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You need to be a saint…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
14  Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. 15  Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy. 16  The scripture says, “Be holy because I am holy.1 Peter 1:14-16 (TEV)

250    I listened in silence as you said to me, “Yes, I want to be a saint”—although generally I have little respect for such a broad and vague assertion.

In Juan Carlos Ortiz’s classic book “Disciple”, he tells a story of a man who wanted to be God’s, who was in shock as God revealed to him what that meant, as God stripped him of everything, step by step.

His car, his home, his belonging, even his clothes, and well himself.

If he was to be God’s, fully sold out to him, then that is what is what God would give him.  Eventually, the man’s vision had God entrust all back to him, to help him realize that all the man had been blessed with, he was accountable to God to use for the ministry God has entrusted to us.

Just as Jesus used all He was, to care for us.

I think that is what St. Josemaria is getting at, in the quote in blue above.

Being a saint, being holy isn’t a vague description,  It can’t be determined by a broad overview of our life. Taking our 50 or 70 or 90 years as a quick glimpse, and recalling just the good things we have did.

Being a saint is seen in the small things, in the thoughts and words that betray what we do.  In the moments when no one is watching, and in the moments when our hearts and souls are stretched tightly, ready to snap.

It is at that moment that sainthood is revealed, as we turn to God and cry out for mercy, as we cry out for help.  It is then when we realize that faith isn’t just about the doctrines we believe, but the trust and dependence that God will see us through the time of trial. A cry that happens without thought, an automatic response to the oppression.  A response of trusting God, no matter what happens.

But that doesn’t happen if we talk about being holy, about becoming a saint without seeing God touching every part of life, without knowing His love, and realizing it is beyond all that we could ever expect.  It comes from realizing that love, about receiving in regularly in word and sacrament, in letting the Holy  Spirit transform us, as we see Jesus, as we explore the dimension of His love.

We become holy, even as we confess our sins ( yeah – even that one!) and believe they are forgiven because Jesus for joy bore the cross for us. For confession happens when we trust God to love us, to be merciful and faithful to us.

Be holy my friends, cry out to the Lord for mercy… and as you receive it, as you relish and rejoice in being made clean, as you rejoice in being His, you will find, He has declared you to be, and made you into a saint.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 668-670). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

If only we could all be saints

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:

19  So far as the Law is concerned, however, I am dead—killed by the Law itself—in order that I might live for God. I have been put to death with Christ on his cross, 20  so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me. 21  I refuse to reject the grace of God. But if a person is put right with God through the Law, it means that Christ died for nothing! Galatians 2:19-21 (TEV)

401      ”To be nailed to the Cross!” This aspiration kept coming again and again, as a new light, to the mind and heart and lips of a certain soul. “To be nailed to the Cross?”, he asked himself. “How hard it is!” And yet he knew full well the way he had to go: agere contra—self denial. This is why he earnestly implored, “Help me, Lord!”

“I am my own worst enemy!”  It is all too true!

It is why St. Josemaria’s “certain soul” would aspire to be nailed to the cross.  It is why we need to be nailed to the cross, to see our broken lives stop entering into one vicious encounter with sin after another. 

If only it were as simple as the Apostle Paul indicates, this sacrifice of our self, this denial of that within us that craves its own way, that demands to be nurtured. How incredible life would be, how simple and easy, how full of joy, if we could only lay down all self-interest.  If Christ would so dominate our lives, if His desires were our desires, if His ability to love drove us to love the unlovable if we could make reconciling people to the Father our mission, as it was His.

If only we were all saints, for didn’t they find imitating Christ easy?

Of course, they didn’t.  Of course, they struggled and had to learn self-denial the hard way,  Although now that I think of it, it is not the hard way, it is the only way. 

Paul tells us it is only possible by trusting in God, depending upon Him.   St Josemaria indicates it happens as we implore Jesus to help us, to come to our aid.  Without His involvement, self-denial is contrary to our reflex action.  It will take a miracle to override our narcissistic nature, our desire to ourselves first, and automatic response of self-defense. 

This is faith too, to be bold enough to ask God for the mercy that helps us rely on Him.  It requires faith to depend on Jesus to temper our nature, and He will.  That is the promise of our baptism! The promise that there we were crucified with Christ, united with His death.  

This is His grace, His rescuing us from our brokenness, our wretchedness.  This is what Love looks like, as Jesus rescues us from ourselves, and transforms us into saints. 

