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The Strength of the Church’s Influence is Not Where You Might Think

40  “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41  Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger, will share in his reward. And whoever welcomes a good man because he is good, will share in his reward. 42 You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.” Matthew 10:40-42 (TEV)

The unrealistic demand that everything the Church teaches be lived completely and in all its fullness fails to take into account humanity as it actually is. There exists in every man a certain tension between that which the Church recognizes as what the Christian ought to be and do and that which the average Christian normally achieves. That is why penance and pardon are fundamental constants in the life of a Christian. In fact, the strength of the Church, the possibility of making her teachings more widely known to mankind, lies not so much in the extensive sphere of mass influence, but rather in the fact that she encounters people personally in the small communities in which they live. It is, indeed, precisely the personal word, the personal pastoral care, and a renewed catechesis that reaches out to the children and cooperates with the parents that are fundamental in making people realize that they are not to be treated as children, but that, on the contrary, it is actually their own survival as men that is at stake.

Out of all these things the conclusion follows that Christians do not live in themselves but in Christ and in their neighbor—in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love. Through faith one ascends above oneself into God. From God one descends through love again below oneself and yet always remains in God and God’s love. As Christ says in John 1:51, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”(37 footnore below)

The quote in green above is remarkable, not just because of what it says, but because of who says it.

Joseph Cardenal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, was the leader of doctrine for the largest religious body in the world, the Roman Catholic Church. Yet he saw the power of the church, and the hope of the church not in its worldwide influence, but in the small community, in the personal small group communities, in the personal word from one to another.

It is found in the pastoral care that is given, as a pastor/priest encourages his people to seek pardon, to look at their sin in a penitential way, and in the grace he offers as he speaks on behalf of Jesus, commanded by Jesus to forgive the sins of people.

It is in the cup of water given to someone weak and in need, not in the halls of power. It is in ministering to those whose spiritual lives are on the line, not in schmoozing with those who have political or financial clout.

This is the same thing Luther is pointing out, that the response to being with God is to be with our neighbor. That this the blessing of any sacramental moment, the joy of knowing God’s work in our lives causes us to desire to see that work replicated in our own lives.

To reach out, in the midst of our own brokenness (that God is healing), and help someone realize that God will heal them as well – that is the greatest strength, the most powerful infleuce the church has.

In truth, it is the only infleunce we have.

To share with people simple words, knowing the difference they’ve made in our lives….

Words like, “The Lord is with You”


Heavenly Father, help Your church to reveal you to the nations, one person at a time. Help us teach them to desire your pardon, to seek the peace only You can offer, and to do so, confident that You will provide. AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 102). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(footnote 37) In the Latin version Luther uses the word raptus/rapi, meaning that by faith the Christian is enraptured into God: per fidem sursum rapitur supra se in deum. See Heiko A. Oberman, The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1986), 149–54.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

What kind of things are you willing to do for God?

Future and a HopeDevotional Thought of the Day:

28  They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” John 6:28 (NLT2)

41  If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded. Mark 9:41 (NLT2)

819    Because you have been in pauca fidelis—“faithful in the little things”—enter into the joy of your Lord. The words are Christ’s. In pauca fidelis! … Now will you disdain little things, if Heaven itself is promised to those who keep them?

As I prepare to preach on John 6 this weekend, the first verse above is part of the text.  It takes me back to the days of college when we all believed we would do great things for Jesus.  We were willing after all, and some of us had the brains, and others the charisma, and a few had both the charisma and the brains.  And a few of us had neither.

Jesus’s response is interesting.  Most translate it “believe in the Son of Man.”  I read it as “depend on the Son of Man”.  There can be a huge difference between the two statements.  Belief seems like a passive response, just sit there and acknowledge me.  Just think about me once in a while, and let me take care of everything. Depend seems far more active as if we are going to do something that we can only do with God’s intercession, with His guidance, requiring both His power and His approval. 

Like being able to realize who needs a cup of water, and finding the focus to give it to them.

Like holding someone’s hand while they are crying, and keeping our own mouth shut, and sobbing with them. 

Like finding the strength to allow someone to make errors, and being there while they try and pick up the pieces.   Like finding the power to humble yourself and apologize for what you have done wrong, and doing what you can to make up for it. 

St Josemaria echoes the theme when he asks why we would toss aside the little things God has called us to do, For there we find God’s promises.  Not just rewards, but the presence of God that ensures those rewards.  The presence of God which is more than a reward.

It is easy to set our dreams high, expect ourselves to serve in the big things, to desire to write the perfect worship song, or pastor the megachurch, or become the next missionary who changes a country.  But those dreams are ours, not necessarily God’s.

God’s start small, loving your neighbor enough to give them a cup of water, or a listening ear.  For those things make a huge difference in life…..

May your faith allows you to see the needs of those around you, and a relationship with God that brings great joy when you help them know His peace!  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1881-1883). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Does Your Missional Vision for Tomorrow Interfere With Your Ministry Today?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
41  Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. 42  Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing. Matthew 10:41-42 (MSG)

34  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. 35  And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36  I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37  “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? 38  And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 39   40  Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (MSG)

617         You found yourself with two books in Russian, and you felt an enormous desire to learn that language. You imagined the beauty of dying like a grain of wheat in that nation, now so arid, which in time will yield great harvests of wheat. I think that those ambitions are good. But, for now, dedicate yourself to the small task and great mission of every day, to your study, your work, your apostolate, and, above all, to your formation. This, since you still need to do so much pruning, is neither a less heroic nor a less beautiful task.  (1)

Back when I was in college, my dream was to be a great preacher, someone whose words would inspire thousands, not because of me, but because they would point ot Jesus, and bring people peace. Or I would think of teaching pastors on the mission field or doing many incredible things for the kingdom of God. (the examples of the speakers in chapel didn’t help this – they all were “superstars” in ministry who urged us to do great things for the kingdom.)

Looking back, my great desire to win the world for Jesus didn’t always include the guys I lived with or the guys across the hall who we often tangled with over silly immature things.

I will be honest, some days when I think my ministry is in a rut, or too taxing, I wonder about newer greener fields of harvest, with more workers and more opportunities to see God at work.  For a moment, I forget that God planted me here for a reason.  Then a trauma pops up, and I am back to work.

I guess that is one of the blessings of the place where I serve now – they keep me so busy I can’t plan grandiose visions and get too caught up on the harvest is greater in another field.  Our community has come together where we do cry with anyone who cries, we do express joy with anyone who joy. And this means we know when someone is thirsty, we know when someone is broken… (including me)

So I understand what St Josemaria is saying about vision, what he is saying about the call we believe we have in the future.  SOmetimes that vision is truly from God, sometimes those dreams and desires are sincere and possible.

But they can’t get in the way of people you are called to serve today, the people God has put in your life to give hope to them (and therefore to you ) today.

See that one there, he needs a cup of cold water.  See her over there, she needs someone to hold her hand, and help her be still and know that God is her God. See that one, they need…..

And God has appointed you and I to be there for them.  This is His vision for today…..even as He’s given you dreams of the future…

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2610-2615). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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