Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 O LORD, our God, you answered your people; you showed them that you are a God who forgives, even though you punished them for their sins. 9 Praise the LORD our God, and worship at his sacred hill! The LORD our God is holy. Psalm 99:8-9 (TEV)
The temptation, for a seminarian or priest, to reduce Christ to an abstract idea is most destructive of the spiritual life. It leads to the loss of his own identity and prevents him from accomplishing his first and most important mission of leading the faithful in his care to a knowledge, love and service of Christ as He is alive for us in the Church.
The tempation that is descibed in Burke’s words above is quite real. Those who minister to others can spend so much time styudying Jesus, studying His word, that we can forget to interact with Him. That leads to our treating Him (and God the Father and Holy Spirit) like an abstact idea, something to study and observe from afar, something to comment on, much as an editorialist comments about the events and people of his day.
The result is our preaching becomes filled with illustrations and quotes, refering to what others tell us about Jesus. Their observations are far sharper, and sometimes we resonate with them, but don’t understand them. We resort to meme’s written by those whom we are told are “great thinkers.” Catachesis and discipleship become more about instruction than helping people see Jesus revealed to them, evangelism and apologetics become more about debate than sharing a journey,
And as Jesus becomes someone to be studied, what disappears is what Paul desired for people, what he described in this way to the believers in Ephesus,
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. Eph. 3:16-19
So how do we prevent this from happeneing? How do we realize Jesus is a person to talk to, and not just talk about? It is to see what He promised, that He is here, disciplining us when needed, but always ready to forgive, to show His mercy, to pour out His gifts of love upon us.
In our present journey thorugh Ezra Nehemiah, there is an incredible prayer, describing the journey of the people Israel. It mentions the times of blessing, and the times where God disciplined them, it is honest about their failure. But it isn’t a lecture, it is a prayer. We would do well to do the same, to consider how God’s been faithful to us, telling Him how we are greatful, and remembering in our rebellion and sin, how He was faithful to us.
I often do this while contemplating the incredible mystery in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, How Jesus comes again to us, and provides a feast celebrating our being forgiven and restored, of God’s revelation of His love for us, shown in the very Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for us.
He showed us, and we experience that love when we partake, eating and drinking His body and blood. He shows us, as prayer becomes more than a duty, but a deep conversation, as we hear His voice. Worship comes alive as we realize we participate in its dance, again celebrating the fact that He is here, with us.
And that changes everything in our lives. including our study of scripture as we desire to know more aobut the Lord who loves us, who interats with us.
Lord bless us with the conviction that You are with us, and as You are healing us, help us to know who you are drawing to Your side, and help us reveal to them Your incredible love, mercy and presence in their lives. AMEN!
Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 144). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional thought of the Day
When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. 10 He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she answered.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.” John 8:9-11 GNT
The Church will be persecuted in the measure of her fidelity to the gospel.
The testimony to this fidelity bothers and enrages the world, making it kill and destroy, as it happened in the case of Stephen, the first among the disciples to shed his life for Christ.
Pope Francis’s words sound ominous, and they should.
But not because of the promise of persecution. That is something promised in scripture. We will be persecuted (see Mark 10:30, 2 Thes 1:4, 2 Titus 3:11-12, John 15:20) What is ominous to me is the idea that if we are not persecuted, than perhaps our fidelity, our faithfulness needs to be examined.
In other words, does the inverse of Pope Francis’s words hold
The story of the woman caught in adultery is a great example of the rage the
Jesus causes controversy in forgiving the lady everyone knew was guilty. He did this by pointing out their sin, confronting them on the very evil that lurked within their hearts. Unable to face the confrontation, their wander off, leaving her with the God who loves her, who would restore her.
Rather than rejoice that someone is shown God’s mercy, rather than celebrate the love of God revealed to someone who thought they were too broken, the world walks away. (and yes, the church is often more like the world)
Such mercy could be shown to the terrorist (the apostle Simon the Zealot and the government
You don’t like Trump? Christ died for him. You don’t like those who are “pro-choice”? God is calling them into a relationship where He will forgive their sins. You don’t like the person who is Muslim, Jewish, White Supremacist, the gang-banger, the alien, the rapid right wing republican?
