Devotional Thought of the Day:
68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!” John 6:68-69 HCSB
4 I have asked the LORD for one thing; one thing only do I want: to live in the LORD’S house all my life, to marvel there at his goodness, and to ask for his guidance. 5 In times of trouble he will shelter me; he will keep me safe in his Temple and make me secure on a high rock. 6 So I will triumph over my enemies around me. With shouts of joy I will offer sacrifices in his Temple; I will sing, I will praise the LORD. 7 Hear me, LORD, when I call to you! Be merciful and answer me! 8 When you said, “Come worship me,” I answered, “I will come, LORD.” Psalm 27:4-8 (TEV)
The pure in heart shall see God. The seeing of Him will be the sign that we are like Him, for only by being like Him can we see Him as He is. But when shall we be fit to look at Him in the face, God only knows. That is the heart of my hopes by day and by night. To behold the face of Jesus seems to me to be the one this to be desired.
Whenever we speak to God, whenever we open ourselves to God, we ourselves are renewed. Conversely, whenever the world closes itself to God, whenever it turns away from him, it is like a planet broken loose from its field of gravity and forever wandering aimlessly through nothingness. When a person loses God, he can no longer be genuinely himself because he has lost the fundamental norm of his existence. When we cut ourselves loose from our proper norm, there remains only excess or reversion. Some theologians suggest, as a precaution, that theology be so worded that it will still be functional “etsi deus non daretur”: even if there really is no God. But if God does not exist, we will have lost more than just an ornamental bauble on the periphery of our existence. If God does not exist, nothing will be as it is now; everything will proceed from emptiness and will revert to emptiness.
Part of my daily time I spend in prayer, talking to God, trying to listen, meditating on his word includes the two Bible readings above. There is a pattern, an order for morning prayer I use that includes them both.
And every Monday these words hit me in the face, and I feel like a hypocrite. I know God’s words are the words of life, I know how wonderful it is to be in His presence, I know how special it is to be in God’s presence.
Yet Mondays seem so empty of all of that, so distant. Even in this holy week, it’s MONDAY!
So there is a part of me that feels convicted, even judged and condemned as a hypocrite when I say these words. It’s not that I don’t want to feel this way, I want to, but it seems like I can’t. I feel like the theologians who imagine theology to be able to functionally exist if God doesn’t exist.
Monday’s seem empty, which is ironic because the day before was so full of His presence I would think my joy would never fade or fail.
So as I start my time dedicated to being in His presence, it starts out as a struggle, (it doesn’t help that the first reading was also in my readings today,) Or the McDonald reading, or that from Pope Benedict. Each reminded me that this is how I should be. Each reminds me that my reality is not what I want it to be.
Each reminds me of how hungry I am for life to change.
I guess over the years, I’ve realized that these feelings could so easily betray me, these feelings that I am the worst hypocrite, these feelings that I am just going through the motions. The dissatisfaction with my own faith and practice could cause even more of a spiral into guilt-ridden apathy until my cold heart no longer cares. It’s easy enough to stagger down that road. Will I ever be fit to see Him face to face? That is my question on Mondays, when my heart lies, and tells me, no.
I need to read these words of scripture and ask God for help to make them mine. I need to find that desire, and the only way to do it is to depend on Him to renew me, something that happens when I enter His presence as I am broken, tired, empty. For then I do see God as McDonald desires. I do become who I am, as Pope Benedict points out. Because God is the one who renews, who revives. It is His love that draws me into His presence, that makes me aware of it
It seems counter-intuitive to need God to provide the desire, the strength to desire to be in His presence. But it is the reality I’ve come to learn to live with. I have to dive into my pattern, for there, Mondays lose their emptiness, the meaningless.. or perhaps, they have no meaning, because meaning is all wrapped up in being in God’s presence, and the day doesn’t matter.
He is the Lord of Life. I need to know that on Mondays… and He makes sure I do…
So let’s pray together, that on Monday’s we would encounter our Lord, and know we can confidently cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!’
He will, that is what He does.
