Devotional Thought for the day:
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15† so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, 16 as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted. Phil. 2:14-16 GNT
While the entire psalter and the holy scriptures altogether are also dear to me, as they are my sole comfort and life, nevertheless, I have struck up a very special relationship with this psalm, so that it must be mine and be called mine. It has worked quite diligently for me, deserving to become mine, and has helped me in some great emergencies, out of which no emperor, king, sage, clever person, or saint would have been able to help me.
You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this will happen by reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments. If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it. But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God?
My daily devotions changed a few years ago, when I discovered a book called Celtic Daily Prayer (and now volume 2) and another book called The Way. Before that I saw devotions as a task, and as what a good pastor did, and tried to model to his people. I did the read through the Bible in a year, I even wrote the predecessor to this blog. Looking back, I am not sure I could have answered the question posed by the last line of the quote from Dallas Willard.
It wasn’t the books that changed my devotional life, they just showed up and in the right time and place. It wasn’t on a quest for holiness, that this process grew, nor do I see myself holier or more mature.
I may have grown in holiness, I may be more “devout” (I believe that is very much up to debate), I pray that I am more like Christ.
What I am is more aware of how much I need to depend on God. I resonate with Luther, about this passage and that ministering to me more than others. ( 1 Cor. 2:9, Ezekiel 26:25, Exodus 50:20, Phil. 1:6, Hebrews 12:1-3 Romans 12:1-3 ) for a few that have that effect) greeting me like old friends when I get to them. Jeremiah 20:7 as well, oh gosh has that saved me in despair more than once.
Yet it has been reading through scriptures and my other aids that have led me to those passages. The words of Escriva, Luther, Willard and Popes Francis and Benedict have help me see what I am missing, and far too often, what I encounter gives me the strength I need when something big is looming. (and it seems like something always is looming)
I am not doing this because I am a saint, or devout, or because I want to impress people. I am doing this because I need to, I need to remember that God is benevolent, and merciful, and loves me, and then that He loves those I struggle with, and desires that we all come to repentance.
It is why I encourage you to spend time in the word, like a miner digging for diamonds, trying to find those verse that will reveal God’s love to you so completely that you don’t recognize the change. But you cling to them.. oh.. do you cling to them, as you are comforted and healed by the Holy Spirit who uses them to heal your heart, soul and mind. AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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.) (p. 203). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 I cry aloud to God; I cry aloud, and he hears me. 2 In times of trouble I pray to the Lord; all night long I lift my hands in prayer, but I cannot find comfort. 3 When I think of God, I sigh; when I meditate, I feel discouraged. 4 He keeps me awake all night; I am so worried that I cannot speak. 5 I think of days gone by and remember years of long ago. 6 I spend the night in deep thought; I meditate, and this is what I ask myself: 7 “Will the Lord always reject us? Will he never again be pleased with us? 8 Has he stopped loving us? Does his promise no longer stand? 9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has anger taken the place of his compassion?” 10 Then I said, “What hurts me most is this— that God is no longer powerful.” 11 I will remember your great deeds, LORD; I will recall the wonders you did in the past. 12 I will think about all that you have done; I will meditate on all your mighty acts. 13 Everything you do, O God, is holy. No god is as great as you.
Psalm 77:1-13 (TEV)
856 If you fix your sight on God and thus know how to keep calm in the face of worries; if you can forget petty things, grudges and envies, you will save a lot of energy, which you need if you are to work effectively in the service of men.
I love (and hate) the honesty of the Scripture, especially Psalms like this one, and most of Jeremiah.
To describe the feeling of knowing God is there, and that He hears you and then to go on and describe the despair and discouragement. When we look at the trials we go through and wonder whether God has rejected us, whether He has stopped loving us, whether anger takes the place of His compassion.
Most of us go through these phases spiritually ( see Dark Night of the Soul for a great example) when our faith is not so much dependence on God and trusting in Him as it is simply a set of doctrines. We even doubt the power of God or at least the application of His power in our life.