So what? Love them or realize this:
As you judge and condemn them, for the sins you think you’ve caught them in, remember this story of the woman caught in adultery. And wonder, who are you in the story. The ones crying our for murder, the lady, or are you to be like the Lord, who pronounces forgiveness.
Imitate Jesus… even if it means dying to reveal to them that God loves them, that He desires to show them mercy, to forgive their sins.
And if your friends, neighbors and fellow church members want to kill you, or just cut you off from them for being merciful, remember these words,
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom!Matthew 5:10 (MSG)
So go in peace, serve the Lord, bring mercy to those the world says don’t deserve it…because God says He desires them to come to repentance, even as He drew you to this blessed place! AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 112). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thoguht of the Day:
7 Go and preach, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is near!’ 8 Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons. You have received without paying, so give without being paid. Matthew 10:7-8 (TEV)
For if a work is not oriented toward serving others or toward suffering under another’s will (as long as one is not forced to act against God’s will), then it is not a good, Christian work
All good things flow into us from Christ, who accepted what we are into his
Every once in a while, we pick up on sayings and make them our own. They resonate with us, and eventually, we give them the exalted status of being scriptural. Or at least we assume they are scriptural.
One of those sayings comes across this way.
You need to forgive them for your sake, if you don’t the only person you affect negatively is you.
The saying comes across in many forms, but it teaches that we forgive, not for the sake of the person that is indebted to us, but for our own sake.
Nice sentiment, and surely reconciliation blesses us as well as them, but forgiveness must be an act of love, an
Luther nails this when he talks of works not directed to the best interest of others not being “good Christian works”. As Jesus is quoted by Matthew, the point is made, – freely receive? Freely give! And as he hung on the cross, there wasn’t thought of his burdens being lifted by forgiving us. There was love, and the desire to minister to us and heal us.
This certainly makes forgiveness harder, relegating it to what it is, an act of love, an act that is Christlike, taking on the burden of sin, and releasing the person who committed it. It’s not going to be easy, it is not going to be full of warm fuzzies. It is a work that takes a dedicated decision to love.
Even our enemies.
Which means that is is an act of faith as well. Not trusting the sinner, but trusting that God can heal us of the pain caused by the sin, by the betrayal. It is going to take realizing the healing and love that God pours out on us, even as He forgives us a million times in our life,
And knowing we are loved, knowing He is healing us, knowing He is the righteous judge, we learn to forgive as He did. Forgiveness which testifies to a love greater than sin. It doesn’t happen as quickly or easily as we would wish.
But it can still happen. As w dwell in the peace of God which passes all understanding, guarding your hearts and minds as we dwell secured by Christ.
Heavenly Father, help us to forgive as Jesus did. Send your Spirit to comfort and empower us, and build in us the desire to love people enough that
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 89). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
“There were two men who owed money to a moneylender,” Jesus began. “One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty. 42 Neither of them could pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Which one, then, will love him more?”
43 “I suppose,” answered Simon, “that it would be the one who was forgiven more.” Luke 7:41-43 GNT
630 Forget about yourself… May your ambition be to live for your brothers alone, for souls, for the Church; in one word, for God.
I looked at the comments to a video last night and was immediately depressed. Not because of the bad news the Cardinal was sharing, an announcement that seven schools were closing. Rather what depressed me was the self-righteous commentators who condemned the Cardinal.
Lots of them, expressing their….hatred of the cardinal, blaming him for a multitude of sins that caused the schools to close.
I think back a week, and the hostility geared to New York’s governor, and the week before that, to a teenager in Washington, D.C. I can think of other situations I’ve been in, where the same attitude occurs.
None of these were calls to repentance, none of them were direct communication with the person (as per Matthew 18). None of them showed any concern for the person they publicly tried, found guilty, and condemned. (Do we eve believe any more than condemning them is condemning them to hell for eternity?) What people were doing was playing God, for only He can condemn people, and that is the thing furthest from His desire.
In the gospel reading, a young Pharisee is trying to make sense out of Jesus, He did well, inviting Jesus to share a meal. But then, faced with an unwanted guest, he questions why Jesus would allow her to make contact with Him.
Jesus calmy asks the question, who will be more grateful.
Next time you go to condemn someone, next time someone’s actions or words cause you to respond with great emotion, consider that question.
