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Two or three gathered to pray: God Answers… but look at the context!

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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought for our broken days:

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 7 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. 18 I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound h in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven. 19 Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”  Matthew 18:15-20  HCSB

228      Be filled with faith and rest assured! The Lord tells us this through the prophet Jeremiah: orabitis me, et ego exaudiam vos—whenever you call upon me, whenever you pray!, I will listen to you.

Over many years, I’ve heard people claim the verses in italics as their own guarantee of what they pray for, what they thought they really needed. 

I’ve also known people who have been promised that God will do what they ask, whose faith has been crushed because they do not see their prayer answered,  The extreme case of that would be my friend Jean, whose daughter was told by her pastor that if she had enough faith, she would be healed of her cancer, without any medical care.

As I read it this morning, in my morning devotions, I realized something.  This well-known passage is connected to another well-known passage, the passage about reconciling those who have sinned against us.  It is followed by another passage, where Peter asks how many times he has to forgive Andrew, and is told not 7, but 7 times 70.

So this passage about prayer has a specific context, the impossible task of reconciliation and restoration, the return of the prodigal son, the erring brother, the one we’ve been tempted to give up on seeing in God’s presence. 

What a comfort this is, for no one is beyond God’s reach, and no one that lives is beyond being called back, even those who have hurt us deeply.  (For if we didn’t love them, how could their betrayal us?)

What peace this brings, knowing that God loves and cares for them, and wants to heal and restore them to us.  This is the amazing thing about finding ourselves bath in God’s grace, this glorious love, and peace, that He draws us into at the cross.

He is with us, He is listening,!  So let us give Him those who we struggle with, forgiving, counting on Him to draw them back and reconcile us into one body, His.  AMEN!

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 980-983). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The Key to Good Relationships. A sermon on Genesis 50:15-21

church at communion 2The Key to Good Relationships

Gen 50:15-21

 † I.H.S. †

 May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in our lives, that we are certain that ALL things God intends for good.

You offended who?

Imagine if you offended someone with a lot of power.  Say, the head of the CIA, or one of the leaders of the Mafia.  Or to make it truly scary, the guy you cut off this morning, he’s waiting for you outside, and he is the head interrogator… Err… analyst for the IRS.

Can you imagine their fear the eleven brothers had that we heard about in the reading from Exodus, the person they offended had so much power that Joseph could have made them and their family disappear?

They were so afraid of him that they didn’t even go to beg for their lives themselves, they delegated that task to someone, coming up with a whopper of a story.

I can imagine the messenger trying to “sell it” to Joseph.

“Uhm, your brothers sent me… and uhm… they wanted me to tell you that your dad, uhm…. Before he died instructed them to tell you… you had to forgive them all that cruel stuff they did to you. Uhm like mocking you and tossing you into the pit, and saying they were going to kill you and then selling you to some passing merchants.

Uhm yeah, Mr. Prime Minister sir, yeah that’s the message they told me to say, uhm… please don’t kill the messenger?!?”

So afraid were they, that they didn’t get the message their brother told them in chapter 45, the same message he would give them here….

The same message we need to hear when we screw up, for it is the key to having good relationships, and really when one is broken, the only way to see those relationships reconciled, and healed.

Why the tears brother?

I usually look at this passage from Joseph’s perspective.  But today, I want to see it from the brother’s perspective.  There are people who have offended us, and that is a challenge, but do we ever think that someone we’ve offended would forgive us?

If we were to see the person we’ve offended cry as Joseph did, if we were to see them break down and weep, what would be going through our minds?

How would we understand his sobbing?  Would we think he was re-living the pain, the agony, the loneliness we caused?  Would his breakdown leave us more anxious, more worried, more afraid of what he would do?
It must have had an effect on them, for they no longer talked of being the servants of their father’s God.

They fell at Joseph’s feet and did something amazing.

They said they were his slaves.  That he had complete power of their lives, as they took a position of incredible humility… and still they were unable to think of the idea of reconciliation, or true forgiveness.

