Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! Matthew 5:20 (NLT2)
10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ Luke 18:10-13 (NLT2)
943 Be careful that in dealing with other people you don’t make them feel like someone who once exclaimed (and not without reason), “I’m fed up with these righteous characters!”
The problem of dealing with the hypocrisy of pharisaical people is that we often become as pharisaical as they are! We grow in disdain over their self-proclaimed righteousness, and we begin to compare ourselves to them. We might say, “Yes, I am better because I know what a sinner IAM, and God has saved me, while he is off thinking God should just honor him.”
It is too easy to become self-righteous in our own eyes. This results in the situation that St.Josemaria mentions. The horrible thought that our righteousness act would drive someone away from the love and mercy of Jesus. That we could rob them of the peace of Christ because we are simply a bunch of assholes, pretending to be holy. That we could become so pharisaical that we would not enter God’s presence…is beyond horror, beyond sadness…
And yet we do it, every time we compare our faithfulness, our doctrine, our actions to those around u.
he tax collector, desiring the Lord’s mercy, doesn’t compare himself to the pharisee. He seeks absolution, He seeks to be cleansed of his sin, he seeks to be healed of his brokenness. He prays there and walks away righteous, having encounter the God who promised to be merciful.
Having been shown mercy, we become merciful. Having been loved, we are able to love. Without even realizing it, we are revealed to be in the presence of God.
Where we belong.
Lord, have mercy on me…a sinner.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:31-34 (NLT2)
But we still cannot change God, can we? No, we cannot. But is that why we pray? To change omniscient Love? Isn’t it rather to learn what it is and to fulfill it? Not to change it by our acts, but to change our acts by it.
The fact that God’s love is unchangeable does not change the fact that it is love. It always wills what is best for us. And
Start Reading Pg 148 Tomorrow ×
prayer is best for us. Therefore, we must pray precisely because God’s love is unchangeable. He is unchangeably loving and commands prayer for us.
895 Work tires you physically and leaves you unable to pray. But you’re always in the presence of your Father. If you can’t speak to him, look at him every now and then like a little child … and he’ll smile at you.
Let me be honest, last week was a long, exhausting blessed mess.
It took a while to wake up and get going this morning, and even though I am in my office now, I am still dragging. Dragging enough that I thought I could not pay good enough attention to really make my devotions “worth it.” (Whatever that means!) So I almost moved past them to “get to work” studying scripture and preparing next week’s order of worship.
Logically, at least with what little logic was available, I realized how stupid that sounded. Overlook prayer and time with God to plan… prayer and time with God?
So back to my devotions, and what’s the common topic? Prayer, of course! (God does have a sense of humor!)
And I remembered why I love the practical faith of St. Josemaria! He remembered the ultimate truth about prayer. It is not the flowery words, it is not about the incredible dialogue. It is simply about being in the presence of God, our Father! It is about looking up to Him, unable perhaps to even speak of our need to depend upon Him… and realize He is present – that He is looking at us!
Perhaps that is why the most meaningful time of prayer is when we are simply silent!
From St. Josemaria’s simplicity to Peter Kreeft’s philosophy, where I found the same message. There it takes the essence of why do you pray if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and unchanging? Are you going to change God’s mind? ( As Abraham thought he might be able to with Sodom?)
Ot is it something more than by struggling with prayer, by seeking God out, we begin to understand His love, His passionate care? In our times of prayer, we learn that He does desire the best for us and actively works in our lives to make it so? That even times of bargaining with Abraham, or the Samaritan woman who argued for her daughter’s healing, God is teaching us the lesson of interacting with Him, and not just using Him as a genie from the bottle?