How grateful are you, that Jesus washes you clean of YOUR sin.
Having gained that perspective, you have also set aside the perspective that you are the judge that sits at God’s right hand. You humbly set aside that reaction and set your sites on the person’s best interest. You learn to desire that they find the same peace that you have, rather than desiring to see them in hell. You begin to desire that they come ot know the joy of being forgiven, the awe at finding mercy.
That change in your reaction and sets aside emotions that would drive your reaction. It turns hatred into love, it transforms your sin into holiness, and even if the target of your rage doesn’t see it, others will…
and they will join you, captivated by the way you reflect the love of God.
So if you are talking about having a pure faith, or being missional, or taking your apostolate seriously, my suggestion is this, remember how you have been given forgiveness… and rejoice, for God is giving you the opportunity to share that daily.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2659-2660). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoughts to start the year:
12 How can I know all the sins lurking
If God’s conversational walk with us makes us think we are people of great importance, his guidance will certainly be withdrawn. For we cannot be trusted with it. In the kingdom of God, those who exalt themselves will be abased, and pride comes before a fall. If God speaks to us, he does so to help us become a part of what he is doing in the world to care for and guide others
We lack the simplicity that would enable us to stammer “Abba”. In fact, there is, in us,
The Year of our Lord, 2018 is finally over. It was, in so many ways, a tiring, draining, traumatic year.
You might call it the “year of faith” because so many things occured that all that is left, is to depend on God. A lot of people lost people close to them, a mother, a brother, a good friend, a husband. Others had to deal with their sin, no longer able to hide it. People struggled in their marriages, in their workplaces, with their health.
And God was there, crying with us, laughing with us, reminding us that we aren’t equal partners with God, but His people, those His covenant promises
Even as the psalmist points out,
There is also the sin we know about, that we deliberately commit. As God’s
This is how we need to start the year, even as we ended it, depending on God, trusting Him to do what is good and right and necessary to help us live in His peace.
And so, the prayer of the pastor/priest before we
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, YHWH, my ROCK and my REDEEMER! AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 9). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
34† When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw this large crowd, and his heart was filled with pity for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34 GNT
404 The good shepherd does not need to fill the sheep with fear. Such
Over the years I have worked with a few churches looking for a new pastor, and I still do. I’ve also worked with pastors and those studying for the ministry, enough that these two passages resonate with me. They help explain this wonderful world of pastor and people.
They also describe the needed component, that changes a preacher/lecturer in “their pastor”. It is seen as Jesus gets out of the boat, as He looks at the crowd, and His heart aches for them. I believe it aches because these people are so hungry for help, they are so in need, so desperate for hope, so directionless.
They need a shepherd, and they find one in Jesus, and they find the promise seen in the twelve, that God will provide that Spiritiual guide, even as God is developing them, in their midst.
But the reason they need shepherds is because they don’t have them! Those entrusted with the task were experts in the law, in making sure Israel didn’t do the things that they thought would lead to God’s wrath. They wanted to protect their people by instilling in them a sense of judgment, a sense of fear.
The shepherd doesn’t instell a sense of fear in his people, rather, he fears for them, for what will happen if they don’t experience the love of God, if they don’t have the knowledge of God’s love and mercy, if they don’t understand the relationship God wants with them is based on His love for them, not their fear of Him.
Jesus sits the people down, He teaches them, He feeds them, He makes God’s love for them real and tangible. He meets the needs of their souls.
For pastors, this is your calling, it is why you were given the responsibility of word and sacrament ministry. It is why you are entrusted with the means of grace. It is why you are given a heart that resounds with Christ’s love for His people, as you are given a portion to care for.
For people, let your pastors in, allow them to minister to your soul. Allow them to see your hunger, your needs, your brokenness, and trust them to bring healing there, Christ’s healing. Make their job worth the sacrifices and suffering your brokenness demands of them.
You are in this together, the compassionate shepherds, and the people that need them. For you dwell together, in the mercy of Jesus. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1821-1823). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Faith in Action: is Active…. In Christ.
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace, the incredible mercy and peace that your gift from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, so bring about your healing, that you find ways to help heal and build up others. AMEN!