The challenge isn’t seeing His power at work, it is seeing Him For if we are trying to see Him at work in our lives, the challenges in our lives will dominate us. The challenges will overwhelm us and create a dissonance between what we think we need, and what we do need. It is from this place, this moment of brokenness, that we again remember He is our savior
But if we can keep our eyes on Him, as He draws us into His kingdom, then because we are looking to Him, we see the work He is doing, the work He has promised us in scripture to do. The kind of miracles that happen simply because we dwell in His presence, and He provides for us.
As we look to Him, we see this, and it is truly amazing.
That is why those moments at the altar, as I am receiving the Lord’s Supper are so incredible. Or as I serve it to His people and I see what is happening to them as they recognize the presence of Christ’s body and blood. (1 Cor 11:29) The same goes for the times of prayer, and the times when someone experiences the love of God in the scripture as something that is theirs. When they realize the resurrection isn’t just “history” but it completely impacts their day, lived in the presence of God.
And then, dwelling in His unexplainable peace, you will find it easier to love and serve those God is entrusting to you. It is this life that is holy, it is this life that is the result of His resurrection, and our being re-born in Him.
Lord Jesus, bless us with eyes that can see You, ears that can hear Your words of love, and hearts that desire you above all else, then walk with us Lord and show us whom we get to minister to…together. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3508-3510). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! 2 From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, 3 for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. 4 Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!
Psalm 61:1-4 (NLT2)
How, then, can I learn what it means to be human? What must I do? In his question the teacher of the law mentions a prerequisite that we seldom consider nowadays: if my life in this world is to be successful, I must view it as a stepping-stone to eternal life.
There are days in my life that are dark.
Just like most of you.
We hide from those days, we try to ignore them, and if we can’t, we try to anesthetize ourselves from the pain and emptiness they bring.
Days when I seem lost, when life doesn’t make sense, or when it gets in the way of what I want to do. Especially when what I want to do is serve God? To be with His people? It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t seem that I am doing what I have been put here to do, and that dissonant feeling is horrid.
For me, those days have been a major part of life. Recovery from surgeries that left me isolated for months, asthma as a kid (one year I was in school only 40 days more than I was not!) and even the odd flu bug that knocks me out of church, like it did yesterday. Never mind all the fun things with my son and wife that I miss out on, because of health concerns.
Life can suck at times.
Into those thoughts, invading them comes these readings from this morning. First the psalmist, whose words I skim over at first, tacitly and religiously agreeing with them, Yep, I want that, that’s where I should be, there in the presence of God. What is next to read, oh yeah, proverbs?
A couple of readings later, I come to Pope Benedict’s one-year devotion. It’s become a favorite of mine. And his words make me go back to the Psalm and read it again.
My life doesn’t revolve around this mortal life. It revolves around my life with God. An eternity with Him, dwelling in His presence, not just in the stadium, like watching a rock star from the nosebleed seats. But interacting with Him, sharing the joy that comes from knowing the depth of His love.
This life isn’t the end, not even close, it is the dance lessons for our eternal dance with God.
That is exactly what I need to remember in these dark days. What I so missed my people telling me yesterday, as I missed church. What they fire back with me with conviction, as I tell them the Lord is with them
His presence here and now is a start.
And it’s only a start!
Lord Jesus, help us realize that your ministry to us was not just to make us right and holy, but to have a relationship with us, one that will last forever. Lord, help us to dwell with you, in peace! 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. 87). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
You have six days in which to do your work, but remember that the seventh day, the Sabbath, is a day of rest. On that day do not work, but gather for worship. The Sabbath belongs to the LORD, no matter where you live. Leviticus 23:3 GNT
“Ever since he was a child,” he replied. 22 “Many times the evil spirit has tried to kill him by throwing him in the fire and into
23 “Yes,” said Jesus, “if you yourself can! Everything is possible for the person who has faith.”
24 The father at once cried out, “I do have faith, but not enough. Help me have more!”
25 Jesus noticed that the crowd was closing in on them, so he gave a command to the evil spirit. “Deaf and dumb spirit,” he said, “I order you to come out of the boy and never go into him again!”
