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Lord, You Want Me To Preach on What?

Devotional Thought fo the Day:

7 You seduced me,* LORD, and I let myself be seduced; you were too strong for me, and you prevailed. All day long I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. 8 Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage I proclaim; The word of the LORD has brought me reproach and derision all day long. 9 I say I will not mention him, I will no longer speak in his name. But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding back, I cannot! Jeremiah 20:7-9  NAB-RE

If vocation comes first, if the star shines ahead to start us along the path of God’s love, it is illogical that we should begin to doubt if it chances to disappear from view. It might happen at certain moments in our interior life—and we are nearly always to blame—that the star disappears, just as it did to the wise kings on their journey. We have already realized the divine splendor of our vocation, and we are convinced about its definitive character, but perhaps the dust we stir up as we walk—our miseries—forms an opaque cloud that cuts off the light from above.

In the passage I am preaching on this week, there is what is called a gospel imperative.  In other words, a command of God that only can be realized and heard within the fullness of the gospel.  It has to be heard in a life of prayer, a life which realizes we stand on Holy ground.  

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good”  Galatians 6:9

The first quote, from scripture above, is one of my ten favorite passages in scripture.  It probably could be described as my life verse, at least it is one I experience a lot.  For working in God’s kingdom is as wearing as building stone walls, or managing a university bookstore in the first weeks of class. It is worse, physically tiring, mentally exhausting and spiritually draining.

If a pastor neglects God, if he is too busy for time in prayer, if he is too busy for devotional time (as well as the business of studying scripture to preach and teach it) he will reach Jeremiah’s position quickly.  We can reach the point that St Josemaria describes, where the dust we stir up in our journey distorts and even eclipses our view of Christ, our understanding of His love for us.

Of course, this isn’t just about pastors, for we are not the only ones who do good.  It is true for every believer, for every perosn who trusts and depends on Christ.  For that is what the faith is, need to cling to Christ (Jeremiah describes it as our being as clingy as underwear!) because He is our source of life, and of serenity and joy.

The answer to burnout, the answer to not seeing Christ is to know Him, to know the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns within us.  TO depend on that rather than what we see and observe.  It is what saints and mystics call the interior life,  This is why St John of the Cross advises staying where we are at, making no dramatic change.  We are to keep praying, to keep receiving the sacraments even when the storms of life blind us, when Satan assails us.  We need to be patient and seek God, remembering that He is our refuge, our fortress, our sanctuary.

It is from this place that we can find His strength, where we find the dynamo that is the Holy Spirit indwelling in us. For dwelling in Christ we can keep on doing good, we can keep on loving the unlovable, we can be patient with those struggling, and guide them into the very presence of God.

For we know where He is… we know where Holy Ground is.  We know where He has put His Name… fo we have met Him at the cross and been united to Him there.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1146-1151). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Change: A Lenten Journey

Devtional THought of the Day:A  Picture of our Journey... with Christ

 2  Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfectRomans 12:2 (TEV)

2    May your behavior and your conversation be such that everyone who sees or hears you can say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ.

This morning, I found out a good friend of mine is going to be experiencing a massive change this summer, as he returns to the U.S.A from the mission field.  His children were born on the field, all they know is living in Asia.  It will be a massive challenge to readjust to life here..  Another friend, a Catholic priest, will be also changing parishes, leaving behind people he loves, and taking on some challening responsibilities.  Many I know are going through changes of life, as they get older, as they are married, as they leave school and enter the workforce.  The change that happens as health crisis threaten.

Change – it is challenging, it is frieghtening, it is ocverwhelming, and based on a lot of experience, it often simply, sucks.

Maybe that is why Lent is such a challenge for us. Because of the changes that we will undergo as we consider our lives.  I am not talking about giving up chocolate, or not eating meat on Friday, or of committing to do a good thing every day.  These actions, taken with great sincerity, are simply symbolic of what we hope and fear to see coming out of a Lenten season, our of a life that is, to use a fancy church word penitnent.  (More than just being sorry, but grieving over sin and the brokenness it causes.

