Devotional Thought of the Day
If you see your brother Israelite’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it; make sure you return it to your brother. 2 If your brother does not live near you or you don’t know him, you are to bring the animal to your home to remain with you until your brother comes looking for it; then you can return it to him. 3 Do the same for his donkey, his garment, or anything your brother has lost and you have found. You must not ignore it.a 4 If you see your brother’s donkey or ox fallen down on the road, do not ignore it; help him lift it up. Deuteronomy 22:1-4 CSB
Along with mortification of our character, this “laying down one’s life for others,” this imitation of the Lord, and transformation of all our relationships with others into opportunities to live charity, implies a spirit of service. Turn your gaze constantly to Jesus who, without ceasing to be God, humbled himself and took the nature of a slave, in order to serve us. Only by following in his direction will we find ideals that are worthwhile. Love seeks union, identification with the beloved. United to Christ, we will be drawn to imitate his life of dedication, his unlimited love, and his sacrifice unto death. Christ brings us face to face with the ultimate choice: either we spend our lives in selfish isolation, or we devote ourselves and all our energies to the service of others.“
You probably won’t see your neighbor’s ox or sheep walk into your yard this afternoon (unless you are my friend Tara), but you might see a $20 bill on the ground.
What do you do? Does it depend on whether anyone is there? Do you try and justify keeping it, saying you need it just as much as anyone else?
Do you turn it in, hoping that no one claims it in 10 days?
What if it’s $100, or a wallet with $5000?
Does it make a difference?
Deuteronomy would have you look for your brother/neighbor or wait for them to return. Some might say that seems unreasonable for $20, but it might not for a more considerable amount.
Dare we ask what Jesus would do in this situation? Or what someone like St. Josemaria would do? Would we want to face the question of what would be the “loving” thing to do? What would be that which sets aside our own self-serving nature? What looks to the best of our neighbor, to the best for others?
We have to learn to consider ourselves again as part of a community, part of a family, and a group that cares for each other. It is not a closed group either, but a group that brings us all together; a group, a community that is willing to do what it takes, embrace the hardship, embrace the challenges, sacrifice saying what we want to say what they need.
This is not because we have to go to heaven. It is something far more of an intimate need than that. This is who we were created to be, men and women made in the image of Jesus. This is when we find the true self, this is where we become genuinely self-actualized, as Maslow described it. This is where life begins, as our identity is so clearly reflective of our Lord.
What do you do with the twenty doesn’t matter as much as how you process being responsible for it.
God’s peace in the process…
Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (pp. 144-145). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away. 1 John 1:9 CEV
We need not worry about success because our love is guaranteed success, even if it does not move our neighbor to respond. For if we are one with Christ as members of His body, then our love is part of Christ’s love. It is not just an imitation from afar but a participation from within. And Christ’s love is guaranteed success, even though it was crucified in us and often continues to be crucified by the world. It is guaranteed success not because of its intentions or goals, but because of where it comes from: the Son’s perfect obedience to the Father.
671 “Jesus remains silent.”—Iesus autem tacebat. Why do you speak, to console yourself or to explain yourself? Say nothing. Seek joy in contempt: you’ll always receive less than you deserve. Can you, by any chance, ask: Quid enim mali feci?—“What evil have I done?”
Defending ourselves has become a national past-time it seems.
Some of us do so by going on the offensive and pointing out the flaws in others. Unless we are brave, we do this by social media. That way we add another layer of defensive offense to our armored position.
Others of us just back to the old ways, and attempt to rationalize and justify whatever it is we have done wrong. To explain why it was better to do it “our” way. We might even blame it on God, projecting some command, twisting it, to make us look better. After all, we were just obeying orders!
Maybe we fear that taking the silent approach simply confirms our guilt and the shame that goes along with it. But surely, we aren’t that concerned with what “they” think?
Escriva notes that we will earn less contempt than we deserve, and I believe that is true. Kreeft points us to the fact that if we are crucified for being wrong, let it be crucified for loving others. Hard concepts to act upon, and yet, that is what we do.
