Devotional Thought of the Day:
The wisdom I proclaim is God’s secret wisdom, which is hidden from human beings, but which he had already chosen for our glory even before the world was made. 8† None of the rulers of this world knew this wisdom. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9† However, as the scripture says,
“What no one ever saw or heard,
what no one ever thought could happen,
is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.”
10 But it was to us that God made known his secret by means of his Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:7-10 GNT
27 God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God! Col. 1:27 GNT
Imagine you were nine again, and you saw your parents and a couple of other adults whispering, and as you walked closer, they all stopped talking. Or they walked away from each other. Then your brother and sister looked at you with a strange smile.
You would know something was up. It might be a good thing, it could also be something, well not that positive.
Now think about work, and something similar happens. People are gathered around, talking quietly, occasionally glancing at you, only to snap their head around if you made eye contact with them.
You might become slightly paranoid! I would definitely more than just a little anxious.
And yet there was one secret, that secret definitely concerns you and I. The secret of redemption, and reconciliation with God. The secret that God has prepared for us, planned since before He created the world, that Jesus would come, live, be tortured to death, and rise again, so the secret could be fulfilled.
And because of that life eternal will be more than we can ever imagine. The amount of love and serenity we will experience will be glorious.
And yet it was a secret. It was hidden from the world, and yet hidden in plain sight. The promise Paul quotes is there in the Old Testament, the promise that there would be a light for the nations, and the glory of Israel, overlooked. The patience and love of God was not contemplated, and even in Jesus day, there were preachers who maintained that religion was for this life only, that there was noting more.
They missed it, allowing Jesus to become incarnate, to dwell among us long enough for us to kill Him. And He did this because the Father and He loved us so much!
There is the secret, the reason something more stunning that we’ve ever laid our eyes upon, more amazing than anything we have ever heard, and more increible than anything we have ever thought and dreamed awaits us. To be so clean we can enter God the Father’s presence, and not only will we see God face to face, we will be welcomed home into the glory He has planned to share with us.
Lord, help us believe Your promise. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (TEV)
952 You run the great risk of being satisfied with living, or thinking that you have to live, “like a good boy”, who stays in a cosy and neat house, with no problems, and knowing only happiness. That is a caricature of the home in Nazareth. Because Christ brought happiness and order, he went out to spread those treasures among men and women of all times.
I was dealing with a fairly uncomfortable situation this morning, and as I wa completing my devotional reading I came across St Josemaria’s comment about being satisfied, about being comfortable.
I am still trying to process this one, and the scripture above it. To be honest, I would rather not do so.
Living as a Christian isn’t always satisfying, and it certainly shouldn’t be considered comfortable. It shouldn’t be, in the normal sense of the word, we shouldn’t be comfrotable with the American Dream, a life where everyhting has its place, and life runs like a smoothly runinng machine.
Because that isn’t life. it is reduced to being a robot.
Life, real life is lived in the brokenness, in the moments where we are weak, in the moments of being uncomfortable where God has led us. The moement we have to talk to the lady who had to celebrate mother’s day on the day her mother died, and is grieving. The friend whose work is breaking him down, and he doesn’t realize it, the couple that loves each other, but doesn’t know reconciliation is possible.
It is there we see God bringing healing, it is there we see God at work, it is in those moemnts that aren’t satisfying, comfortable and easy that we find a peace that goes beyond all understanding.
That is why St Paul could use the word content in describing them, for he had learned, he had been taught that it is then that Christ must become our strenght, for we have no other option but to depend on Him,and His love.
Ultimately, getting out of our “comfort zone”, out of our perfect lives is what we need. So rejoice in the moments that aren’t personally satisfying, you are about to see God’s work revealed.