Think through this… I decided to look up the Lord’s prayer… and missed it by a few verses, coming to those above in red. Which says the same thing…
Leave it in God’s hands…
Look at Jesus, look at the Father… seek them first… and see Them smile.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 147–148.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of my day:
The LORD was like an eagle teaching its young to fly, always ready to swoop down and catch them on its back. Deut. 32:11 CEV
The Christian far oftener disgraces his profession in prosperity than in adversity. It is a dangerous thing to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial to the Christian than the refining pot of prosperity. Oh, what leanness of soul and neglect of spiritual things have been brought on through the very mercies and bounties of God
This treatise is another example of Luther’s remarkable ability to withdraw from the heat of controversy into the pastoral atmosphere of serene devotion. The entire writing echoes his experience as a pastor and confessor constantly in contact with men and women who were terrified by the maze of popular customs and practices observed by the church in connection with death.
In reading the forward to Luther’s sermon on dying, I was struck by how often it was reprinted. His theology was still in the early stages of reforming, His battles with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church were just beginning. And as noted, he set this aside to help a friend, one terrified by all the stuff that surrounded death. His friend and many others would listen, for they were in what Spurgeon calls the crucible of adversity.
That crucible doesn’t have to be related to physical death. The death of a dream, the death of a relationship, the termination from a job, or the fear of any of these things!
Spurgeon’s quote comes from a section about the challenges of dealing with abundance, the challenge s of dealing with prosperity, and yet he notes the blessings of adversity, of being oppressed, of being under pressure. I resonate with that, for I know the most challenging, the most severe temptations which I face, the places where sin appears to have it greatest grip on me, are the places where life is easier, where I am not running to God.
It is better for me to write from the point of my own despair, for there I find this passage from Deuteronomy to be true. God will catch me, I know he will, even as I struggle with the fears and anxiety caused by the fall.
Most of the time I don’t realize this, I am not looking for it, I am too overwhelmed by the impending crash. I forget how faithful His promise is because my eyes are on me and my situation.
But in the midst of falling, He is always there…
And eventually, I hear the Spirit’s call and know the comfort of God’s presence, a presence that is there anyway. As I grow old, I realize that I eventually will, and that too calms the frayed nerves, lifts me out of my depression, and helps me see those around me, who need ot be lifted up by those same wings.
Thank you Lord Jesus, for being there in times of despair, the times when the brokenness is too great. Sustain us then, when we can’t seem to realize Your presence. Sustain as well, when things are good, and we forget our need to depend on You,. AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
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), 98
Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” James 2:18 (TEV)
Since faith brings the Holy Spirit and produces a new life in our hearts, it must also produce spiritual impulses in our hearts. What these impulses are, the prophet shows when he says (Jer. 31:33), “I will put my law upon their hearts.” After we have been justified and regenerated by faith, therefore, we begin to fear and love God, to pray and expect help from him, to thank and praise him, and to submit to him in our afflictions. Then we also begin to love our neighbor because our hearts have spiritual and holy impulses.
Even more upsetting, the devil can take your best works and reduce them to such dishonorable and worthless things and render them so damnable before your conscience that your sins scare you less than your best good works. In fact, you wish you had committed grievous sins rather than done such good works. Thus, the devil causes you to deny these works, as if they were not done through God, so that you commit blasphemy.
That is why it is important to learn and practice all one’s life long, from childhood on, to think with God, to feel with God, to will with God, so that love will follow and will become the keynote of my life. When that occurs, love of neighbor will follow as a matter of course. For if the keynote of my life is love, then I, in my turn, will react to those whom God places on my path only with a Yes of acceptance, with trust, with approval, and with love.
In the movie Jerry MaGuire, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character lashes out Tom Cruise’s character with the phrase, “show me the money!” Except it is not about money. It is a plea for Tom’s character Jerry to show how important the relationship is, that it isn’t just about the money that can be made from negotiating a deal.
Inside the Christian faith, our actions often speak louder than our words. They testify as to whether the words we say are true, or whether we are those who call out “Lord! Lord!” and yet don’t have a solid relationship with the Lord, in fact,t hey don’t have a relationship at all.
It is not about our works, it is not about the obedience, it is about the relationship. Works simply testify that the relationship exists. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote, we think with God, we feel with God, and love follows as a matter of course! That love causes action, it creates the work, but the work is never apart from the presence of God.
