Devotional Thought of the Day
81 I am worn out, LORD, waiting for you to save me; I place my trust in your word. 82 My eyes are tired from watching for what you promised, while I ask, “When will you help me?” 83 I am as useless as a discarded wineskin; yet I have not forgotten your commands. 84 How much longer must I wait? Psalm 119:81-84a (TEV)
165 You, who for an earthly love have endured so many degradations, do you really believe that you love Christ when you are not willing to suffer—for him!—that humiliation?
I know it is not just me, other pastors and teachers of the faith will tell you this as well.
God prepares us for what we have to endure through the things we come across in our preaching, and in our personal study.
Preaching on a passage about Judas? Prepare to be betrayed by someone close. Or worse, prepare to deal with your betraying Jesus.
Teaching through 1 COrinthians, you might have to deal with some division, some self-centeredness, and some people who need to be taught that worship is about the community not the individual.
Been asked to give a message on missions and the need to go out into your community? Prepare to feel like Jonah at time.
It happens in our devotions too, and so when I come across passages like those quoted above… I shudder a bit. ANd then I look around figuratively and consider who do I know that is undergoing what the prophet Jeremiah and St. Josemaria are talking about.
In this case, who is overwhelmed, worn out, suffering under the weight they bear? Who is struggling and barely able to croak out a prayer asking God, “when?” WHo is feeling useless, so tired emotionally and spiritually they cannot even remember the promise that “all things work for good?”
St. Josemaria’s comfort comes across harsh, as if he is judging us as being thankless cowards, unwilling to suffer. I wonder if that is a translation issue? Working through his words for a few minutes, I see his point. Compared to our earthly loves, how much more God has done for us, and as we contemplate that, our sufferings become tolerable, they might even be forgotten.
This too is the Psalmist’s answer. In the midst of bottoming out, he comments that he hasn’t forgotten God’s commands. I don’t think he is just talking about the “do’s and do not’s” bt the words God has established things by, from “let there be light” to “you will be my people, and I will be your God”. Especially that last “command.” We need to remember that as we are in the midst of suffering, or in the midst of bottoming out.
“I will be with you,” “I will never forsake you!” These phrase are what we hold on to when we can’t find anything else, for they remind us that what we are going through.
That this time will pass, and we will see God.
This moment may last 10 minutes, or a few hours, or even a week or more. These times where we simply endure, knowing the Lord is with us. His presence will strengthen us, and allow us the freedom to ask for reassurance, and to be reminded that we dwell in peace, for He is God. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 515-516). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
What do you think a man does who has one hundred sheep and one of them gets lost? He will leave the other ninety-nine grazing on the hillside and go and look for the lost sheep. 13 When he finds it, I tell you, he feels far happier over this one sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost. 14 In just the same way yourq Father in heaven does not want any of these little ones to be lost. Matthew 18:12-14
312 You should not want to make the world into a cloister, because this would be a disorder. But don’t convert the Church into some earthly faction either, because that would be tantamount to treason.
One of the great challenges facing the church today is sin, not its existence, but how we are to deal with it, and the damage it causes.
St Josemaria points out the two different dangers in our response to sin.
The first is when the church tries to isolate itself from the world, for instance, when we create all our own options so our people don’t have to mix with the world. Our own schools, our own fraternal clubs, our own coffee shops, and even stores and social media. When we try to create a community that isolates our people from the world, creating a victual cloister. You see this as well in the attitude that the church is here to minister to its own, and those like them.
The second seems like the opposite, when the church, trying to “reach” people and bring them into the church, allow sin to convert them. We then bring into question what God really meant by sin, and was it only in that context, or since God will forgive all sin, why do we bother with telling people to stop, and just focus on healing the symptoms, trying to teach them to live a symptom free life, without getting at the cause itself, sin.
These two approaches aren’t really that different. They both shy away from dealing with sin. They try to avoid the appearance of sin, not by avoiding it or finding ways to absolve it, but rather just bury it, or hide from it, or try to justify it, because if it isn’t sin, we don’t have to confront it.
