Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, 2 Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, Isaiah 42:1-3 (NAB)
959 When they take their little children in their arms, mothers—good mothers— make sure they do not have any pins in their clothes which could hurt them. When we deal with souls, we should have the same gentleness, together with all the determination required.
There was a children’s story about the lion who had a thorn in his paw. In great pain, he roared and snarled and moved to attack anyone who came near. (Perhaps some of this was out of fear they would attack him in his weakened state…but most of it was because of the pain) Until one day, a courageous youth dared to draw near, and removed the thorn.
There are also stories about alligators with a bad tooth, and the youngster, a wannabe dentist comes near and removes it, making a friend for life.
In most churches, we have people like these. Books have been written about neutralizing them or removing them. And while some, who are teaching false doctrine need to be dealt with differently, I believe that reconciliation is possible for many of them.
It is just a matter of identifying their source of pain, approaching them with care, and helpng them find the healing that God gracefully provides in Christ Jesus.
You see, they are broken and bruised, and while they may seem to be fiery, they are simply smoldering, and needing tender care to see them restored. They require a servant’s heart to minister to them, a heart that resonates with Christ’s, a heart more concerned about their welfare and lack of peace than about defending one’s self.
This isn’t easy, and it isn’t quick.
And yet it needs to be done. For they will simply isolate themselves, and in their pain hurt others, driving them away., or fighting for control of something, because of the lack of control somewhere else in their lives. The damage they can do is huge, it can kill a congregation or parish, driving people away from the church.
And yet, the stories of such reconciliation, of people beginning to heal of such brokenness, reminds us of what God can do in our lives.
Lord, help us to see the pain others are experience, the hearts that are broken, the souls that are tormented, and help us to serve them with Christ’s love. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3889-3891). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for This Day:
5 “But if the enemies of my people want my protection, let them make peace with me. Yes, let them make peace with me.” Isaiah 27:5 TEV
748 Let us make a firm resolution about our friendships. In my thoughts, words and deeds towards my neighbour, whoever he may be, may I not behave as I have done up to now. That is to say, may I never cease to practise charity, or allow indifference to enter my soul.
It is very possible to misread Isaiah in the passage above, to think that the burden of reconciliation God is placing on those who are the enemies of His people. That are the ones to “make peace”, therefore it is their effort, their work. We hear it as a demand from him, as the thundering voice of God’s law, with the undertones of wrath below it.
We choose to hear it as God’s law – as the prophetic voice that will allow us to thrash them unless they prove their intent to make peace. Which means, of course, that we can then have the same attitude, because the enemies of God’s people are our enemies, because we are God’s people, right?
This gives us full license to be holier than thou – or at least holier than those racists, or those politicians, or those other people, you know, the ones that don’t go to our church but go to “that” church, or no church at all.
I even heard that to preach “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you is law, therefore we don’t have to obey it, just confess it when we fail too! ( We need a refresher in Augsburg Confession Article VI)
St. Josemaria’s words caught my attention this morning. He described a desire to change his attitude toward his neighbor, whoever he maybe! He then describes a life that is charitable, that loves, that has compassion, and never allows indifference to enter his soul.
What if that neighbor was an addict to drugs, or dealt them? what if that neighbor was into porn, or and it was wrecking his life and family? What if that neighbor was a militant atheist or someone who morality and ethics we question. What if they murdered someone, deliberately or by neglect? What if that neighbor was one of those in Charlottesville that was rioting? (It doesn’t matter which side, or whether they were those who just wanted to “amp” up the tension)
Each of those people may be identified as our neighbor, and we need to rid ourselves of our apathy, we need to find the ability to be compassionate toward him or her. We need to invite them to make peace with God, and then perhaps, over time, with us.
Which brings us back to Isaiah, and the question about God’s intent about these enemies. Does He mean they have to make peace with Him, atoning for their own sin, proving their intent? Or is it an invitation to be at peace with God, to be drawn to Jesus, and the cross which cleanses us from all sin?
From St. Paul,
8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:8-11 (NLT)
Let them make peace, a peace for which the price has already been paid.
It is an invitation, one that will result in them (and us) being cleansed of all sin and unrighteousness.
