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Are We Too Solemn, too Reverent in our Worship?

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day

15All the people of Judah were happy because they had made this covenant with all their heart. They took delight in worshipping the LORD, and he accepted them and gave them peace on every side.  2 Chronicles 15:15

In the beginning of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, we detect the enthusiasm of the new converts, for whom being Christians was an unexpected gift, a blessing, great riches bestowed on them by God. It is good for us to realize this—for us who, as Christians, live for the most part with wrinkled brows and such an anxious awareness of the problems it entails that we feel almost guilty when we are happy about being Christians—that might be a form of triumphalism! Fundamentally, the joy of this epistle derives from the fact that the Apostle has dared to look directly at the heart of Christianity, at the triune God and his eternal love.…  (1)

There is a part of me that misses the old days when I would enter church and its silence would lend itself to the awe I felt being in the presence of God.  Reverence wasn’t just an attitude one took on to appear pious, it was something you were assimilated into, it consumed you. It was a very solemn reverence, one that facilitated dropping all your defenses, dropping you guard, and collapsing in the arms of God, in His sanctuary.

Those were precious times, and I still need them on occasion.

But then I need days like yesterday when as our mass ( our worship service ended) some people spontaneously began to clap.  Not sure who, not sure why, but it was appropriate to applaud God at that moment.  TO thank Him fo the work He does in us, work wrought with the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  For in His resurrection, in that moment of glory, we find ourselves taken up into Him.

His death we share in, even as He takes from us our sin, our shame, and our pain.

When I was younger, my dear devoted teachers would be angry? hurt? shocked? by the idea of people applauding and rejoicing in the presence of God.  But what else can you do, when you, as Pope benedict XVI describes, “dare to look directly into the heart of Christianity, at the triune God and His eternal love”

That love is so overwhelming, so precious, so deep, we must respond, we have no option.  Even when overwhelmed (see Jeremiah 20 – he tried to keep silent! )  This is what Christianity is about – to know we are loved beyond measure, to know we are loved by God, Father, Son, and Spirit.  He has accepted us as His own, given us peace beyond explanation, and therefore we delight in worshipping Him.

We are His… and even on Monday, that is incredible news.

(1)  Ratzinger, Joseph. 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. Print.

The Repentant Heart is Not Supposed to Be Sad?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

“Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not lament, do not weep!”—for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. 10 He continued: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD is your strength!” 11 And the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Silence! Today is holy, do not be saddened.” 12 Then all the people began to eat and drink, to distribute portions, and to celebrate with great joy, for they understood the words that had been explained to them.   Nehemiah 8:9–12  New American Bible. .

10      Think about what the Holy Spirit says, and let yourself be filled with awe and gratitude: Elegit nos ante mundi constitutionem—he chose us before the foundation of the world, ut essemus sancti in conspectu eius!—that we might be holy in his presence. To be holy isn’t easy, but it isn’t difficult either. To be holy is to be a good Christian, to resemble Christ. The more closely a person resembles Christ, the more Christian he is, the more he belongs to Christ, the holier he is. And what means do we have? The same means the early faithful had, when they saw Jesus directly or caught a glimpse of him in the accounts the Apostles and Evangelists gave of him.

As my church has spent Lent considering what repentance is, one thing becomes clearer and clearer.  Lent, while a solemn season, while a penitential season, is one filled with joy because it is filled with hope.

As Ezra read the Torah to the people of God, as the Spirit called to mind their sin, there was a grieving that took place, as people considered generation after generation of sin, as well as their own.  And yes, a repentant sin does need an examination of conscience, as we approach our confession.  But even that confession is done with expectation, clinging to the promise of God’s faithfulness.

We have to remember that a repentant life is a transformed life, a life where God is working on us, recreating us, cleansing us.  This work of God, this masterpiece He is creating, is what repentance granted us is really about.

It is getting used to living in the light, as opposed to floundering in the darkness!  It is walking around, free in Christ, free to be with Christ, rather than being chained to sin, anxiety, fear, and resentment.