And in both cases, we betray the sinner, by denying them the grace they need, by blocking them from the healing and the restoration they need.
Dealing with sin and the brokenness it causes is brutal. Whether it is our own sin, the sin we have committed; or the sin people commit against us, or the sin we witness and are entrusted to help bring reconciliation to God to those who commit the sin.
And we have too often, afraid of being contaminated, or being labeled as accessories, as Jesus was mocked and berated for hanging out with sinners, the tax collectors and prostitutes of his day.
It is time for the church to start going out after the sinners, to bring them to the place where they can find healing, and hope, and be restored. It won’t be easy, we will have ot deal with both anger, and even being sickened by the sin and the damage it has caused.
The church must commit to helping people heal from this brokenness. We can’t leave people out in the darkness anymore. We have to do this cautiously as Jude warns, and aware of our own inability to deal with sin, depending on the mercy of Jesus. That is the key to dealing with sin, to be so aware of Jesus presence, of His intimate role in our lives, in the place He dwells in our heart, soul, and mind.
This is our vocation, the true role of the church in this world, to go after the one, the broken. Let us pray,
Heavenly Father, strengthen our relationship with You, through Jesus, as the Holy Spirit draws us close to you. Give us the courage to honestly address sin, our own, and the sin of the world, turning to You to be healed, to be absolved, to be made complete. We ask this in Jesus name, depending on Your love, revealed to us at the cross. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1484-1486). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
14 And so, my friends, as you wait for that Day, do your best to be pure and faultless in God’s sight and to be at peace with him. 15 Look on our Lord’s patience as the opportunity he is giving you to be saved, just as our dear friend Paul wrote to you, using the wisdom that God gave him.
2 Peter 3:14-15 (TEV)
206 I understand your holy impatience, but at the same time you must realise that there are some who need to think things over for a long time and others who will respond all in good time… Wait for them with open arms. Add the spice of abundant prayer and mortification to your holy impatience. They will be more youthful and generous when they come. They will have got rid of their bourgeois approach, and they will be all the more courageous. Think how God is waiting for them!
In Matthew 10:14, Jesus gives the following direction to the Twelve Apostles as they embark on their first teaching journey,
14 And if some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet. 15 I assure you that on the Judgment Day God will show more mercy to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah than to the people of that town! Matthew 10:13-15 (TEV)
I’ve heard this used a lot over the course of my ministry, in a way that is simply, sinful. The pastor who is burnt out on ministry, and can’t seem to get his people to appreciate his vision. The leader who, though sincere, is causing division in the church. The family member, who has given up on a parent, or a child, or a cousin, because they are too stubborn, too obstinate, too argumentative to see their need for Christ. Or the horrible sinners, proven by their lifestyle, or political choices, (or in their favorite sports team) who will not heed our call to repentance of the speck in their eye, while they see the petrified forest in ours.
We are tired of the pain, the anxiety, the stress, so we write off someone we care called to love, rather than embrace the call to minister to them patiently. We use the passage from Matthew to justify our cutting off the person or people that cause us such trauma. (often without thinking about the trauma we cause them!)
In shaking the dust off our feet, we feel vindicated, somehow more righteous or holy, and we think that God is on our side.
And we couldn’t be more wrong.
We, who have benefitted from the Lord’s patience, need to imitate that patience. We who have come to know His love, need to love that sacrificially/ Sacrificing our pride, our self-righteousness, even the sleep we may give up, as we spend the night in prayer for these people we are called to love, and that God would sustain and heal our hearts in the process.
For being patient with them, is about realizing this isn’t a win or lose based on getting them to church tomorrow, but spending eternity with them in the presence of God. That is why St Josemaria urges us to be patient, giving those we are sent to minister to enough time to realize the love being revealed to them. Wait for them with open arms, continually pray for them, knowing that our mission is different than the apostles, in that it wasn’t preceding Jesus to the cross.