It is there, in this invitation, that we ALL can find hope. …
Lord Jesus, help us to shed our apathy, our indifference toward our neighbor, and with great compassion and love lead them to where God reconciles them with Himself. And remind us constantly of the wonder of the peace you give us, as by grace you save us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3115-3117). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
American Bible Society. The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation. 2nd ed. New York: American Bible Society, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30 For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (TEV)
329 We all need to foresee our lack of objectivity whenever we have to judge our own behaviour. This applies to you too. (1)
If we are to guide people to Jesus and the cross, we need to do it as He did.
In the passage above Jesus talks of being gentle and humble in Spirit. Look into the Greek a little and you will find the words underlying those two thoughts include words like empathetic, compassionate, caring, and subservient, self-sacrificing, not proud.
It is similar to the list of attributes that Paul lists in regards to love in 1 Corinthians 13, the love which is necessary for ministry, for preaching and prophesying. The unique combination of love and mercy that puts the good of the other first, no matter what the cost, even the cost of death. An interesting side note to this was from another devotional book of mine,
He reminded us that the scarlet robe of the cardinals is a symbol of their readiness to undergo martyrdom. The Church explains this in the formula: “He who wears it must be willing to defend the faith usque ad effusionem sanguinis—even to the shedding of blood.” (2)
It is that love that results in Jesus, and all who imitate and follow him to be gentle and humble in their ministry to others, calling them not to a legalistic obedience, but to hear God, and love Him back by walking with Him, (and therefore obeying, as the Old Testament promised from the law written on their hearts)
This isn’t an easy way to minister, and like the cardinals of old were reminded that their ministry could indeed include their martyrdom, we who minister, whether lay or clergy, have to be prepared to offer our lives as living sacrifices. (see Romans 12) For most of us, that doesn’t include a physical martyrdom, but one of our will, one of our hearts (which are circumcised by God – Col. 2)
Which is St Josemaria’s point in the quote in blue. We have to be aware of our lack of objectivity, we have to be able to recognize when “we” get in the way of His work. We need to examine ourselves and pray that God would eradicate in us the tendency to be proud and the spirit that is narcissistic.
Not because of some legalistic pietism, and not even so that we actually minister more effectively. Rather, because we are trusting God, realizing that walking with Him is walking in the promise our baptism, and in letting the Spirit transform us (see 2 Cor 3) more and more into His image results in this.
Gentle and humble, empathetic and self-sacrificing, ministering effectively because we are allowing ( and we grow to desire this ) God to crucify our egos, our lack of objectivity, even as we are embraced by God on that same cross. We learn to depend upon Him that much.
This is the life of faith, it is time to live it, it is time to enjoy this peace. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1546-1547). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) 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:
10 For those whom Yahweh has ransomed will return, they will come to Zion shouting for joy, their heads crowned with joy unending; rejoicing and gladness will escort them and sorrow and sighing will take flight. Isaiah 35:10 (NJB)
210 At times, seeing those souls asleep, one feels an enormous desire to shout at them, to make them take notice, to wake them up from that terrible torpor they have fallen into. It is so sad to see them walk like a blind man hitting out with his stick, without finding the way! I can well understand how the tears of Jesus over Jerusalem sprang from his perfect charity.
If the Church stays “indoors,” she certainly will age. The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the “existential peripheries,” where the mystery of sin, pain, injustice, religious indifference and of all human miseries are found.
Right now, I am in the midst of the Psalms, and over and over I see the writers of them describe scornfully those who do not follow God. There is often no call for mercy, no call for mercy, just a call for harsh, blind, and effective justice.
To use Lutheran-speak, there is a great call for the Law to be applied, yet little for the gospel.
As I look through FB post after FB post, I see the same attitude is prevalent among many in the church today. Whether their antagonist is a political figure or someone in Hollywood, whether it is all of Islam or those who understanding of morality is contrary to that found in scripture, there is a sense that we have to persecute them, that we have to not only separate ourselves from them but make sure everyone knows they are condemned to hell.
We want to apply the law to them, even as we desire the comfort of God’s grace to be shown to us, even in our struggle with sin. We overlook all of Jesus’ teaching which calls us to love them, to seek out their reconciliation, to seek them out and share the gospel with them.
