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The Blessing of Knowing You’ve Screwed up!


DSCF1421Devotional Thought of the Day”
6  If, then, we say that we have fellowship with him, yet at the same time live in the darkness, we are lying both in our words and in our actions. 7  But if we live in the light—just as he is in the light—then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. 8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9  But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make a liar out of God, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:6-10 (TEV)

187      If your mistakes make you more humble, if they make you reach out more urgently for God’s helping hand, then they are a road to sanctity: Felix culpa!—O happy fault!, the Church sings.  (1)

Every once in a while, I get to help people reconcile with other people. During some of the conversations along the way, one of the two parties might indicate that the fault belongs only to one side of the fight.Usually, this is with one side taking all the blame, but on occasion, it will be laid all a the feet of their opposition.

Normally, the only time one side of the argument is completely right is when one side is God.

But even with God, people will play the game most call hypocrisy, where they indicate it isn’t really a fault that is theirs.  I’ve seen people (and my own thoughts/actions) trying to avoid recognizing the fault/sin/brokenness.  We can pretend to be in denial, we can try justify ourselves, we might even go on the offensive and get distracted by other people’s sins.

Bout ours still lie there, eating at us, causing damage to relationships. eroding the value we place on those relationships, even our relationship with God.

For if we hide in the sin, if we bury it and refuse to acknowledge it, we turn our back on God and those we love.  This is what the Apostle John is writing about – that if we refuse to confess our sins, if we refuse to trust in God, then we set ourselves apart from Him, and we ignore his love and mercy and care.

This is where St Josemaria’s words come into play.  The humility it takes to know the brokenness that sin causes is easily taken care of by God.

Humility, acknowledging the reality, not hiding from it, nor running from the responsibility, not pretending anymore, but just going yes, I screwed up, and realizing in that moment that God has already planned to take care of it.

What a glorious revelation!  One we couldn’t know unless if was for the fault, and for honestly, humbly, coming to the realization that we are sinners, and that God isn’t going to get rid of us because of it.

He will deal with it, He’s planned to!

Let’s stop hiding, let’s confess our sins, and rejoice!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 853-855). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Limited Faith? Who Set its Boundaries?


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Devotional Thought of the Day:
11  And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. 12  I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. 13  I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. Philippians 4:11-13 (TEV)

117      “What do I have to do to maintain my love for God and make it increase?” you asked me, fired with enthusiasm. Leave the “old man” behind, my son, and cheerfully give up things which are good in themselves but hinder your detachment from your ego… You have to repeat constantly and with deeds, “Here I am, Lord, ready to do whatever you want.”  (1)

e need to stopIt is rare these days for pe]eople to ask how to grow stronger in their faith.  I am not sure whether that is good or bad. Some might not care to grow, some might be afraid to grow.  While others are growing, their faith being stretched like taffy, or a balloon expanding so fast that you wonder if it will burst.

There is a secret to this growth, a need for freedom from things that tether us down, box us in, that define the boundaries that we think define us, but in reality simply constrain us, and eventually choke out our faith.

Let me give you an example.  As a young man wanting to be a pastor, I set a boundary on where I would serve.  I asked God to send me anywhere, except for the desert. I narrowed the scope of my vision, and I would come to realize that the people in that desert needed the comfort and peace, the contentment that only comes from when you realize you live in the presence of God. (Yes, my first three churches I served were in the desert – and I needed to be there more than the people needed me)

I still occasionally do that, narrowing down where I will serve, or to whom I would “allow” God to send me.  God, you couldn’t have me in that kind of position, or ministering in that kind of church.  God you couldn’t use someone like me like that, etc.

And so do you.

We need to stop setting boundaries, we need to stop tying ourselves down, tethering ourselves to things that stop us from growing in our faith.  St Josemaria considers that might even include good things that hinder our detachment.  Things our ego depends upon to identify us as individuals, and therefore stop us from trusting that God knows what He is doing.

