If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free. John 8:36 (TEV)
Not that grace somehow adds to an otherwise imperfect creation, but that grace puts a stop to our misguided attempts to usurp God’s place and so allows creation to shine forth in all its glory
The “world” is the body of those who hate, because they are prisoners of their own narrow illusions and petty desires. They cannot recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit because they are not willing to conform their lives to His inspirations. They cannot become free with the freedom Jesus compared to the unpredictable blowing of the wind, for they are rooted in their own attachments and bound down by their own compulsions. They have a fixed way of acting (which may be wild and erratic and possess a spurious “freedom” of its own) and they cannot break away from it. They have rendered themselves incapable of doing anything but their “own will” in the sense of their enslaved will. Only the Spirit Himself can penetrate their hard carapace of resistance, and too often they will not let Him do so. They are unable to love freely because they are afraid of freedom.
The power and effect of faith are especially seen in temptations, when sin, death, devil, and hell are overcome. Nor are these weak enemies; they bring out perspiration, weaken our limbs, and make heaven and earth cramped. When the devil and death come, no one can help except only the person who has said, I am he who shall sustain thee. Under such conditions we learn what faith is.
Yesterday, my son’s high school was locked down, and for several hours I waited for him to be released. First, they were kept secure in a classroom. Then, they were escorted to some fenced in tennis courts where, eventually, they were released to parents. The parents waited in the sunlight for hours, because of miscommunication.
My thoughts upon getting into the car hours after I arrived was the old phrase, “Free at last, Free at Last!” A couple of hours of inconvenience, and yet I treated it like a lifelong trauma. ( A little projection here, as I was also wanting to deal with some other traumatic events)
So I was thinking about freedom as I came across these words this morning. And the illusion of freedom was shredded, again and again.
When we clamor and protest to have freedom, we must contemplate two things:
- What are we wanting freedom from?
- What do we want to do with this freedom?
Answering those questions will help us determine whether what we want is truly freedom, or simply the ability to serve our own preferred slavery –to our lusts and desires, our addictions and other sins that plague us. The problem is, enslaved to those things–we don’t even realize we are enslaved! Or, if we do, the lure of that which we are enslaved to overshadows the life we don’t know we can live.
Luther’s words about faith are clear here. It is not an easy fight to overcome sin. It requires a lot sweat and a lot of tears. It takes prayer, and mostly, it takes dying with Jesus on the cross to break those shackles, and the work of the Holy Spirit to draw us to that cross.
Forde’s words are so clear to that as well, as the Holy Spirit convinces us to set aside our self-idolatry, nailing that sin to the cross as well. That when the Son sets us free- we can begin to see glimpses of the glory of God.
There is freedom from everything we need to be free from – hatred, violence, anxiety, resentment, sin, guilt and shame…
And there is freedom to do one thing… to love.
Upon getting home, just before 6, homework and chores awaited both my son and I. As did dinner. We weren’t free to do whatever we wanted, but we were free to do that which was good, and beneficial. Mostly, my family was free to be together. And so it is with freedom we find in Christ Jesus-we are free to be in the presence of God, to know His love, to be with our brothers and sisters in Christ…
This is accomplished simply by having faith in God, depending on what He’s promised – that He will set you truly free..
Gerhard O. Forde, “Hearing,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 144.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 132.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 102.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 [By David.] With all my heart I praise the LORD, and with all that I am I praise his holy name! 2 With all my heart I praise the LORD! I will never forget how kind he has been. Psalm 103:1–2 (CEV)
We were told in the Second Commandment, “You shall not take God’s name in vain.” Thereby we are required to praise the holy name and pray or call upon it in every need. For to call upon it is nothing else than to pray.
It is just as true to say that every snowflake is a gift of God as it is true to say that every cent in a father’s inheritance is a gift to his children. It is just as true to say that every leaf on every tree is a work of art made by the divine Artist with the intention that we see it, know it, love it, and rejoice in it, as it is true to say that every word in a lover’s letter to his beloved is meant to be seen, known, loved, and enjoyed.
33 What are you so proud of?—Every impulse that moves you comes from Him. Act accordingly.
Sin is a huge issue in our lives.
We can not deny it. We can’t really hide it either.
It leaves us broken and shattered.
It leaves us avoiding people, some because we resent them because of some sin they committed against us. Some people we want to avoid because we feel so guilty, so ashamed, and being in their presence brings those feelings crashing down upon us.