Heavenly Father, when we are undergoing the challenges of life, help us to rejioce in them, as they cause us to be drawn closer to you and depend upon You more. Even as we struggle, may we see revealed the power of the Holy Spirit, comforting us and enabling us to endure. In Jesus name!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3860-3864). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 “You have heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.’ 22 But now I tell you: if you are angry with your brother you will be brought to trial, if you call your brother ‘You good-for-nothing!’ you will be brought before the Council, and if you call your brother a worthless fool you will be in danger of going to the fire of hell.
Matthew 5:21-22 (TEV)
9 Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10 Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11 Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12 Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13 Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14 Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16 Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.
Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)
866 Violence is not a good method for convincing anyone… Even less is it so in the apostolate.
The answer to the title is simple to say, but very difficult to implement in our lives.
I am teaching a man, preparing him to serve more at church. He’s currently reading about the reformation and how violent it was. Catholics burning those who would attempt to break away, Henry ordering the death of many, Calvin and Zwingli and Luther were prone to violence as well.
It wasn’t right then, and the more subtle versions that exist today in the church are not righteous or holy either. Jesus, of course, anticipated our thoughts, actions, and words, when He laid out the understanding of sinning in Matthew’s gospel.
Pretty blunt, call your “enemy” or adversary names, deride their character and you are in danger of going to hell.
Even if their action would remove what the world considers your “rights”.
You are still to love them. You are still to be concerned about their life and their salvation. You are to ask God to bless them, rather than curse them. Do not take any violent action, wish that they get what they deserve.
This isn’t easy, in fact, it requires great faith. It requires us to look past what is “ours” to what is God’s.
We are His responsibility, and we are the way His love becomes known to a broken world that needs it. That mission, the reason that God is patient with us is more important than getting angry. And to remember that, when people are making decisions that cause you stress and anxiety when politicians are polarizing when you are dealing with violent threats yourself, requires great trust in God.
And that trust, that dependence, that faith requires us to know He is with us, to know His attitude toward us, to know His love for us, and to know that nothing can separate us from His love.
Knowing that… we can love them, and that love may be the very thing that allows them to see Jesus love for them revealed.
But it all comes back to walking with God…
Lord, send Your Spirit to strengthen us, to draw us so close to You that your love drives out all anxiety, all stress. Lord, help us to know you are with us. In Jesus name. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3549-3550). 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)
Hurry is an unpleasant thing in itself, but also very unpleasant for whoever is around it. Some people came into my room and rushed in and rushed out and even when they were there they were not there – they were in the moment ahead or the moment behind. Some people who came in just for a moment were all there, completely
Live from day to day, just from day to day. If you do so, you worry less and live more richly. If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.
I don’t know about you, but there is a challenge to get focused on Monday.
Even after a good, productive Sunday! ( good day in worship, good Bible study, bills paid, taxes are done, errands taken care of..even got some rest!)
I usually leave one task for Mondays, to do the sermon study for the next Sunday. But some weeks, it is a challenge to get that focused on it. People have issues that weren’t dealt with last week. There was a crisis over the weekend, and of course today, I have to wonder who will try and play and April Fool’s joke on me.
How do I get focused? I also start to worry about the rest of the week, about the meetings Wednesday and Thursday, about the coverage on Wednesday night, about a million and one other things. So getting started on preparing for the sermon… doesn’t get the focus it needs.
I am like the person in purple, who is there but isn’t there. I am not “
especially on Mondays!
Yet the need to be “in the moment” is so strong!. The need to hear God and not just rush through my reading. The time to let trickle into my soul the names I need to pray for, the ability to focus on the passage I am studying, not just academically, but with a heart focused on God and my people.
But this isn’t just a “pastor” thing. Matthew’s gospel makes that clear. Living in the moment is about letting worry and distractions go, and realizing that this moment is one where you dwell in the Kingdom of God. That you are in His presence, that you are loved by Him.
To live righteously means to live in His forgiveness. For no one can live a perfect life, but we can hand over our sin and the temptations we struggle with to God, asking His help to do better.