For growth, maturity in the faith is not confidence in ourselves, it is confidence in God, a deepening sense of contentment.  Whether it means we have to go without, or we have to learn to deal with having more than we need.  ( I know some of us find that harder to deal with! ) Spiritual growth is the abandonment of self, assured that God will develop what in us, and dependent on His promises.

Whatever He wants, where ever He wants, however long He wants; depending on the presence of Jesus, the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit

This is faith, a faith that grow and be stretched, a faith without boundaries, a faith that grows significantly, because God causes the increase.

AMEN!!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria.   The Forge (Kindle Locations 614-617). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Lenten Devotion: Are you satisfied with just “getting” to heaven?


clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  For we are partners working together for God, and you are God’s field. You are also God’s building. 10  Using the gift that God gave me, I did the work of an expert builder and laid the foundation, and someone else is building on it. But each of you must be careful how you build. 11  For God has already placed Jesus Christ as the one and only foundation, and no other foundation can be laid. 12  Some will use gold or silver or precious stones in building on the foundation; others will use wood or grass or straw. 13  And the quality of each person’s work will be seen when the Day of Christ exposes it. For on that Day fire will reveal everyone’s work; the fire will test it and show its real quality. 14  If what was built on the foundation survives the fire, the builder will receive a reward. 15  But if your work is burnt up, then you will lose it; but you yourself will be saved, as if you had escaped through the fire.   1 Corinthians 3:9-15 (TEV)

939    Be men and women of the world, but don’t be worldly men and women.  (1)

As I read this scripture passage this morning, it seemed to confront a popular thought about heaven that I’ve bought into for years.  It is usually expressed this way,

“I’d rather be a doorkeeper in heaven, than to rule hell.”

More often it is seen by an attitude that wants to do the absolute minimum to get to heaven.  That would rather not be bothered with striving to be holy, or to be inconvenienced by reaching out and serving others.  The attitude that acknowledges that pastors, priests, deacons and other ministers are servants, but expects them to serve by meeting our desires, by making us comfortable.  By doing our favorite music, to preaching in a way that inspires but doesn’t challenge, to making us realize the danger of their sin, but not our own.  To show us the needs to send a few dollars to missions over there, but not to see the mission field in our neighborhood.

This is building with straw and wood.  The stuff that doesn’t survive the test on the Day of Judgment.  The stuff that won’t leave us in awe, for we won’t see how God worked through us.

For you see, while we do things with the “gold, silver and precious stones”, those are the things God brings into our lives. This isn’t about being proud of what we have done, what we have built, but being able to see God at work in our lives. It is about our living, really living, beyond that which we are by nature willing and capable of doing on our own.

It is about living the baptized life, realizing we walk this journey with Jesus.  It is about the Holy Spirit transforming us, as we reflect Jesus into this lost and broken world.

So this Lent, instead of giving up chocolate or caffeine, give up a weak faith that is comfortable for one that is built on Christ’s comfort, and shares that comfort with others.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2180-2181). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are You Comfortable In Your Faith? Some Thoughts as We Approach Lent.


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Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought for a day just before the beginning of Lent
25  But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26  But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27  and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”   Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT)

938    Try to live in such a way that you can voluntarily deprive yourself of the comfort and ease you wouldn’t approve of in the life of another man of God. Remember, you are the grain of wheat of which the Gospel speaks. If you don’t bury yourself and die, there will be no harvest.

As I read these words, my thoughts wander from thinking of the mansions of the mega church preachers, to considering many of the luxuries I have.  From (self)-righteous indignation to guilt and shame.

Added to the latter is a number of people asking me, as they do every lent, about whether it is necessary to give up, or fast from something for the days of lent.Some people want to give up bad habits, or things they’ve been told are good for you.  Alcohol, Chocolate, Coffee, Facebook, Talking about politics.  Others sacrifice a meal, and even use the money saved to give to others in need.

And then, as Lent brings about Easter, the fasting ends, the habits return, the sacrifices stop and comfort returns.

What if the change that we seek in our Lenten time were to become a lifelong change?  What if the sacrifices became our way fo life?  What if we chose to give up something that impeded our relationship with God, and the sacrificed caused us to depend on Him more?

