Devotional Thought fo the Day:
So He told them this parable: 4 “What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field o and go after the lost one until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, 6 and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ 7 I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance. Luke 15:3-7
But there is already the threat of invasion by the virtuoso mentality, the vanity of technique, which is no longer the servant of the whole but wants to push itself to the fore. During the nineteenth century, the century of self-emancipating subjectivity, this led in many places to the obscuring of the sacred by the operatic.
Among all those who passed away, there were two men. The first was the most famous preacher of the time, and the other, a man who spent most of his life in prison, and only as he approached death, did he stop fighting, and God drew him close. There would be a worldwide celebration of the former man at his memorial service. The latter man would have 2 or 3 at his graveside, with a chaplain in tears.
They get to heaven, who do you think gets the better reception? Which person gets the warmer welcome? Whose arrival makes the biggest splash?
We might think it was the man who spent his life dedicated to serving God, whose life and messages affect more people than anyone can count, more than anyone knows.
Yet, time after time Jesus tells us that it is not a contest, that the joy over the one lost is greater than the 99. That the person hired at the last moment gets the same wage//reward as the one who worked from dawn. That John the Baptist, who was used by God to call many to repentance, is the least in the kingdom of God.
And yet, even in the church, we applaud the famous, those whose charisma leads them to become popular, the opera soloist with the voice no-one can match, but who causes us to be reduced to listeners, to observers.
God isn’t a respecter of persons, St Paul tells us. Yet we are, I am not sure why, but even in the church, we are. We need to remember that they are sinners, saved by grace, that is why they are saints, even as we are.
All because of Jesus.
It’s all because of Him.
Going after you and me when there were 99 back at the ranch, rescuing us, carrying us, working to heal us. Just as the Spirit is still drawing people to Him, through us.
WHo gets the best reception in Heaven?
Jesus… who made it all possible, and has invited us all to that feast, as the guests He so dearly loves!
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. Hebrews 11:22-12:4 (NLT)
258 What a beautiful prayer for you to say frequently, that one of our good friend praying for a priest whom hatred for religion imprisoned: “My God, comfort him, since it is for you he suffers persecution. How many suffer, because they serve you!” What a source of joy the Communion of Saints is! (1)
I read the 11th chapter of Hebrews today, from Abraham through the prophets, from judges to kings and apostles, and I wonder how they achieved the trust they had, the level of faith that sustained them in times of dire need. I consider the saints since, the brilliant ones like Chrysotom, Augustine, and Melancthon, Walther and Benedict XVI. I think of those who’ve changed the world like Luther or Craenmer or St. Josemaria Escriva or Billy Graham, I think of those who withstood tyranny and proclaimed Christ, who would die rather than worship a false God. I think of those like Francis and Mother Theresa and the many unknown who serve those whose health is poor, who live in darkness. Whose names are unmentioned, but their work changes lives. I think of King David and Bede, Beethoven and Mozart; Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, John Michael Talbot, Michael Card, and hear the wondrous praise they have composed.
And I wonder, do I belong in their company?
My head tells me I do, because of the theology I know and preach… that Christ came to have mercy on sinners like me. This is what my soul counts on, more than anything.
Yet in my heart I wonder, will I simply be in the last row in heaven? In the folding chair, brought in at the last moment for those of us standing around, not quite sure I belong there?
After all, I haven’t the wisdom, or the skill, and I especially don’t have the patience of those who endured before me. I haven’t done anything noteworthy, never gotten a million hit, heck a thousand hit blog post, or wrote a song picked up by some great singer. Never served communion to more than 150, or baptized 5 people in a day.
Sometimes I wonder if I will be the last one picked, like in a sandlot baseball game. God shrugs – yeah – I will take him, I guess I need a millionth string holder for the place kicker.
In my mind I would love to be listed there, one of those who did something that was an amazing demonstration of my trust of God, even more a demonstration of how much God is worthy of all trust. How much God will sustain His people, through the worst of storms, through martyrdoms, even as they forgive the sins of those who oppress them.
But I am not, just a simple guy, trying to shepherd simple people. People who still struggle with sin, people who still on occasional doubt. People who learn about God and haev to re-learn about His love. People who still struggle with wanting to do things their own way, seek their own pleasure.