It is from such a place of peace that we truly live, that we are truly in the moment, attuned to the Lord for whom time is simply a creation. of His.
God is with you… make that the center of you Mondays, even as you might have yesterday between 9 and 10:30…..and rejoice!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! 2 From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, 3 for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. 4 Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!
Psalm 61:1-4 (NLT2)
How, then, can I learn what it means to be human? What must I do? In his question the teacher of the law mentions a prerequisite that we seldom consider nowadays: if my life in this world is to be successful, I must view it as a stepping-stone to eternal life.
There are days in my life that are dark.
Just like most of you.
We hide from those days, we try to ignore them, and if we can’t, we try to anesthetize ourselves from the pain and emptiness they bring.
Days when I seem lost, when life doesn’t make sense, or when it gets in the way of what I want to do. Especially when what I want to do is serve God? To be with His people? It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t seem that I am doing what I have been put here to do, and that dissonant feeling is horrid.
For me, those days have been a major part of life. Recovery from surgeries that left me isolated for months, asthma as a kid (one year I was in school only 40 days more than I was not!) and even the odd flu bug that knocks me out of church, like it did yesterday. Never mind all the fun things with my son and wife that I miss out on, because of health concerns.
Life can suck at times.
Into those thoughts, invading them comes these readings from this morning. First the psalmist, whose words I skim over at first, tacitly and religiously agreeing with them, Yep, I want that, that’s where I should be, there in the presence of God. What is next to read, oh yeah, proverbs?
A couple of readings later, I come to Pope Benedict’s one-year devotion. It’s become a favorite of mine. And his words make me go back to the Psalm and read it again.
My life doesn’t revolve around this mortal life. It revolves around my life with God. An eternity with Him, dwelling in His presence, not just in the stadium, like watching a rock star from the nosebleed seats. But interacting with Him, sharing the joy that comes from knowing the depth of His love.
This life isn’t the end, not even close, it is the dance lessons for our eternal dance with God.
That is exactly what I need to remember in these dark days. What I so missed my people telling me yesterday, as I missed church. What they fire back with me with conviction, as I tell them the Lord is with them
His presence here and now is a start.
And it’s only a start!
Lord Jesus, help us realize that your ministry to us was not just to make us right and holy, but to have a relationship with us, one that will last forever. Lord, help us to dwell with you, in peace! AMEN!
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. 87). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
27 God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise, and he chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. 28 He chose what the world looks down on and despises and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. 29 This means that no one can boast in God’s presence. 30 But God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus, and God has made Christ
Christ is not just a Head all pierced and wounded; he is the Ruler of the whole world. His dominion does not mean that the earth will be trampled under foot, but that that splendor will be restored to it that speaks of God’s beauty and power. Christ raised up the image of Adam. You are not just clay; you extend beyond all cosmic dimensions to the very Heart of God. It is not the one who is scourged who is degraded, but the one who scourges; not the one spat upon, but the one who spits; not the one put to scorn, but he who puts to scorn; it is not pride that raises man up, but humility; not self-glorification that makes him great, but that union with God of which he is capable.
Adoration places us in a ‘Paschal situation’. It is an encounter with the infinite love of God revealed in Jesus Christ and which is made present under the consecrated species. God reveals Himself without condition. He leaves man helpless in the face of the marvel of His manifestation: an all-powerful God Who makes Himself so small, so poor, under the appearance of bread.
You stand there or kneel there, and for a moment, all else falls away.
From the world’s view, it is a piece of stale bread and some really cheap wine. It is a moment the world would pass by, and pass by quickly.
It doesn’t make sense, but then so little of Christianity makes sense. At least from the world’s perspective. The King who serves, the Healer who is hurt, the Sinless one, bearing all sin…
As Benedict XVI noted, the humble end up being glorified, this little piece of wheat (?) and wine end up bieng a feast more meaningful than anything, That cup of water poured over one’s head, something that cleans away every sin, every bit of injustice.
