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Those People Sin? How Convenient! We Have Something in Common!

Devotional Thought of the Day:A  Picture of our Journey... with Christ
15  Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One— 16  of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (MSG)

367 Among believers ( original read Catholics) it might perhaps be that some have little Christian spirit; or so it might seem to those who have dealings with them at some particular moment. But if you were to be scandalised by this fact, you would show that you knew very little about human wretchedness and… about your own wretchedness. Furthermore, it is neither just nor loyal to use the example of the weaknesses of a few to speak ill of Christ and his Church.  (1)

it is a rare day when looking at facebook and twitter doesn’t cause a bit of sadness.  Simply put, a lot of those who count on God forgiving their sins, forget that it is God’s desire to forgive all sinners.

Yeah – it means those people we don’t just judge but those we condemn. Politicians, athletes, movie stars, our neighbors, ex-spouses, bosses, employees, immigrants, criminals, instead of fearing God’s wrath and repenting, they feel our wrath. And that is a problem, because if they feel our wrath, they won’t know the blessing of fearing His, of having the Holy Spirit cut their hearts open and bring them healing. They won’t ask us about the mercy of God, the forgiveness poured out in love.  They won’t engage us in discussion, they won’t come into our homes or invite us into theirs.

There are a lot of religions out there, there are even some that have no deity, except perhaps one’s self.  Reaching them with God’s love isn’t some kind of war, some kind of argument.  Even Elijah’s “battle” at Mr Carmel wasn’t a head to head battle.  It was, let’s see whose God will answer prayer, let’s see whose God will reveal Himself, not for the prophet’s and priests sake, but for the sake of the people God would make his own.

When we realize we are sinners as well, there are a number of blessings that come.  The first is that we can hear that our sins are forgiven.  The second is that once forgiven, we can still identify with those who struggle in guilt or shame, we know what it is to deny the truth, we know the brokenness, and can speak their language and point them to the hope we know, the mercy we’ve experienced, the love that brings us comfort, and heals our brokenness.

That’s what Paul is getting at, when he says his sins top all ours. (and no that is not a challenge)  That is what St Josemaria is pointing to, when he calls to mind our own wretchedness.

We have been given hope, we know we’ve been delivered from the muck and mire of sin.

They need that – and yes sin can be confronted in a way that lays out hope – that takes them along the path we’ve been on, as we come alongside them.  that works a lot better than lasso’ing them and dragging them into God’s kingdom, or just leaving them in their brokenness!

Lord have mercy on us, and teach us how to have mercy on others…..

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1683-1687). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Can Pastors and all Christians Speak a Non-Christian’s Language?

Devotional THought of the Day:

 20  While working with the Jews, I live like a Jew in order to win them; and even though I myself am not subject to the Law of Moses, I live as though I were when working with those who are, in order to win them. 21  In the same way, when working with Gentiles, I live like a Gentile, outside the Jewish Law, in order to win Gentiles. This does not mean that I don’t obey God’s law; I am really under Christ’s law. 22  Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible. 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 (TEV)

After all, in my parish, I would reach about a hundred and fifty people in church on Sunday, but thanks to the Internet and a shared passion for something beyond Latin and liturgy, I was able to reach out to many thousands of Star Wars fans. Most of them probably would have never been in contact with a priest otherwise. In a way, just like the people back home in Holland, these Stormtroopers, Jedi, rebel pilots, bounty hunters, and Twi’leks had become my parishioners— very unusual parishioners indeed.   How to Speak Wookiee When I have to prepare a homily, I always try to place myself in the position of those I’ll be talking to. What are the issues they deal with, and how can the Gospel help them in their daily lives? For communication to work, you need to speak the same language. If you want to communicate with a Wookiee, you need to learn how to speak Wookiee. (1)

One of the challenges in training lay people to serve in ministry, and in working with students who are preparing for ministry is the helping them learn to connect to those who speak a different language. No I am not talking about Mandarin or German or Tagolog, I am talking about the fact that Christians have their own language, much of which is, if known, defined differently.

