Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 So I gave orders for the city gates to be shut at the beginning of every Sabbath, as soon as evening began to fall, and not to be opened again until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my men at the gates to make sure that nothing was brought into the city on the Sabbath. 20 Once or twice merchants who sold all kinds of goods spent Friday night outside the city walls. 21 I warned them, “It’s no use waiting out there for morning to come. If you try this again, I’ll use force on you.” From then on they did not come back on the Sabbath. 22 I ordered the Levites to purify themselves and to go and guard the gates to make sure that the Sabbath was kept holy. Remember me, O God, for this also, and spare me because of your great love.Nehemiah 13:19-22 (TEV)
Every single day, do what you can to know God better, to get acquainted with him, to fall more in love with him each moment, and to think of nothing but of his Love and his glory. You will carry out this plan, my child, if you never, for any reason whatever, give up your times of prayer, your presence of God, with the aspirations and spiritual communions that set you on fire, your unhurried Holy Mass, and your work, finished off well for him. (1)
Through the darkness of sin, Your love reached out to me! The cost of it all, You bore there on that tree! For nothing could stop You declaring us Clean! Conquered sin, Rose again, now eternail You reign, and so we praise you! (2)
Yesterday I wrote about the church Militant, that Christian soldiers aren’t marching off to war with sinners, but to liberate those who are oppressed and in bondage to sin. That are so caught in darkness, that they sturggle to hold on to it, for that is all they know. We mistake that struggle, far too often, as an attack on us. It is so like the classic lifeguard interaction with a drowning person. The drowning person strikes out in desperation, and if the lifeguard isn’t careful, the drowning person will take them both under. It takes skill and patience and wisdom to save someone who is drowning. To know when and where to move, but also to know that these hits are not an attack – but even more a sign of their desperation.
As the lifeguard is sent to save the drowning preson, so too we are sent by Christ to bring His love, His mercy, His peace to those who need to be freed from sin. To those whose darkness needs to be shattered.by the light of Christ. They to thrash and strike out – and far too often, we respond, not with the patience and care to save them, but as if they are spoiling for a fight – and we are ready. We take their struggle to survive – which they cannot on their own – as an attack on Jesus, or the church or us.
In the meantime, they are dying… the people we’ve been sent to bring salvation to, the people we’ve been sent to reflect Christ’s glory and love to…..
You might be wondering what this all has to do with the reading from scripture, from the book of Nehemiah. And with St. Josemaria’s words.
Call it a lesson in Life-guarding, a lesson in how to deal with those who we think are attacking us, but are really floundering in life. For if we “go to battle” them, what will happen is that we will founder as well. We will take our eyes off of salvation if we go to battle.
When what we need to see instead, is these people the way the God does – the way oen who would save them and bring them life abundant does, the way the One who died because He loved them does.
That my friends, can only happen, the more time we speand rejoicing in His presence, the more time we realize we live in Him, and He is us. The more we are transformed into His image (see 2 Cor. 3:16) Then we see His heart – the depth of His love for us – and we will begin to realize that “us” is more than just ourselves – and our friends at church – but us is all people – all ethnicities, all languages, and.. eventually – even those that are out there – itting away at those who would try to bring them back to life, back to standing on solid ground, back into the presence of God.
Where they belong.
Where we would stand against that which would keep people from God, that which would rob them of their time, resting in His presence. That’s one of the roles of the Levites – the servant priests of God. To try to guard the precious time people have with God. That they can know Him more and more – that they can just enjoy His presence, His love, that they can celebrate His mercy, His healing. The more we, those who minister, those who serve and shepherd, see what happens as our people do this, the more we treasure its impact on them, and the more we realize how this opens their hearts up to seek and save the lost – by brining Christ’s love to them.
How can we love those struggling in darkness, thrashing about, even appearing to attack us? By realizing how much God loves and desires to cleanse us all, and make us His children. That’s how we learn to love sinners, trapped in darkness… by learning how Jesus loves us… even there and then as well.
Lord, Have mercy on us, and teach us to show that mercy to all….
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2667-2671). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Lyrics by Rev. Mike Rayson and Dt Parker…