This is completely logical! If we are accused of anything else but loving God and those around us, we deserve the scorn. If we are accused of doing that which is truly loving, then we are in the same situation as Jesus, and are assured that HIs sacrifice was used by the Father, so would ours be. He wins when that happens, and because we dwell in Him, so we win as well!
Either way, defending ourselves is worth so little…
So what if we are guilty, what if they are right? What if we are the ones who have done wrong?
1 John says it is simple to take care of that…
Let God absolve you, go to your pastor or priest, and let them tell you what you need to hear, what devours the guilt and shame, leaving behind joy and freedom. And the ability to know the same love that nourishes our very soul, which enables us to love sacrificially. Even if the sacrifice is our very lives.
So either we are loving as we should, proving God is with us, or we are corrected by our error and absolved to love as we should.
Either way, defending ourselves would simply get in the way…
Rejoce, the Lord is with you, and He will take care of the situation!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 26.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God. 4 So he rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist. 5 Then he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. John 13:3-5 GNT
860 As soon as you truly abandon yourself in the Lord, you will know how to be content with whatever happens. You will not lose your peace if your undertakings do not turn out the way you hoped, even if you have put everything into them, and used all the means necessary. For they will have “turned out” the way God wants them to.
There is a video going around of a basketball coach, who is seemingly striving to empower other women. While we have a long way to go to make sure opportunities and pay are equal for people of both genders, there is an underlying message that I struggle with.
The search and focus on gaining power and influence without knowing the direction that power will be used to achieve. Power can be used for good or bad, and we need to develop people as much on how to use power, as we do to encourage them to grab all they can. Will we look to develop people spiritually and morally (there is a difference) to use power properly, even as we teach them to seek it out?
I look to the reading from the Bible in red this morning, and something struck me that I hadn’t really noticed before. This is one of my favorite stories, it is the basis for one of my favorite songs (Michael Card’s “The Basin and the Towel”) I know it inside and out, and just like every year, it will be part of the reading on Maunday Thursday.
This year, I saw that beginning phrase, “Jesus knew that the Father had given Him all power.” It goes on to talk that Jesus knew where he was coming from, where He was going (the cross). SO …. he serves. He takes the role that is humiliating as any, even though he was the guest of honor.
That is what he does in the context of having just some power, but all of the power. He uses it to serve, to teach, to benefit others. Jesus uses what power He has not to avoid the cross but to embrace it, because of His love for them, because of His love for us.
This is what power is for, not to increase fame, or wealth, or personal standing. Not ot get a kick “playing” with those you have power over. Rather it is to benefit those people you have been made responsible for, for power is only a tool of responsibility.
So teach our daughters and sons to strive to do their best, to find places to serve in where they can make the greatest impact. Where they can affect many, helping them learn to love. Help them achieve things that would take great effort, but always remind them of why they are there.
To love their neighbors who they can see, empowered by the presence, the mercy and love of God they can’t see, but can perceive.
For in his presence, there is peace, and contentment… and we are safe there, our hearts nd minds protected by Jesus. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3526-3528). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Live in Harmony/Concordia
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May you realize the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enables and empowers you to live in harmony with each other, as God intended!
Live in Concord
When I originally put a title to this sermon, it was missing one of the words you see up on the screen right now.
Anyone want to guess?
The original title read this way, Live in Concordia.
But I was afraid that some people might start moving their bedroom furniture into the Multi-Purpose Room this week, and Hank and Loreen would sell the furniture at next week’s yard sale!
Seriously, Concordia was the Latin name of the goddess the ancient Greeks called Harmonia – the two words are interchangeable, one simply finds it roots in Latin, the other in Greek. So to live in harmony, as Paul tells us, is to live in Concordia.
We are to blend together, with one heart and mind. Not to be copies or clones of each other, but rather to have our lives be together working together as one, as beautiful as any symphony.
For that is who God is transforming us to be, a people who love other, who really love them, with genuine affection.
