Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:
19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25 (NLT)
But, as St. Gregory the Great puts it, it is still only the time of dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled. The sun is rising, but it has still not reached its zenith. Thus the time of the New Testament is a peculiar kind of “in-between”, a mixture of “already and not yet”. The empirical conditions of life in this world are still in force, but they have been burst open, and must be more and more burst open, in preparation for the final fulfillment already inaugurated in Christ.
Two weeks from today is Christmas, a day some are able to celebrate with great joy with those whom they love, who they care for, as meals are shared, as presents are exchanged, as laughter and smiles are contagious.
Yet recognizing that Christmas is only two weeks away causes my anxiety levels to rise. There are services to plan, sermons to write, music to practice, and most of all, people to pray for and try and find ways to comfort and to try to reveal God’s presence to, so that they can know some peace.
Some are stressed out by finances, or work situations. Some are broken by their own sin, or addictions, or broken by the sin and addictions of those they love, that have caused deep division. Some are grieving, and that number has grown this year. Some are simply wandering, directionless, unable to find anything stable enough to give them hope, even as they drive by churches advertising Christmas concerts, and advent services, even as they set up Christmas trees and manger scenes in their own homes.
I like how Pope Benedict phrased where we are in life, in this time of the dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled. There are shadows that seem to overwhelm us, to convince us we still are in the darkness. The struggles of life are still there, undeniably, yet there is a hint of the perfect, complete life we know is coming in Christ Jesus.
We are in the time of the “now, and not yet!” The time where God’s kingdom is here, yet we struggle to see it. The time when we are in God’s presence, though we cannot see Him, It is a time where we have to depend on God, but still have so many doubts, where we have to have hope, but struggle to define that, and therefore to express it.
Which is all the more reason to gather together as believers regularly, To celebrate the fact that we are in His presence, that Christ has cleansed us, that we have been baptized by His blood, and therefore have clean consciences! This all in order that we know, that when He returns, He is not just returning to us, but returning for us.
We gather to encourage each other with these facts, for too often we forget them in the shadows of the world. Too often we get overwhelmed by sin, ours and that of the world.
There is the hope, that is the real message behind all the decorations, all the mangers scenes – and the lights symbolizing Jesus coming, He whose light shatters our darkness, He who is our light, the Light of the World. He who is our comforter, He who is our peace.
And for the next two weeks, and until His return, the One who hears us when we cry, “Lord Have Mercy,” and find int he manger and the cross, He has!
So let’s get together in these times, often, so that we can cry and laugh together, and encourage each other, even as we look forward to the day of Chrsit coming. AMEN!
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Devotional Thought for our days:
9 Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, “You must go back to your mistress and submit to her mistreatment.”
13 So she called the LORD who spoke to her: The God Who Sees, for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen e the One who sees me?” 14 That is why she named the spring, “A Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” It is located between Kadesh and Bered. Genesis 16:9, 13-14
140 Live your Christian life with naturalness! Let me stress this: make Christ known through your behaviour, just as an ordinary mirror reproduces an image without distorting it or turning it into a caricature. If, like the mirror, you are normal, you will reflect Christ’s life, and show it to others.
God told her to go back where she was being mistreated.
I struggle to wrap my mind around what God was doing. Who is this God who would send a poor slave back to her owner, to undergo more mistreatment? To send her back to where she was told to commit adultery, to conceive a baby by a man who would never love her, who would later (see chapter 21) abandon her and her son.
Why did God send her back? Why would he not just take care fo them then and there?
Another question needs ot be asked though, one that we really need to ponder.
Why was she the one who got to see God face to face? Why did she have the great assurance that God would even listen to her prayers? Look at the name of the place, see Hagar’s faith.
The One who sees me….
There are times where wonder why God would bother with me. There are other times where I wonder why He would place me where he does so often, dealing with people who are in more trauma than I comprehend.
That’s when Hagar’s faith, this lady who was overlooked, taken for granted, given the worst work ( the idea of having to be involved with the 85-year-old spouse of her mistress must have been a bit traumatic) and not cared for, yet God came to her. God was met her face to face and ensured Her of His presence in her life and in her sons.
As He is in ours. He sees us… you and I.