Be patient, God is. Be loving, for He loves you! Be willing to sacrifice, and even suffer, for that too will prove to them the love of God who doesn’t give up on them, or on you and I.
Be patient, with the unbeliever, and the believer.
And keep on putting them in the hands of God…. for this will help, as you contemplate on how much God loves us all.
Lord, give us the heart to see people healed of their sin, to be freed from their brokenness, and the patience that only the Holy Spirit can give us, You patience, to wait and see them come to the Lord! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1068-1072). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
8 Yes, Yahweh, we wait for You in the path of Your judgments. Our desire is for Your name and renown. 9 I long for You in the night; yes, my spirit within me diligently seeks You, for when Your judgments are in the land, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Isaiah 26:8-9 HCSB
919 By calling you to be an apostle, our Lord has reminded you, so that you will never forget it, that you are a child of God.
Today is the 9th anniversary of my son moving from his crib to his bed. Or at least the “on this day” photo app told me it is! The picture shows him lying peacefully in bed, his three friends lying beside him.
What before had been a bundle of nerves, worried about falling the 4 inches to the mat covered floor. We reminded him we were just down the hall, that we could hear him, that he would safe, that all would be well.
That even if he fell, we would be there, to comfort him, to pick him back up, to put in back in place. We were there. As we had been, just a few feet down the hall.
That is the kind of reminder we need form God. That He will always be there, that He will help us and comfort us when fall, helping us back up into place. That He will provide the type of intimate, loving care that a parent provides for their scared and hurting child.
Even when the child is a grown up, one sent by God to reveal him to the world, or to our neighbor. For we are all sent, even as the Father sent Jesus into the world, so He sends us.
All of us.
And He will be there to pick us up, to comfort and care for us.
And eventually, we grow to be dependent upon Him, to long for His presence, knowing that the righteousness and injustice we see cause us anxiety and stress us out. We need Him, just like our children need us. TO calm our fears, to being our ansiety burdened hearts to know peace. To assure us that He is still God, our Father.
We need Him,, and we need to learn He is there.. and as He sends us out into the world, to reveal Him to others, we will find His presence more and more.
Lord, help us to see ourselves as your kids, the kids whom you love, and care for, whom you protect and bandage up and heal. Lord, help us to long for your presence, even as a child longs for his parents. Thank you! Amen†
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2136-2137). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoughts of the day:
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31 HCSB
317 What zeal men put into their earthly affairs! Dreaming of honors, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike. When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, then we’ll have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works.
It’s Monday morning, and another work week stands before us.
What are you going to do with it? Where are you going to spend the assets you have? What can you do, that will give the greatest return on investment?
I dare say St. John had a similar question in mind when he penned the words about Christ that we have come to know as his gospel. And in the quote above we see his priority, that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.
That was John’s bottom line (and the Holy Spirit’s bottom line as well) That we would know Jesus, trust and depend upon Him, and thereby receive the life He desires us to have. A life lived with Him, a life lived in His presence.
This is Jesus greatest investment, as He invests in us…
And while it is the time I invest in this, what I really invest is my brokenness. The struggle I have with sin, (especially when I don’t struggle with it) the guilt and shame, the hurts and pains, the resentment, the fear, and anxiety.
Those are my investments, the things I have to learn to zealously invest them into my relationship with Jesus, the return on investment is rest from them, a rest in the glory of God, a rest that comes from knowing I am loved.
He heals us, in ways beyond our hearts’ imagination, because the brokenness He will heal goes deeper into our soul than we are willing to explore. But that is what St. Josemaria is talking about when he tells us to have zeal for the affairs of our soul, for our internal lives. Letting God sink deeper into our lives that butter sinks into a hot waffle. It is scary and wonderful, What we need to invest… is the stuff that kills off our life. It is the stuff we need to be removed from our lives, and Jesus will…. with great joy and care… cut it away. ( See Colossians 2:11)
That is when our faith is living and working, when we allow God to deal with our brokenness, all of it, as He forgives our sins and cleanses us of all unrighteousness, and we can live….