Even if it isn’t easy, even if we struggle to do so, for in that struggle we learn to depend on the God who changes us!
Love each other, challenging at times.
Love the stranger – that’s what the word hospitality means – literally to love the alien like a brother.
Ask God to bless those who try to crush you.
This isn’t exactly easy stuff!
It’s going to be very difficult at times, it is going to take effort that we don’t want to put into it, that we are not sure is worth it.
It is very different from who society has tried to make us become.
This is love without bounds, being ready to help them at all times, without any hypocrisy, as we serve God by loving others.
It’s a lot of work, we can’t be slackers about it, it takes dedication, and hearing God and obeying Him, even when we don’t want to love them.
Let’s be honest, though they may be different for each of us, there are people that it is hard to love. Maybe it’s a neighbor, or a family member, or a person on the road that cut you off, or maybe even a pastor or deacon.
If this was simple and natural, Paul wouldn’t be writing it, covering every loophole he does.
We have to love each other, we have to love others, even those who aren’t like us… we have to love our enemies enough that we plead with God to bless them. As Jeremiah says, we have to influence them on God’s behalf, rather than let them influence us by their persecution, by their hatred.
We have to love our enemy!
To do otherwise, to not do so is sin….
The righteous anger of God….
Paul gives us a way to deal with our tension, our frustration with those who are our enemies, those who persecute us, and try to crush us.
He says not to take revenge, to not personally seek our own brand of justice.
Let God handle it, let God’s righteous anger work itself out. For God will do what is ultimately righteous, what sees sin paid for fully, which wreaks havoc on the guilty.
God promises this!
Even if the one who pays the price is Jesus.
Actually, that is His glorious preference, that all sinners would be united to Jesus at the cross. All sinners. All those others, all those strangers all those aliens and even you and I.
So rest assured, what we plead for if we hear God, is fully within His will.
And that changes everything, as God saves you and me, uniting us to Jesus, demonstrating His grace and mercy to us in that cross where His blood was spilled where hopefully they will be united as well, for Jesus paid the price for all our sin.
Which is why I find the greatest place for reconciling people to be here, at this altar, at this place where God’s love is poured out on us
Our confident Hope.
I want to back track from God’s wrath being poured out on Jesus for a moment, to verse 12,
Let’s read it together,
12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
Rejoice in our confident hope, the hope we find at the cross, the hope we find in the resurrection, reaffirmed every time we unite with Christ’ in communion, even as we did in baptism.
Be patient and longsuffering. Don’t think a life lived loving others will be easy, but suffer through it, depending on God not only for the strength and power but to help you stand firm.
Which is why you keep on praying, pleading with God for them, and to help you remember His love for you. Prayer is more than just asking God, it’s talking to Him, realizing His love, letting Him take the weight off your shoulders. It is keeping your eyes on Him, knowing that enemies can’t crush you.
You see, that’s the key, to keep your eyes on God, to keep in His presence, to find yourself loved and safe in His peace. AMEN!
Devotional Thought for This Day:
5 “But if the enemies of my people want my protection, let them make peace with me. Yes, let them make peace with me.” Isaiah 27:5 TEV
748 Let us make a firm resolution about our friendships. In my thoughts, words and deeds towards my neighbour, whoever he may be, may I not behave as I have done up to now. That is to say, may I never cease to practise charity, or allow indifference to enter my soul.
It is very possible to misread Isaiah in the passage above, to think that the burden of reconciliation God is placing on those who are the enemies of His people. That are the ones to “make peace”, therefore it is their effort, their work. We hear it as a demand from him, as the thundering voice of God’s law, with the undertones of wrath below it.
We choose to hear it as God’s law – as the prophetic voice that will allow us to thrash them unless they prove their intent to make peace. Which means, of course, that we can then have the same attitude, because the enemies of God’s people are our enemies, because we are God’s people, right?
This gives us full license to be holier than thou – or at least holier than those racists, or those politicians, or those other people, you know, the ones that don’t go to our church but go to “that” church, or no church at all.