As we look at the commands, there is one that sticks out to me, one that can be quickly dealt with, and as it is, we find the grace to deal with the others.
Luther talks about it, the commandment to not use God’s name in vain. Luther points out that means we sin when we should use it when we should cry out to Him for help, and do not use it. When our vanity causes the Lord’s name to be misused.
Imagine not eating because you don’t want to spend the money you have in the bank. I imagine going barefoot on a hike in the mountains because you don’t want to scuff up your new boots. There is a logic that simply doesn’t make sense to these imaginations, that still doesn’t make sense when God pleads with us to call upon Him, to cast our burdens upon Him, to let Him heal us.
You want to stop living in the dark shadows of sin? Cry out to God, call upon Him, don’t leave His name unused, for that is as wrong as using it wrongly.
What happens then, as you begin to converse with God, is that you realize how much He is doing, you start to look for how He encourages you! You see it in the care he takes with the color of a leaf, or the smile of a child, you being to see His artistry in everything, and realize that this artistry is at work in your life as well. As St. Josemaria describes we begin to understand the good things in our lives are there because the Holy Spirit is guiding and empowering us in them, providing the impulse that drives our work
That beauty, that wonder is what leads the Psalmist to praise God, to exclaim in wonder at God’s kindness, at His mercy and love. Our praise is always generated from seeing God at work in our lives. Even in the hard times, even when we have to confess our sin, or lay some burden down at His feet.
This is what happens when we stop using His name in a way that it shouldn’t be used… but call out to Him, even if that cry is as simple and profound as,
Lord have mercy one me a sinner…
He hears, and He answers… and we begin to dwell in peace.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 420.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 20.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 This is the message which he told them to give to Isaiah: “Today is a day of suffering; we are being punished and are in disgrace. We are like a woman who is ready to give birth, but is too weak to do it.
King Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went to the Temple, placed the letter there in the presence of the LORD, 15 and prayed, 16† “Almighty LORD, God of Israel, seated above the winged creatures, you alone are God, ruling all the kingdoms of the world. You created the earth and the sky. 17 Now, LORD, hear us and look at what is happening to us! Isaiah 37:3,14-17 GNT
To focus on entering new life with Christ requires that we take a stand as to who we are in this new life, that we identify with the Christ-life in us and against the sin still present in our selves and that we settle in our will the question of who we intend to be. This is what it means to “count [ourselves] dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
Pray: Talk to God about the two lives, two streams of awareness and power, mingling together. Ask God to show you what you need to know about how to untangle them and choose more to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
As I read the section from Isaiah this morning, the despair the Hezekiah described struck home. Against his enemies he felt too weak, all Israel seemed to weak. The graphic comment about a woman in labor who cannot, and surrenders to the weakness seems all too similar.
Our enemy is just as powerful, though not a horde, or a arm y can roll over us. It is far too integral to us, this old life of sin. It seems to wrap around us like one of the strands of DNA, unable to be separated from the other, Defining ourselves without the sense of brokenness we care too weak to defeat seems illogical. Like Paul that strand of sin, winding through our being causes us to do what we do not want to do, and prevents us from doing what we desire to do, what we know pleases God.
Theologically we know we are called to be holy, set apart to live life in the glory of God. Practically we find ourselves struggly, and even getting to the point where we give up the fight, where we are unwilling to fight anymore. Sin becomes the norm, again.
In the midst of the weakness, in the midst of despair, Hezekiah does something as outrageous as it is incredible. He enters the temple, he goes and places the letter from his oppressor in the presence of the LORD. He goes into the Holy of Holies, the place a priest awas allowed only once a year, and begs the LORD to look at their situation. The place where high priests could die because of their sin, he walks right in and says, “God, Look at this, help us! We are too weak, we have to have Your help!”
In the Holy of Holies, there he finds hope…
This is huge for us, as we need to realize that we can enter the presence of God almighty with that much boldness, setting aside everything that would restrain us. (see Hebrews!) That place where Hezekiah entered? It was the place of ultimate mercy, the place forgiveness, the place where the blood would be shed.
The place we need to abide, to dwell with God. The place where sin is separated from our DNA, for it was killed off to bring us to this place. The place where we know God rescued us no from the Assyrians, but from that which haunts us, our guilt, our shame, our brokenness, our sin.
The struggle within fades in the presence of God, when we realize His work to defeat it as the cross, and in our baptism, and everytime we take and eat His body, and drink His blood, testifying to the blood out, to cover our sin, to His death for us.