This fact, that in the world’s logic Christianity, is not logical, is an incredible blessing. Here is why,
What has the world’s logic actually accomplished? When has its wisdom brought about peace? When could it heal a broken heart or a tortured soul?
When has it made a difference, in view of death?
And yet, giving someone who trusts in Christ, the bread and wine, the BOdy and BLood of Christ can overwhelm them with peace. Hearing a pastor lead mourners through Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer can bring peace in the midst of tears at a funeral. Hearing that your sin is forgiven, yes, THAT sin is forgiven, and that told by a man God put in place to tell you that, in that very moment.
Those things make a difference, no matter how the logic can’t explain it.
God is with you.. and that, someday, is the only thing that sustains us.
And oh, how
Lord Jesus, help us realize that it is okay for Your logic to be beyond us. Help us to accept that Your ways are not ours,
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. 52). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (pp. 6–7). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day.
The LORD told Moses 2† to say to the community of Israel, “Be holy, because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
4† “Do not abandon me and worship idols; do not make gods of metal and worship them. I am the LORD your God! Lev 20:1-2 GNT
7 Keep yourselves holy, because I am the LORD your God. 8 Obey my
1 Happy are those whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned. 2 Happy is the one whom the LORD does not accuse of doing wrong and who is free from all deceit. 3 When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. 4 Day and night you punished me, LORD; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat. Psalm 32:1-4 (TEV)
It is there in the wounds of Jesus that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. I have seen so many people
who find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him,
“Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds
and wash it away with your blood.”
And I always see that God does just this: He welcomes, consoles cleanses and loves.
Throughout scripture, we hear this theme over and over again. Be perfect, be holy, be mature, imitate me as I imitate Christ,
If you know church history, you know that there have been several seasons where this was the focus of the church. It drove the earliest monastics, it found roots in the immigration from Europe to America, we see it in the Welsh Revival and the Azusa Street revival also comes from a holiness movement that resulted as well in the formation of the Nazarene churches. and before that the Wesleyans. The Catholic and Lutheran Churches as well had their moments of pietism, often forced, guilt-driven pietism. Even the moral majority was a passing thought to see the image of holiness cast on our nation.
But all these movements, as movements, eventually lost their momentum. You can only drive holiness into your people so long before they will abandon it, the guilt and shame too hard to handle. Or again, harassed by an unreachable goal, they opt for the image of holiness, (the appearance of Godliness – see 2 Tim. 3:5) often creating a pharisaical system which focuses on some minute behaviors while ignoring others.
But the failure to maintain the appearance of Godliness, the failure to be truly holy is not an admission that we can’t be holy, that we can’t imitate Christ Jesus. Indeed, if anything, these failures should help us realize we go about being holy in a way that is the cause of our unholiness.
Our holiness isn’t about us. It isn’t about our effort, our determination, our will being broken and tempered correctly through this practice, or that book, or following these spiritual exercises. Ultimately, these things can be beneficial, if they help us understand the secret of holiness.
The secret is found in the first two readings
Don’t abandon God…. and I am the Lord your God, I make you holy!
There it is, the secret to holiness.
Let God do it!
Just relax and focus on walking with God. Revel in His presence, rejoice in His promise, as often repeated throughout scripture, of forgiving, cleansing, us of all sin, making our lives right, restoring our lives which were broken. Reconciling, redeeming, declaring us innocent, and righteousness. Removing the burdens of guilt and shame, all these things He does makes us Holy
As God does all this, what is left, is simply….. holy. It has been sanctified.
And if you look at the early works of the great revivalists, this freedom, this joy of being freed from the burden of our sin, would result in people restoring that which was stolen, reconciling with those they sinned against, and finding the sins and temptations of the world as what they really are, unsatisfactory, destroyers of peace.