26 The spirit screamed, threw the boy into a bad fit, and came out. The boy looked like a corpse, and everyone said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took the boy by the hand and helped him rise, and he stood up. Mark 9:21-27 GNT
445 If you abandon prayer you may at first live on spiritual reserves… and after that, by cheating.
So, as the holidays come to a close, as Advent’s focus and the joy of celebrating Jesus coming into the world begines to wane, a number of people have asked me what my plans were.
Actually, they phrase it like this, “go get some rest pastor!”
Then they ask, where I will go, to get the rest! What plans do I have, what will my family and I do.
As if rest is a synonym for travel and vacation. As if spending all day getting tired doing “fun” things provides what our souls need. Please note, I am not saying we shouldn’t take vacations, but rest is something very different.
Rest is what the boy and his dad gained, as Jesus freed them from the grip of demons. It is the time when we step aside from life, ot remember God is with us, to celebrate His presence, to remember His mercy, to let Him free us from the demons that afflict us, and the trauma that so assaults our hearts and souls.
That is what rest is, a time for our lives to relax, and leave everything in the hands of God Almighty, (and not giving him instructions and timelines!).
It enables us to truly pray, which enables us to truly live, and to know that God is here, with us, right now. That allows us to set aside the masks that hide our brokenness, the hypocrisy that everything is perfect in our lives, and the idea that we are saints, by our own power.
Taking this rest in Christ allows us to be human, forgiven, healing from the brokenness and even the demonic activity around us, as we depend on God, who has promised to care for us.
That’s the rest we need, and that is why I believe the place of greatest rest is at the altar rail, as we feast on the Body and Blood of Jesus, as He strips us of our sin, and heals us..It is there I am most aware of His peace, of the presence of God where He pours out all His love on us.
So I had my rest, and maybe we’ll sneak in some vacation time as well…. after I get past my traditional new years cold.
May you allow God to grant you the rest that your souls need!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1975-1977). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Be Full of Joy
† In JesusName †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ leave fill you with more joy that you can imagine! AMEN!
There are in life some very irritating tunes.
You know, the ones that get stuck in your head and remain there for hours?
A few years ago it was songs from the children’s movie frozen, specifically “I want to be a snowman” and “Let it go!” And anyone who has ever been to Disneyland knows how long this next song sits in your mind. Here, I will give you the first word of it… and see if you can get it…
“It’s” (a small world after all…
There are a few of those in the church as well, though thankfully the ’70s are over and we rarely sing them.
Song’s like, “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy…(down in my heart) and even worse, “rejoice in the Lord always..” (Missy please note– these songs are never to be sung here unless I am on vacation in New England and Bob is preaching…)The latter praise song, “Rejoice in the Lord Always” is just the same words over and over, and over and… you get the picture. But what made it worse was that it was called a round… so, group, a would start it, then group b, then group c, so basically you were getting overwhelmed with this idea of having to
and sometimes we are not in the mood!
Dang it, sometimes you just don’t want to rejoice, you know, because sometimes life… is challenging. (What did you think I was going to say sometimes life sucks?)
And to be assaulted over and over with people saying “rejoice always” (which is how some old translations state this passage… shortens already short, frayed fuses.
One of the reasons I like this translation is passages like this, that makes it less about us, and talks of being filled with joy.
Things that joy needs to replace.
But if we are going to be truly filled with joy, we have to get rid of the just that is in the place where joy is supposed to be. Heck most of us have our lives so filled with these things, that we have not room for a chuckle or two, never mind full-blown, life overwhelming joy.
The things we are anxious about, the things that our minds dwell upon that cause us great stress. Getting rid of that junk will give us a lot of room in our lives for joy.
Then, of course, are the things we need, or that we think we need in our lives. Those
Then there are the things we pray for because we are so desperate that we turn to God. I am not sure we always do give it to Him, but we at least say we have, yet we still let the situation burn a hole in us
I could go on and talk about the guilt and shame that we live with, the things that cause us to fear death or consider the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in a way that isn’t full of joy and expectation.
For we should look at God’s returning, with the same kind of eyes that kids have, as they see presents with their names on them begin to be placed under the tree. For Christ’s return and what happens next are described with these favorite words from all of scripture.