I even heard that to preach “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you is law, therefore we don’t have to obey it, just confess it when we fail too! ( We need a refresher in Augsburg Confession Article VI)
St. Josemaria’s words caught my attention this morning. He described a desire to change his attitude toward his neighbor, whoever he maybe! He then describes a life that is charitable, that loves, that has compassion, and never allows indifference to enter his soul.
What if that neighbor was an addict to drugs, or dealt them? what if that neighbor was into porn, or and it was wrecking his life and family? What if that neighbor was a militant atheist or someone who morality and ethics we question. What if they murdered someone, deliberately or by neglect? What if that neighbor was one of those in Charlottesville that was rioting? (It doesn’t matter which side, or whether they were those who just wanted to “amp” up the tension)
Each of those people may be identified as our neighbor, and we need to rid ourselves of our apathy, we need to find the ability to be compassionate toward him or her. We need to invite them to make peace with God, and then perhaps, over time, with us.
Which brings us back to Isaiah, and the question about God’s intent about these enemies. Does He mean they have to make peace with Him, atoning for their own sin, proving their intent? Or is it an invitation to be at peace with God, to be drawn to Jesus, and the cross which cleanses us from all sin?
From St. Paul,
8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:8-11 (NLT)
Let them make peace, a peace for which the price has already been paid.
It is an invitation, one that will result in them (and us) being cleansed of all sin and unrighteousness.
It is there, in this invitation, that we ALL can find hope. …
Lord Jesus, help us to shed our apathy, our indifference toward our neighbor, and with great compassion and love lead them to where God reconciles them with Himself. And remind us constantly of the wonder of the peace you give us, as by grace you save us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3115-3117). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
American Bible Society. The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation. 2nd ed. New York: American Bible Society, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 For those whom Yahweh has ransomed will return, they will come to Zion shouting for joy, their heads crowned with joy unending; rejoicing and gladness will escort them and sorrow and sighing will take flight. Isaiah 35:10 (NJB)
210 At times, seeing those souls asleep, one feels an enormous desire to shout at them, to make them take notice, to wake them up from that terrible torpor they have fallen into. It is so sad to see them walk like a blind man hitting out with his stick, without finding the way! I can well understand how the tears of Jesus over Jerusalem sprang from his perfect charity.
If the Church stays “indoors,” she certainly will age. The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the “existential peripheries,” where the mystery of sin, pain, injustice, religious indifference and of all human miseries are found.
Right now, I am in the midst of the Psalms, and over and over I see the writers of them describe scornfully those who do not follow God. There is often no call for mercy, no call for mercy, just a call for harsh, blind, and effective justice.
To use Lutheran-speak, there is a great call for the Law to be applied, yet little for the gospel.
As I look through FB post after FB post, I see the same attitude is prevalent among many in the church today. Whether their antagonist is a political figure or someone in Hollywood, whether it is all of Islam or those who understanding of morality is contrary to that found in scripture, there is a sense that we have to persecute them, that we have to not only separate ourselves from them but make sure everyone knows they are condemned to hell.
We want to apply the law to them, even as we desire the comfort of God’s grace to be shown to us, even in our struggle with sin. We overlook all of Jesus’ teaching which calls us to love them, to seek out their reconciliation, to seek them out and share the gospel with them.
While I wish we would recognize that there might be a better way that to shout at them and shake them awake from their soul-sleep; I think we need to grow in the grief that St. Josemaria describes. We need to know the sorrow and sadness that comes from watching people we know, people we should love struggling without God, without knowing His love, without knowing His mercy.
Look at that person you would condemn, is it that impossible that God would bring them home, with the joy that Isaiah describes? It is possible that God would desire to remove the blinders from their eyes, heal their souls, cleanse their hearts?
Or maybe, it is those in the church that need to be awakened. Maybe we are the ones stumbling in the darkness, who need to once again hear of His grace. That we need to experience the depth of His love and mercy and having done so, now want to share that time, that way of the baptized life with the world.
