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Christian Maturity is not Self-Sufficient

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the Day:

20 “I have obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else do I need to do?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich.  Matt 19:20-22  TEV

5  That is why I have sent my prophets to you with my message of judgment and destruction. What I want from you is plain and clear: 6  I want your constant love, not your animal sacrifices. I would rather have my people know me than burn offerings to me. Hosea 6:5-6 (TEV)

One encounters Christ throughout the creation, says Luther, but the troubled conscience experiences him as its judge and flees in terror. In the supper, however, the believer meets the Lord unequivocally as the savior who lays his life down for me (“This is the body of Christ given for you; the blood of Christ shed for you”). There is no escaping Christ’s single-minded intention. He proclaims his love to each and every participant and asks only that they take him at his word.

he (Augstine) had a sort of vision, in which he heard a voice saying to him: “I am the bread of the strong, eat me! But you will not transform me and make me part of you; rather, I will transform you and make you part of me.”3 In the normal process of eating, the human is the stronger being. He takes things in, and they are assimilated into him, so that they become part of his own substance. They are transformed within him and go to build up his bodily life. But in the mutual relation with Christ it is the other way around; he is the heart, the truly existent being. When we truly communicate, this means that we are taken out of ourselves, that we are assimilated into him, that we become one with him and, through him, with the fellowship of our brethren.

We measure Christian maturity wrong, and we have for a long time.

We measure it by the level of theological knowledge they have, or by the amount of scripture memorized.  How dynamic they are when it comes to sharing or defending the faith. How much they “have it together” doesn’t really count all that much either, for anyone can put on an act.

The young man in the first reading above would have been counted as mature in the faith.  he did all the right things, he said them all, he knew it all as well.  The Israelites in Hosea’s time had the sacrificial system down, they had all the right movements, they processed sacrifices with the precision of a military unit, yet they too were not mature in their faith.

They didn’t understand, any more than we do today.

Being mature in the faith is not about being self-sufficient, but it is about being dependent on God, about walking with Jesus, about loving Him, about knowing Him!  Being a Christian is about letting God invade your life, about learning to hold no part back, for the Lord would save all of us.

Read again the words about Luther, and the writings of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger above.  Look at how they describe meeting Christ in the Eucharist, the transforming nature of God.  It is encountering the absolute love of God, as He pours out mercy and peace and healing upon us.

This isn’t just about the substitutionary atonement or the discussion of consubstantiation versus transubstantiation. It’s not just about the words of institution or the form of the mass in which this gift is celebrated.  Those things are part, but they mean nothing without the encounter…the encounter with Christ.

It is about this encounter, about meeting God, right then and there. About knowing the purest, most invasive, most intimate love, about taking in the Body and Blood of Christ. It is about being drawn into His glory, for His glory is simply the light of His love.

Christian maturity is about desiring to know this love, about realizing how much we need His presence, about rejoicing as we depend on Him, as we entrust to Him our very souls.

It is what Jesus asked the young man. …drop everything… let it help others… come walk with me.

The mature Christian has learned to do so, even asking God for the help.

Lord, help us grow in faith, depending on You, allowing You in every part of our lives and rejoicing in the His love for us.  AMEN!

 

Strohl, J. E. (2007). General Introduction. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xxviii). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Ratzinger, J. (2003). God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. (S. O. Horn & V. Pfnür, Eds., H. Taylor, Trans.) (p. 78). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Are We Still Afraid of (intimacy with) God?

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional thought for our seemingly broken days:
18 All the people witnessed m the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain surrounded by smoke. When the people saw it n they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 “You speak to us, and we will listen,” they said to Moses, “but don’t let God speak to us, or we will die.”
20 Moses responded to the people, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin.”  21 And the people remained standing at a distance as Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18-21 HCSB

213      When you have fallen or when you find yourself overwhelmed by the weight of your wretchedness, repeat with a firm hope: Lord, see how ill I am; Lord, you who died on the Cross for love of me, come and heal me. Be full of confidence, I insist. Keep on calling out to his most loving Heart. As he cured the lepers we read about in the Gospel, he will cure you.

Reading the reaction of the people God led to Mount Sinai, at first I am confused.  Why do they want to distance themselves from the God who had saved them from the Egyptians, the God they had cried out to save them?

Then I wonder if I am any different.  Or if the Church today is any different.

We are in awe of those who seem visibly in tune, intimate even, with God.  They are among those we sort of see as our heroes.  That is, until they invite us along on their journey.  The moment we hear them say that all they have done is possible for us as well, we treat them much as Israel treated God.

“We stand over here and watch as you approach God.  We’ll stand close enough to know some sort of safety, but far enough away that we aren’t overwhelmed by His grace.  We can be afraid of Him, but we don’t want to be close enough to fear Him, to be overwhelmed by His glory so much that we rever Him, that we adore Him.

Look at Moses words again, Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin!”

We might read this and think the reason we will not sin is that of fearing punishment, of fearing His wrath, because we fear both the consequences now and for the future.  That isn’t the reason we won’t sin.  It is because of our fellowship with Him, and the trust that grows that impels us to call out to Him when the darkness of sin begins to cast its shadow over.   We might not like the phrase “intimacy with God”, but it is that very intimacy that gives us hope, that draws us deeper into a relationship with Him, and as we grow in our love for Him, as we trust and adore Him and revere Him, then we are changed, sanctified, set apart to Him.