They are like the prodigal son, eating the same food as the pigs he fed, because there was nothing else.  He didn’t expect his Father would forgive him, but maybe he would accept him as a hired hand, or even a slave.

and maybe that person we offended would recognize we were people again.  They might not ever be friends again, but maybe they wouldn’t be actively hostile toward us?

Maybe?

The power of knowing God

I think the reason they struggled with reconciling broken relationships is they were missing something.

They didn’t understand how God worked, because they never looked for what God was doing.  They didn’t understand what Joseph had seen in Potiphar’s house, or in the jails, the very distinct and certain path God had planned.

Joseph couldn’t have become prime minister without meeting the cup bearer in jail, he couldn’t have bene there if he hadn’t been a slave in Potiphar’s house, he couldn’t have been sold to Potiphar unless his brothers betrayed him and sold him into slavery in the first place.

Each step, miraculously led to the next, and what was planned for evil God intended to use for good.
The other offense.

Joseph knew the heart of God, the heart of the Lord whom we have offended.

For our sins, much more numerous than those of the eleven brothers, offend Him.  He’s created us, given us a simple task of loving Him and each other, and we fail too often.  And like Joseph’s brothers, is there any way we could ever believe He would cry over our betrayal?

That somehow, God could plan for what we intended that was unloving and sinful to somehow end up being for good?

Yet in cross, where Jesus died to ensure our forgiveness, we see the ultimate version of what Joseph knew.  He knew the heart of God, and that God would always call us back to Him.  Perhaps he listened to his father, a pretty notorious sinner who even wrestled with God, fighting for a blessing.  Or remembered the stories of his grandfather and great grandfather, whom God would use and make promises to, even as they weren’t always faithful.

God always plans to call us back, to renew and heal us from our sin.  He will care for us as Joseph cared for his brothers, even comforting us and reassuring us about the promises He makes to us, the promise made to little David this morning.
The promise that is renewed here, when we are given the body and blood of Jesus, the blood spilled out as man did the ultimate evil, killing someone who was innocent.

And yet out of that ultimate evil, comes the greatest act of mercy, as Jesus died not just because they killed them, but to forgive every sin we’ve have committed. Every single one.

This is the heart of God that Joseph saw, the sacred Heart that cares for us more than the pain we caused.

The heart of God that would cry over our sins, and then call us back to Him, and care for us, providing for us.

This is our God, and trusting in Him, we can find peace overwhelming our anxieties, our fears washed away by His comfort, our sins washed away by His blood.

For what we meant for evil, God used for good.

It was our evil… it was for our good.

This is the secret to good relationships – the power of God to reconcile us to Himself, and then there – we are already reconciled to each other.

He calls to you today as well, offering that peace, which doesn’t make sense to us, but in which He promises to care for us, for we dwell in in Jesus.  Amen.

God says, “I WILL BRING…” A Sermon/Homily on Isaiah 56

church at communion 2God says, “I WILL BRING…”
Isaiah 56:1-3a, 6-8

I pray that you realize the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ which has gathered you into His presence here and that you would realize you aren’t just invited to be here, God desires your presence here!

Doing Right and Good defined…

In the first verses of the fifty-sixth chapter of Isaiah, we heard this morning that God wanted us to do this,

“Be just and fair to all, do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you, and to display my righteousness among you.  Blessed are all those who are careful to do this,  Blessed are those who honor my sabbath days of rest and keep themselves from doing wrong….”

That’s a great promise, but perhaps a bit vague.  What is right and good to do, what is just and fair?  We might have our own ideas, but God gives us a great picture of it in the verse that follows us,

“Don’t let the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD say, “The LORD will never let me be a part of His people.”

This isn’t just God commanding us to do this, this work He asks us to do is revealed in the 6-8th verses as His action, as He blesses those who are committed to His care.  He pours out the blessings upon them, even as He has on every single one of us.

And so what God is calling us to do is imitate Him, to share His heart towards people He has created, to have His heart and love all those He loves.