9 What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him; 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NJB)
And this thought should help us see the joy that God would fill us with if our lives can be emptied of anxiety, and our needs, and desperation and guilt and shame.
How did I come up with the list?
Our conversation with God revolves around these important things
So where did I come up with that list, the things that fill us instead of the joy God would so lovingly fill us with? Where did I get anxiety, needs, despair, guilt, and shame?
From the passage of course. Though I changed the words slightly.
Worry for anxious – the idea is to have a dueling mind, or two separate minds, at war with each other. Some translations actually use “be anxious over nothing”.
Pray comes from the word for desire – it is to lay before God all the things that cause us despair, and then we are not just to tell God, but we are to makeGod intimately aware of our needs, so that we can trust Him to take care of them, so we can empty ourselves of these burdens, and allowing Him to gill us with joy.
He does this when we come to the realization that Jesus return is what we truly need. We set aside our guilt and shame, or more accurately, we realize He has set it aside, thinking of the joy God has planned for in our homecoming, in our finally seeing Him face to face.
We don’t empty ourselves of these things, we need to trust God to do this, understanding that it is His desire to do
For as we heard Wednesday night, the prophet Zephaniah revealed the God delights in our homecoming, even more than we do. You see the joy we are filled with is His joy, the joy God has when He sees His people knowing they are loved, and able to fully experience it.
His joy is contagious, and His joy is found, and always has been found when He and His people are together when He’s been able to provide for them something beyond anyone’s capability to understand. or explain…
That which Paul prayed for His people and I pray for you, that emptied of all that can be replaced by joy, I pray you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. And know this, His peace will guard your hearts and minds, as you live in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the day:
14 May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. 15 May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. 16 Let that man be like the cities the LORD demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime 17 because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant. 18 Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame? Jeremiah 20:14-18 HCSB
14. In the world of today, when people are so burdened with duties and their problems, which oftentimes have to be solved with great haste, range through so many fields, there is considerable danger of dissipating their energy. Priests, too, involved and constrained by so many obligations of their office, certainly have reason to wonder how they can coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish outward activity. Neither the mere external performance of the works of the ministry, nor the exclusive engagement in pious devotion, although very helpful, can bring about this necessary coordination. Priests can arrive at this only by following the example of Christ our Lord in their ministry. His food was to follow the will of him who had sent him to accomplish his work.
I always worry when in my devotions I read passages like those above.
No, this confession isn’t mine, it is Jeremiah’s.
But it could be, as it could be the confession of so many pastors and priests and others who work in the church. It doesn’t matter whether they are volunteers, or whether this is a paid vocation.
Burnout is inevitable.
There are days serving the church where it seems we would be better off dead. (And we even think maybe those we serve would be as well!) There will be days where the demands of our duties and the problems they bring will overwhelm us. Where we would rather lock ourselves in our offices, and simply write. Or find some passing big fish and dive into it, ala Jonah!
And Vatican II points out that devotion alone isn’t the answer, it also notes that just going through the motions of ministry doesn’t solve the problem as well. We can do the job, it can bless others, but it is just as empty as becoming a monastic and retreating from the world which needs us, simply because we know we need God.
We can minister more effectively, and help others, even in the midst of burnout and brokenness, when we accept that the weariness is sometimes necessary. That God is with us, even there. That the Holy Spirit, the great Comforter, the Lord of life will lift us up, and empower us, and work through our lives to call others to depend on the God who is there.
Max Kolbe, the Catholic priest who died in a concentration camp, probably knew this weariness more than any pastor in the USA today. Imagine, working with the guards, who denied their actions were evil. He served the Christians who were in despair, Fr. Max served and died for those who didn’t know Jesus as well.
How did he do such a thing?
Maximilian Kolbe was an individual deeply marked by Christ, wholly ordered to Christ. When he immersed himself anew in the witness of Holy Scripture, he was not searching for theories, not on a voyage into the past. It is impossible to live with a mummy—with a merely historical Jesus; nor can we live with mere words and programs—with a “thing”. But Kolbe lived from and for Jesus. He could do this because he heard in Scripture the voice of a living Person. He heard Jesus as a living Person because he experienced him as a living Person; he could touch him in the Blessed Sacrament in which he forms a Church and is present for us.