The struggle is still there, and until God complete the work He began is us (Phil. 1:6) we will struggle against this foe… yet that struggle is dealt with, not by our own strength, but simply by being in the place where God is with us…Overcoming it isn’t about 30 seconds there, but learning to dwell with Him (see Col. 3:1-3) To dwell in His presence in the darkest moments, to dwell with Him as He addresses our brokenness.
To know He, the LORD is with us!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have now come, because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown out: the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death. Rev. 12:10-11 HCSB
223 Christ expects a lot from your work. But you will have to look for souls, as the Good Shepherd went after the hundredth sheep: without waiting to be called. Then make use of your friends to do good to others. Tell each one of them that nobody can feel at ease with a spiritual life which, after filling him, does not overflow with apostolic zeal.
As I am reading through Revelation, I am not surprised at how much verse 11 sticks out. It does every time I read it, it is just so powerful, this testimony of the victory of the saints, of our victory.
And yet this time, it struck me that this verse is one of the keys to understanding the Book of Revelation, and indeed, the role of the church in these days. If we understand this, the mission and the very existence of the church becomes clear.
We are sent, we have our apostolate. and we are freed to accomplish this work, assured that our victory over sin and Satan, and death is finally won. Satan has been conquered, and His ability to accuse us of sin is over.
That is where the word of our testimony is so powerful, for we witness to the love of Jesus, the incredible mercy that floods our lives, our hearts and souls cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. That is our testimony, not of our work, but of the love of God which establishes us as His children, His Holy People.
And having that testimony, that knowledge that we are God’s forever, our priorities change. NO longer are we concerned as much about our own pleasure, our own happiness? What becomes more important is the 1 whom has wandered from the 99, the child of God who has forgotten their Creator, their Father. Our hearts break for them, and their situation.
And drawing them back to Jesus, that becomes far more important than the latest toy, or that trip. Their eternity becomes more a concern than riches or fame. The foreigner who is lost, the woman in the hospital, the 20-something in jail, these are the priorities we gain over self-indulgence.
God with us, freeing us from all the fear of that which is to come, He is who we witness of, and that witness is what forms our life until He returns.
This is who we, the church, are called to be, a people full of joy as the love of God infects the world around us, drawing more an more people to Him, and into being part of His people.
We can only do that, knowing the victory of Satan is complete, and because of the blood of Jesus it is. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1133-1136). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
13 If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:13-17 (NLT2)
775 Lord, if it is your will, turn my poor flesh into a crucifix.
22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.
23 If all this were clearly explained, and meanwhile if the needs which ought to move and induce us to confession were clearly indicated, there would be no need of coercion and force. A man’s own conscience would impel him and make him so anxious that he would rejoice and act like a poor miserable beggar who hears that a rich gift, of money or clothes, is to be given out at a certain place; he would need no bailiff to drive and beat him but would run there as fast as he could so as not to miss the gift.
There are some that would say I am not quite normal, and I think they might be on to something!
But beyond that, there is a certain part of Christianity that doesn’t make sense, that does seem crazy, that is beyond our ability to reason out.
This idea that perfection comes not from discipline and self-correction and an unbending will, but through facing our brokenness, and being compelled to let Jesus deal with it, to let him have it as He hangs on the cross. To let Him draw us into the suffering and death on the cross, , that we can know the peace and healing that only comes from seeing the body, broken for us, and the blood, poured out that we would be cleansed by it.
What was once a torture for Luther, (and Staupitz whom he confessed to!) hours in the confessional trying to get free of his sin which shattered his life, confessing his lies, and lust, his envy, and anger. He couldn’t find relief for it, and he mistook the sacrament of confession for a chance to atone for his sin, to be beaten up for the things he thought and said and did that were wrong.
Then he realized that this was a sacrament, a moment where God would come, and bring us through Christ’s death on the cross, through His death, so that we could be renewed, that we could be re-born. Confession and absolution as a blessing rather than a curse, Death with the promise of being made anew, without the brokenness, without the guilt and shame, but a new life dwelling in peace.
It may seem illogical, it may seem counter-intuitive, it is definitely scary at first, but allowing our sin to be nailed to the cross, as crazy as it seems, is a source of hope, a source of healing. Not because of our action, but because of His presence and promise., because of His love and mercy, because this is where we find hope for healing and for eternity.
