Devotional Thoughts for the Day
Then Jesus told them, “Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.” CEV Matthew 22:21
See, now you understand the meaning of the term “to hallow” and “holy.” It is nothing else than withdrawing something from misuse and dedicating it to its proper godly use, just as a church is dedicated and appointed solely to the service of God. In like manner we must be hallowed in our whole life, leaving nothing but the name of God to dwell in us, in other words, nothing but kindness, truth, justice, etc. Hence the name of God is hallowed or profaned not only with our lips but also with our soul and all the members of our body.
Second, God’s name is defiled by robbing and thieving. Although wise men will at once understand what I mean, it will be too subtle for the simpleminded, since we are here referring to the arrogant ones who regard themselves as righteous and holy and do not feel that they are profaning the name of God as those in the aforementioned group do. While they dub themselves righteous and holy and truthful, they freely and fearlessly pilfer and purloin God’s name
551 Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.
As I read the words Luther wrote nearly 500 years ago, I knew I had to write on the first paragraph, and what holiness/perfection truly is. I’ve mentioned this before, but it cannot be spoken about enough. We hear, “44 I am the LORD your God, and you must dedicate yourselves to me and be holy, just as I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44 (CEV)) and we get to work, trying our damndest to become what we think holy means, or when we fail, working equally hard to maintain the illusion of holiness.
It is the latter action that leads us to be convicted of robbery, trying to steal what is not ours. We profane God’s name, Luther writes, when we pretend to be something we are not when we put up the charade that we are perfect, that we are righteous, that we are holy. For not only do we not understand holiness, but we also take the responsibility that is God’s alone when we declare we are. What a scam the devil has laid upon us, to get us to think that we determine whether or not we are righteous, and others are not! Falling for it, we try to determine what is good and what is evil, unaware of our own spiritual blindness.
Holiness is as simple as what Luther notes, taking something misused and redirecting it towards its purpose. Whether it is God’s name, no longer used to swear, condemn or falsely justify ourselves and others, or whether it is our lives, created in His image in order to spend time with Him. This is the truth that St. Josemaria talks of, in regards to being pious and holy, the key is simple. Being constantly in the presence of God. Finding out that we are int he presence of a loving, merciful, gentle God who will gently (and firmly) heal our brokenness.
Stop trying to be righteous, stop putting on an act that presents you as holy and perfect. Instead, spend time talking to God, letting Him do the work that only He can do. Look to Him, focus on His love, spending as much time aware of His presence as you can.
Holiness will be taken care of, He promises.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 29.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 Jesus also told this parable to people who were sure of their own goodness and despised everybody else. 10 “Once there were two men who went up to the Temple to pray: one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood apart by himself and prayed, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not greedy, dishonest, or an adulterer, like everybody else. I thank you that I am not like that tax collector over there. 12 I fast two days a week, and I give you one tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even raise his face to heaven, but beat on his breast and said, ‘God, have pity on me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you,” said Jesus, “the tax collector, and not the Pharisee, was in the right with God when he went home. For those who make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be made great.” Luke 18:9-14 (TEV)
440 Your character is so uneven! Your keyboard is out of order. You play very well on the high notes and on the low notes… but no sound comes from the ones in the middle, the ones used in ordinary life, the ones people normally hear. (1)
As I was driving to breakfast this morning, I notice the shopping center’s construction was well underway. They weren’t building new stores, or making major renovations to the facility. Just updating the frontal facades of all the stores. Trying to make it look less like the 1980’s-1990’s and more modern. The stores themselves won’t change, still a supermarket, a good mexican restaurant, a couple of banks, yogurt shop, coffee shop, etc. The substance will stay the same, only the packaging is changing, and probably at a significant cost to someone. Eventually it will cost the tax-payers and customers of those businesses.
At breakfast, I read an article about the restaurants that get a “make-over” by Gordon Ramsey, the chef and entrepreneur. Over 60 percent of them still fail, even as he invests money in them, making over the restaurant, the menu, the staffs. Even so, there are things he cannot address in one week, the heart and soul of the owners and employees. The substance still stays the same.
Then I read St Josemaria this morning, and the passage from Luke popped into my mind…..
You see, we all put up facades, even those of us who trust in Jesus, and the work He did when He saved us. We put them up, trying to make people think (or even worse – make ourselves think) that everything will be all right, that everything is fine, that all is well in our world. That business as usual is good and prosperous and everything will be all right.
The problem is that facades don’t change the substance, and they don’t really change the image we have of what lies behind it. What was there is still there. If it is poor business practices, it still will be. If it is lousy customer service, well then, that will still be the case. If it is sin, it is sin. Or if it is the missing strings that betray a weak faith in the basic areas of life, then those two will be missing. The pharisee will still be the pharisee, the hypocrite will still be the hypocrite.
Don’t bother changing the facade….it won’t change you! To cause true change, the building has to be leveled, Death must come, and re-birth has to happen. Faith is trusting God to kill us off, and to raise us to life in Christ. Faith is trusting that this is what the cross is all about, that are being unified to that cross in baptism is what this is all about. To know the new creation we have become, is because God has done this. To walk away, knowing that because of His love, God has declared us innocent, clean, His.
He removes not just the facade, He changes more the menu, He takes those who are pharisees and tax-collectors, cuts our their heart of stone… and replaces it with one of flesh. He puts in us His Holy Spirit, who transforms us…..He declares us justified, and holy, cleansed and set apart to walk with Him….
Lord, have mercy on us, poor sinners… and thank you for making us saints! AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1957-1959). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.