Faith in Action…
Since September 9th, we’ve been talking about what Faith in Action looks like. We’ve talked about because our Faith must be in action, people can see that faith, that for faith to be in action it has to be drawn close to Jesus, and that it has to be in dialogue. We then talked about how faith in action has to set apart our perception of reality and soak in God’s reality, that it is patient, making sure of every step. Faith in action learns to be content. We ended up talking about the idea that Faith in Action can occur because it is a blessing from God and enables us to adore Him and others, and Bob talked last week about how this is possible because we can boldly enter God’s presence.
Which leads us to this week, the final week of the church year, the week we celebrate God’s victory over sin, and consider how we live, knowing He is returning for us.
For as our reading from Hebrews this morning reminds us, we “await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life” and “who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault!”
Faith in Action is Active in Christ because He makes us alive, and gives a future and a hope with Him. A hope that we can… (not that we need to) reinforce in everyone, building each other up, especially those that are broken, wavering and need to be “snatched from the flames of judgment.”
For that is how “faith in action” is active. It is active as we build each other up, and minister to each other, healing them even as we are being healed in Christ Jesus.
The Evidence of Faith in Action
You have often heard me use the word cHesed, that incredible Old Testament word, that is equally defined as either love, or mercy, or as the loving-kindness of God.
The evidence of Faith in Action, it’s activity, is summed up in that word.
Look at the things we are called to do,
To build up each other in our most holy faith. In less “churchy” words, to help each other be completely at home trusting and depending on God. A trust that is tied, not just to God’s presence and active help In this life, but to our eternal life.
To help each other be “at home” in their faith, to build up this household of faith requires that cHesed, that incredible blend of love and mercy. To know when to comfort, to understand each other’s need to see God’s grace revealed in our lives. To know that God welcomes us into His home, and we become an integral part of it.
Even when we struggle, or as Jude says, wavering. Again, our faith in action is active when we see someone who is struggling to make sense of this world, their place in it, and why God would care about someone like them. That is when we all work together, encouraging them, comforting them, helping them to know that God loves them, that He is working in their life.
We each need this kind of support at times and need it desperately at that. Because our lives can become so dark, so hopeless, that what we know is wrong seems to be like our only lifeline, our only option for comfort. That’s how sometimes we get sucked into alcohol, or drugs, how others rely on comfort food or get absorbed into a television game, or video games.
And to help each other through these times of wavering requires us to love them more than we love ourselves. It might take our sacrificing our time, our preferences, even our sleep as we spend the night interceding in prayer.
This is our faith in action, it is how it is active in Christ, even to the point of our saving someone by snatching them from the flames of judgment. That seems colorful in its phrasing, but it is dead on accurate. Our Faith in Action can and does save people from hell, not because of us, but because they see God working through us.
The need for caution
In the midst of this, in the midst of focusing us on Christ’s return, Jude talks about showing mercy this way.
Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.
I love how Jude describes sin here…. As something that contaminates our lives. As something that just infuses its way into our lives, so deeply that we sometimes mistake sin as the identity of the one who sinned. It is too easy to take one of two choices. The first being that because they are inseparable from the sin, it is okay with God. The second is that because they have sinned so grievously, that there is nothing that can be done to call them back.
Jude tells us here, that sin is something different, a contaminant that oozes its way in, that spoils a person, but that our carefully showing God’s mercy to them will eradicate the contamination. To use Bob’s word last week, we need to see that sin annulled, to see the mercy poured out so that the sin is forgotten by God because Justice was served.
We do this, by depending on what happened at the cross. Paul describes it this way
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
We need to show mercy to those in this process, understanding how hard it is to be rid of the stain of sin. Mercy meaning, we are there for them, pointing them to the promise of God’s grace. We help them realize God is calling them, not to heal themselves, but to trust in God’s work removing the stain of sin. Helping them realize it was annulled, that in God’s eyes, He has cleansed them of it so completely that it didn’t exist.
He has called them into a life of repentance, even as He has called us. All of us.