Lord, help us to grow int he awareness of your mercy, your love, your presence in our lives that Your compassion for the lost becomes our compassion, and that we would see them transformed, even as the Holy Spirit transforms us. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1086-1089). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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.
Let’s Not Get Tired!
Galatians 6:1–10, 14–18
† In Jesus Name †
May God’s mercy and peace rest upon you, as you live a life drawn to the Cross, for you are the people of God!
No Un-obeyable Orders
But Don’t get tired?
Every summer I read a series of books by one of my favorite authors. He writes series about the military and the police, novels based on true events. In one of the books I was reading this week, an older retired officer mentioned to a younger officer that you never issue an order you know can’t be obeyed, or won’t be obeyed. Specifically, if the character of the person you are directing leads you to believe they can’t or won’t obey the order, don’t bother.
Find someone else, or find a way to replace the person.
For some reason that piece of wisdom made me laugh, when I was reading Paul’s words to the church in Galatia,
9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.
Of course, when I read it, I read it more like, “don’t get tired while doing good!”
Too late – been tired for a while – way too tired sometimes.
But oh the feeling of accomplishing something good is… to Goood!
Even if we are tired.
So today’s lesson could be titled – How not to get tired of doing good to other even when we are tired.
So how do we do that?
Obeying the Law
First, we have to define what it means to do good. Not that’s not right, we don’t get to define it, God does.
What we have to do Is have revealed to us what God sees as doing good, or doing what is right. The easy answer is found in next week’s gospel – a passage I preached on 30 years ago. To do good is to do this,
“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Luke 10:27 (NLT)
If you all agree that everything you do will fulfill that, we can have communion and go home! Seriously, we need to understand that, and today’s epistle gives a number of examples, such as,
“if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.”
“2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3″
These are pretty strong commands, pretty challenging. For how many of us are willing to go to someone who is sinning, and try to help them to see the need to stop? How many are willing to invest and risk what it will take to gently and humbly restore that person.
Knowing that loving them this much – even with a gentle and humble spirit could mean that they strike back, and tell you to mind your own business. Or even worse?
How many of us are willing to help someone bear their burdens, to be there in times of sorrow and in times of tears? What about in the dark times, where anxiety and doubt and guilt are crushing them?
This is as much doing good as is celebrating the service of those who are retiring, or those whose ministry is changing.
It isn’t easy, it takes commitment, patience, the old kind of patience which is called long-suffering, it takes faith, and the ability to set aside our own self-interest, to make sure the physical, emotional and most importantly spiritual needs of others are taken care of, that they are okay.
But how do we do that? How do we set aside a basic interest of self-preservation to minister to others, to share their burdens?
Treasuring the Walk
We remember Jesus, and we let Him draw us back to the cross. Here St. Paul again,
14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died!
This is our hope, in the cross, where Jesus was brutally put to death. At the cross, where he was nailed, and where a spear pierced his heart and lungs. In Christ lifted up, drawing us to Him, that we could become children of God.
Where our transformation into His likeness begins.
That is where the interests of the world disappear, that is where what drives the world, riches, fame, pleasure and even health don’t seem as magnificent as seeing Jesus looking at us, knowing only as God can the love for us that says the torment and pain are worth it.
For he freed us from sin, from Satan, from the power of death that would separate us from God and all that is good.
Getting tired, exhausted even? Feeling like you do not have another step in you? Like I said, some of us have been there and done that often. Sometimes, it is at that point where we see another in need, someone desperate for help. Someone caught up in sin and struggling to stay afloat.
Look to the cross, see the love of Christ, dying there for you and the person in need. You won’t tire of responding to that need then; You won’t say I don’t have the strength, or I can’t make that sacrifice.
You will simply take their hand, and lead them to the cross, to the Lord of love, to the one who was crucified, died and was buried and rose again… for us.