Assured of that, I can live life, praying that my life is that mirror, that people looking at me see God. And then, I can find some peace… in awe of the glory of God that surrounds us. For He sees us.
Amazing love, how can it be?
I don’t know how… but I sure need it, and it is surely there.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 690-693). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Day:
1 People of Jerusalem, run through your streets! Look around! See for yourselves! Search the marketplaces! Can you find one person who does what is right and tries to be faithful to God? If you can, the LORD will forgive Jerusalem. Jeremiah 5:1 (TEV)
804 That friend of ours with no false humility used to say: “I haven’t needed to learn how to forgive, because the Lord has taught me how to love.”
Unrighteousness is a contagious disease.
It spreads like wildfire, often consuming those who are trying to fight it the hardest.
We find ourselves caught hating those who hate, gossiping about those who gossip, seeking to be unjust to those who presume are unjust. Not forgiving those who do something unforgivable.
We seriously need to send out search parties to find one righteous, just person. Just one!
At least God lowered the standard from the days of Sodom and Gomorrah! Then Abraham got him down to 10 righteous people. Now we have to find only One! If only there was some way to find that person, if only there was some way He could rise above the crowd, so that God could easily see Him!
The man has been found! He’s been lifted up on the cross! God forgave Jerusalem and all who look to Him for forgiveness!
God’s looked beyond our unrighteousness, beyond our betraying Him, beyond our brokeness and forgave us, not because He had to, but because He loves us. He proved what St. Josemaria states, that one who loves doesn’t have to learn to forgive, the love they are compels them to do so. Love will seek the course of reconciliation, it has to, and that means forgiving.
That is what the righteous and just do…
And that is contagious as well.
Lord, help us ot know we are loved, help us to be so overwhelmed by our experience the incredible height and breadth, depth and width of that love that we begin to love as well, and as we do, forgive as we’ve been forgiven! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3319-3320). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days….
Like a young man taking a virgin as his bride, He who formed you will marry you.
As a groom is delighted with his bride, So your God will delight in you. Isaiah 62:4 TEV
8 But you are our Father, LORD. We are like clay, and you are like the potter. You created us, 9so do not be too angry with us or hold our sins against us for ever. We are your people; be merciful to us. Isaiah 64:8-9 TEV
You will be like a child that is nursed by its mother, carried in her arms, and treated with love. 13I will comfort you in Jerusalem, as a mother comforts her child. Isaiah 66:12-13
For God, we are not numbers! We are important; indeed, the most important of all his creatures, the closest to his heart whether we are saints or sinners.
Yet sisters continued to leave and new ones failed to come. Perhaps, without being fully aware of the reasons, women religious felt a deep unrest at living in a Church in which Christianity is reduced to an ideology of doing, a Church in which there is no longer any place for mystical experience, for that zenith of religious life that has been—and not by chance—the most precious treasure of the Church through centuries of uninterrupted constancy and fullness in the lives of religious, usually women rather than men; in the lives of those extraordinary women whom the Church has honored with the title “saint”, and sometimes even “doctor”, not hesitating to offer them as models for all Christians.
As I study the scriptures with a group of guys, all who are servants of the church, there is a debate that is somewhat constant. It is over the use of a phrase that I use to help us study and communicate the good news of God’s love and care.
The phrase is simple, two words that I feel capture the essence of what we need to make sure people understand about God and them. The words are
They would plead that we can’t use those two words together, they will scare off men, they will be heard and people will think about sex or sensual or even perverse relationships. For years I have asked them to come up with another phrase, another way to express what Hebrew and Greek words like Agape and cHesed and Eleos do.
They cannot. And they admit that this is at the heart of the gospel, this relationship with God that is so deep, so powerful, so captivating. So intimate.
The Old Testament prophets saw this and expressed it simply and clearly. Isaiah even is inspired to compare it to the delight of a groom as he takes his bride to himself. He will also compare it to a woman nourishing her newborn. or an artist crafting His creation ( relative to Eph. 2:10) and the relationship the artist has with his work.