To use St Josemaria’s words, we are cured. 

He has heard us.

He is here.

As He was for those in the desert, those He rescued to make for HImself a people.  The people He would love, and care for, those through whom His place to reconcile the world would come true.

So let us hear the advice the Apostle Paul gave in his letter to Hebrew Christians,

16  Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:16 (TEV)
AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 928-932). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Struggling in Your Relationship with God: A Absolute Necessity

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
24  This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25  When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26  Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27  “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob. 28  “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” 29  “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. 30  Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.Genesis 32:24-30 (NLT)

21  I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22  I love God’s law with all my heart. 23  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. Romans 7:21-25 (NLT)

158         You have become more keenly aware of the urgency, of the “preoccupation” of being a saint; and you have gone into battle daily with no hesitation, convinced that you have to root out bravely any symptom of being fond of comfort. Later, while talking to Our Lord in your prayer you understood that fighting is a synonym for Love, and you asked for a greater Love, with no fear of the struggle awaiting you, since you would be fighting for Him, with Him and in Him

It is one of the hardest things to accept as a Christian.

That I will continue to struggle with sin, especially the sin of idolatry, especially the concept of self-idolatry.  Not that I worship and praise myself, but that I depend on myself more than I depend on Jesus.  That I listen to my own reason more than I listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.   An idol or a god isn’t just whom you worship with your voices, and maybe with an act to appease anger.  It’s so much more than that, as we enter into a relationship with God, on His terms.

A relationship between God and man is not just about praise and worship a few hours a week.  It is an intimate, dependent relationship.  Where we turn to Him, rely on Him, in every situation in life. We rely on Him to rescue us from the sin that entraps us, from the despair of dealing with death and in dealing with Satan, and the temptations that would see us crushed.

As St. Josemaria says, the life of holiness, of being a “saint,” one separated from the world to have that relationship with God, is a nearly constant fight.  Sometimes that fight is a battle against the spiritual powers in the world as He guides us in redeeming and reconciling the world to the Father.  But as often, the fight is our human nature, battling for supremacy, rather than simply realizing that God is God.  Such battles leave us tired, weary, even depressed seeing our lives not dominated by God as we would like, but by the sin that leaves us broken.

The hope is the hope that Jacob, the one re-named Israel finds in his dark night of the soul.  Where he wrestles with God, trying to dominate, trying to show his mastery over God.  When he can’t, the struggle changes – I won’t let go until you bless me, God, I won’t relax the struggle until I know your peace.   It is one of those things that amazes me, that the name of God’s people was taken from the last of the Patriarchs.  Not Abraham, or Issac, or even Jacob, his given name.

But Israel, the one who wrestles with God.. the people who would wrestle with God.  They entire history is a similar fight, and in Christ, the blessing comes, through the fight on a cross, and through a grave until the morning comes and the grace is revealed.

So you like I, struggle in your faith.  This is good.  May you learn to, like Israel, struggle through the darkness of night, and refuse to give up, but hang on for dear life, and hang on until you knw the blessing of His peace.   For that is what it means to not only fight for God, to not only fight with Him, but to fight in Him.

AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 865-869). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

When Will Hand Over the Reins of our Lives?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  LORD, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. 2  Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3  O Israel, put your hope in the LORD— now and always. Psalm 131:1-3 (NLT)

323      Jesus knows very well what is best… and I love his Will and will do so always. He it is who controls “the puppets” and so, provided it is a means to achieving our end, even if there are godless men who are determined to put obstacles in the way, he will grant what I am asking.  (1)

every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description.
“Then how does one speak of God?”

“Through silence”
“Why then, do you speak in words?”
“At that, the Abba laughed uproariously.  He said, “when I speak, you must not listen to the words my dear.  Listen to the Silence.” (2)

It is the unspoken idol in all of our lives, it is idea that we must be working, we must be cleaning, we must be the sole defenders of the faith.  We want to be the heroes, we want our way to be the right way, and then be put in charge of correcting all who are wrong. ( and make them agree with our wisdom)  We een justify our Machiavellianism as being faithful to our call, being faithful to doctrine.    I am as guilty of it as any other, this idea that it is our responsibility to make life work, to make our denominations work.

As a result, we’ve forgotten God’s desire, we’ve forgotten the work we’ve been given, to proclaim the Kingdom of God is here, that God is in charge, and desires to reconcile all to Himself, to bring all to repentance, to bring all home.

The challenge is one of faith, one of trust.  Do I trust God enough to let HIm handle the big stuff, to move the church, and The Church, in the direction it needs to go.  Will I allow myself to be quiet, listening to Him speak.  Will I put my hope in Him, and not in the princes and leaders of the world. Will I allow Him to deal with those who put obstacles to grace in the way?

Will I encourage others to as well, to seek His face, to find rest in Jesus?

Will I find it myself?

Psalm 103 is a great prayer, may it be our desire to make it ours….

Lord Have Mercy…. 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1287-1290). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  FInian Reading for 11/15 from The Celtic Daily Prayer

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