The only way to minister through the hardest times and despair in ministry is to hang on to what we’ve been entrusted with as ministers. Not word and sacrament, but what they are conduits of, the experience of encountering Jesus in both word and sacrament. Of knowing God loves you, because of that encounter, of knowing His care because it too is encountered in the sacraments.
As Paul writes to the church in Ephesus
14 When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled through all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)
Knowing about God’s love won’t sustain you in the darkness, it won’t keep you moving through the despair. It won’t help you see God at work in the midst of the pain. But knowing you are known, finding hope in the fact you are loved, being refreshed through the grace and mercy poured out upon you. Being filled through all your being with God Himself.
That is what we need, and that is what He provides… so relax, hear God! Hear God! And find rest for your weary soul! AMEN!
Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum Ordinis. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
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. 281). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought for our Broken Days:
Right away Jesus understood in His spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He told the paralytic, 11 “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.” Mark 2:8-11 HCSB
476 For each one of us, as for Lazarus, it was really a veni foras—come out—which got us moving. How sad it is to see those who are still dead and don’t know the power of God’s mercy! Renew your holy joy, for opposite the man who is decomposing without Christ, there is another who has risen with him.
A little background is necessary for this blog.
I grew up with a genetic disorder known as Marfan’s Syndrome. It’s one of those nasty connective tissue disorders that affects my eyes, my spine, and my heart. It was responsible for a cardiac arrest in my twenties, and the necessity of two of my heart valves being replaced 20 years ago. I also had to deal with severe asthma attacks and allergies that put me in the hospital often and caused me to miss as many as 60 days of school in third grade. Looking back, I was probably significantly on the Asperger’s spectrum, because my social skill wasn’t exactly…. normal. (If you know me, you know it still isn’t!)
In the process, for all of the above, my parents would have people pray for me. We even went to see Kathryn Kuhlman once, which required a really long bus trip. My folks did what they could as did the experts. If ripping off the roof of a house would have secured my healing – they would have done it. For me, the idea of physical healing isn’t just a passing idea, it is something desired for a long time. Regular back pain, poor eyesight, and the clicking of mechanical valves impact me greatly at times – both physically and psychologically, and more times than I want to admit, spiritually.
As I read that passage this morning, it hit me. God did answer a prayer for healing in my life, but not the physical healing we all wanted. Instead, what God gave me was what the paralytic was offered, the forgiveness of my sin.
All of it, and that is a lot.
From the things that would cause me not to sleep at night because of guilt and shame, to the little things in the eyes of the world, to the sin that I attempt to justify.
He came to die, that all my sin would be paid for, the debt I incurred by committing it erased. For that, I will ever be grateful.
I think the scribes had it right for once when they noted that forgiving sins was a far greater miraculous act, a act far more requiring the full power, authority and responsibility of God.
There are doctors and others who can perform physical miracles today, there are people who have the gift of doing so, and among those even some who don’t believe in God. But forgiving sin, that is a whole different matter.
And Jesus, fully God, fully man, can forgive our sin and does. He has that right, He has the ability, and he invested that ability in His people, with the responsibility given to those who shepherd them, who guide them into God’s presence, the men who reveal God’s presence in their lives.
This miracle is one that impacts us far beyond our mortal life. That is why it required more dunamis, more power/authority/responsibility/capability than other miracles. It was why the scribe doubted.
Would I love to be healed completely of the effect of Marphans? Yes
Would I like to be more socially skilled, and less awkward? Hmmm… tough one. 🙂 (there are days when the world not making sense is a good thing)
But were I to have all that, and not have the forgiveness of sins, all would be lost. So I will rejoice in my weakness, and rejoice in a Lord that loves me and shows me the mercy I so need, and so do not deserve. This is what raises us like Lazarus from the dead, this is the power of God’s mercy at work, this is the power that raised Christ from the dead at work in you and I!
Come know the joy of being forgiven, reconciled, redeemed,
( and we can still pray that God heals the rest!)
