Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (TEV)
952 You run the great risk of being satisfied with living, or thinking that you have to live, “like a good boy”, who stays in a cosy and neat house, with no problems, and knowing only happiness. That is a caricature of the home in Nazareth. Because Christ brought happiness and order, he went out to spread those treasures among men and women of all times.
I was dealing with a fairly uncomfortable situation this morning, and as I wa completing my devotional reading I came across St Josemaria’s comment about being satisfied, about being comfortable.
I am still trying to process this one, and the scripture above it. To be honest, I would rather not do so.
Living as a Christian isn’t always satisfying, and it certainly shouldn’t be considered comfortable. It shouldn’t be, in the normal sense of the word, we shouldn’t be comfrotable with the American Dream, a life where everyhting has its place, and life runs like a smoothly runinng machine.
Because that isn’t life. it is reduced to being a robot.
Life, real life is lived in the brokenness, in the moments where we are weak, in the moments of being uncomfortable where God has led us. The moement we have to talk to the lady who had to celebrate mother’s day on the day her mother died, and is grieving. The friend whose work is breaking him down, and he doesn’t realize it, the couple that loves each other, but doesn’t know reconciliation is possible.
It is there we see God bringing healing, it is there we see God at work, it is in those moemnts that aren’t satisfying, comfortable and easy that we find a peace that goes beyond all understanding.
That is why St Paul could use the word content in describing them, for he had learned, he had been taught that it is then that Christ must become our strenght, for we have no other option but to depend on Him,and His love.
Ultimately, getting out of our “comfort zone”, out of our perfect lives is what we need. So rejoice in the moments that aren’t personally satisfying, you are about to see God’s work revealed.
Heavenly Father, when we are undergoing the challenges of life, help us to rejioce in them, as they cause us to be drawn closer to you and depend upon You more. Even as we struggle, may we see revealed the power of the Holy Spirit, comforting us and enabling us to endure. In Jesus name!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3860-3864). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Pragmatic THeological Thoguht of the Day:
18 “But can you, O God, really live on earth among men and women? Not even all of heaven is large enough to hold you, so how can this Temple that I have built be large enough? 19 LORD my God, I am your servant. Listen to my prayer and grant the requests I make to you. 20 Watch over this Temple day and night. You have promised that this is where you will be worshiped, so hear me when I face this Temple and pray. 21 Hear my prayers and the prayers of your people Israel when they face this place and pray. In your home in heaven hear us and forgive us. 2 Chronicles 6:18-21 (TEV)
32 “When foreigners who live in a distant land hear how great and powerful you are and how you are always ready to act, and then they come to pray at this Temple, 33 listen to their prayers. In heaven, where you live, hear them and do what they ask you to do, so that all the peoples of the world may know you and obey you, as your people Israel do. Then they will know that this Temple I have built is where you are to be worshiped. 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 (TEV)
658 We should make no mistake… God is no shadowy or distant being who created us then abandoned us; nor is he a master who goes away and does not return. Though we do not perceive him with our senses, his existence is far more true than any of the realities which we touch and see. God is here with us, really present, living. He sees and hears us, He guides us, and knows our smallest deeds, our most hidden intentions. We believe this—but we live as if God did not exist. For we do not have a thought or a word for him; for we do not obey him, nor try to control our passions; for we do not show that we love him, and we do not atone… Are we going to continue living with a dead faith”? (1)
“After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.” (2)
Tomorrow we start a new year in the church. I would ask that for a moment, like “secular” new years, we think about our lives as those who facilitate the worship of the people of God. (Both those who know they are, and those who will come to know they are in this year)
Tomorrow is also the first Sunday of Advent or the Parousia, that season we spend trying to understand the desire of the peope of God for the Messiah to come, for the promises to be fulfilled, for God to dwell among us. We do this, so that we too can desire God’s presence and His return. That is why the ancient church cried out “Maranatha!” the cry of Come Lord Jesus!
There are days, especially in this last year, where I admit I was crying this out for the wrong reason, And perhaps, leading my people to cry this out for the wrong reason as well.
You see, I cried it out because things were rough, because I was in mourning, or in despair. Where I wanted the suffering of people around me to end, Not that we would die, but that we would be rescued from this place, and brought into the presence of God in Heaven, where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more cancer, no more death. I wanted us all to be rescued from this life, and brought into the joy, the glory, the peace of God that we shall know for eternity. We have endured a lot these last few years…have had to minister to each other, with seemingly no break. We need rest and healing and a time to breath in deeply, and know the message of Christmas, that God is with us.
Something we already know… sort of.