It is scary, as anyone who has been a bride or groom knows, the anxiety of letting a person get that close to you, not just physically, but spiritually, psychologically. Letting every barrier down, turning every defensive mechanism off, simply loving and being loved. Whether it is the groom, the newborn’s mom, or the artist, each opens themselves up to the “Other”, or as some philosophers have said, the “Thou” is important to the I and they reach a point where you can’t define one without the other!
That is what “intimate relationship” describes,
What Isaiah also notes is that God is the one who initiates this, who keeps it going, who is responsible. The groom in those days, the mom feeding the infant, the artist creating the “Work”. Each has the responsibility in the relationship for making it happen, for making the connection.
As Pope Francis notes, we aren’t just numbers, we are just parts of the Body of Christ, Each one of us has that relationship with God! As Benedict grieves, it is this zenith, this mystical experience, this constant fullness of the presence of God has gone missing from the church, and why it is weaker without the women (and some men) who could experience such joy, such delight, such wonder as living in the presence of God brings.
Luther would call this living the baptized life, living in the truth that in our baptism, we are united with Christ, and become one with Him. We live in Christ, for there is love, and joy and peace, far deeper than we could have ever imagined.
Far more intimate that we could normally be comfortable with…
Yet a place of peace. deep abiding peace that is beyond the peace of the world, A peace so unexplainable, save with these words….
The Lord be with you!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
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 thought for our Day:
3 He said to me, “Israel, you are my servant; because of you, people will praise me.” 4 I said, “I have worked, but how hopeless it is! I have used up my strength, but have accomplished nothing.” Yet I can trust the LORD to defend my cause; he will reward me for what I do. 5 Before I was born, the LORD appointed me; he made me his servant to bring back his people, to bring back the scattered people of Israel. IS. 49:3-5 TEV
795 To be happy, what you need is not an easy life but a heart which is in love.
Tomorrow is the 9th anniversary of my installation as Concordia’s pastor. We’ve had some hard times here, as we closed our elementary school. And harder times, as we’ve lost many to people who were a part of our identity, those people who you can’t imagine our church without their smiles, their laughter, and their antics.
We’ve had our times of great joy as well, as children are born and baptized, as others have realized how incredible the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist is, as prodigals have come home.
But there have been days where I have been tired, where I understand the words from Isaiah above. It is the challenge that many in ministry face when we know we are exactly where God wants us, and yet, we don’t see (in that moment) the fruit of our work. When we’ve used up all “us” and don’t see anything beneficial.
I’ve been there a time or two in the last 9 years, I’ll confess it, I’ve been tired. And as I read these words this morning, as I looked at the bulletin that someone saved from my first “official” moment here…. I felt the tiredness again. And when you are tired, your eyes close, your vision isn’t as sharp, and fail to see the beauty around you. For the moment.
My mind focused on the words of the frustrated prophet, they resonated deeply, and I failed to see the words around the passage.
Words that talked about God’s call on our lives, that our vocation, our service to Him is something from birth (see Eph. 2:10 as well) (v.1 & 5 & 7)
Words that promise He is the source of our strength (v.2 & 5)
Words that remind us our task is greater than it appears, (v.6 ) for we have the world to reach with this gospel. (Gee more work?)
But what strikes me after catching the entire context, is that miraculously, this passage isn’t describing just Isaiah’s feelings, or yours and mine. This passage is about Jesus. About his work, not just in the world, but in our lives.
There could be the temptation to give up on us, for the suffering He endured for our sake was great, and seeing the results in our lives, takes an eternal perspective. There is the hatred and dismission, not only that the world has for him, but sometimes seen in our lives, as we fight against His word and promises, as we dismiss our time with Him to do something “more productive)
And yet God continues on, loving us, even when it isn’t easy. And yet, in loving us, we find God full of joy, as He shares with those He calls His glory and the glorious acts that call and reconcile the world to Him.
I wouldn’t say the last 9 years were easy. Our church’s mission statement and motto bear that truth plainly. Concordia is the place where broken people find healing in Christ while helping others heal. But as we see God dealing with that brokenness, as we see Him working in the lives of those we love… there is a special joy and an incredible peace that can’t be explained – only experienced.
For God has called and is calling us together.