First 40 is amazing to spend some time thinking about;
40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
Without us. Without you and I.
God has something in mind… that we will join them.
These heroes of the church, are waiting, by God’s command, for us…..
And because of this great crowd, bearing witness of Christ, who’ve demonstrated to us the faithfulness of God, surround us, we know we can do as they did. Set everything else aside, just drop it there, and look to Jesus. He is why we have faith, and why our faith will be sustained. He will finish what He began in us. . That is why we will be part of the cloud, it is why they are part of the cloud…..
they are sinners just as we are, and they are saints like us because He is.
We do that, we find we are part of the team, those who know that are life is hid in Christ. And that we are part of that great cloud of Witnesses…
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1081-1084). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. 10 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (TEV)
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. Romans 8:26-27 (TEV)
1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)
141 As, sooner or later, you are surely bound to stumble upon the evidence of your own personal wretchedness, I wish to forewarn you about some of the temptations which the devil will suggest to you and which you should reject straight away. These include the thought that God has forgotten about you, that your call to the apostolate is in vain, and that the weight of sorrow and of the sins of the world are greater than your strength as an apostle… None of this is true! (1)
From the earliest days I remember hearing men and women preach and teach about Jesus, in ever denomination I have been associated with, there has been an encouragement to become people of great faith. Some held up Bible figures, Samson and David, Moses and Elijah, Peter (not the one who would break betraying Jesus, but the one who was the only one ot walk on water, and preached at Pentecost), Paul the greatest missionary that ever lived. Some held up saints that had gone to make their mark on the world, whether Patrick or Francis, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Mother Theresa or Billy Graham. Some hold up the modern heroes now, the Rick Warren’s, the Pope Benedict’s.
I have no problem with us walking in the steps of those who walked before, just as they imitated Christ.
But it is where we imitate them, and where we are encouraged to imitate them, that I find challenging.
You see, every saint is such because of the trust they have in God. The deep conviction and confidence in God, in knowing His presence. That trust, that faith is often born in moments of despair, in moments of failure. Joseph in the prison, Gideon hiding out in the whinepress ( pun intended), Elijah in the cave, Peter in tears as the rooster crows and later on the beach, where three times he answers Jesus…not hearing the words that follow. it’s Billy Graham, having failed as a pastor, or Luther, trembling at the mass, and appearing as a raving lunatic as he took on Satan. It’s Paul as he bears the thorn in his flesh, and as he agonizes over his countrymen.
It is as St Josemaria says, as we look out on the brokenness of the world, of the brokenness of the church. of our own brokenness and sin.
When we feel handicapped, paralyzed, when our hope in view of the challenges… seems diminished.
We need rest – not just physical, but spiritual. We need to sit in the presence, in the glory in the peace of God and allow Him to heal our brokenness, As we see Him do that, as we realize what He did to us in our baptism, and we are nourished by His precious Body and Blood, as we hear those precious words, “my child your sins are forgiven,”, we find our trust in God growing, our faith becoming substantial, We know we can turn to God and depend on Him, that not only will He not condemn us, but He will not allow us to be separated from Him. We learn of his compassion for us, and His call to us, to ensure us He will be our God.
We can’t always hear those words, when we are struggling with the cacophony of life around us, when we are facing temptation, and the guilt and shame of sin. When we are anxious about those we love, and the life-situations that assault and try them. It is in those times, that we need to be strong, but a strength based on confidence that God is indeed with us. With strength that flows from our trust that God will ensure all turns out for good for those who love him. You see, our strength isn’t ours, it is His. Much like a astronaut working on the space station depends on it for Oxygen and is tethered to it, so to our ability to endure is tied to Christ.
That is the thing we need to emulate of those people of great faith we are encouraged to imitate. The results of the work we do? Everyone is different, and for every saint we know of, there are millions whose work was different, who challenges to trust in God were as great, who endured, not because of their strength, but because they trusted in God more than they clinged to life.
They prayed, “Lord have mercy!” confident that because He had, He would! AMEN
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 788-793). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.