And that is where the challenge for this New Church Year is going to be found.
Making the experience people have when they come to our churches have be one where they are sure Christ is with them.
Where it’s not about us, where we don’t go through the motions, where we don’t block people’s reception of God’s presence because of our poor-formance (misspelling intentional)
Look at the readings from the Dedication of Solomon’s temple above, there is an assurance in Solomon’s words that they are in the very presence of God. All of Israel, gathered there, assured of His love and that nothing can spearate them from His love. That strangers, people who don’t even know who God is except for his title, would be able to come and know that this place, this altar, where we stand, is where God has gathered them as well.
For the sake of our people – this article isn’t about worship styles, traditional Liturgy, or contemporary. It’s about us, you and I, and how we approach this blessed time we share with the people of God. The time were our voices, our body language, our intimate reverence and joy betray to our people that we KNOW we are in the presence of God the Creator, That He is here. I would desires that our readings are filled with awe, realizing that this is what God has thought through and inspired so His love is revealed to His people. That the readings are also clear, and done in a language and manner that doesn’t require a dictionary to understand. That our prayers, whether pre-written or from the heart, assist them in laying every burden down at His feet, entrusting them to Him, as He desires. That every spoken word be such that thy know this is something we do, but something that is our life. That our music and the way it is played isn’t about leaving them in awe of our talents and voices, but lead them voicing their awe at the God who loves them so much, that for the joy of revealing this to them, endured the cross and all its sufferings. The God that welcomes them and draws them to Him, broken, sinful, needy, that He might heal and comfort, cleanse and encourage.
That every person, whether life-long church goer, or first time guest of God, encounter Christ.
That’s what our ceremonies are designed to teach, whether liturgical or common, whether accompanied by majestic pipe organs, or simple strings, or even acapella.
That’s what makes the difference in our lives, in the expression of our trust in God.
KNowing He is here.
Desiring Christ’s last return, not just to escape the pains of this world.. but because we will see Him, the God who loves us, face to face. That the glory we now see hints of, as we see one baptized, or receive Christ’s Body and Blood, as we see the prodigal welcomed home, and the joy of all in celebrating it, that we would see that joy, that glory in its fullness.
In His presence.
So here is the challenge, as you enter the church tomorrow. Breathe deeply, let your nerves calm down, your burdens be dropped, His joy lift you high. For we dwell, as Solomon did that day, in the very presence of God.
The God who has had mercy on us, who has come to us, and in whose presence we live.
Then, as our people see this, may they know and be assured that and rejoice they dwell in Christ as well!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2759-2766). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.(1)
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Augsburg Confession. Article XXIV (p. 56) . Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
- An Impressive Resume (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Is it insane to keep doing/teaching/preaching the same thing over and over, and expecting… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- “We’ll get together then, God. You know we’ll have a good time then! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (joshuareich.org)
Devotional THought of the Day:
16 No longer, then, do we judge anyone by human standards. Even if at one time we judged Christ according to human standards, we no longer do so. 17 Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. 18 All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19 Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. 20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21 Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (TEV)
For Monsignor Escrivá the value of every human being, the reason for their overwhelming dignity, was that each had an immortal soul. “To save one soul,” he said, “I would go to the very gates of hell.” These were not mere words. At a time when he was the focal point of all kinds of gossip, he had not held back from going to a brothel to hear the confession of the owner’s dying brother, and administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. As a precaution, he took an eminently respectable elderly man with him, since he was a young priest in his twenties. He had also exacted a promise that for that whole day there would not be an “appointment” there. A hug for a Mason Nor did he mind opening the doors of his house in Rome to an illustrious Mason, riddled with cancer, who secretly wanted to be reconciled with the Church. This man began by calling him “Sir” and ended up calling him “Father.” When Monsignor Escrivá enveloped him in a big hug, he felt that his evil past had disappeared in an instant into the ocean of understanding of a God who forgives. Approaching each soul on one’s knees Monsignor Escrivá was driven by two passions, both anchored in one love: a passion for God and a passion for souls. The heart of his “business” was bringing souls to God. Since God is always near human beings, what was necessary was that each person decide to listen to God and his or her conscience. His task as an apostle was to bring about silence in souls so that God could make himself heard. When Monsignor Escrivá said he was interested in a hundred souls out of a hundred, he was not thinking of crowds so he added, “one by one”—“handling each soul like a unique pearl,” entering consciences “on one’s knees,” always conscious of treading on sacred ground. (1)
It’s Monday, yesterday began a new week, but one that I would rather not deal with. Too much work to do,
Too many hearts , already broken and devastated, ready that will need grace that I can point to, and wish I could simply give. I love those words I underlined, in the description of St. Josemaria! The idea that a simple hug could be the antidote for evil that consumes us, or that I could bring about silence in souls that would allow them to hear God clearly, to know His love, and His desire to forgive them.