To Him be all the honor and praise. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3290-3291). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought for your day:
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 (NLT)
718 If only they could see the good things I do!… But don’t you realise that you are carrying them around like trinkets in a basket for people to see how fine they are? Furthermore, you must not forget the second part of Jesus’ command: “that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Nearly a year ago, I did the memorial service for an incredible lady.
The bulletin of that service still resides on the little refrigerator in my office, a reminder of our very simple, very special relationship.
Every Tuesday at 9 am, I would travel about 500 yards from my office, enter the house she had a bedroom in, and talk a moment, then pray for her. No more than 15 minutes, more likely ten or so. On occasion, I would bring her the leftover flowers from church on Sunday,
And every time I left, even when she was too tired to talk, I felt lifted up. She ministered to me far more than I ministered to her.
I knew she had a couple of incredible jobs in her life. The executive assistant to a seminary president, the producer of a mega church pastor’s television ministry. She didn’t talk about those things. Rather it was the joy of hearing from this friend or that pastor. It was about reading the sermons of those she knew. It was always about someone else,
Given the honor of officiating at her service, I realized that day how much of an honor it was. Men who served the church for decades and trained thousands of preachers were there. They told me of the things my friend did, and how she ministered to them for decades. How she helped and raised money for seminarians and worked for equity among the staff. How she interacted with world famous preachers ( I still love the story of her moving a bicycle rack to protect a parking spot for Billy Graham – and how he helped her move it back where it belonged when he got there! )
Yet I knew none of this as I visited her, as I prayed for her, as we looked at Roses and carnations and lilies and marveled at the hand of God that created the beauty we observed. I simply knew a lady whose bright eyes ministered to me as I prayed for her, a lady who lived so simply, so beautifully that I looked forward to visiting her each week.
I think she got the passages above and the incredible things she did in life weren’t paraded around, for her reward was to hear Jesus welcome her home. Looking back on a life full of incredible service to God wasn’t her style, it wasn’t what she counted as important. Rather it was finding God’s peace, as a neighborhood pastor stopped by, and she could fill his life with God’s peace, even as she rejoiced in a small time of prayer.
I miss my friend – but thank God for what she taught me about ministry and walking with God, watching Him at work.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2995-2999). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for your day!
6 Then one of the creatures flew down to me, carrying a burning coal that he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7He touched my lips with the burning coal and said, “This has touched your lips, and now your guilt is gone, and your sins are forgiven.”
8 Then I heard the Lord say, “Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?”
I answered, “I will go! Send me!”
9 So he told me to go and give the people this message: “No matter how much you listen, you will not understand. No matter how much you look, you will not know what is happening.” 10Then he said to me, “Make the minds of these people dull, their ears deaf, and their eyes blind, so that they cannot see or hear or understand. If they did, they might turn to me and be healed.”
11 I asked, “How long will it be like this, Lord?” Isaiah 6:6-8 TEV
673 Once you used to “enjoy” yourself a lot. But now that you bear Christ within you, your whole life has been filled with a sincere and infectious joy. That is why you attract other people. Get to know Him better, so that you can reach all people.
He should have asked what the message would be…
He should have wondered what the people’s response to the message would be.
But it didn’t matter, he still had committed himself to go, he still was willing to bear the stress and the cost of bearing a message to a people that didn’t want to hear it.
Was it done without thinking? Was it done without counting the cost? Was it stupidity or naivete? Or was it something else?
As a pastor, I’ve been able to witness the power of forgiveness, or reconciliation. Sometimes it is between a husband and wife, as one forgives the other. Sometimes it is the joy of a parent, who has forgiven all their prodigal has done, now that they’ve finally come home.
The greatest moment is when a person, fully aware of their sin, as they look up at me through their tears as I tell them (on God’s behalf and by His command) that they are forgiven. As their shame and guilt, which one had them convinced that there was no hope, is brushed aside by the Holy Spirit’s embrace, as they come alive with joy!
Looking in their eyes at that moment is hard to explain. It is like watching an artist paint a masterpiece, like watching a soul being born. It is seeing joy erupt like a volcano, a joy that was too long blocked, under way too much pressure, and now exploding with light and power beyond expectation. You see it in Isiah – who hears the people’s initial reaction, and doesn’t say, “no, I am not going,” he simply asks “how long will they not list.” Still his heart is set on going and his own forgiveness, his own being welcomed by God will sustain him.