Knowing this, the peace of God our Father is your, the peace beyond all understanding; that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
But Melchizedek, who was not a descendant of Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham. And Melchizedek placed a blessing upon Abraham, the one who had already received the promises of God. 7 And without question, the person who has the power to give a blessing is greater than the one who is blessed.(Heb 7:6–7) NLT
Her purpose has been to adapt the Gospel to the grasp of all as well as to the needs of the learned, insofar as such was appropriate. Indeed, this accommodated preaching of the revealed word ought to remain the law of all evangelization. For thus the ability to express Christ’s message in its own way is developed in each nation, and at the same time there is fostered a living exchange between the Church and the diverse cultures of people.
I have an older member of my congregation; she is tone who loves a traditional liturgy with organ accompaniment going full throttle. She said to me one day, “Pastor, I prefer the older liturgy, but I hear people singing the new liturgy, and I see where it is a blessing to others. Keep doing it.” I have another member, who learned the Lord’s prayer from a modern translation, without the hallow ‘d’s and Thy’s. But hearing the passion in the voice of the older folk who say it, he wants to hear them say it, their way, and not steal their comfort by forcing them to become modern.
I hold them out to you, dear reader, as an example of Christian maturity.
Why? Because they understand that being blessed by their preferences being satisfied is not as important as helping others know Christ Jesus, to experience His love and His mercy.
As the writer of Hebrews explains it, it is Christlike, it is the more mature that blesses, and what greater blessing is there that you can give someone, that to have the gospel communicate to them in a way they “get.”
That’s what I like about the statement from Vatican II. It recognizes the purpose of the church to make sure that can grasp the gospel. To express Christ’s message in a way that is different, not in core message, but in view of the context it is delivered to, knowing the age, the culture, the various ethnic and language idiosyncrasies. Let me give you an example. The French spoken in Quebec is different than the French of Belgium, is different from the French spoken in Vietnam. Some is the same, but to communicate to the heart of the people, you phrase some things differently. Likewise, I would preach a sermon on the same passage differently if I was preaching it at a Harvard Chapel, or at a rescue mission. As Robert Schuller used to talk about, we have to study our milieu as much as the passage we preach.
A mature church adapts its message to the people. This is not sugar coating it, but understanding it is an act of love to bless others with a message it can grasp. That means working hard, diligently preparing messages and music, and helping others see where they too can learn to sacrifice.
This is the church; this is growing in awareness of God’s desire. This is growing in our ability to depend on God, to love, to be transformed into the image of Christ. It is proof of His work in us….
So think – and bless God fo the ability to communicate His love, even to those who are different!
Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Devotional Thought of the Day
Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)
1. The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds. (1)
26 It is sad to see what some people understand by almsgiving: a few pennies or some old clothes. They seem not to have read the Gospel. Don’t be over-cautious: help people to acquire sufficient faith and fortitude to be ready to deny themselves generously, in this life, what they need. And to those who lag behind, explain that it is neither very noble nor very graceful, even from an earthly point of view, to wait for the last moment, when they will be obliged to take nothing with them.
In yesterday’s Gospel reading, Jesus made it clear that whoever would be first must be the servant of all. Note the period after the word “all”. He didn’t say all ‘of our friends”, or “all Americans”, or “all – insert your ethnicity – ” He said “all” and then the period makes it clear, He meant all. In last week’s reading from James, it was made clear as well, there is no priority based on wealth, power, or prestige. In God’s way of thinking, the president of a country (whether you like him or not) and a toddler are equal. The richest of businessmen is no greater than a 97-year-old shut-in, or the homeless guy.
As part of that family descended from Adam we are a family. One family. As believers, and I love the way Vatican II puts this, the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of everyone, we have a share in. It is from St. Paul we read these words originate – for He encourages us to share in the joy and sorrow of all – even those whom we count as our enemies and our adversaries. Our hearts need to break when we realize that people don’t know the love of God. Our hearts need to rejoice, even soar with joy as someone is brought to life and will abide in the presence of Christ.
We need to, as St. Josemaria says, to help people learn to deny themselves generously, to help those around them, to truly help them. Whether it is the family of refugees that we assist or the neighbor grieving, it doesn’t matter whether they are long-time believers, or of another religion, or anti-religious.
