Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. 38 Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39 Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it. Matthew 10:37-39 (TEV)
995 A Christian always triumphs from the Cross, through his self-renunciation, because he allows God’s omnipotence to act. (1)
521 I wrote to you: Though I can understand that it’s not an uncommon way of talking, I’m not happy when I hear people describe the difficulties born of pride as “crosses”. These burdens are not the Cross, the true Cross, because they are not Christ’s Cross. So struggle against those invented obstacles, which have nothing to do with the seal Christ has set on you. Get rid of all the disguises of self! (2)
I came across these two quotes this morning from St. Josemaria Escriva in two different books – one that I finished yesterday, and one that I picked up and continued in this morning. In them, and in the passage from Matthew above, I find something that has been on my heart for a while.
We don’t understand crosses, or burdens that we are to carry. We even label some people our crosses to bear, or our “thorns in the flesh”, as if the only reason they are in our lives is to keep us humble, broken, and praying for mercy.
In 521, St Josemaria describes that we take on problems,which we label crosses, that we think are holy burdens, but are not really. When we find a person burdensome, bothersome, requiring great patience, when we barely tolerate his presence. If that is all we do, we haven’t born Christ’s cross, we haven’t shouldered a burden God would give us to bear.
That is not to say we do not have crosses to bear, that we are free to disobey what Christ commissions us to live, as His masterpeiece. (see Eph 2:10) There is a transformation in us, at our baptism, that as we live in faith causes us to take up the very crosses God has wanted us to bear, to make the sacrifices, to love, not just rolerate, the unlovable. A cross that requires us to confront brokenness, sinfulness, not with the goal of condemnation, but with the goal of seeing people healed in Jesus Christ. To lift the weary, to nurse the sick. These crosses take self-denial, or as it is put above, self-renunciation, Its putting others welfare – especially their eternal welfare, before our own wants and needs.
This is exactly what Paul is talking about in Philippians 2:
1 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2 I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3 Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4 And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5 The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: Philippians 2:1-5 (TEV)
You might suggest that this is too much of a burden, that you are as unable to comply with this standard, as you are with the law of Moses. That I can’t expect sinners who are justified in Chirst to become this obedient, this transformed, this…. holy.
If that is true, why then inlude Christ’s commission to bear the cross in scripture? Or at least have it footnoted with the statement that this is the ideal? No, this is really what Christ commissions, what he expects, Beyond the above commissions, and Eph. 2:10, and Romans 12:1-8, and all of 1 John, we could add the Beattitudes, Hebrews 12:1-3, and the list goes on.
You have a cross to take up, a place to serve, where you bring people face to face with the God who brought you to Him.
How you do it, is actually simple – you remember you are nailed to the cross with Him, that you have died, that you have risen as His. That He never will leave us, and that as we look to Him, He transforms us into His likeness. THe description of that is the people who take up the cross – and walk like Him.
So I encourage you… start this new year right,
Call our Lord Have Mercy, and realize that loving others is proof that He has.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 4024-4025). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1976-1980). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
Psalm 32:1-7 (NLT) 1
When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude 5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude 6 Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. 7 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.
253 That sick person, consumed by a zeal for souls, said: sometimes the body protests a little and complains, but I also try to transform “those moans” into smiles, because then they become very effective. (1)
A lot of people out there are paralyzed, not physically, but spiritually. Simply put, they know what they want to do, They have no strength to do that which they want to accomplish, they can’t escape the pain and the brokenness of their lives. They say they are believers, that they are Christians, they even may sit in church this morning. They may even say they have a zeal for souls, and give money to missions…
But can they love their neighbor?
Can they forgive their family?
Can they reach out, even as St. Josemaria describes, in their physical weakness?
Can they sacrifice themselves, so that they desire to see others know Christ can be fulfilled?
How much of their spiritual weakness comes from not dealing with their own sin, as the quote from the psalms describes? How much of it comes from hiding their guilt?
Why can’t they just suck it up, and turn to God, knowing His promises, knowing His love, knowing He has promised that He will forgive?
I am presently on a elders retreat – and it is amazing, as each leads a devotion, as we do our impromptu Bible Studies (go find a passage – and explain what it says to you) The theme for the retreat is that we are “sent”. But each section has shown us not that we are… but that we are sent from the place where God deals with our sin, with our brokenness, our pains.
It is from that place –quickened by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, made alive in Christ, freed from sin and delivered into a place full of joy and peace, that we find ourselves ministering to others without thought, serving others, sharing with others, with everyone, the glory of God in which we live.
So suck it up ( a phrase that was often used in past retreats – but the elder who used it has moved south) go to the Father… confess your sins… and go from there… and know He is God.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1241-1243). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:
Last night, as a couple of friends and I were talking about the gospel reading for this week, we struggled with the message that will develop out of it.
Because it challenges our idols, it challenges the things we cling onto for support. And if we are to preach it clearly, we will have to destroy and idol or two. This isn’t easy, and the reaction of the man in the story is what we, as those who are tasked with what is fancifully called “the proclamation of the gospel” fear. The man came to Jesus, desiring eternal life, willing to bend his knee and honor Jesus, and at the end of the discussion this is what happens.
“he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving,”
He went away, rather than accept the invitation to accompany Jesus, in reality to do exactly what was at the heart of the question – to experience heaven, to be in the presence of God. For if he had given all that restrained him, all that bound him, this young man would have walked with God, just as Enoch did, just as Abraham and Moses and David… and Peter and James and John. What he wanted was right before his eyes! And he walked away, turning down what he wanted most. And not only did he turn away, he left broken and stumbling and….grieving.
While he went his way, Jesus went away, for the joy set before Him. A joy that would lead him to the cross. For this young man, into whose heart he looked, and loved, and would die for, gladly. He would endure the cross to break the power of sin, in this case, the sin of idolatry, and by breaking those bonds, the man would be able to do that which he most desired, to live in the presence of God. He would be able to do, that which we cannot do. Jesus would come to him the next time, and free him of that sin, and unite with him.
A good summary of the lesson for us would be this prayer….may we each pray it today, embracing the pain that being separated from our idols will bring, for the joy that was set before Jesus….that caused Him to give up everything that had to do with Himself, that He could share with us that glory and love.
“”Lord, grant me the grace to give up everything that has to do with myself. I should have no other concern than your Glory… in other words, your Love. Everything for Love!” (1)
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1038-1040). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.