Which brings up a question – do we plan and try to give up the things that we know distract us from God?  Is this even a desire in our lives?  Or do we simply go, day to day, stuck in those habits, feeding those desires, and allowing ourselves to burn out spiritually?

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, can we grow in our devotion to God?  Can we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our spiritual growth?  Can we go to those who care for us spiritually and ask for direction and prayer as well, confident of God working through the gifts He gave us for this very purpose?

This may not be as easy as pledging to give up steak on Friday, but it will benefit us… of this I am sure.


Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2177-2180). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is the Return on Investment Enough? The question of discipleship…


Devotional Thought of the Day:
(Luke 9:57–62)

Church Christmas Eve 2015 outdoors

18 When Jesus noticed the crowd round him, he ordered his disciples to go to the other side of the lake. 19A teacher of the Law came to him. “Teacher,” he said, “I am ready to go with you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus answered him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lie down and rest.”
21 Another man, who was a disciple, said, “Sir, first let me go back and bury my father.”
22 “Follow me,” Jesus answered, “and let the dead bury their own dead  Matthew 8:18-20 TEV

479    Don’t let it bother you. The “prudent” have always called the works of God madness. Onward! Be daring!

If you lived back in the days of Jesus, would you have left everything behind and followed him? Would you have left your work, your friends and your family behind, and followed this man who had no home, no means of support?

Would you be afraid of people thinking you are mad?

What about today?

Or would you take account of your assets first?  Would you consider your obligations where you presently are at, and weigh them in the balance?  Would you have to know the cost, and weight it against the potential “return” on your investment?

I suppose I could give you the stories of that show great sacrifice, and how God honored such hard work and dedication.  That might inspire us to be daring, to set aside life as we know it, and spend years wondering why God didn’t honor our work and dedication.  It would focus our journey on the results, and we would put our investment into achieving the results.

Discipleship isn’t about the results, though we rejoice in them. Following Jesus isn’t about the number of responses and conversions, the size of the churches we establish and maintain. It isn’t the number of people we serve, or the cost of doing so in time, talent or treasure.

Following Jesus isn’t about the size of the sacrifice or the size of the return on our lives invested!

It is about walking with Him, knowing His faithfulness, His mercy, His love! It is about having confidence in Him, even when we don’t know what tomorrow or the next day brings, if it even will.

That’s why some count it madness!

But you know better.  Reconciliation in God’s minds is not simply accounting and balancing the books.  It is about His bringing together, about reuniting hearts, about finding the healing of brokenness. It is about the Holy Spirit bringing comfort, peace, and joy, as we realize the presence of God in our lives, as we explore the dimensions of His love.

There is no way to measure this, no manner in evaluating the measure of value of knowing and living in Christ.

Come, follow Jesus, and abandon yourself into the love which saves you! 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1173-1174). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

The God Who Can Be Hurt….. He is your God, you are His!


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The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
3  “Worship no god but me. 4  “Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5  Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the LORD your God and I tolerate no rivals.    Exodus 20:3-5 (TEV)

1  The LORD said to me, “Go again and show your love for a woman who is committing adultery with a lover. You must love her just as I still love the people of Israel, even though they turn to other gods and like to take offerings of raisins to idols.”
Hosea 3:1 (TEV)

441    You are hurt by your neighbor’s lack of charity toward you. Think how God must be hurt by your lack of charity—of love—toward him!

I have sat with many people who are angry, who blame God for the pain and brokenness in their lives.  Living with such pain, they get mad at God; they will claim it is His fault, or that He has abandoned them, they strike out at Him. 

My temptation is to try an answer for God before they are ready to hear the answer or defend the God who needs no defense. Thankfully, He is patient with me, because He is not willing for them to perish. 

And I think we need to see that, this God who is patient, this God who is merciful, this God whose goal is reconciliation and restoration.

We need to see a God who hurts when He is betrayed, who hurts when people are unfaithful, and who embraces that pain to provide an opportunity for those who hurt Him to experience again His incredible love, His limitless mercy, and the abundance of peace.