It’s not going to be easy… it is, in fact, it will cause us to take up our cross, this call to follow him.

Who are these outcast & foreigners?

This passage shows two groups of people God loves, foreigners and those who are called outcasts.  Or as Deacon Bob is preaching about right now, those people who think they can’t be admitted to our club.

And we need to make sure they never, ever think this…. We can’t let them say, “The Lord will never let me be a part of HIS people!”

The first group is simple – they are people who aren’t like us, who don’t share our genes, or our language, or our culture, or economic or social status. Some translations use foreigner, some describe them as alien, some stranger.  Given our church’s makeup, I think he’s talking about Australians because we have members from just about everywhere else!  Guyana, Germany, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Indonesia, we even love people from places like Boston and Hemet!  Yet the command is to make sure they don’t think and say that God won’t let them be part of us.

Some people still struggle to feel comfortable in our presence, and it is our role to help those who God brings here to know they are welcome, that they are part of His people, and therefore part of us.

God is calling us to proactively make sure they know they are welcome,

In verse 8, God adds in another group – those who are outcast.

Back in the days when Moses and Israel left Egypt and were wandering around the desert, hen the Old Covenant was given to the people of Israel, there were a number of sins that could be committed that would require the sinner to leave the camp of the people of God.

Sometimes it was for a day, sometimes it was for life.

Basically, until they served their time, they were outcast, they had to make do for themselves, they weren’t welcome among the people of God. They were the recognized sinners, or those that condoned the sin that was committed. They were the outcasts, the sinners rejected by their own people, who also rejected themselves.  Never again would the joy be theirs, or so they thought.

Ever been there?  Ever been in a situation where you weren’t in the in group, where you didn’t understand what was going on, or wonder whether you were part of the church?

Ever wonder if you were beyond God’s desire to forgive, beyond His mercy?  Either because people treated you that way, or because you simply felt to guilty?

Ever treated people like they weren’t?

Or maybe, like me, you have been all of the above…

Time to hear God, time to make the foreigner and the outcast welcome..

Filling us with joy!

I want you to hear the gospel from the Old Testament again,

6  “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7  I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. 8  For the Sovereign LORD, who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says: I will bring others, too, besides my people Israel.” Isaiah 56:6-8 (NLT)

These promises aren’t just basic entry, by saying that God will accept their offerings, because God is hearing their pray- the prayer of all people, he’s talking about full membership in this family.

Not half-sister, or step brother, but complete membership in the house of God….
For those who were once outcast, victims of their own sin, and who were once foreigners.  They are family, because of the love of Jesus on the cross, the cross where we were all made family.

We need to understand, and we need to share with people – that Christ died for all.  For you and for me, for people from every language, every tribe, ever culture.  For people of every economic group and from every generation.

Jesus died for them all. Every person in Cerritos, Artesia, Norwalk, Buena Park, Cypress, La Palma, Whittier.

All those who are different, all those who have sinned and belong somewhere besides a house of prayer.

Jesus changed all that, as Isaiah prophesied, as God unites us to him on the cross, cleansing us of the sin that could have prevented us from being here.

We need to know this, we need to understand that God died for us, that we might live, and we need to welcome all who would know this, that would come to adore the God who loves us all.

Which is why we have hope, no matter where we’ve come from, no matter what we’ve done wrong. HE can and will restore us!  We have hope because of Christ’s death and resurrection for us all.
AMEN!

 

The One Exception to Judge Not… there is someone needing judgment.

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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:
27  It follows that if one of you eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. 28  So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29  For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30  That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31  If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32  But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (TEV)

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged,” says the Saviour of our souls; “condemn not, and you shall not be condemned” (Luke, 6:37). “No,” says the holy apostle, “judge not before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart” (2 Cor. 4:5). Oh, how displeasing are rash judgments to God! The judgments of the children of men are rash, because they are not the judges of one another, and therefore usurp to themselves the office of our Lord. They are rash, because the principal malice of sin depends on the intention of the heart, which is an impenetrable secret to us. They are not only rash, but also impertinent, because everyone has enough to do to judge himself, without taking upon him to judge his neighbour. 