If it sounds crazy, blame the craziness on me, yet still, know this. God is with you, and you can give Him everything, the good, the bad, the horrid, and at the cross, it will be taken care of, and you will know peace! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1790-1791). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 459–460). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 I lift my eyes to You, the One enthroned in heaven. 2 Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the LORD our God until He shows us favor. Ps. 123:1-2 HCSB
Many men and women are experiencing more and more today serious lowliness and neglect as a result of their excessive zeal for autonomy which they inherited from modernity. But mostly they have lost the support of something that transcends them.
For the last day or two, pictures from last summer remind me of my favorite place on earth. It is a quiet place, and even in the midst of the summer Deer Cove on Lake Ossipee was quiet, tranquil, a great place to walk, enjoy God’s creation and peace.
I miss it, this idyllic, beautiful peaceful place.
When life is stressful and overwhelming, when I am dealing with people in great trauma, I long to find the autonomy, the independence of such a place.
Yet I hear Pope Francis’s words this morning and I know my desire to be introverted, independent, emotionally off-the-grid is a trap. What I would be choosing is isolation, not freedom. What I think is an escape is a sentence, a form of suffering I could not bear.
We choose, far too often the very thing prison wardens do to those who will not live by the rules. We dwell in that place that makes memory stealing diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia so frightening.
While a good deal of our stress comes from others, so should the support that comes from the people of God. So does the reminder from others that I need to hear, that the Lord is with me. (and also with them!) We were made to live in community.
But that community starts in the presence of God, Where love and mercy are the greatest of gifts, the purest grace. (this is a necessity, otherwise, our sin and brokenness can make the community a nightmare.) As a community, as the Body of Christ, we look to God to provide that which we need, and the confidence of that provision grows.
Even as we learn to be merciful to each other, it grows. For that is the power of the Lord demonstrated in our midst.
Our desire for freedom, for independence, for autonomy is really a desire for freedom from sin and the brokenness, guilt, shame, and division it causes. As the sin is forgiven, as the mercy is realized, as our hearts re-discover peace and joy, the desire for independence disappears.
For we realize God is with Us, we realize His provision unites us, brings us together as a family. Brings us together in His peace.
Which is what we need, more than anything.
Heavenly Father, as we try to run away from all that oppresses us, help us look to you, open our eyes to Your mercy and love, Help us to rejoice in Your presence, together with all your saints. Help us to be confident in Your work in our lives. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 227). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. 30 The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 CEV
853 Use this prescription for your life: “I don’t remember that I exist. I don’t think of my own affairs, because there is no time left.” Work and service!
Don’t stop reading this post after the next paragraph. Keep going, it will be worth it.
The word submission has taken on a very negative tone in the last few decades. Especially the idea of submitting to God, to allowing Jesus to be the Lord of your life. I could give twenty or thirty examples of why, including the fact that some people abuse the idea of submitting to God, in order to get people to submit to them. Men have done this to get women to submit, parents have done this to get children to submit, some in government, and even in church leadership want their people to submit.
But they don’t understand what submission is, they don’t get the paradox. And they don’t understand that submission isn’t about wielding authority and controlling others, it is about freeing them from things that shouldn’t bind them, that shouldn’t oppress them, that shouldn’t such life and joy from them.
Instead, this paradox of submission is about freeing them to live life, to know God’s love, to experience peace.
You see this in Jesus words above in red, quoted from Matthew’s gospel. Submitting to God means giving Him all the things that wear you down, that stress you out, that cause anxiety. The things that burden us, that tire us out. The stuff that leaves us exhausted, because they are out of our control. Jesus would have us submit our lives, where we get so fixated on our life that we don’t ever really live it.
Worry’s about family, friends finances, health or eve facing death.
Guilt and shame from past sins we struggle with daily.
Resentment and anger from those sins that have been committed against us,
All this stuff Jesus asks us to give to Him, to submit to His care. He would free us from these concerns of life. Which is why St Josemaria talks the way he does, saying I don’t remember that I exist, I am not concerned with my own affairs, I am free to just live, to do and to serve others.
Biblical submission is not about recognizing someone’s authority over you, it is not about becoming their robot. It is about realizing God’s care for you, HIs love, and allowing Him to do what He has promised. It is about trusting Him, depending upon Him, knowing that He cares.
And living in the freedom of not worrying about, not hyper-focusing upon those things we cannot change.
But instead to live in peace… unexplainable, glorious, restful peace.