Like the old camp song explained, you want to shout it from the mountain top, for I want my world to know, the Lord of Love, has come to me, I want, to pass, it on!”
And that is why Isaiah says, “I’ll go!
The love we’ve encountered, the power of forgiveness, it is hard to explain, but it is impossible to keep to ourselves.
The hope for the church today in America will not be found in it being conservative enough, or inclusive enough. It won’t be found in having perfect theology, or the perfect worship service. It’s not going to be found running this program, or emulating that church, or using this liturgy or that one.
It is found when a sinner, crushed beyond recognition is picked up, cleansed, made whole. When the unrighteous person finds they are not just allowed, but accepted and truly welcomed into the presence of God and His people. It is going to happen when we hear our Lord’s voice, when the Spirit reveals to us the power of God at work in us, when we realize what it means to be loved.
This is the impact of the cross, and the resurrection, it is the result of realizing we are free, we are forgiven.
Lord, help us to reveal your message to people, to be patient with them, and do this by helping us see what it means to be forgiven, to have you walk beside us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2816-2819). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A devotional thought for your day:
20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NLT)
23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)
659 If you had presence of God you would remedy many things that have apparently “no remedy”.
You need to hear these words.
They are critical for you to hear, not just with your ears, but with your heart, your mind, and into the depth of your soul. They make the difference in your life….
“The Lord is with You”
If you’ve ever attended a Lutheran liturgical serve, or a Catholic Mass, or even some Anglican or Orthodox services you will hear these words repeated several times throughout the service.
Do you ever wonder why? Are we just saying this as a form of greeting, or in order to mark a transition in the service?
Or is this what church is supposed to be doing, helping you realize you dwell completely in the presence of God! That the Holy Spirit has brought you to that place, in that moment to realize you aren’t alone, That God wants you there, and will do anything to make it possible for you to be there in His presence.
It might be that it is a time to be still and know God is your God.Maybe it is time to celebrate the freedom of Jubilee, when God erases every debt you incurred by your sin and unrighteousness, maybe it is time to offer a cup of water to someone who is physically or spiritually thirsty and dehydrated. Maybe it is to receive that cup of water.
As St Josemaria notes, it is this presence of God that remedies that without remedy, that heals relationships to shattered to be healed. It is the fulfillment of the greatest of prophecies, the very name attached to Jesus, Immanuel – God with us. It is the promise of the last words He tells the apostles as he ascends to heaven.
It makes the difference in our lives, and incomparable difference, for the peace that comes realizing and depending upon it is beyond anything we can express.
A peace that is there and starts to impact you, as you realize their truth.
The Lord is with You!
(and yes – and also with m)
Lord, have mercy upon us, reveal to us the presence of your Spirit, cleanse us of sin, and help us dwell in your peace! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2767-2768). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought for your day:
23 Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:23-25 (TEV)
16 I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18 so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (TEV)
667 Haven’t you noticed how people in love dress to please one another by their appearance? Well, that is how you should tidy up and deck out your soul.
I have seen and heard a couple of people challenge the idea of going to church recently. Sometimes it is direct, saying that people who go to church are needy (we are!) and hypocrites ( correct again). Or perhaps the challenge is that you can worship God anywhere (but will you?) or that truly being a Christian is demonstrated in how you care for people. ( it is, but exactly how good are you at loving the unlovable?)
Some may say that I am biased because of my occupation/vocation, that because I often invest 60 hours a week in “church” I have a stake in whether people come or not. If it was only a stake, if it was only to make my investment of time, talent, and tears pay off, I wouldn’t do it. The amount of time, whether as a pastor or a lay person is great. But it demands more than that – it demands the investment of your soul.
So why go to church?
Well, the obvious one is in the first quote, simply because God’s word tells us we need to, we need to encourage each other as we gather together, not setting it aside, it is too important, too critical to keep each person encouraged, to support each person in their life, to help guide each other, and sometimes carry each other, into the presence of God. It is in church that we learn why we find hope in knowing God, and more importantly, exactly what that hope, that incredible hope is.