They need what every human needs. The love and mercy of God, shown through the people who know this mercy and love. Who know it because in their brokenness this love is shown to them.
Simply put, there is no “them”, there is only “us”.
Realize this – that when Christ said we are to serve all – He meant all of “us”. Go out and love with abandon. Rejoice with those rejoicing, weep with those weeping, and serve one another.
Lord be merciful to us!
(1) Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 340-346). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:36-39 (NLT)
3 After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ. (1)
“Biblical worship is rooted in an event that is to be lived, not proven. The purpose of worship is not to prove the Christ it celebrates, but to bring the worshipper so tune with God’s reconciliation through Christ that His death and resurrection becomes a lived experience.” (2)
““As long as I have strength to breathe, I will continue to preach that it is vitally necessary that we be souls of prayer at all times, at every opportunity, and in the most varied of circumstances, because God never abandons us” (no. 247). That was his one and only concern: to pray and to encourage others to do likewise. That was why he brought about in the midst of the world a wonderful “mobilization of people,” as he liked to call it, “who are ready to commit themselves to live Christian lives,” by developing their filial relationship with God our Father. We are many who have learned, from this thoroughly priestly priest, “the great secret of God’s mercy, that we are children of God.” (3)
The quote in blue, from the 24th Article of the Augsburg Confession, is among my favorite quotes from all religious writing. When I teach Worship/Liturgy, Caregiving, or even Preaching, it becomes the 1 statement that MUST be understood, the foundational statement of the course.
As I look at what is being taught and written about; as I consider my own education for the ministry; how I was taught to preach, teach and lead worship, I realize I have to ask the question,
Are we teaching them what they really need to know about Jesus?
I think one of the ways we can measure that is found in the scripture verse above in red.
Are they learning to love God with all they are, and to love their neighbor? (without asking, “are they really my neighbor?
I have to ask, is that the result every aspect of our church services, from the sacraments, the sermons, the singing, the liturgy, and prayers? Is it what results from our Bible studies, the counseling sessions and even the meetings of boards and teams? Do our people love God more, grow in their adoration of Him? Will they share in the lives of those around them? Will they weep with them, laugh with them, share food and life with both those who know Christ, and those who need to know Him?
Can we hold that up as the standard? Does how our people love reflect on whether we’ve told them what they need to know about Jesus?
Webber makes another point worth considering, that reveals a sobering answer to this,
“Liberals turned worship into a time for ethical reflection on the love of God, while conservatives concentrated on an intellection defense of the Gospel. In both cases church leaders gave into to secularism and allowed it to define worship.” (4)
Far too often, we forget what changes people, what creates the love of both God and neighbor. It isn’t just found in nurturing the intellect, or making logical appeals for what is good, ethical and beneficial. This only provides a narrow stimulation, that of the mind. Our teaching, our preaching our worship, has to go deeper. It has to cause, as Webber says, ou words must guide them in living through the death and resurrection of Christ.
It is there, in the presence of God, dwelling in Christ, abiding in Him, that we discover what true love is. That we, the very children of God, live our lives intimately communicating with God. A relationship that goes beyond anything we know, for this relationship reveals the transcendent life of a Christ, what Paul talks about in Colossians.
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)
This is what it means to give them what they need to know about Christ, to know His presence, His love, His mercy! To see Him so clearly that the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts of stone into hearts that beat with the love of God, and then can love others.
Whether our people grow in love of God, and their neighbors is how we judge whether our preaching, our administration of the sacraments, our worship, and our very ministry give people what they need to know about Christ.
Lord Have Mercy on Us, even this mercy of revealing to us what we need to know of Christ. AMEN!.
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 59). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(2) Webber, Robert: Worship is a Verb Peabody Mass, Hendrickson Publishing
(3) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Friends of God (Kindle Locations 136-140). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(4)Webber, Robert: Worship is a Verb Peabody Mass, Hendrickson Publishing