If only we could get people to stop for a minute – and consider what God has done for them, as He claimed their souls, their lvies in baptism. As He promised to deliver them, and heal them and be with them, taking care of them, providing for them! If only when they approach the altar to receive His Body and Blood, they realized the love that drew them there, as Christ is lifted up before them. For He is the Lamb of God, who took away the sins fo the world, and grants us peace.
These words aren’t simply words, they are His words. The words that show His work, His desire.
I suppose that’s why I like Escriva’s work so much – he cuts through most of the “stuff” of theology, focusing on what makes a difference, the presence of Christ. Not to condemn us, but ot heal us, to set us apart as His people, to set us apart to share in His work – which is the very work we praise and glorify Him for in our words, and hopefully in our deeds. It’s not about the world’s problems, or about this rare theological tidbit, or that great event. It is about knowing Christ.
Like this idea that everyone we meet is made in God’s image – and is loved by God, and God desires that they should be transformed. Everyone. Even those who oppose us. Therefore, as we are sent into their lives, the very ground we meet them on is Holy Ground, a place desitned for their meeting God, because we bring Him to them. As surely as Moses encountered God in a burning bush, I would desire that those who don’t know Jesus encounter Him burning in those of who do know His love.
And that their lives would forever more be changed.
With that in mind – let us take on this week, as we remember to plead with them on God’s behalf, urging them to be reconciled to God.
Lord have mercy on us, and make it so! AMEN…
(1) Urbano, Pilar (2011-05-10). The Man of Villa Tevere (Kindle Locations 2001-2017). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
22 Now all this happened in order to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, 23 “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”). Matthew 1:22-23 (TEV)
20 . ..And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:20 (ESV)
1 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)
“In many Catholic parishes of the twenty-first century there is little sense of sacred space. The reverent silence that used to prevail in Catholic churches is rarely encountered, even in churches that have an ample narthex where the gathering congregation can greet one another before entering the church proper. Yet if the church proper is the Porta Coeli, the door of heaven and the portal of the Kingdom, then surely one ought to act in that space somewhat differently than one acts at the local mall or supermarket.“ (1)
I have, in the last few months as I have digested Weigel’s book on the century long changes in the Roman Catholic Church, found many things that are well stated, many things that are Biblical, many things I wish my own church would implement in attitude. But no church denomination is perfect, and no plan of man for its reform is without error, And I think I’ve found one, one that is sadly reflected in my own church as well.
It’s this idea that there is a distinction between that which is sacred and that which is secular, or to use the philosophical categories – sacred and the profane.
Like many people, Weigel sees the church facility as a transition place, a place where we go from the unreligious, unrighteousness of our world into a transition zone – we are coming close to God, and therefore our mind, our attitudes, our bodies must change. His line about acting differently in that space, more reverential. more sanctified, more holy, is a great point – and yes – I would love for my own church to have a time of meditative silence, to think about how much we need to remember we dwell in God’s presence. It would be beneficial, it would be nice.
But the reasoning is flawed. It’s not about what we do that prepares us for the blessings of sharing in Word in sacrament.
It is even more flawed because it teaches us that our lives are somewhat split. We behave one way in church, when we are in the presence of God, and one way when we are at work, or home, or a ball game. It’s as if we say – hey we aren’t in God’s presence anymore, we can now behave like the rest of the world. That was “His time” and now – the rest of the week is “ours” It doesn’t work that way – and that we allow people to think that way is not a beneficial thing.
God doesn’t want that 60-75 minutes a week. ( but the more we realize how it blesses us, we should! ) He wants to share every moment with us, that is why He is called Immanuel ( Immanent/Immediate God), that is what He has promised us. That is the gift of our baptism, as the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. Yes the time where blessings are poured out are awesome, but so can be the times in the night, when we need His comfort, and realize He is there. The blessings of having Him bring us peace, in the midst of trauma or adversity. Even the restoration, when we realize the depth of our sin, or how we have created an idol that we put in His place… and cry out for forgiveness and restoration.
Christianity is not about our practices, it is about our living with God. It is about the fact that there is no secular space for us, there is no profane time, because He has invaded it, cleansed it, set it apart for our time with Him.
The church doors being a division between such? May we never think that way… may we never teach it that way… may we live each day, each moment, whereever we are, in His peace, in His mercy, in His glory…. in HIs love.
(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 157). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.