We know we aren’t saved by works (the Lutheran phrase based on Ephesian 2:8-10) and there is nothing we do that merits salvation, it all depend on the grace of God which precedes anything (which is the way the Roman Catholic Church in the Council of Trent put it in Session Vi chapter V)) Yet the faith that depends on God for salvation will result in praise and worship – the latter being what we do with out lives.
Luther’s concern in the green text above must be heard, if we are to understand his version of “Faith Alone.” He isn’t denying the believer can do good works, or encouraging them to not even bother with the idea. Our good works, done in communion with Jesus Christ, are to be encouraged, extolled, and the glory given to God, whose light we are simply reflecting by those works. An attitude that denied this, that caused us to view the our good works with disdain Luther considered influenced by Satan!
As the Apology to the Augsburg Confession puts it, these works are the result of the impulses the Holy Spirit puts on our hearts. This doesn’t sound like we are denying that the Christian can do good works, does it?
And that is the point we need to clarify, that we need not be afraid of trying to do something the Holy Spirit is driving us towards. It my be simple, like holding the hand of someone struggling with old age and being feeble. It may be sitting and reading the catechism with a child, helping them to know God’s love. It could be something different, like heading to Africa or Asia on a mission trip. It could be… well, you fill in the blank. What is God calling you to do?
Then do it, and we can both rejoice in the faithfulness of God, who is close enough to you to put that idea on your heart, and give you the desire and ability to see it through! AMEN!
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 124.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 212–213.
Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 276.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, requests, and thanksgivings be offered to God for all people; 2 for kings and all others who are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceful life with all reverence toward God and with proper conduct. 3 This is good and it pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth. ! Tim 2:1-4 GNT
13 For the sake of the Lord submit yourselves to every human authority: to the Emperor, who is the supreme authority, 14 and to the governors, who have been appointed by him to punish the evildoers and to praise those who do good. 15 For God wants you to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people by the good things you do. 16 Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves. 17 Respect everyone, love other believers, honor God, and respect the Emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-17 (TEV)
I usually stay quiet on politics.
It is not just because I am apathetic, and tired of the extremes ruling Social Media. ( I will admit to that being part of the issue!) I don’t buy into one side or the other being evil and demonic, both sides have positions on issues that I agree with, and positions I find based in sin and that degrade others. As scripture clearly teaches, “all have sinned…”
My view is based in the knowledge that there is something more at stake. Something much more crucial.
GIven that “something more” here is my view on politics. Look in a mirror. Say the words you would say about the one you view as a adversary about yourself. Do you like hearing someone say those things? Are those things in accord with Phil. 4:8? Are they respectful? Are they thankful to God for that person and the role? And the biggest question.
Does your view depend on God and His promises?
I can hear some of my friends from both sides already coming up with the justifications that would excuse them, pointing out the evils of “them.” Or trying to educate me on how the other side is stupid, or the next Hitler, or any of 1000’s of other excuses. Been there, did that, have the tshirts with the same kinds of slogans you now see on meme’s.
My concern is us, and whether our reactions will distract us from God, that will stp our attention from being focus on Jesus and His ability to redeem us, and those who we perceive standing against us. Will our worries and fears be set aside as we look to our Lord? Will our conduct testify to our faith in God, or will it stir up hatred and fear?
It isn’t impossible to honor and respect those we aren’t in agreement with, those we fear. Look at David, when King Saul was trying to kill him. Even as he had the promise that He was God’s choice, he didn’t raise a hand against him. He could have. Twice he could have taken Saul’s life, he could have raised up a civil war, and yet held off, trust in in God’s timing.
You see that is the key to dealing with politics. Not hiding our head in the sand. But lifting up hands to pray for those who are in authority before we interact or comment on some incident or position. Asking God for the strength to respect and care for the men and women serving in our government – all of them. Praying for the strength to be still and know that God is still God. That He will be with us, even if the road is uncomfortable, even if it were to lead to martyrdom because of our relationship with Him. Asking God to bless them all, even as He blesses us.
He is God – and this pastor wants you to be saved, and come to this knowledge, the Lord is with you!