As I read the words in blue this morning, I knew I had to write about them.  

I didn’t want to, because the moment I read them, I start judging all the people around me who are not just judging others but condemning them. The spirits of division, of bitterness, of hatred aren’t just seeping into their lives, we are drowning in the flood of them.

We aren’t foolish enough to claim we are more righteous than the world, but we are more than willing to bash people, Trump, Clinton, the Kardashians, people of other religions, heck some even bash the New England Patriots and their loyal fans.  And the bashing is always judgmental, always condemning, always done in a way that raises anxiety

It is a sickness, one which depresses and isolates.  Personally, I long for the days when I was an introvert and could shut out the world. Even as I write this, I see it for what it really is, a form of judgment, a temptation to isolate myself from the evil, without recognizing that I can’t escape from it, for in trying to do so…. I embody what I am trying to flee.

It was the last line from St. Francis de Sales that helped me this morning, the line about everyone having enough to do to judge themselves.

You might think it odd I found this to be good news, the purest of gospel.  For judging myself does bring the gospel into my life, erasing the need to judge others. For there, when I realize my frailty, when I recognize my sin, my instinct is to cry out for grace, to find sanctuary from the evil that not only threatens me externally but seems to well up internally.

In examining myself, I find the need to find a safe place, a place where judgment is cast aside, where burdens are lifted, where hope is revived and finds stimulation.  Where I find a love beyond measure, seen in a grace where God forgives my desire to judge others, and the times where I do so. Examining myself drives me to absolution, and to the altar where God reminds me of His love by giving me His body and blood to eat and drink, where I get to fellowship with Him!

There, I find not just the peace I need eternally, but I find others receiving it as well.  I find it offered to those I struggle with, those I want to judge, those I want to condemn.  And even if they aren’t there as my parish communes, they might be on their own, and they are to be welcomed at all places. 

Not only am I reminded of God’s grace forgiving me, drawing me to Him, into Christ, but I also am reminded that forgiveness is for all….

And for the moment, peace invades my darkness, shattering it, revealing a wholeness, completeness, that will be mine when we are found before Hi throne.

This is life in Christ, this is why I try to remain devout, depending on Him.  For there I find the answer to my cry,, not for judgment, but for mercy.  

For all of us.

Judge not… except yourself, so you may run to Him and find peace.

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

As Unavoidable as Mondays…

Discussion Thought of the Day:
12  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13  bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. 14  And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. 15  And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15 (NAB)

The genuine sacraments, therefore, are Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and absolution (which is the sacrament of penitence), for these rites have the commandment of God and the promise of grace, which is the heart of the New Testament. When we are baptized, when we eat the Lord’s body, when we are absolved, our hearts should firmly believe that God really forgives us for Christ’s sake

292    Your interior life has to be just that: to begin …and to begin again.

Mondays are unavoidable.  The next begins in less that 160 hours.

Two other things are as unavoidable.

The first is sin.  Or at least it seems to be. In thought word and deed, we fail.  We fail to love our brothers and our sisters.  We fail to love God, and we often live life without Him, going without His assistance, without calling on His name.

Sin is like Monday, it will happen, even if we don’t want it to happen!  (not that we should use this as an excuse!)

It is depressing, as Paul admits in the 7th chapter of Romans. What a wretch I am!

Given similar despair, the words of Saint Josemaria give us hope. It is time to begin again!  To approach God’s throne of mercy and ask for what seems impossible, to ask for forgiveness again!

But forgiveness is as ubiquitous, as omnipresent as Mondays!  ( Ubiquitous and omnipresent simply mean “always there” )

The Lutheran Confessions note this when they talk of the sacraments and urge us to firmly believe that God forgives us!  Because of Christ!  He does!  The one who told Peter to forgive Andrew 7 times 70 demonstrates it 1000 times over with you and me.  