Daily office Meditation for 3/26 (quoted from George McDonald) Celtic Daily Prayer: Book 2
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Comment of the Day:
1 One night as I lay in bed, I yearned for my lover. I yearned for him, but he did not come. 2 So I said to myself, “I will get up and roam the city, searching in all its streets and squares. I will search for the one I love.” So I searched everywhere but did not find him. 3 The watchmen stopped me as they made their rounds, and I asked, “Have you seen the one I love?” 4 Then scarcely had I left them when I found my love! I caught and held him tightly. Song of Songs 3:1-4 (NLT)
“1030 My God, when will I love you for yourself? Although when we think about it, Lord, to desire an everlasting reward is to desire you, for you give yourself as our reward.
1031 Taste and see that the Lord is good, the Psalmist says. Spiritual conquest, which is Love, has to be—in big things and small—a desire for the Infinite, for eternity”.(1)
If you gather ten average men together, they will talk about the desires they have for their baseball or football teams. They will do so with great energy, with a competitive fever, and with an incredible level of enthusiasm. You will have great trouble changing the subject. A similar group of men will wax eloquent about their cars, and the experience driving them, or the cars they dream of driving. ( My preference – just one of two cars from 1970-71 – the Triumph Spitfire or Datsun 240z)
But change the subject and ask them to talk about the passion and admiration they have for their wives, how thye adore them and value them, and they clam up. ABout the only thing they will discuss with less emotion is their faith.
And that is a problem.
A serious problem.
There are even books out there advising pastors to not talk about God and our relationship with Him, for it will drive men away. Tenderness, compassion, caring, deep love, these are words that we are told we cannot continue to use, for men will turn off their minds, and stop listening to the sermon, or the lesson. Talk about the logic of Christianity, the proofs of it, heavy theology fine. Create systems and programs and methods for growing the church? Fine. Desire for Christ’s presence? Nope. Christ’s passion and compassion for people? Never! Spend an hour weeping and praying over the brokenness of our communities, begging God to show us how to intervene? You have to be kidding.
It is it any wonder that we’ve ripped the heart out of the church, that we our passion for the lost, the hurting, the broken has all but dried up? That our church’s have developed into houses of reason, that the “approved music” by denominations is complex and majestic and too dang hard for the average person to sing and praise their God with? We’ve taught people that they can’t trust their emotions, forgetting that in Christ, those emotions have been cleansed, that in baptism the heart of stone has been replaced by a heart of flesh. Desire for God is dismissed, too pietistic, too emotional, and those things don’t belong in church, we are told.
Is it any wonder our churches are dying?
The above quote in red is from the Song of Solomon, and ancient commentators thought of it as an appropriate description of the emotinal bond between Christ and His Beloved, the people that are gathered as the church. The desire there described would blow past any limitations in order to see, to be with, to know (not just “biblically”) the Beloved. And the beloved responds in a similar manner. Desire, longing, and emptiness when the presence of the loved one isn’t there. Other theologians have said it can’t be, and I wonder if it is less because of the physically intimate talk, or because of the transparent desire for the presence of God.
St Josemaria didn’t hesitate in describing such love, neither writers like C.S. Lewis (read Till We Have Faces) and Gene Edwards or George McDonald, philosophers like Pascal, pastors like Luther and Wesley. Songs like Amazing Grace and It is Well and A Mighty Fortress in their completeness describe this desire, this longing, this adoration of God, and of His desire to make His presence clear in our lives, as He does throughout all of scripture!
“I will be your God, and you will be My people! (Leviticus 6:12 and many more places!)
God desires a relationship with us, He desires to pour out His love upon us, that is what salvation is all about. A God passionate for His people. A God who would do more than move heaven and earth for His people, a God who would prove out His love by sacrificing His Son.
Yeah – that’s intimidating, but also so incredible, so overwhelming,
And it is a treasure that we can share, for as we come to know His desire for us, we realize it is a desire for the world, and for our family, neighbors and friends.
HIs desire for us, even before we cry, “Lord have mercy”, is an answer to that cry…
May we respond to His desire for us, with a growing desire to spend our lives in His presence, and exhausting ourselves in that which pleases Him.
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3643-3647). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.