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1820-1824). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Days:
6 “This may seem impossible to those of the nation who are now left, but it’s not impossible for me. 7I will rescue my people from the lands where they have been taken, 8and will bring them back from east and west to live in Jerusalem. They will be my people, and I will be their God, ruling over them faithfully and justly. Zechariah 8:6-8 TEV
96 Discover Our Lord behind each event and in every circumstance, and then, from everything that happens, you will be able to draw more love for God and a greater desire to respond to him. He is always waiting for us, offering us the possibility to fulfil at all times that resolution we made: Serviam! I will serve you!
One of the books I am presently reading is Metaxas biography of Martin Luther. It is more than a bit distressing, as constantly Metaxas points out that what happened was out of control of everyone involved, especially Luther.
Why couldn’t the church simply reform? Why did the leaders not listen and discuss things like the Church did at the Jerusalem council? Why was the division and later shattering of God’s family so unavoidable?
As I read Metaxas account, it seems like the reformation was a huge tidal wave, that consumed all in its path.
So where was God in it all? Can we, as another Catholic Priest/Reformer of the Church advised, “discover Our Lord behind each event and in every circumstance”?
Personally, I find this difficult, I get overwhelmed by what seemed impossible to stop, Much like the people of Israel in the time of Zechariah. It was impossible for them to even think of the restoration of the people (not the nation) Israel. The people of God who struggle with Him (that;s what Israel means), yet are His people, for He is their God. Yet the prophet assures them that for God this is not impossible, but it will happen.
God will restore His people, He will call them to His side,, He will call them home together. It is God’s plan, His desire, His will, that we shouldn’t perish, and that He will call all His people home, together.
So how to grow in faith, in confidence that what God has promised, God will deliver? Even when the darkness seems to overshadow life? How can I trust, as Joseph did, that God means all of this for good? From the reformation which shattered the Western Church to arguments which threaten my own denomination today, that God will use these storms to bless those who love Him?
I have to look to the cross, the place where God seems the most vulnerable, even more, vulnerable than when He was in utero in Mary. To look to the cross as Jesus, fully God and fully man, is murdered by those who found God’s inconvenient and bothersome. As He died for all of our sin. The sin of the Catholics, the Protestants, even the Orthodox. s He died to cover the sins for those who do not know Him yet, but will as we reveal Him to them. It is there- when even nature went dark and shook with fear, to realize even in the dark moment, God was at work. Using the greatest evil Satan could ever con man into doing, turned out to be the greatest of blessings.
As God proved He is Immanuel, God with us.
As I look at a broken and fractured church, on his the supposed anniversary of the Reformation, my hope is in God’s promise, that not one of those in Christ will be lost, that He will call all of us home, and that He will continue to make us a holy people.
Lord, have mercy on us! Help us to see You in everything we encounter, and in all of History!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 553-556). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
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. 28 We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. 29 Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the first among many believers. 30 And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them. Romans 8:26-30 (TEV)
149 I must warn you against a ploy of satan—yes, without a capital, because he deserves no more—who tries to make use of the most ordinary circumstances, to turn us away, slightly or greatly, from the way that leads us to God. If you are struggling, and even more if you are really struggling, you should not be surprised at feeling tired or at having sometimes to “go against the grain”, without any spiritual or human consolation. See what someone wrote to me some time ago, and which I kept for those who naively consider that grace does away with nature: “Father, for a few days now I have been feeling tremendously lazy and lacking in enthusiasm for fulfilling the plan of life. I have to force myself to do everything, and I have very little taste for it. Pray for me so that this crisis may soon pass, for it makes me suffer a lot to think it could make me turn from my way.” I answered only: did you not know that Love demands sacrifice? Read the words of the Master slowly: “Whoever does not take up his Cross quotidie—every day—is not worthy of Me.” And further on: “I will not leave you orphans…” Our Lord allows that dryness of yours, which you find so hard, so that you may love Him more, so that you may trust only in Him, so that you may coredeem with the Cross, so that you may meet Him.
Though I am going to direct these thoughts along the way of St> Josemaria’s discussion of dryness, they could be applied to almost any time of struggle.