Devotional Thought for the day:
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15† so that you may be innocent and pure as God’s perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, 16 as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted. Phil. 2:14-16 GNT
While the entire psalter and the holy scriptures altogether are also dear to me, as they are my sole comfort and life, nevertheless, I have struck up a very special relationship with this psalm, so that it must be mine and be called mine. It has worked quite diligently for me, deserving to become mine, and has helped me in some great emergencies, out of which no emperor, king, sage, clever person, or saint would have been able to help me.
You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this will happen by reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments. If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it. But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God?
My daily devotions changed a few years ago, when I discovered a book called Celtic Daily Prayer (and now volume 2) and another book called The Way. Before that I saw devotions as a task, and as what a good pastor did, and tried to model to his people. I did the read through the Bible in a year, I even wrote the predecessor to this blog. Looking back, I am not sure I could have answered the question posed by the last line of the quote from Dallas Willard.
It wasn’t the books that changed my devotional life, they just showed up and in the right time and place. It wasn’t on a quest for holiness, that this process grew, nor do I see myself holier or more mature.
I may have grown in holiness, I may be more “devout” (I believe that is very much up to debate), I pray that I am more like Christ.
What I am is more aware of how much I need to depend on God. I resonate with Luther, about this passage and that ministering to me more than others. ( 1 Cor. 2:9, Ezekiel 26:25, Exodus 50:20, Phil. 1:6, Hebrews 12:1-3 Romans 12:1-3 ) for a few that have that effect) greeting me like old friends when I get to them. Jeremiah 20:7 as well, oh gosh has that saved me in despair more than once.
Yet it has been reading through scriptures and my other aids that have led me to those passages. The words of Escriva, Luther, Willard and Popes Francis and Benedict have help me see what I am missing, and far too often, what I encounter gives me the strength I need when something big is looming. (and it seems like something always is looming)
I am not doing this because I am a saint, or devout, or because I want to impress people. I am doing this because I need to, I need to remember that God is benevolent, and merciful, and loves me, and then that He loves those I struggle with, and desires that we all come to repentance.
It is why I encourage you to spend time in the word, like a miner digging for diamonds, trying to find those verse that will reveal God’s love to you so completely that you don’t recognize the change. But you cling to them.. oh.. do you cling to them, as you are comforted and healed by the Holy Spirit who uses them to heal your heart, soul and mind. AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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. 203). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Isaiah 62:6 (GNT) — 6 On your walls, Jerusalem, I have placed sentries; They must never be silent day or night. They must remind the Lord of his promises And never let him forget them.
I can ground myself on this, not because of my own worthiness, but because of the commandment. Similarly, in this case, we should consider what and for what we pray as requested by and done in obedience to God. We should therefore think, For my sake it counts for nothing, but it is most important that God commanded it. Therefore, each one of us should come before God in prayer for whatever we need in obedience to this commandment.
Therefore, we urgently entreat and admonish all people to take this to heart and in no way forsake their prayers.
To take up a life of prayer every day is to allow ourselves to be accompanied, in the good moments and the bad, by him who best knows and loves us. Our dialogue with Jesus Christ opens up new perspectives for us, new ways to see things that are always more filled with hope.
In prayer, our flesh, identified with the Word made flesh and moved by the Spirit, longs for the Father. This is the mystery that unfolds in prayer and that promises us a unique communion with the Father, in the Spirit and through the Son. He takes our flesh and we receive his Spirit.
These words have been credited by many to St. Francis. “Preach always, use words when necessary”. Last week, I experienced a twist on those words. “Pray always, use words when necessary”
I had stopped by a chapel where a friend serves. Technically it is called an Oratory, a place not open to the public, but where members of a religious community worship and pray in the house they share.
I was in the area, and between a couple of visits, so I stopped in, and welcomed, ascended the stairs up to the chapel.
I went through the normal prayers, recounting things I needed God to forgive, and some situations that just cause my heart to ache. The kind of things that only God can solve. I talked to Him about the things coming up, and then… just couldn’t go on.