Fr. Roderick – the author of the quote in purple above – gets this.  I highly recommend his book- though protestants might need to “translate” it themselves!  THe section describing a Christian’s conversation to a Wookie is alone worth the price of the book.  There is a whole lot of of good material for helping us understand the people with whom we interact, with whom we live our lives.  The very people to whom God has sent us, that we reflect Christ’s life and His love.  Here is a priest that has learned to communicate with people who speak a different language!  ( and has a great line about not arguing with a wookie!)

It’s not a matter of plotting every conversation, we are talking about our lives with them.  But it is necessary to realize we don’t always speak the same language, and that some of our terms mean different things to them.  Another example helps us understand this.  Robert Schuller was once invited to give a message in a Mid-East Muslim Mosque.  In talking to its leadership – they asked him not to talk about Christianity.  He asked if he could talk about knowing God’s love, as reavealed in Christ, talk about walking and following Christ, and talk about the relationship which brings such hope, a relationship with God the Father.  The answer was affirmative – for they didn’t know that was Christianity.  They defined Chrsitianity as a religion hostile to them, the very word caused great anxiety.  But in describing what Christianity really is from a Christians perspective – there was no issue. From that point on, Robert Schuller talked of following Christ, or the relationship, rather than just “being” a Christian.

This isn’t about dumbing down the Faith, and more than Paul’s words, written in Koine Greek, dumbed down the faith because it was a common language.  It rathers invests the time (which is an act of love) in those people, assuring they can understand what we talk about, because the topic, their relationship with God, is more precious than anything else we could do.  THat we understand this helps us be more patient with them, helps us to understand that the objections they have to what they perceive our faith to be, is not our perception.  It helps us cut through their frustration and often anger, and prevent our desire to become defensive. It helps us realize that we are taling to the very people Christ died for, even though can’t even begn to comprehend that love, that desire of God.

Bottom line – do we want to want to see people join us, being freed from guilt and shame, from the sin they commit and the burdens of sins committed against them?  Do we want them to understand the grace and peace that is beyond our ability to comprehend – or describe, but that we know its from God?  Will we love these brothers and sisters that we can see, on behalf of the God we cannot “see” but whom we perceive?

Then we need to communicate to them.. in their language.

Lord have mercy on us, and empower us to do that which is in accord with Your will, that no one should perish – but all are transformed in Christ.

AMEN.

God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17.

God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

(1)  Vonhögen, Roderick (2013-09-09). Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer (Kindle Locations 295-303). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.

Share what you have.. and it is priceless…

Devotional thought of the day:

10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?” 11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” Luke 3:10-11 (NLT) 

Simple acts of love, really that is all John the Baptist is encouraging people to do, to show their love for God.  Jesus of course will clarify this, He will make it a clear call to love God, and to love our neighbor, by demonstrating that.

As I read this though, I wondered how John the Baptist would phrase this today.  Would he only talk about physical clothes and physical food, or because the people of God have a far greater treasure, would we be called to share something more valuable, priceless.

Even as we should share of our physical clothes, how much more should we share of our spiritual clothing…

 25 But now that faith has come we are no longer under a slave looking after us; 26 for all of you are the children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, 27 since every one of you that has been baptised has been clothed in Christ. Galatians 3:25-27 (NJB)

And the food – even as we share food baskets with those who have less, isn’t there also a desire that they share in a heavenly feast?  The one Paul talks of here?

16 The blessing-cup, which we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ; and the loaf of bread which we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 And as there is one loaf, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one loaf. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (NJB)

We have been given the greatest of treasures, the greatest of blessings, something that is described a the light breaking through the darkness, that which brings hope to the darkest desperation, that which brings love, where the was only hate, life where there was only death.  Should we not share this as well?  Should we not love our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers enough?

I love the way the Roman Catholic Pope said it – in a picture a friend shared this morning on Facebook:  It pretty much sums it up…

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