Too often I could be the person that St Josemaria was speaking to in the discussion above. Too many times I have been struggling, and don’t have the “enthusiasm for fulfilling the plan of life”, that is working to do His will, to see this world reconciled to Him. I recognize the need to force myself to do the things I love. Part of the struggle is that I feel like I am trying to bail the water out of the Titanic, hundreds of feet under the ocean. Part of it is that for every trauma where people know God’s peace, three more arrive. The work seems unending and overwhelming, and my emotional and spiritual batteries drain too fast…
Then I come across Romans 8, and wonder how in the world these times of struggle fit into the promise of God. How can times where my faith wanders, where I feel so weary and dried out, burnt out, and where God seems silent, how can these times actually work for good?
Or is it that I am not one of those to whom this promise was made? (Yes, I’ve thought that even as I try to make sure others know they are…. and I bet I am not the only one!)
That’s why I included more than verse 28 in the quote from Romans. We know that verse so well, but we fail to see the context is in the midst of a time of weakness, a time of brokenness, a time where even the Holy Spirit groans out in intercession, for the brokenness we endure is great.
But that prayer of the Spirit, that prayer the Holy Spirit interprets and pleads on our behalf with the Father is heard. The Spirit ensures the connection to God’s heart is there, a connection we need to realize is there.
The context also discusses God putting us to right with Him, indeed, as Josemaria tells us, sometimes these moments are necessary so that we realize the connection is viable, that God is caring. That He is here.
I would never say God causes these struggles, these moments when we don’t know what to even say in our prayers, but I do know how He uses them. It is just as Josemaria says, that there I can find the depth of His love, the unlimited faithfulness that sustains me. As well, it from those depths that I find my desire to help people find God as well, that they can find the peace, that they can know He is there. ( I only pray they don’t have to follow as far in my steps before they realize it.) That is how amazing this is, that is how I’ve come to know to trust Him, and even though I don’t like the periods of dryness and despair, I have come to appreciate them, and even (grudgingly at first) embrace them.
For I know He is with me, and with us, and that is not just enough, it is incredibly glorious! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 822-833). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NAB)
78 You don’t feel like doing anything and there is nothing you look forward to. It is like a dark cloud. Showers of sadness fell, and you experienced a strong sensation of being hemmed in. And, to crown it all, a despondency set in, which grew out of a more or less objective fact: you have been struggling for so many years…, and you are still so far behind, so far. All this is necessary, and God has things in hand. To attain gaudium cum pace—true peace and joy—we have to add to the conviction of our divine filiation, which fills us with optimism, the acknowledgement of our own personal weakness.
There are days like yesterday when I feel like my faith, which took two steps forward the day before, takes three or four steps back.
Sometimes this is caused by my own sin, sometimes by the sins I have to help people find redemption from, sometimes from sin I see or hear about, but am not in the position to help people with, (and sometimes I do not want to) and sometimes it is something that just challenges my faith, like my 46 year battle with my health. Some days are a perfect storm of all of the above, and I struggle to see God,
Sometimes, I do not want to.
My bet is that I am not alone
I think we all have those dark nights of the soul, those moments where we aren’t certain about God helping us, caring about us. We are so overwhelmed, so broken that we doubt his existence, if we bother to think about Him at all.
These are difficult days, it takes an enormous effort to think of God, to not run to something else to console or comfort or distract from the despair.
St. Josemaria talks of adding to the conviction of divine filiation, to put it in our terms, our dependence on God’s love for us, and loving Him in return. I am not going to say this is easy, for it requires us to look away from what is troubling us, and hear His voice, hear his promises, to know they are true. It’s not about our personal strength growing, but our dependence and awareness of His strength, His faithfulness. To see them as a measure of His love, His care, His work. The way we add to our conviction of His love is to hear it, and experience it through His word, through prayer, through the Sacraments. For all point to that day Paul tells the church in Ephesus is coming, the day when all is finished, all is complete.
A work that will be completed, a work that will be finished, a work that draws us into Him, into His eternity. This is our hope, this is our faith, in a God that comes to us, that we might come to Him. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 547-552). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.