Yeah, we can hurt God, we can turn our back on Him. He hurts when our pain our anxiety, and the pressures of life seem to drive us away from Him.  When we hurt so much, we ignore His presence, and refuse to let Him comfort us.  He is there, hurting with us, trying to comfort us anyway, trying to heal us, trying to get us to listen, to be still and know He is God.

So how do we minister on behalf of a hurting God, to people who are hurt?   As He does, with great patience, comforting them, allowing them to know they have a refuge, a place to rest, and when they are ready, revealing that to be no less that God Himself.

He is with them, He is with us, AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1086-1087). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Sticks and Stones may… but the Words will crush us?


Devotional Thought for the Day:

22 But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know, 23 except that in one city after another the holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me. 24 Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace.  Acts. 20:22-40 NABRE

45    Why feel hurt by the unjust things people say of you? You would be even worse, if God ever left you. Keep on doing good, and shrug your shoulders.  (1)

Some years ago, I sat in a room full of other believers having dinner after a long, brutal day of meetings.  I was invited by a good friend, but neither of us was ready for what we would experience.

I would get up and leave, going back to my hotel room, dismayed and depressed. I can still hear the words echoing in my brain that were said.  The group didn’t recognize that there were some they were criticizing in the room of a couple of hundred people.  Or perhaps, they were so ecstatic, they didn’t bother with the thought, or even care.

The critique was vehement, the lies and comments betrayed a hatred and bitterness.  And while not part of the other party, I was probably closer to those criticized than I was to those who accused. The critiques would still probably be applied to me, the attempts to demonize other believers stung and hurt. The fact that believers, those considered leaders in churches would be so cruel… was devastating.(2)

The words, and the faces of those who said that which seemed evil to me still stick with me to this day, and it was the first thing I thought of as I saw the words of Saint Josemaria. 

People can be cruel, and it may be that it will be more than just words that they hurl at us.  Paul would experience that over and over, and scripture is clear in describing the fear and frustration, the despair and the pain. 

As I think back on pain of that night, I can rationalize that these people weren’t evil,  In many ways, they sincerely believed the other side threatened their way of life, their faith.  While they didn’t understand the others, their own pain and frustration released itself in the midst of victory.  My instinct is that now that the years have passed, they wouldn’t recognize their own words.

But even realizing that, if doesn’t change the level of pain.

So how do you move past it?  How can we simply shrug our shoulders and keep on doing what is good?

(Logically – do we have any choice?)

How could we choose to shrug our shoulders when it hurts?  Even more troublesome, if we are called to imitate Paul as he imitated Jesus, how do we willingly enter times where we face such opposition, such belittling, hearing such negativity tossed at us, and survive?

The answer is simple to hear, hard to execute.  We think of God’s presence, the fact that He doesn’t  abandon us.  We cling to Him, and being enveloped by His peace; we let the other things fade into dimness, compared to His glory.  As Paul says, to be a martyr, a witness to the incredible glory of God.

The glory that is ours, that He envelops us in, even as He envelops Himself.  This is grace, this is the place were brokenness heals, this is where we find the grace that enables us to endure all, simply to know, to witness and to bear witness to the love and mercy of God, revealed by the Holy Spirt, revealed in Christ.

It is there we need to head, where we need to live, there we find our haven, our rest.  Safe in Him, the Lord God Almighty who has promised that nothing can ever separate us from God. This is the answer to the cry, “Lord have mercy”, and it floods our lives.

And on our way shrug, or accept the challenges that await us.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 260-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  I am not so naive as to believe that the other side would not have been as cruel

 

What Sex Can Teach us About our Relationship with God.