Which is again why this promise is where we end this series<
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
Seth had a son whom he named Enosh. It was then that people began using the LORD’s holy name in worship. Genesis 4:26 TEV
To speak about “heaven”, therefore, does not mean to lapse into rapturous fantasy but rather to learn to know more deeply that hidden presence that lets us truly live and that we continually allow to be masked and withdrawn from us by whatever is in the foreground of our awareness. Heaven, consequently, is above all christological. It is not an extra-historical place “into which” we go. The very existence of “heaven” depends on the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man and has given human existence a place in the existence of God himself
“The Church originates, and has her continuing existence, in the Lord’s communicating himself to men, entering into communion with them, and thus bringing them into communion with one another. The Church is the Lord’s communion with us, which at the same time brings about the true communication of men with one another.”
It is an odd comment, sitting there at the end of chapter 4 of the first book of the Bible.
They began to worship him using the Lord’s Holy name….
They are talking about the name YHWH, or as it can be translated, “I AM”
It is a name that is amazing, even in its simplicity. And for Seth and Enosh, it is a profound thing, once that doesn’t have a further explanation because.. well, how do you explain it? It is too overwhelming.
God, who was betrayed by Seth’s parents, so much they were kicked out of Eden. Betrayed by one brother as he killed his other brother in a rage of jealousy, this God still cares for and provides for people.
“here is my name, YHWH, use it to call out to me.
God wants us to identify Him, not just as GOd, not just as the Divine, not just as Master or Lord (which is why I hate the tendency to translate YHWH as LORD) but to reach out and call Him by name. He wants us to call out with an intimate form of address, He wants that relationship with us.
We have to understand this, that Christ’s mission was not just to cleanse us from sin, but the purpose was to draw us into communion with God the Father, the Son and the Hoy Spirit. That Jesus’s work was to draw human existence into the existence of YHWH, into existence in God.
As Paul taught the Athenians,
27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts 17:27-28 (NLT2)
This is what it all boils down to, a God who would come to us, with the express desire of having a relationship with us. YHWH, whose wisdom we should realize is so incredible, and in relationship with Him, we realize that His best interests are guided by that wisdom. That’s why we hear and walk with Him. (Obey is simply to hear in both Greek and Hebrew)
They began to worship Him, using His holy, precious, intimate name….
I pray you and I do the same today, and all this week.
Question to discuss:
What is hard about talking to God by His name?
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 351). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 7). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: y God sent z His •One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation e for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 1 John 4:9-11 HCSB
197 Don’t tell me that you care for your interior life, if you are not carrying out an intense and ceaseless apostolate. The Lord— whom you assure me you are close to— wishes all men to be saved.
A few decades ago, a preacher stood up and had a dream, a very valid dream where racism didn’t exist, where quotas and systems didn’t have a place, because diversity was natural, and celebrated. A great dream.
My dream is somewhat different, somewhat more specific. Yet with the same thought, a reconciliation so pure that we don’t remember the damage. It has been a growing desire, this dream of mine, you might even call it a prayer. (though my mind would consider winning the lottery more likely….I would rather this dream come true over winning the lottery.)
it takes place in a small quiet sanctuary, without the reporters, without the news commentators, and without FB and Twitter going crazy. Only three people would know the meeting ever took place. A pastor/priest, Judge Kavanaugh, and Dr. Ford. And of course, the only One who could make this happen.
As they gather together, the love of God would cause the positioning to drop away, the perceptions and the individual realities would be swept away, and the sin, whatever sin there is, would be covered. Not covered up, but covered by the blood of Christ.
Healing would happen, as they are absolved by the Authority who can wash away sin. And with the sin, the anger, the hurt, the resentment begins to find healing
Because God loves them both, He ministers through the pastor/priests words to them both. And the love of God transforms them both. So much so that they both realize all the sin in the room is so washed away, it doesn’t even come to mind anymore.
All there is is love. The love of God poured out on them, reflected from them to each other.
The world doesn’t have to know about it, just the two, and the priest/pastor sworn to secrecy.
Yet, the love that can unify those broken has its effect, and the world, ignorant of the scene, begins to change, as the most powerful thing in the world takes a hold of people, and reconciles them, even as it will draw others to reconcile.
This is my dream, and more it is my prayer. That the ministry of reconciliation become the dominant ministry once again, as we realize that love is not a human emotion, but the power of God at work in us.
Lord, this day, help us to see the power of your love at work in us, as we find ourselves being reconciled to those we were once divided from… AMEN!
The question of the day.
If you knew reconciliation and healing was possible for the most broken relationship you have, what would stop you from seeking it?
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1031-1033). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.