It is the simplicity that St. Josemaria talks of, of simply living life, confident and aware of the presence of God, revealed in His word, communicated in the sacraments.  It is when we catch that glimpse and hold onto it, letting everything else fall aside.  It is isn’t easy, as our old nature will fight to stay alive, yet it is as easy as realizing we are Jesus’ friends, the Father’s children, His people.  And that realization, especially when we know it isn’t right because we don’t we deserve it, but rather is right because God granted us this repentant life.

Repentance is not an act, any more than conversion is, and more than faith is a declaration of our trust.  It is a state of being, it is being “the Repentant”, a joyous walk with a God that loves us, and is willing to forgive, showing mercy, and faithful, unending love!

Cry out, “Lord have mercy!” but do it in faith, and in expectation, for you dwell in His presence!  AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 270-276). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Michal had a case of the Mondays… don’t be like Michal.

Devotional Thought of the Day:20 *W

20 *When David went home to bless his own house, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him and said, “How well the king of Israel has honored himself today, exposing himself to the view of the slave girls of his followers, as a commoner might expose himself!” 21 But David replied to Michal: “I was dancing before the LORD. As the LORD lives, who chose me over your father and all his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people, Israel, not only will I make merry before the LORD, 22 but I will demean myself even more. I will be lowly in your eyes, but in the eyes of the slave girls you spoke of I will be somebody.” 23 Saul’s daughter Michal was childless to the day she died.    2 Sam 6:20–23 NABRE

426         Once you were pessimistic, hesitant and apathetic. Now you are completely transformed: you feel courageous, optimistic and self-confident, because you have made up your mind, at last, to rely on God alone.  (1)

There is an inner war within me, one which swings between wanting a time of quiet reverence, and times where like David, we are just so in awe of God’s presence that we forget ourselves, and just enjoy the moment.

There is a part of me that understand’s Michal’s view, a call for some reference, a call for propriety, a call for being sedate and controlled in the presence of God.  That we should be like Isaiah, so afraid of being a sinner in the presence of God, that I freeze.  As if all the world should be like the calm reflections of Lent.

There is a time and placed for that kind of lowliness, that form of meekness.  But it can’t be forced or manipulated any more than the kind of joy that David exhibited.   That is part of my thoughts this morning, which we can’t manipulate the quiet, reverent spirit anymore than we can manipulate a spirit that is celebratory.  And while those who try to help lift the spirits of those who are depressed are accused of manipulation, we don’t accuse those like Michal, David’s wife, of the same thing.

There is an inherent danger to the Michal’s of the world.  For to manipulate people into that mood does breed the kind of spirit that Josemaria speaks of; a spirit that is pessimistic, hesitant and apathetic.  A Spirit that doubts God, and searches for reasons to dismiss His presence, to be freed from His love.  The reaction from the Michal’s, those who rejoice in the bitterness of a Monday, is very dangerous.

For it divorces the person from the strength that comes from being in the presence of the Lord. It gives a permanent case of the Mondays, a spiritual barrenness that can lead to a life of complete barrenness.

The Michal attitude even steals the peace that it seems to protect so diligently.  For peace is so refreshing, so wonderful, that you enjoy it.   You throw a parade, or a party, you dance and sing.  You act like the prodigal’s dad, so overjoyed that his boy is home, that nothing could stop the celebration.

Are there times of sorrow?  Of course! Are there times of great pain, or great loss?  Yes, though it is limited. Are there times where we should approach God in so much awe we can’t speak.  Yes, there are times for that as well.  Even then, there is a joy that breaks the silence, a confidence that speaks of a life lived in Jesus.  Not the bitterness and resentment that refuses to tolerate other people’s joy.

What makes the difference, is to depend on God for that which He promised.  We depend on Him to make all things work out for good, all things to be a blessing. To know that even when life doesn’t seem fair, God is still faithful, and He will bless you.  When we know this life is God’s work, the joy breaks out.

Relax, know that you are safe, that you have found a refuge in the hands of God.

And remember the joy of knowing God’s invited you to be a part of His feast!

AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1905-1907). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

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