He forgives us!

The cross was for you and me!  He did it for the joy He would know, as we are called

That is what St. Paul means when he says we are called into the Body of Christ.

Bring confident of this mercy of God, knowing He will forgive us is the evidence of Christ’s peace controlling our hearts, assured that guilt and shame do not have a place in our life   That we don’t have to keep a record of sins against us and let resentment eat away our soul.

It’s Monday.  You will probably sin, but you can begin again,

9  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.   1 John 1:9 (NAB)

So let us confess, and depending on the promise of God, begin again, dwelling in His peace!  AMEN!

 

 

 

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Location 765). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The “S” Word, Relationships, and Accepting Love

Featured imageDiscussion Thought of The day:
21  And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21 (NLT) 

Among experts the question is raised: “Yes, but who actually needs to be converted? Must the fathers yield to the young? Or the young to the fathers?” … It is not a case of one group’s yielding to the other, but of both groups’ yielding to the other by renewing their courage to believe in God. It is only thus that they will learn to accept and understand one another. It is only when hearts have been turned to God that there can arise the courage of togetherness, the confidence in other persons, and so the ability to love them and to endure their otherness.

There are two “s” words that may have come to mind, as you read the title of this blog.

This is about the one that would have been thought far less often, but actually is more controversial.

Yes, this isn’t about sex, it is about submission.

But now that you are here and are disappointed, you might as well stick around and read it.  Because it isn’t just about one relationship you are in, it is about every relationship you are in, and in every one of them, what Paul directs us to do in Ephesians 5:21 is needed.  It’s why the Holy Spirit led him to write those words.

Following verse 21, there are three relationships compared. The first is husbands and wives, and how they must set aside their best interest given the other.  This is not submission to any barbaric thing, but to seek out what is best for each other.  Then there are relationships between husbands and children, and employees and their employers (or back in the day, slaves and masters)

Every relationship, with those who follow God, who are in awe of His love, reaching out with that same love to the person with who they relate.  Every relationship has some form of submission, of setting aside our desires, much as Jesus set aside His divinity, to come down and be with us.

Pope Benedict nails it, when he identifies the key to this being, not in focusing on yielding to the other (a synonym for submission) but instead having and renewing their courage to believe in God. For it is there, in seeing how Christ gave of Himself to save us, to enter into a deep relationship with us, so that He could present us to the Father, that we find the peace and strength to love others.  To love them by having mercy on them, by forgiving them, by seeking their forgiveness.  By reconciling to those for whom reconciliation doesn’t even enter their thoughts.

Allowing them to love you, to care for you, that is at the heart of submission…. whether it be to God or to someone else.

This does require you to see them as God sees them.  Part of this submission is lowering our defenses, letting them in, loving them enough to trust God and let them see us, as we really are, and letting them love us.  For then these relationships transform from being duty-driven and duty bound, to being focused on the love of God that brings us together and causes the relationship to flourish.

Which allows the relationship to endure…. because God is there.

So everyone, out of the reverence, considering the love and mercy of God, seek out and love your neighbor, helping them, caring for them, putting their best interests first.  Have the mind of Christ, for He will never leave nor forsake you.



(1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 169). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

God really needs our help? Yes..

Devotional Thought of the Day

13 “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.” 14 But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? 15 And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims, A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God! Romans 10:13-15 (MSG)

 

674      Our Lord wants to make us coredeemers with him. That is why to help us understand this marvel, he moves the evangelists to tell us of so many great wonders. He could have produced bread from anything… but he doesn’t! He looks for human cooperation: he needs a child, a boy, a few pieces of bread and some fish. He needs you and me: and he is God! This should move us to be generous in our corresponding with his grace.  (1)

A long time ago, in a place very far from where I am sitting in China, a young boy was asked by his dad to help him build the stone walls that would line their yard.  His head in a book, he was reluctant, until his father begged him to come help.  What he would do for his dad – was find the small stones – maybe 5 – 10 bounds that would fit the holes between the 20-60 pounds boulders that his dad would put in place.  He would occasionally stir the cemenet with a small trowel, so that it didn’t harden to fast.

