Devotional Thought of the Day:
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul?b13 Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good. 14 The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong to the LORD your God, as does the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD had his heart set on your ancestors and loved them. He chose their descendants after them—he chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Deuteronomy 10:12=15 CSB
Ah, my Jesus, my love, my infinite good, my all, be ever welcome in the poor dwelling of my soul! Ah, my Lord, where art thou! to what a place art Thou come! Thou hast entered my heart, which is far worse than the stable in which Thou wast born; it is full of earthly affections, of self-love, and of inordinate desires. And how couldst Thou come to dwell there? I would address Thee with St. Peter: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.1 Yes, depart from me, O Lord, for I am indeed unworthy to receive a God of infinite goodness; go and find repose in those pure souls who serve Thee with so much love. But no, my Redeemer; what do I say? Leave me not; for if Thou departest, I am lost. I embrace Thee, my life; I cling to Thee. Mad indeed have I been in having separated myself from Thee for the love of creatures; and in my ingratitude I drove Thee from me. But now I will never more separate myself from Thee, my treasure; I desire to live and die ever united to Thee.
“It’s very difficult for a man to believe that God is gracious to him. The human heart can’t grasp this. What happened in my case? I was once terrified by the sacrament which Dr. Staupitz carried in a procession in Eisleben on the feast of Corpus Christi.47 I went along in the procession and wore the dress of a priest. Afterward I made confession to Dr. Staupitz, and he said to me, ‘Your thought is not of Christ.’ With this word he comforted me well.
This is the way we are. Christ offers himself to us together with the forgiveness of sins, and yet we flee from his face.
Ours is a joy not born from having many possessions, but from having encountered in our midst a Person: Jesus who never leaves us alone in difficult moments, and is all the more present when problems seem unbearable and obstacles insurmountable.
It is Christmas Eve.
It is 2020, and we are amid a pandemic that has caused further division. In the days after a political free- for all that has divided us further.
This world is so broken! Even Christianity has become more about a “personal” belief than a communal relationship with God.
It is Christmas Eve.
I look at the world and then look in the mirror and wonder why God would bother with us, why He would bother with me. Luther was correct; it is hard for man to believe that God is truly gracious, that God desires to cleanse us, heal us, help us in the midst of all the crap in which we live. Ligouri echoes the same sentiment when realizing God is here, that God is invading our lives. Ligouri’s reaction is to drive our Lord away…. as if the pollution in our lives could poison God.
I know that struggle; I wonder how God could even dare to descend into my world… I want Him here; I know I need Him here.
This is Christmas Eve.
This is Christmas Eve…
And in a few hours, the babe will go in the manger in nativity sets around the world.
I need to see Jesus there, in all His innocence, in all the simplicity, in that place were holiness and the crap of this world. I need to see, as the filthy shepherds did, God incarnate, the one the angels sang about, reveling in His glory.
I need to see Him there… We need to see Him there.
For there, we can approach Him and realize the incredible love and devotion of God. To realize His faithfulness, to realize His desire to dwell with us…not just in Israel 2000 years ago… but today in Cerritos, or wherever you are….. and then, maybe, we can see His desire for eternity with us…
But it starts there… where He can be approached…reverently for sure, but without the terror that comes as we realize His holiness and purity and realize the difference between man and God.
Seeing Him there, may we never desire to flee from Him again… but stay by Him… until eternity draws nigh…
It is Christmas Eve…
It is Christmas Eve!
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 77–78.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 19–20.
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), 406.
Devotional Thoughts for this Day
2 I was resolved that the only knowledge I would have while I was with you was knowledge of Jesus, and of him as the crucified Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:2 (NJB)
929 The cross on your breast? Good. But the cross on your shoulders, the cross in your flesh, the cross in your mind. Thus will you live for Christ, with Christ, and in Christ; only thus will you be an apostle.
The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.