While I wish we would recognize that there might be a better way that to shout at them and shake them awake from their soul-sleep; I think we need to grow in the grief that St. Josemaria describes. We need to know the sorrow and sadness that comes from watching people we know, people we should love struggling without God, without knowing His love, without knowing His mercy.
Look at that person you would condemn, is it that impossible that God would bring them home, with the joy that Isaiah describes? It is possible that God would desire to remove the blinders from their eyes, heal their souls, cleanse their hearts?
Or maybe, it is those in the church that need to be awakened. Maybe we are the ones stumbling in the darkness, who need to once again hear of His grace. That we need to experience the depth of His love and mercy and having done so, now want to share that time, that way of the baptized life with the world.
Lord, help us to grow int he awareness of your mercy, your love, your presence in our lives that Your compassion for the lost becomes our compassion, and that we would see them transformed, even as the Holy Spirit transforms us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1086-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 For I received from the Lord the teaching that I passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a piece of bread, 24 gave thanks to God, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memory of me.” 25 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup and said, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.” 26 This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (TEV)
15 In these times of violence and brutal, savage sexuality, we have to be rebels: we refuse point blank to go with the tide, and become beasts. We want to behave like children of God, like men and women who are on intimate terms with their Father, who is in Heaven and who wants to be very close to—inside!—each one of us. (1)
Disclaimer: This blog is not primarily about 9-11.
there was a massacre once, the slaughter of the innocent, that we should not, will not, cannot forget.
It was ultimate act of depravity, the ultimate act of violence, and it is something we have to remember, not because of the violence, not because of the savagery, but because in that very act, we are given hope. Even in that death, we are given life. Even in that savage, torturous, incomprehensible act, we find our rest an peace.
There is no greater paradox.
Paul instructs the church to remember not just the act above, but the One who was brutalized and killed. In Greek the work translaeted “to remember, to not forget, to memorialize, etc” is much stronger than just give him a passing thought. It is related to words like repentance (to have a new mind) and the root where we get paranoia. It is something that deeply affects and is rooted in the mind. Not just knowledge, not just a passing thought, but something that burns into our mind and soul, that causes in us a change.
We proclaim that death, we reveal again the love that is revealed in His willing sacrifice of His life for us.
Something that changes everything.
Some of us will remember 9-11, like those before us remember the Shuttle exploding, or the Oklahoma City Bombing, like those, who remember Kennedy getting shot, or Pearl Harbor. There are other events that we will never forget because they scar our souls, they ring us to the core, they cause us to be on guard.
this remembrance, where we take and eat the Body of Christ given up for us, where we drink the Blood of Christ given and shed so that sin is forgiven, this knowing the presence and depth of the love of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, doesn’t just scar our souls, it brings healing and life to our heart and soul, our mind and body that have been scarred by sin and the injustice of the world. It sustains us through the rush of the world’s evil, and the traumas of life.
That is why we remember, that is why we proclaim His death until He comes….
For in knowing Him, we know peace.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 290-293). 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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 After seven days the LORD gave me a message. He said, 17 “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. 18 If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. 19 If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me. 20 “If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. 21 But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too.” Ezekiel 3:16-21 (NLT)
673 We can never attribute to ourselves the power of Jesus who is passing by amongst us. Our Lord is passing by: and he transforms souls when we come close to him with one heart, one feeling, one desire: to be good Christians. But it is he who does it: not you nor I. It is Christ who is passing by! And then he stays in our hearts—in yours and in mine!—and in our tabernacles. Jesus is passing by, and Jesus comes to stay. He stays in you, in each one of you, and in me. (1)
674 Our Lord wants to make us coredeemers with him. That is why to help us understand this marvel, he moves the evangelists to tell us of so many great wonders. He could have produced bread from anything… but he doesn’t! He looks for human cooperation: he needs a child, a boy, a few pieces of bread and some fish. He needs you and me: and he is God! This should move us to be generous in our corresponding with his grace. (1)
I heard something the other day, that unnerved me. A pastor told one of his members that he didn’t have the gift of compassion. That it wasn’t his calling to care about people. Part of me wishes I could be so callous, part of me knows that I would be wrecked if I was, i would simply shut down.