I had no more words.
That has happened more than once before… so I did what usually works, simply saying the Lord’s prayer slowly, savoring each word, confident that it covers every prayer I could ever pray. Confident of the Holy Spirit’s intercession as promised in Romans 8…
26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. Rom. 8:26-27 GNT
Then, in the midst of the Lord’s prayer, I couldn’t continue. I couldn’t find the words, words that I repeated tens of thousands couldn’t be grasped, couldn’t be remembered. All I could do, is sit there, and look at the crucifix.
This bothered me… why couldn’t I pray, and yes, there were things to pray about, to pour out of a heart that is broken and struggling. And then I started to realized it was time to be still, to be reminded of the promises of God, to see that God was there, to realize the presence of God, the One to whom I spoke.
Not even to hear Him speak, or the Spirit to guide my thoughts. But just to be there, praying and realizing His presence. To pray without words, even without thought.
To dwell in the silence… with the One who loves me and knows me better than myself.
After, as I made the long trek home, I didn’t feel ecstatic, I don’t think I glowed like Moses, and all my situations weren’t miraculously taken care of…but I felt whole, and more sure of His guiding hand. A very subtle thing… but quote good.
God is with us, and we need to take the time to experience it.
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. 199). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
From https://opusdei.org/en-us/section/pastoral-letters/ Aug. 10,2019
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 260). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
23 How I wish that someone would remember my words and record them in a book! 24 Or with a chisel carve my words in stone and write them so that they would last forever. 25 But I know there is someone in heaven who will come at last to my defense. 26 Even after my skin is eaten by disease, while still in this body I will see God. 27 I will see him with my own eyes, and he will not be a stranger. Job 19:23-27 (TEV)
26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. Romans 8:26-27 (TEV)
57 Get to know the Holy Spirit, the Great Unknown, the one who has to sanctify you. Don’t forget that you are a temple of God. The Paraclete is in the center of your soul: listen to him, and follow his inspirations with docility.
On Monday, at sometime between 7:30 and 8:30, I read the first scripture passage above, from the book of Job. It is a favorite passage, one I love to just think about, especially when life is “job-like” ANd it was in the rotation of readings that were assigned for me that day, by the software that helps me read through the Bible in a year.
The problem is, I don’t remember reading it. Not at all.
And so yesterday, that bothered me a lot. how could i miss such an important passage? How ow could I not have seen it?
What is sadly ironic is that I really needed to see it, not just read it. It is one of those seasons of trauma, those times where I wondered if Job and I could trade places for a couple of hours.
My mind on Tuesday kept beating me up. HOw could I have missed what God had obviously put right in front of me, for that time, for that moment? How could I just go through the motions, reading but not seeing, hearing but not absorbing the word of God?
Am I getting to the point where I am just “going through the motions when it comes to the daily readings of scripture?
Will that start to seep into other parts of my spiritual life, other parts of what I do? That is perhaps the greatest point of fear I have, that how I lead worship, that how I preach, how I administer the sacraments simply fades into a mechanical application of what I have done before.
The feelings move into high gear, alternating between anxiety and guilt, between how have I gotten myself into this place and will I ever get back to “normal” spiritual mode? Then I realize I have not wasted one day, but two…
By God’s grace as well, in this morning’s reading I came to St Josemaria’s words in purple above. My heart focused on the phrase about the Holy Spirit being the one who has to sanctify us. As that resonated and comforted me, the words of the apostle Paul flashed into my head. I realized that while I missed the words Monday, and struggled on Tuesday with the absence of seeing the words, the Holy Spirit didn’t let me forget them.
As I went back and read them again, without the distractions and lack of attention that plagued me Monday, or the guilt and anxiety of Tuesday, I finally saw what I needed to see. Because of the tension, it hits home even more strongly, even being chiseled into my crushed and broken heart and soul.
I will see God, and He will not be a stranger.
No matter how dark my day, no matter how much I’ve bottomed out, the Holy Spirit is there, comforting, sanctifying, even interpreting our prayers, and making everything work out for good…. even the days when I can barely go through the motions.