Devotional Thought for the Day:

5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6 The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to [this] mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Luke 17:5-6NAB-RE

Men experience the preciousness of things, and experience it fully, only in the company of those who share their enjoyment; in this way, they become aware of the festive quality of an existence that is so often hostile and ill-humored in their regard but is present at a meal, as it were, with open hands, with a gesture of lavish generosity, of unrestrained joy. This liberality of existence, which is rich and bestows itself freely, is an intrinsic part of a meal. The same is true of a wedding. In it, the elevation of the biological process of sexual attraction to a fundamental spiritual act of Eros, of the human being’s loving transcendence of self, is crystallized, epitomized, and confirmed. Here, too, we experience the liberal graciousness of existence, which grants us the festive wonder of a love we cannot force but that comes to us of its own accord, takes us by surprise and overwhelms us, transforms our life, gives us a new inner center, and even, in moments of ecstatic bliss, confers on us a foretaste of a life that is brighter and fuller than our everyday life.  (1)

I’ve been known to use the phrase “intimate relationship with God” more than once, and more than in one setting.  Reactions are often very strong and very polarized to it.  Some feel it is too common, to base, even too perverted,  or it could be taken that way.  Some understand it, even though they might struggle with the implications of a God that desires that we should be His people.

The words in blue above come from a man whose took an oath to remain celibate for the rest of his life.  His words describe it well thought – the transcendence, the even spiritual act of eros – of giving and being given, or experiencing a level of transcendence, and even “confers on us a foretaste of a life that is bright and fuller than our everyday life”.

The physical act is not contrary to God’s purposes – he established it as something two should share. two that committed before God and man to each other, as a way of testifying to the love.  It is as much spiritual as it is physical, and in that sense gives us a look at what our spiritual relationship with God is like, and what it will be like in heaven.

Please hear this – we aren’t saying eternity is sexual – that our relationship with God is simply physical – but rather – that the spiritual aspect gives us an insight into what it means to truly commit to another – to love them, to seek our their best interest.  Love means losing yourself, the awareness of yourself, as you care for the other person – and as you do that – there is something overwhelming, something that transforms us, something that is more than life, alone, abandoned, broken.  It is intimate in it reveals the innermost parts of us, the part that is being recreated in Christ Jesus – the most intimate, deep, definition who we are – defined in relationship to God – the I AM.

You see this a little earlier – as a father reacts to his beloved son’s return,

While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  – Luke 15:20

The father doesn’t care about his dignity, he doesn’t care about his prestige or reputation.  He doesn’t care about people (including his other son) thinking he is fool who will be taken advantage of.   All that is set aside – this is a son, whom he loves, and the answer to many a night without sleep.  THIS IS HIS SON!!!

It is that transcendent moment, the moment the I become I-Thou, the moment we realize how deeply God loves us, and how it transforms us, as we learn to love in return, as He teaches us.  As we are united to Him in baptism, reunited as He forgives our sins and cleanses us of all unrighteousness, as we celebrate this relationship – this holy relationship as He gives us His body and blood.

Bringing us back to the original quote of scripture.  They ask fo more faith, and what they are really asking for is to trust God more, that God would draw us closer to Him, make Himself more real, defeat our defenses – and show us His complete love for us.

That is, of course, the answer to another prayer as well…

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

And it is answered, and we see it when we are in union with Christ Jesus. 

(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.

Yet – 3 Powerful Words of Powerful Faith.


Devotional Thought for the Day

17 For though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit appears on the vine, Though the yield of the olive fails and the terraces produce no nourishment, Though the flocks disappear from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, 
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD and exult in my saving God. 19 GOD, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of deer and enables me to tread upon the heights.*  NABRE – Hab 3:17-19

Anything done out of love is important, however small it might appear. God has come to us, even though we are miserable creatures, and he has told us that he loves us: “My delight is to be among the sons of men.”10 Our Lord tells us that everything is valuable—those actions which from a human point of view we regard as extraordinary and those which seem unimportant. Nothing is wasted. No man is worthless to God. All of us are called to share the kingdom of Heaven—each with his own vocation: in his home, his work, his civic duties, and the exercise of his rights.

Nothing is wasted!   What marvelous words are uttered by St Josemaria! 

Words that resonate with the Habbakuk’s conclusion of his book. Let me paraphrase!