Even on Monday!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 3021-3023). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
27 It follows that if one of you eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. 28 So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30 That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31 If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32 But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (TEV)
“Judge not, and you shall not be judged,” says the Saviour of our souls; “condemn not, and you shall not be condemned” (Luke, 6:37). “No,” says the holy apostle, “judge not before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart” (2 Cor. 4:5). Oh, how displeasing are rash judgments to God! The judgments of the children of men are rash, because they are not the judges of one another, and therefore usurp to themselves the office of our Lord. They are rash, because the principal malice of sin depends on the intention of the heart, which is an impenetrable secret to us. They are not only rash, but also impertinent, because everyone has enough to do to judge himself, without taking upon him to judge his neighbour.
As I read the words in blue this morning, I knew I had to write about them.
I didn’t want to, because the moment I read them, I start judging all the people around me who are not just judging others but condemning them. The spirits of division, of bitterness, of hatred aren’t just seeping into their lives, we are drowning in the flood of them.
We aren’t foolish enough to claim we are more righteous than the world, but we are more than willing to bash people, Trump, Clinton, the Kardashians, people of other religions, heck some even bash the New England Patriots and their loyal fans. And the bashing is always judgmental, always condemning, always done in a way that raises anxiety
It is a sickness, one which depresses and isolates. Personally, I long for the days when I was an introvert and could shut out the world. Even as I write this, I see it for what it really is, a form of judgment, a temptation to isolate myself from the evil, without recognizing that I can’t escape from it, for in trying to do so…. I embody what I am trying to flee.
It was the last line from St. Francis de Sales that helped me this morning, the line about everyone having enough to do to judge themselves.
You might think it odd I found this to be good news, the purest of gospel. For judging myself does bring the gospel into my life, erasing the need to judge others. For there, when I realize my frailty, when I recognize my sin, my instinct is to cry out for grace, to find sanctuary from the evil that not only threatens me externally but seems to well up internally.
In examining myself, I find the need to find a safe place, a place where judgment is cast aside, where burdens are lifted, where hope is revived and finds stimulation. Where I find a love beyond measure, seen in a grace where God forgives my desire to judge others, and the times where I do so. Examining myself drives me to absolution, and to the altar where God reminds me of His love by giving me His body and blood to eat and drink, where I get to fellowship with Him!
There, I find not just the peace I need eternally, but I find others receiving it as well. I find it offered to those I struggle with, those I want to judge, those I want to condemn. And even if they aren’t there as my parish communes, they might be on their own, and they are to be welcomed at all places.
Not only am I reminded of God’s grace forgiving me, drawing me to Him, into Christ, but I also am reminded that forgiveness is for all….
And for the moment, peace invades my darkness, shattering it, revealing a wholeness, completeness, that will be mine when we are found before Hi throne.
This is life in Christ, this is why I try to remain devout, depending on Him. For there I find the answer to my cry,, not for judgment, but for mercy.
For all of us.
Judge not… except yourself, so you may run to Him and find peace.
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Jesus said, “I am telling you the truth: the man who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who goes in through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him; the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. 4When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. 5They will not follow someone else; instead, they will run away from such a person, because they do not know his voice.” John 10:1-5 TEV
782 How can you dare use that spark of the divine intelligence—your mind—in any way other than in giving glory to your Lord?
The boys didn’t need to climb over the 10-foot fence or risk getting caught on the barbed wire that topped it. The old delivery gate chain was so loose, you could just push the gate open and walk through. The old dirt road, rumored once to have tracks on it was long abandoned, deliveries were taken a different way into the amusement park for decades.
But it was a right of passage in the neighborhood, and the guy that ran the park’s roller rink would wink at us, as he handed us skates and told us to make sure everyone had a good time. Even he let the boys in for free, though he would ask them to sweep the rink occasionally. He knew we snuck in, and he knew that many of us didn’t have the 2 bucks to get in, then pay for skating and skate rental. So he turned a blind eye to our entrance, and made us “work” the rink, doing odd jobs around the place.
The first five or six times someone snuck in, you could see it in their hesitation, in their movement to the other side of the skating rink when the park’s security walked through. But eventually the excitement and fear would diminish, the guilt would fade, and the sin just became a normal part of life.
As adults, as believers in Christ, sin has a similar effect on us. It may seem exciting at even unsettling at first. But over time we realize we haven’t gotten caught, and others turn a blind eye to our actions.
Even as the friends hung out, even as they pretended they were the tough guys, we saw those who came into the park the right way, paying the price, and riding the cannonball rollercoaster, and went through the haunted house. They had a different joy, they belonged there. Their fun was legitimate, they came with their families, or their girls, they had money and ride tickets.
We had some fun, and we had our gang. We had the rink. But we knew we didn’t have it all.