Know my dear friend, that you are forgiven. Stay in the
You will be holy, for this is what God does. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 20). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the day:
38 During all their wanderings they could see the cloud of the LORD’s presence over the Tent during the day and a fire burning above it during the night. Exodus 40:38 Good News Translation
13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human
Isaiah 7:13-14 (NLT2)
The humanity of Moses, David and Elijah, of Paul, Peter and Jesus Christ himself and of other riotously human women and men in the Bible and throughout church history teaches us a vital lesson: our humanity will not by itself prevent us from knowing and interacting with God just as they did.
I have encountered several people thismonth, who are best consdiered to be “spiritually wnadering”. They are struggling with God, or better to say, they are struggling within themselves, with their own brokeness, with the damage caused by the sin, theirs or the worlds.
They are wandering, bouncing from here to there, unable to come to rest, unable to be be still and realize they are in the presence of God. ANd for the moment, unable to hear the voice that calls to them, that draws them to Him.
In that time, we often wonder where is God. We may get very angry, trying to determine why God would abandon us, why He would let us fall to the side of the road, and wander off of the path.
It is then that we need to realize what Israel had going for them, while they wandered through the desert for 40 years because of their own brokenness, their own self-determinatio,n, their own sin.
Scripture tells us that even in the midst of their wandering, God was present, and made that presence known theough the smoke and the fire. As evil as some of the things they did were, He didn’t abandon them. He cared for these spiritual descendants of Abraham,
God will do the same for us, He has promised to, in places like Matthew 28:20 (and in v.16 it said some of them doubted – even having seen the risen Lord with wounds still fresh) to the very promises of the Messiah in the Old Testament. He is still there, He is still able to be found, and seen in those signs He has ordained for us. His word and sacraments, through those He has placed in our lives, that speak of His love and mercy, He is there for you!
He is there..even as we
And will bring to us His peace.
If you are
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.
Philippians 1:2-3 (NLT2) (italics mine)
God is always waiting for us; he never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope …always.
The Christians adopted this term to proclaim their special relationship to Jesus Christ. For them, he is the King who entered this wretched province, our world, and gifted it with the feast of his visit. He it is whose presence in the liturgical assembly they profess. With this expression, they intended to say, in general, “God is here.” He has not abandoned this world. He has not left us behind alone. Even though we cannot see and touch him like so many things—he is present, nevertheless, and visits us in many ways
As I started to prepare for next weeks sermon last night, the two pronouns in the reading caught my attention, and wouldn’t let it go.
I’ve read that passage hundreds of times, if not a thousand times, preached on it a lot, and those pronouns never hit me like they did last night. Technically they are genitive pronouns, called that because they have a relationship with a noun, as opposed to having a relationship with a verb. They act more like adjectives than subjects or objects in a sentence. In English, we might call them possessive pronouns.
Here is what that means to those of us who aren’t language geeks.
Those pronouns exist to tie the object in the sentence to the person/people the pronoun represents. In the first case, “us”, in the second case, “Paul”.
And that makes all the difference in the world. This God of whom Paul speaks is OUR GOD, OUR FATHER this God he prays to is HIS GOD (or we can say when we pray MY GOD). There is a relationship there, a connection that defines this God of whom we speak. There is a personal close relationship that is so close we are defined by it, as is He.
This is a perfect thought to contemplate during Advent, especially as we begin this journey, contemplating what these pronouns mean. That God, the creator and sustainer of the universe is our Father. That we can go to Him in prayer, knowing that He not only will listen but that He desires too, offering comfort and peace in the times in our life that are the hardest.
This is the meaning of course, of Advent, the looking back and looking forward to Christ coming into our lives to reveal God’s love for us. Looking forward as well, to the incredible time when we prodigals return home, for Christ has come for us.
Because of Jesus entering into our drama, we aren’t alone, we are in a relationship with God who never grows tired, who will not abandon us, whom we can and should talk to, who nourishes our famished souls.