“Life Sucks!  YET I will rejoice in the Lord! YET I will exult in my saving God!

For as our souls, our very lives are entrusted to Him (something the Holy Spirit does, because Jesus paid the price to make it happen on the cross!) everything has meaning, and we begin to see how all things can indeed work for good, for those who love God. 

That’s a hard thing to trust God for, especially when we think of him as the deists did in the centuries following the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.  Because they couldn’t trust the God they couldn’t see, they reasoned he left town,  Because they couldn’t understand that God was there in darkest points of history, they assumed he wasn’t there, and that He didn’t care and abandoned those He promised to walk with, those He promised to support, and heal, and strengthen.

Nothing is wasted. 

Man is that hard to hear! For there has been much that I can’t count as beneficial without coming to the same conclusions.  Where are you, my God?  Why did You abandon me?  Why did I have to go through this?  Why do I see it repeated? 

Nothing is wasted.

Not even the times of emptiness.

Not even the times where I cry out in anger, in pain, in fear.

Those words talk of dependence, of the greatest level of what we call faith.  The point where rock bottom we realize He is hear, and just go, “Lord, I can’t anymore, all I have to cling to are Your promises, the promsies I can’t believe are true for me. 

Yet, I abandon myself to you, I will depend on what I can’t see, what may be beyond my logic, but what you promise is real.

You are here… I can see that today…when I couldn’t last week, and may struggle next month to see it.

You are here!

So I will praise You, So I will rejoice in a God who wrote those promsies through prophets, and etched them in the hands of His Son.

Yet… a powerful word.

One I need to pull out and use… often.

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1394-1399). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Awe: Love that Embraces…. Pain?


Devotional Thought of the Day:
2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.   Hebrews 12:2 (TEV)

9  Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10  Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11  Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12  Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13  Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14  Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16  Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.   Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)

Love has certain standard features. Sometimes we speak o love as if it were an impulse to self-satisfaction or a mere means to selfish fulfillment of one’s own personality. But that’s not love. True love means going out of oneself, giving oneself. Love brings joy, but a joy whose roots are in the shape of a cross. As long as we are on earth and have not yet arrived at the fullness of the future life, we can never have true love without sacrifice and pain. This pain becomes sweet and lovable; it is a source of interior joy. But it is an authentic pain, for it involves overcoming one’s own selfishness and taking Love as the rule of each and every thing we do.

As my son, moments after being born, was laid on my wife’s chest, I witnessed a sense of profound joy. Despite the pain, despite the discomfort, despite the complete lack of privacy, there was great joy!  (Enough so that i didn’t realize my mask was on backward and I was about to pass out from breathing my CO2!)

I thought of that scene as I read the words of St. Josemaria.  They are correct, to love people can hurt, it can disappoint, it can demand that we make sacrifices, or embrace situations where our dignity is cast aside. It is not the one who is our beloved that demands this, but love itself means we take action, we sacrifice, and we embrace the pain.

And yet, I think about the smile on my wife’s face, and realize this dear priest is right again – the pain is no less sharp, the tears no less real, and yet the joy given in the sacrifice is wonderful. .There is no one, in the midst of loving another, that would say the love isn’t worth it, that they would rather go without the one they love. ( again I remind you – the beloved does no, should not demand the sacrifice, or require the pain – that doesn’t love)

This involves us, as St. Paul notes, in the joy and tears of those we love. When one hurts, we all hurt.  When one is enjoying life, that sparks joy in us all.   In every way, the community of faith is affected alongside those who are loved by God together. Who are united in that love, and therefore begin to truly love each other.  We truly embrace the costs of loving, just as Jesus did, know the joy that comes from this love, not only in heaven, but now in reconciliation, and in sharing in the blessings of God.

It even makes those who believe they are our enemies, our beloved.  Just as Christ loves us when we were His enemies.

This is love.

While it is unmerited by the beloved, it costs the one who loves.

But the joy, in inexpressible, beautiful awe-inspiring.

You are the beloved, and because of that, you also love.

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1387-1392). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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