The comfort extended by Luther is rooted in the fact that the person assailed by temptation is a member of the communion of saints and is armed with God’s Word. The tempted person, however, should realize that there is always a benefit that accrues to him from such assaults, although he dare not attempt to divine it. Finally, he invites the tempted person to a fuller faith in Christ, but Luther warns that before the trials subside, they will first flare to greater intensity.
There is a growing multitude of problems that have been caused by the pandemic. Beyond the health concerns, there are significant challenges in finance, in education, in mental health, in social dynamics – of homes and of communities.
Many of us are challenged by depression and temptation, as anger and pain can only be hidden for so long. Often, when we do strikeout, the target is not who it should be. We might even tear ourselves up, thinking that everything is our fault. This is not reasonable, yet there is no reason in a pandemic.
The Apostle Peter writes, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Peter 3:15 (NLT2)) In doing so, he calls me back to remember the hope I do have, a hope that I barely hold on to it at times. More important, that Hope, He holds on to me.
That is why Jesus is all Paul wants to think of, and specifically Jesus – crucified. Jesus bearing every sin, every injustice, every bit of brokenness. Jesus, lifted up, to whom we are not just drawn to, but into whom we are drawn. The Catholic Catechism righty uses the word intimate in regard to our union with Jesus. It is more than we can explain, it is more than we can cognitively know, yet in that movement, it that taking and eating, we go beyond a casual acquaintance with God,.
That is why St Josemaria would have us fixated on the cross. That is why Luther talks about coming out of a time of trial with a faith that is far greater than when we entered. For faith is knowing the presence of Jesus so well, that we just live and move dependent on Him.
That intimacy is not all we need, it is all we have.
Realizing that is the challenge, along with remembering it as we are assailed, as we see the brokenness, as we deal with our issue. not alone, but as He is here, with us.
That is the reason I have hope, this relationship with Jesus- the one crucified for us…
The One who is alive! Praise God – and because He is risen, so are we. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 351.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 182.
Encounter God… and See
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to see Him, and see Him at work in your life!
DO you believe
Towards the end of the encounter of the Blind man and Jesus, Jesus asks a question to the man that was formerly blind.
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
What Jesus is asking him is whether he believes in the Messiah and whether He believes He has come. It is one of the titles a Jewish person would have known referred to the Messiah,
Do you believe in the Messiah? Jesus asks.
The man encountering Jesus replies, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in Him!”
The encounter then takes a new direction – as Jesus reveals to the one born blind he is the Messiah.
Before we deal with that, I want to ask another question, an interesting one.
Did he only believe because he saw Him?
Did the Blind man only believe in Jesus because he saw Him?
Or another way to phrase the same question, if the man had encountered Jesus, but Jesus did not give him the ability to see, would he have believed in Jesus?
It is an important question and one we need to face….
Will we only believe and trust in God, if He does what we desire most?
Will we only turn to Him if He keeps us safe from the flu or the coronavirus? Will we only trust in Him if He heals our broken land, and ends the isolation that is so affecting all of us?
Will we only believe if God does things our way?
And if He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want, will we reject Him? Will we refuse to believe in Him? Trust in Him?
Depend on Him?
There is our question for the day… and a hard one.
The Dark Question
It’s one, if we are honest, we are afraid to ask. Even if we aren’t sure of the answer.
Matter of fact, that is why we need to ask this!
Because we need to come face to face with the question.
Is our faith in God, is our being a Christian based on God doing what we desire?
Is it based on God caring for us the way we want?
If I am honest, the answer would be yes, at times. My faith wavers, it struggles, and I have to be able to admit that. I get frustrated when things don’t go my way, and I hurt in times like this.
And this passage gives me the comfort to admit this… and then reach out to God… and say where are you?
Why I can
The first is this – Jesus was working in the man’s life way before he asked the question. He was giving the blind man the ability to see and doing things that though the guy didn’t know who Jesus was, he knew something was happening that could only be accountable to God.