Lent is a season of change. A season of transformation, a season of realizing our desperate, yes desperate need for the presence of God in our lives.  For Him to come into our life, into our brokenness, into the deepest parts of our lives.  The parts we would rather not face, the pasts we are scared to revisit, He comes there, and takes on the sin, the pain, the brokennes.  He consumes it, there on the cross where it is with Him.  This is a change as fierce, as daunting, as radical as anything we can undergo in life.   For it is death for that part of us, the part we cannot cope with, the burdens we need to be freed from, for they crush the life out of us.

It could be said that this process of facing our brokennes is hard, is extreme, is a process of change that goes beyond our ability to bear.  For we have to die to self, and trust that we will coem alive in Christ.  It is a re-living of our baptism, for it happened there as well.  Unting with the death of Christ………the strkness, the cruelty of the cross.

Yet, on the otherside, there is light and peace… and joy.

For there is God, there is Christ, there is the gift fo the Holy Spirit who walks us through this valley of the shadow of death, to celebrate Christ’s feast.

That is our journey of lent, our journey that changes us, as we walk with Jesus to the cross, and to the resurrection.

May you embrace the change this year, knowing God’s mercy, and allowing Him to clean out the places in your life where you fear to go.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 174-175). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Sliding into a Culture of Death

Devotional Thought of the Day.

As a society, we love to play God.

And we are fascinated by death  – both physical death, and spiritual death.

All you have to do is peruse blogs and facebook this day, and see that we are doing battle over death constantly.  First there is the HHS mandate, and the idea that anyone but churches need to pay for abortions – that is, we need to pay for our insurance to pay for the option to abort.  Church leaders of many denominations are fighting this, and sometimes – they are fighting other church leaders who hold the opposite view.  It is very sad, even more so when we realize that the pro-life movement is re-trenching around this.  We used to challenge abortion as a whole, now we are reduced to fighting who is responsible for it.

Even as all the focus is on abortion and the Health Care Mandate, there is another battle brewing on the horizon.  In Massachusetts, the state where I was born, the looms a battle over Doctor assisted suicide.  It is on the ballot there, as it has been in Oregon.  Again we as a country are being decided whether some have the right to play God, and determine whether a life has the value or lacks it, and should be terminated with prejudice.  Yes – prejudice, for if we make the decision that a life, whether in the womb or in their 90’s isn’t worth it, we are deciding the issue based on prejudice.

But I would bring up one more way that we, as the church, are faced with “sliding into a culture of death”, although sliding may be a bit of an understatement.  We condone spiritual death with much more ease and much more frequency than we do physical death.  We do this, in two ways, one very active and violent, the other, passive and without care or compassion.

ACTIVE CONDEMNATION:  This is the first way in which we embrace a culture of death.  When we outright condemn others – (for instance, those who back abortion or euthenasia) because we feel they are too evil.  In doing so, we steal the authority of God and make a determination only He has the right and authority to make.  (Yes, God gives the church the authority to bind the sins of those in our midst who are unrepentant – but that is so they will learn to repent – and more importantly, its in regards to those we are actively and personally calling to repentance)   When we condemn someone, when we mock and deride them (see the Sermon on the Mount) we are committing murder in thought and word even as others commit it in deed.
We can judge them, call and encourage them to depend on God’s mercy, without damning and condemning them.

The other way is more subtle, and shows  a lack of care, and indeed a lack of compassion.  It is when we decide, actively or passively, that there is no need for them to know Jesus, to be embraced by His love and mercy, to be given the opportunity to know the life that is germinated as faith and repentance is given to them.  We know how it happens, in hearing the gospel, in the Holy Spirit working through word and sacrament to create and nurture that life.  And we passively and again with prejudice, let them continue to live without the knowledge of God, save what they can learn through nature.

In all four of the above ways, we see the church and the world sliding into death.  Sliding into the seemingly inevitable consequence of sin’s dominion.  Death, both physical and spiritual.

Except that it is not – there is always God’s gospel, the call to not take life, but to sustain it.  The call to not terminate, but to enourage.  The call to not condemn, but to talk and offer forgiveness.  There is One who embraced death, so that we would not have to – that we could live, and even if we physically pass, we shall live forever.  For that is where death is defeated, as Jesus hangs on the cross, and asks the Father to forgive us all….

May we realize He has, and even as we realize how that frees us to live, may we help others to see it as well.

Lord Have Mercy… and thank you Lord, for letting us know You have!

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