That is the purpose for the music, which expresses our pain ( this type of worship is called lament) and the healing God brings, which celebrates His love and His presence. That is the purpose of the sermon and Bible studies, to reveal the hope that knowing, intimately knowing God’s love. It is even the purpose of the various things we do in church, and everything we take in with our eyes.
It’s all about God… and us.
Which is what Paul expresses in the second quote, where he talks of knowing, of experiencing ( because we can’t fully know/understand) the dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ Jesus. The soaring heights as we realized we are loved, the depth of God’s compassion, as He is with us at the rock bottom parts of His life. In the midst of this, Paul inserts the word together. That all God’s people need to experience this love, together. That too is what church is, not just what it is about.
It is the moment we hear we are all forgiven of our sin. All of it. Completely.
It is int he moment when we realize God’s peace is with us, and we share that peace with those around us. celebrating the love of God which glues us together, and together with Him.
It is in that moment when we are given proof of that love, as we are given His body and blood, to remind us of His death for us, and His opening the door which reveals God’s love to us, together. Even that person I was so ticked off at, is there, being loved by God, as I am. To realize we’ve both been freed of the sin and guilt, the shame and resentment, the burdens that crush and divide us.
It is then when loving them becomes a joy, not a duty obeyed because we have to .
It is then when church becomes more than an organization, or a costly bit of entertainment mixed with some positive “feel good” messages, or a club where we celebrate our being holier than those people out playing golf or watching their kids play soccer, or working.
Church isn’t some obligation, it is what St. Josemaria talks about, a time to get our soul ready to interact with God, by hearing again and again how He has prepared us to be with Him and then spending the time with Him. the early part of a service, as we are forgiven, as we hear of His love, of his promises, that is like a bride being made ready for her wedding. And the Lord’s Supper is then the wedding and all joy of life brought together, as we realize how much we are loved.
This is what church is, this is what we need, a place to find hope, healing, reconciliation, and joy as we dwell together in Christ, while helping others find those same things, as God revelas His love to them.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2792-2794). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 When the seventy-two n came back, they were very happy and said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we used your name!”
18 Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Listen, I have given you power to walk on snakes and scorpions, power that is greater than the enemy has. So nothing will hurt you. 20 But you should not be happy because the spirits obey you but because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20 NCV
10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)
I think that the hands of a priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving the absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.
For priests, pastors and all those who minister to others, there is a fine balance between humility and confidence. And if we are honest, it is when we are struggling with the latter that we don’t act all that humble. I imagine there may be one or two of us that think they are God’s gift to the church. (In a way they are0 But many of us still wonder why God has put us here, why God has entrusted to us this incredible, sacred, beautiful, demanding ministry.
I love Pope Francis’s words about our ministry. He nails it when talking about the awe that hits you when you pray over someone, or see their body loose every bit of tension and anxiety as they realize God’s forgiveness, as they realize He is present. I still can recall the eyes of people after I have baptized them, or their children. (Two incredible “devout” atheist/agnostic types come to mind as I baptized their children – eyes bright and full of tears… and God isn’t done with them either!) But his also occurs when we pray with someone over breakfast, or see people having an “aha” at work, as they realize another dimension of God’s love because we said something.
It is in those moments that our lives do feel like a work of art, as God weaves our lives with others, and creates something wonderful. If it iis awe-inspiring to consider sinners in the hands of an angry God, how much more incredible is it to see God work through the hands of a repentant sinner who trusts in Him?
Still, my heart cries out… why? Why me? What did I do to deserve this?
Nothing of course.
Which is where the first gospel reading helps us maintain some manner of balance. As wonderful it is that God can use us, the even more wonderful thing is that we already are certain He’s got us, we are HIs, our names are written in the Heaven,
That is even more amazing. As broken, as sinful, as able as I am to screw up something, God has claimed us as His.
SO tomorrow, as you go to preach, or lead worship, to distribute communion or work with the children’s ministry, or just tell the person next to you – God is with you, indeed, you are being used by God, you carry His presence within you, and it is blessing others. Remember though, that is simply proof of a greater mystery, a greater blessing. You are one of God’s people, He is your God, and He loves you! (me too!)
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.