In the gospel reading above, we were the guys who snuck in, who didn’t belong. We could have been brought in by the front, but we liked our way better. Many of us still do that, as we expect that our peace and comfort can be achieved through ways scripture calls sin. As we hide them, rather than letting the price be paid, the illusion holds up, and others might even encourage it. What is your choice to find your joy and peace? Greed? Desire for fame? Lust and illicit sex? Gossip? All these sins do is try to create the illusion of pleasure, or peace, contentment and joy. If we pause long enough to consider it… we know they do not. We don’t belong and we are lieing to ourselves if we think we do.
Sin is still sin? Of course. And if you take a moment to think it over, you know it.
As I hear St Josemaria talk, I think about the things we could do with our time, our money, our intelligence and talents, the blessings God has given us, to bring God glory. TO know the joy of seeing God rejoice as we do what He had planned for us. As we hear Him saying “well done.”
Then I realize that we aren’t just robbing God of His glory. For Jesus died to bring us into that glory, to share that love. What we’ve done, is chosen not to live in it, and to live in the shadows, moving toward the darkness.
It’s not too late… it never is.
Cry out to Him, ask for forgiveness, ask to see His mercy, ask for Jesus to reconcile you to the Father, and find that He paid your way in, and you are counted as an honored guest. Indeed, that has been His desire from the beginning. No more sneaking in.. not more justifying our existence, no more hiding from security. It wasn’t necessary int he first place.
true peace, true comfort, true belonging.
with others, of every tribe and language and nation. All who belong, none who have to come over the fence…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1807-1808). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
36 If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free.
John 8:36 (TEV)
423 Under the pressure and impact of a materialistic, pleasure-loving, faithless world, how can we demand and justify the freedom of not thinking as they do, and of not acting as they do? A son of God has no need to ask for that freedom, because Christ won it for us once and for all. But he does need to defend it and practise it whatever the circumstance he finds himself in. Only thus will they understand that our freedom is not bound up in our surroundings. (1)
This morning on the way to work, I heard a man complaining about the necessity to pay that his children could pray in school. He prattled on about how unfair it was that this wasn’t truly a free country, that it cost to have his kids raised by those who would teach them to pray. ( By the way, I know “Prattled” isn’t used much, but it fits the sounds he was making)
I think in this country we have made freedom an idol. Certainly we consider free speech a right, as well as the vague term “freedom of religion” or as some would have it, “freedom from religion.” We get upset when those “rights: are taken away, or limited. We get even more upset when others use those “rights” in a way that threatens, disagrees or demeans us. I’ve even heard the verse in red above used in discussions about the freedom of religion as if the Americanism – that Jesus gave us freedom, and anyone who would take it away should be damned. (Or at least, mocked and embarrassed behind their back on Facebook) The idol of freedom or even the freedom of religion does nothing long range for mankind. It is an illusion, and it is not Christian freedom.
Our freedom is part of the peace that God gives us. It is, as St. Josemaria says, freedom of not thinking as they do, or acting as they do. It is not a freedom the world can give. It is not a freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights or the Magna Carta. It is the freedom Peter and Paul knew, as they were prisoners in Rome. It is the freedom and peace that Stephen knew, as men laid their coats down at Saul’s feet, and picked up stones to crush him. It is freedom martyrs longed to share with their tormenters.
It is a freedom that, like the peace we are given, is divine.
Hear the rest of Jesus statement, the context of the discussion on Freedom:
34 Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave does not belong to a family permanently, but a son belongs there forever. 36 If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free. 37 I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are trying to kill me, because you will not accept my teaching. 38 I talk about what my Father has shown me, but you do what your father has told you.”
John 8:34-38 (TEV)
Here is our freedom. The freedom from guilt and shame that breaks us down as we realize the consequences of our sin. The freedom to see the relationships shattered by sin. The freedom from resentment, the anger and hurt we store in our memories, as if we can protect ourselves from further injury, further hurt.
It is a freedom that is part of our faith, part of the trust and dependence we have in God. Dependence on His fulfilling promises like that in Romans 8 that everything will work out for our good, that nothing can separate us from Him. Promises like Genesis 50, that what others plan for evil, God will use those things for good. The promise that is revealed as we look to Jesus, the author of our faith, and the one who makes it perfect.
This is freedom, true freedom.
Let us treasure the Lord, who frees us, more than the illusion of freedoms that would leave us oppressed and bound to sin and unrighteousness.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1893-1897). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.