you are already in His presence…
and rejoice in that peace!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 556-558). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.