Let us pray we depend on it more and more.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1558-1562). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

a thought about truly suffering for God

Devotional thought of the day:

Featured image16  “And when you fast, do not put on a sad face as the hypocrites do. They neglect their appearance so that everyone will see that they are fasting. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. 17  When you go without food, wash your face and comb your hair, 18  so that others cannot know that you are fasting—only your Father, who is unseen, will know. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 (TEV)

3  The people ask, “Why should we fast if the LORD never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?” The LORD says to them, “The truth is that at the same time you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers. 4  Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. Do you think this kind of fasting will make me listen to your prayers? 5  When you fast, you make yourselves suffer; you bow your heads low like a blade of grass and spread out sackcloth and ashes to lie on. Is that what you call fasting? Do you think I will be pleased with that? Isaiah 58:3-5 (TEV)

765      Renew in your own soul the resolution that friend of ours made long ago: “Lord, what I want is suffering, not exhibitionism.”  (1)

There is a trend that is growing more and more.  The idea that those who are “persecuted” should be publicly defended,  Sometimes that call for action is taken by the very people under persecution.  Other times people attach themselves to the cause, urging others to join them.  It is almost like people want other Christians to suffer, a sort of Christian version of Munchausen by Proxy, or even a Svengali syndrome.  And sometimes, we can even bring it on ourselves, a masochistic attempt to gain fame or at least attention.

An example, the person who gets fired for using their position of authority to “spread the gospel”.  Or the Christian who boasts of losing family and friends because of the Biblical position against adultery, or abortion, or homosexulaity.

Even the temptation of pointing our how richer, how much fun, how much sex we could have, how much better life would be, if we didn’t sacrifice our desires out of obedience or submission to Christ.

Jesus addresses that pretty clear in the New Testament.  If you are voluntarily suffering, and it is because of your faith, then don’t let it show.  If you are embracing that pain (ar some annoying stuff) then don’t make a public spectacle of it. we could project that out to those who want to make a Christian cause out of everything, because then they can be the hero.

All of this public suffering borders on exhibitionism, We (or the person/cause) we’ve hooked up with gains us acclaim, or pity, it projects a value or praise onto our life. We pursue, as Isaiah writes, our own interests, our own satisfaction?  Our own recognition by others who declare us, “holy”.

Yet what if we endured it, sought true martyrdom even death, without a sense of need of people even knowing?  What if our cause that never appeared in daylight was sacrificing time and money to help others out of poverty.  What if our desire was not to hear man’s applause, but to hear God welcome us home?  Our suffering should be God pleasing, whether a real form of martyrdom, or the self-sacrificial acts we embrace, loving others?

Can we empty ourselves, in this way?  Even as Christ did?

I think we can do better at it, simply by looking to Christ, adoring Him, cherishing His work. Let me rephrase that – as we do those things, we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit!  Then those crosses and burdens we bear?  They don’t seem worth complaining about, or receiving praise for, simply because knowing Christ in those moments far supersedes any praise or attention gained in other places.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2755-2756). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Sainthood

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day….

” Tell Our Lord constantly and sincerely that you desire to be a saint and to do apostolate… Then the poor vessel of your soul will not get broken. And should it do so, it will be put together again and acquire an added attractiveness, and it will continue to be of use for your sanctity and the apostolate.”

This morning, as I prepare for Sunday’s sermon, I am thinking about those I know who have passed away in the prior year, and the names just seem to keep coming.

Some I know well,  Warren, Joseph, Shirley, JoAnn, Frank and Peter.  Other’s I know of, because I know their families or friends.  Janice, Melanie, LaVonne.  There are other friends that I still can’t believe are gone, Clyde and Armando, Rich, Richard, Dale,  These people make a mark on our lives,  and among those names above are some people whose lives spurred an increase in my faith, as I watched them live, even as their bodies were betraying them.  The lessons they left me are invaluable – the faith they modeled inspired.

Today is All Saints’ Day, and depending on one’s church traditions, it is celebrated differently.  I remember preparing for it as a young student, looking through the lives of saints and seeing how different they were.  Francis, Bonaventure.  As a Lutheran pastor, we look to those who have gone before us, to join the “great cloud of witnesses” as described in Hebrews 12, or in the words of our liturgy, the whole company of heaven.  It is rare that in reciting that line that I don’t think of some of the names above, or other names that have impacted my life over the years.

But if there is a reason to consider those who have gone before, it is to remember how God sustained them. How God worked through them in so such diverse ways.  Some where, as the quote from St Josemarie notes above – broken, yet in their brokenness, they found God’s beauty in ways we can never explain, except to agree – it demonstrated how God had set them apart, how God had made them holy, and how that holiness was such that it called people to them.  As we see what God did through them, even though they were bed-bound, even thought their bodies were broken, we realize that God can do such in our lives, He can and does work to heal our brokenness.  He can bring us into places, where we are His representatives, His apostles, brought there to share His mercy and grace.

We are called to be holy, we are called to be saints. we are called to be His children.

Learn to desire it, looking to those who have seen it happen in their own lives, imitate them, even as they imitate Christ.

Lord, teach us that you do have mercy on us, even as You had mercy on those who have gone before us….

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1413-1415). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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