Back in verse 17 the man stated, “I think He must be a prophet!” And then in verse 33 he said, “If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it!”
He saw God at work – even before he truly understood Jesus was the Messiah before Jesus was the Savior. He recognized something out of the ordinary was happening, something that couldn’t be normal, or just a coincidence.
While for us that may not be healing, God is still going to be at work in our lives way before we recognize that the Holy Spirit is carefully opening us up, and calling us into that place where we begin to heal, where we see God at work
Where we can then hear the question asking us whether we believe and as we go… uhhh… or ask this question or that one, we see Jesus revealed to us. And as He is revealed the Holy Spirit grants us both faith and repentance.
The Holy Spirit does that as well, working in us, revealing to us Jesus’s work through the gospel and then sacramentally, as God cleanses us from Sin and sets us up in a relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
Then, the Spirit has worked in us, we are no longer blind to the work of God, we can say with the man in today’s gospel, “Yes, Lord, I believe!”
How can we behold Jesus today?
You see that is the key, not saying I believe because of this argument, or that apologetic. We believe because God is at work, and we, even as limited as our vision is, begin to see Him at work. We encounter Him doing something in our lives.
I am not saying our salvation is based on our experience or our emotion. I am saying that as God is at work, it becomes hard to deny it.
So how do we “see” Jesus at work today?
I mean he’s not down at the hospital, or the Braille institute, opening the eyes of the blind. My eyesight isn’t that bad, so where is He? Where can see that He has worked?
I see Him in the eyes of those who commune, I heard Him in the words of those who respond to me, “and also with you!” and “he is risen indeed! And therefore, we are risen indeed!” In the voices of those singing His praises.
But I see Him the most as His word and sacraments breathe life and power into the lives of the people around me. As I see people reconcile with those they have offended and forgive those who have offended them. I see it in the eyes of those I tell that God has forgiven them of all their sin, and as people ask the hard questions, the ones that cause us to have no other option but to trust in God, and in the midst of that trauma, find peace and serenity that goes beyond anything we can logically explain.
The Spirit is at work within you – because He has promised to be, and God always keeps those promises. This is our encounter today – wherever we are.
So be still… and know and see, He is God! AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”3“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,”Jesus answered.“This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.4We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.The night is coming, and then no one can work.5But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:1-5 (NLT2)
But some may say, “It is my complaint that my sufferings cannot be compared with the sufferings of the saints. I am a sinner and do not deserve to be compared with them. They suffered for their innocence, but I suffer for my sins. Little wonder that they bore everything so blithely!” That is a very stupid statement. If you suffer because of your sins, then you ought to rejoice that you are being purged of your sins. Then, too, were not the saints also sinners?
During my life, I have noticed that after disasters and major challenges, some groups come out and blame the trauma on the fact that someone has sinned. They blindly say this epidemic or that earthquake, or whatever tragedy is because of this groups’ sin.
Glad I haven’t seen that so far… I really don’t want to get that angry.
But it is a question that has been asked before. While I wouldn’t call it stupid the way Luther did, it does show a lack of knowledge about God., about His love for you and the incredible depth of His mercy. These things aren’t new, the love and mercy is gloriously rampant throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament.
God doesn’t punish this group of sinners less than that group. For all have sinned – we see that in the world, and of course scripture acknowledges it. Even the “heroes” and holy prophets did. They had their time of weakness, scripture has no problem showing us that!
But even in the midst of our suffering, we can see God at work, using the moment to bring us back, to cleanse us of our sin, to reveal to us again that we are saints, that we are the people He is healing who have been broken by sin, even shattered by it. Yet God can and does put us back together.
The power of God seen in us… healing our brokenness, while using us to help heal others.
What a glorious thing!
Lord, help us just look to you! Help us to depend on Your love and mercy. Help us to rejoice in Your glorious work that is revealed in our lives, even during this time of pandemic. We pray this in the Namr of the Father, and of the Son † and of the Holy Spirit! Amen!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 140.