In the past week, I have seen too much trauma, I have seen people experience too much brokenness. too much grief. Perhaps more than any time in my ministry. It is in a time like this that the reality of Advent is such a treasured part of my life. I have to know God is here, I have to hear His voice comfort me, (through the scriptures and through those whom He has sent to encourage )
This is what Advent means, that until Christ’s return, we can dwell in His peace, something unexplainable, something unimaginable, yet something that is so real.
Lord, help us to realize your presence, as You surround us in your peace! AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
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. 381). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the day:
14 May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. 15 May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. 16 Let that man be like the cities the LORD demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime 17 because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant. 18 Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame? Jeremiah 20:14-18 HCSB
14. In the world of today, when people are so burdened with duties and their problems, which oftentimes have to be solved with great haste, range through so many fields, there is considerable danger of dissipating their energy. Priests, too, involved and constrained by so many obligations of their office, certainly have reason to wonder how they can coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish outward activity. Neither the mere external performance of the works of the ministry, nor the exclusive engagement in pious devotion, although very helpful, can bring about this necessary coordination. Priests can arrive at this only by following the example of Christ our Lord in their ministry. His food was to follow the will of him who had sent him to accomplish his work.
I always worry when in my devotions I read passages like those above.
No, this confession isn’t mine, it is Jeremiah’s.
But it could be, as it could be the confession of so many pastors and priests and others who work in the church. It doesn’t matter whether they are volunteers, or whether this is a paid vocation.
Burnout is inevitable.
There are days serving the church where it seems we would be better off dead. (And we even think maybe those we serve would be as well!) There will be days where the demands of our duties and the problems they bring will overwhelm us. Where we would rather lock ourselves in our offices, and simply write. Or find some passing big fish and dive into it, ala Jonah!
And Vatican II points out that devotion alone isn’t the answer, it also notes that just going through the motions of ministry doesn’t solve the problem as well. We can do the job, it can bless others, but it is just as empty as becoming a monastic and retreating from the world which needs us, simply because we know we need God.
We can minister more effectively, and help others, even in the midst of burnout and brokenness, when we accept that the weariness is sometimes necessary. That God is with us, even there. That the Holy Spirit, the great Comforter, the Lord of life will lift us up, and empower us, and work through our lives to call others to depend on the God who is there.
Max Kolbe, the Catholic priest who died in a concentration camp, probably knew this weariness more than any pastor in the USA today. Imagine, working with the guards, who denied their actions were evil. He served the Christians who were in despair, Fr. Max served and died for those who didn’t know Jesus as well.
How did he do such a thing?
Maximilian Kolbe was an individual deeply marked by Christ, wholly ordered to Christ. When he immersed himself anew in the witness of Holy Scripture, he was not searching for theories, not on a voyage into the past. It is impossible to live with a mummy—with a merely historical Jesus; nor can we live with mere words and programs—with a “thing”. But Kolbe lived from and for Jesus. He could do this because he heard in Scripture the voice of a living Person. He heard Jesus as a living Person because he experienced him as a living Person; he could touch him in the Blessed Sacrament in which he forms a Church and is present for us.
The only way to minister through the hardest times and despair in ministry is to hang on to what we’ve been entrusted with as ministers. Not word and sacrament, but what they are conduits of, the experience of encountering Jesus in both word and sacrament. Of knowing God loves you, because of that encounter, of knowing His care because it too is encountered in the sacraments.
As Paul writes to the church in Ephesus
14 When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled through all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)
Knowing about God’s love won’t sustain you in the darkness, it won’t keep you moving through the despair. It won’t help you see God at work in the midst of the pain. But knowing you are known, finding hope in the fact you are loved, being refreshed through the grace and mercy poured out upon you. Being filled through all your being with God Himself.
That is what we need, and that is what He provides… so relax, hear God! Hear God! And find rest for your weary soul! AMEN!
Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum Ordinis. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
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. 281). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.