As a child I always wondered why my dad “needed” my assistance.  Now as a dad, missing his son a lot while on a trip far away, I understand the need.  It’s not for the minor assistance, it is for the company, the fellowship, the ability to be engaged in something together.  It is what my friend Mike calls “that R word thingy”.  Relationship.

I have friends who will undoubtedly look at the title of this blog and react – God doesn’t “need” our help!  Our people don’t have to be evangelists within their vocation – at least not actively.  Doing a good job will be enough, we aren’t all called to make disciples.

They are wrong, but I think for the wrong reason.  God could make evangelists out of stone.  He could paint the sky with the revelation of His love.  But what if, He wants, He desires, He needs our “cooperation” in His work, for another reason… the same reason my dad would call upstairs and say, Dustin – I need you… come help me build.

Such is our call- a call to work besides the Creator of All, to see His work, up close and there.. as He builds His kingdom….

Such is our blessing today….

SO go – and tell the world of God’s mercy, and love and peace.

AMEN

 

(1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2480-2484). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Charity… another word that lost its meaning….

Devotioal thought of the day….

I have a few friends who talk about the superiority of the translation of the King James Version…As an pastor – I disagree for a number of reasons, one of which is that the words used in the last revision, are no longer used, or are used in a way completely foreign to our use today.  We cannot understand them without a dictionary nearby – and worse – we don’t always know that the word has changed.  Such results often in poor theology.

Occasionally though, I wish we could reclaim a word here and there – because the English word is loaded used instead has far too many meanings as well – such as the word “love”  (in Greek there are four words that translate into the word – ranging from eros ( sexual), to agape – the word for love, which is the word used when we describe God with the phrase – God is love. ( the funny thing is the KJV uses love most of the time for agape. )

In 1 Cor 13, the famous love chapter, the KJV uses a different word for love – here is the passage – and the word I wish we could restore a meaning to…

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (KJV) 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.  

This word, charity, too is often misunderstood – indeed we have changed it drastically over the years – and we think of “a” charity – the recipient of donations, which does something worthwhile with them to help those less fortunate.  We think about it almost condescendingly – that they are the place where we deposit our excess, our leftovers, our hand-me-downs. It is the place that ministers to the “least of these…” (yet do we remember the kingdom parable of the sheep and the goats, and remember who is the least of these?”

Charity is far more than that – and yes – it is loving someone beyond what they deserve – but a love that has a specific character – one of action, or of devotion, one that seeks not to give the remnants, not just what is needed desperately, but what is…the best – that which would complete the person, no matter the cost.  In order to do this – it requires a Christlike, godly character, one willing to sacrifice what is best for the other.  It is far from condecension, far from simply pity, it is the depth of a relationship – that is what agape/charity is.

It is what we are called to – as we use who God has crafted us to be (see chapter 12) to serve/minister (same word in Greek) those around us.  I love how St Josemarie Escriva describes it:

557      Saint Paul has given us a wonderful recipe for charity: alter alterius onera portate et sic adimplebitis legem Christi – bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfil the law of Christ. Is this what happens in your life? 558      Jesus Our Lord loved men so much that he became incarnate, took to himself our nature, and lived in daily contact with the poor and the rich, with the just and with sinners, with young and old, with Gentiles and Jews. He spoke constantly to everyone: to those who showed good will towards him, and to those who were only looking for a way to twist his words and condemn him. You should try to act as Our Lord did.  (1)

The second comment is included to help define the Lord’s charity/love towards us, and the way we should imitate him – and have charity towards those that twist our love and condemn us as well.

So in these last days of the year – as charities are calling asking you to give…may it become a reminder to truly depend on Jesus, truly look to Him, truly reflect His glory and  become truly one who shows charity – by going beyond, by loving without measure, by being like Christ

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2091-2099). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

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