The reason I wish I could be so callous is that it hurts to watch those who are entrusted to our care fakk into judgment, to walk away from the love of God that would heal the bruises they don’t want to admit they have. It is not like having a part of you, ripped from your body, and watching it slowly rot before your eyes. I guess you could be callous and realize your body has other parts, that it will survive, that you could ignore the pain. While we can’t brutally force them to stay, we can’t let them go without tears, without praying that somehow they would listen, they would hear – not our voice- but the voice of God. And when they walk away, we should weep, not for the failed efforts, but for their souls, for that which they will endure until like the prodigal, they come home.
I’ve known a few of these tears recenlty – know many in the past.
That is the price of being co-redeemers with Christ, about being the child who brings a couple of fish and some loaves. About being Peter, who grew from his own failure to be God’s voice, to be Dorcas, the Lady who loved and served. Yes, some of us get the “upfront” jobs Others work behind the scenes, others are there when all the chips are down. Yet it is God in all, working through all . It is Christ’s call our to people that we utter, in sermons and in coffee shops covernsations, by bedsides and in Bible Studies.
We have compassion, because He has compassion – it is He that desires to be there for them, through us. There is no option – we must learn to care as He cares. To be there, to bring His love and mercy and healing, things that come from being in a relationship with Him. There in peace, and security, for when we and they, hear the word of the watchman, we find our refuge, our keep, our fortress…. is Jesus. The One who is passing by… and taking us with Him.
So cry hard for those who have not really heard.. but pray even more for them, for the Father desires their homecoming, and Christ is going to go to them…
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2475-2484). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
My devotional thoughts for today…
27 Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “GOD has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? 28 Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. 29 He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. 30 For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. 31 But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. Isaiah 40:27-31 (MSG)
You ask me, “Why that wooden cross?” And I quote from a letter: “As I raise my eyes from the microscope, my sight comes to rest on the cross—black and empty. That cross without a corpus is a symbol; it has a meaning others won’t see. And I, tired out and on the point of abandoning my work, once again bring my eyes close to the lens and continue. For that lonely cross is calling for a pair of shoulders to bear it.” (1)
It’s going to be another long day, I will probably be “working” late into the evening. The emotional roller coaster that hit top speed last Wednesday continues, and the work is piling up.
I know some of the people I am working with are far more challenged, far more weary, far more exhausted, and their burdens I struggle to turn over to God, (even though I know He has them already… I feel a need to help)
But there are days where I echo thoughts I know are said by those around me, as they question God. There are times where even as we pray, we wonder if He is listening. We leave Him, as He has asked – our burdens, but we anxiously wonder if they will be picked up. How are we to leave those burdens, those anxieties behind? How are we to keep moving, when it seems like we have no energy left? How are we to stop our complaining, our critiquing, our whining? They are the outbursts of people that are tired and weary>
As I read Escriva’s simple words, they simplify the problem, and identify what I know. Our work is our cross, our times of toil and tears is ours to bear. Even as I desire to abandon it, even as I desire to call ir a day, I know that I can keep going, I know that God’s work isn’t as heavy as I complain about, as I whine about. When I do, I am missing out on something, and I admit I miss out to often. The challenge isn’t the work after all, it is realizing what Isaiah says.
Do I know God is with me?
Do I realize His promises to sustain me?
Do I realize I do not bear this cross alone, but it is the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, who is strengthening me? Do I know His compassion?
We need to realize that in those burdens, in these crosses we take up, we find fellowship, we find communion with God. We find out He is here, that we aren’t alone. The burden doesn’t weigh as much. When we realize this the burden does fade, the sweat and tears are replaced with peace, and His strength – always there, becomes known, and we begin to rejoice.
In truth, it has nothing to do with our age, our strength, the size of the burden, what causes us to take it up, is knowing Him, being with Him.
Does God care I am tired? Yes.. which is why He is here….lifting me up with His presence.
We need to listen when we cry, “Lord have mercy!” For then we can hear the answer!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 735-738). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Why I Love the Old Testament (justifiedandsinner.com)
- VIP Concert Passes, Surgical Nurses and Divine Appointments.. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Burden Bearer (catchingavisionbyviv.wordpress.com)