God is faithful, the Holy Spirit is here… and if I can cling to that promise…I can survive the days when I don’t soar like a spiritual giant, but crawl like a cockroach.
He is here, He is not a stranger..
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 299-301). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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:
1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. 2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.
1 John 3:1-2 (NLT2)
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT2)
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
God often speaks to us in obscure ways to allow us the room and time we need to respond. He lets us know he is speaking to us but also that we need to stretch out in growth in order to receive the message. Perhaps we think, “God, why don’t you just say it? Tell me in detail how to live.” But we are usually full of mistaken ideas about what that would actually mean. If it actually happened, it would probably kill us or unbalance us. So God in his mercy continues to approach us obliquely. Our minds and values have to be restructured, but God speaks anyway because he appreciates our interests. As we mature, this is less so, until that time when we can safely know him as he knows us
I’ve known many people who ask, “what in the world is God thinking?”
Some are doing so because they don’t understand the trauma and testing the are going through.
Some are trying to figure out what it is God is calling them to do, what “God’s will is for their life” This is something we do need to consider, yet to often we do not hear God, and we wonder why He seems… silent.
Some just can’t comprehend that God would love someone like them, or that God could love “those people.”
As the prophet Isaiah says, God thinks differently than we do. He works differently than we do, even to the extent He may work through us in ways that we would not expect, that we would never do if it was left up to our own choice.
We don’t get it, we struggle with our knowledge of God, and His thoughts and ways. The above scriptures indicate that part of that struggle is that we struggle with our knowledge of our own lives. We don’t know ourselves well enough to see what God is always doing in our lives. Remember Socrates’ one key goal? “know thyself?” We do not.
And because we know neither God’s own thoughts, (or His thoughts about us) nor who we truly are, we have a dissonance, a confusion that exists in our lives. This dissonance, this difference between what is real and what we perceive is more than challenging. Sometimes, it causes us great stress.
Dallas’ Willard’s words in purple above give an explanation that makes a good deal of sense. (We have to add in the stipulation that God would not communicate with us in a way that is contrary to His being revealed in word and Sacrament.) But the idea that God would communicate to us obliquely, in such indirect ways, is a measure of His love and care for us.
An example, He might have a specific mission or apostolate for us, a call and commission to reach out to a certain group, or help certain people. Let’s say you a 16th-century monk/priest/professor named Martin, how would you react when God told you not only would you become a priest, but an outlaw, revolutionary and cause the fracturing of the church? If Martin had the foresight of what God intended – he might have stayed a simple lawyer.
So God takes His time, He is patient and wise in how He reveals His will, He surrounds us with others when we are going to struggle with it. He loving and with great care shepherds us through life.
There are times where the Holy Spirit does make it clear, times that become easier ot recognize the more we are spending time with Jesus, meditating on His promises, hearing and exploring the dimensions of His love ( especially as it is delivered in His sacraments)
The more we understand of His mercy, the more we experience His love (which is also to great to understand) the more we grow comfortable with what He asks of us. The more we become comfortable with His desire that no one should perish, but all come to repentance, the transformation that the Holy Spirit effects in our lives.
That is why the Lord’s invitation to us to come and dialogue with Him, to come and reason with Him has the context of cleansing us from sin. It all starts there, as God justifies us, as God declares us free of sin, having laid that sin on Jesus.
But cleansed from sin, able to move into the presence of God with confidence, and swell there, that changes everything. We become less concerned with the “why’s?” and “what’s next?” We are more attuned to focusing on Christ, adoring Him, hearing Him through word and sacrament, and experiencing His love that wherever we are led happens. We become free of the anxiety caused by the unknown because we believe in Him, and trust His care for us.
Dear Father in heaven, knowing your love and care for us, we ask that the Holy Spirit help us focus on knowing You, on experiencing the Your love for us revealed in Christ Jesus, through word and Sacraments, helping us to be at peace with what we may not, or cannot understand. Rather Lord, help us to rest, knowing we are secure because we are yours. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
We Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.