And be sent out, for we are broken people who are finding hope and healing in Jesus, and helping others heal….
Lord have mercy on us, and help us invest our brokenness in your mercy and love… and heal us, dear Lord!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 820-824). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians. z “Teacher,” they said, “we know that You are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You defer to no one, for You don’t show partiality. 17 Tell us, therefore, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar c or not?”
18 But perceiving their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? 19 Show Me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought Him a •denarius. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked them.
21 “Caesar’s,” they said to Him.
Then He said to them, “Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left Him and went away. Matthew 22:15-22 HCSB
298 My Lord Jesus has a Heart more tender than the hearts of all good men put together. If a good man (of average goodness) knew that a certain person loved him, without seeking personal satisfaction or reward of any kind (he loves for love’s sake); and if he also knew that all this person wanted from him was that he should not object to being loved, even from afar… then it would not be long before he responded to such a disinterested love. If the Loved One is so powerful that he can do all things, I am sure that, as well as surrendering in the end to the faithful love of a creature (in spite of the wretchedness of that poor soul) he will give this lover the supernatural beauty, knowledge and power he needs so that the eyes of Jesus are not sullied when he gazes upon the poor heart that is adoring him. Love, my child; love and hope.
I vaguely remember the first time realizing the inference in the gospel reading in red above. That while money bears the image of Emperor’s and Presidents, we bear in ourselves the image of God. Intellectually, it was pretty cool insight for a kid, and I remember being pleased with the simple idea.
We are made in the image of God!
What a wondrous thought, that every person we meet was created by God Even though we have too often obscured His image as we’ve fallen to temptation, the image remains. Bruised and battered, torn, dented, covered in the slime and muck that is the result of sin. And one of the joys of being a Christian is when we see someone realize this, as God cleanses and recreates them, restoring the image. What a joy it is, to see God begin to transform them! (see 2 Cor. 3)
Yet there are times, even as I observe that the observation seems to be from a distance. I get the idea of being made in the image of God, yet as I look in the mirror, I see something far different. I see the darkness and brokenness still, I see the damage of my sin. To borrow from St Josemaria’s words this morning, I see far too clearly the wretchedness of my poor soul.
This is where God’s love is so glorious, so wonderful, so nearly beyond belief. St Josemaria describes it so well, as he is sure of God giving us the supernatural beauty, knowledge, and power we need so that Jesus is not sullied, not shocked by looking upon our brokenness.
Realizing this, we find another reason to adore Him, for we find another facet, another depth of His love for us! He will let us love Him! He doesn’t just accept the love we show Him, He will treasure the love we are able to show Him!
He is our God, and He makes us His people, and rejoices in our love! Even as He transforms it, and creates in us the ability to love.
Enjoy His love, my friends!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1211-1219). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days:
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 JeI’ve Fallen, sus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. 18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” John 21:15-19 (NLT)
8 So Esau said, “What do you mean by this whole procession I met?”
“To find favor with you, my lord,” he answered.
9 “I have enough, my brother,” Esau replied. “Keep what you have.”
10 But Jacob said, “No, please! If I have found favor with you, take this gift from my hand. For indeed, I have seen your face, and it is like seeing God’s face, since you have accepted me. 11 Please take my present that was brought to you, because God has been gracious to me and I have everything I need.” So Jacob urged him until he accepted.
12 Then Esau said, “Let’s move on, and I’ll go ahead of you.” Gen. 33:8-12 HCSB
173 Keep turning this over in your mind and in your soul: Lord, how many times you have lifted me up when I have fallen and once my sins have been forgiven have held me close to your Heart! Keep returning to the thought… and never separate yourself from Him again.
There are times we are like Peter and Jacob, we are so focused on our sin. We want to get past it, but we cannot. It is not just the sin that hinders our relationship, but the inability to do anything about it.
Jacob was afraid, over twenty years later, that Esau still wanted to kill him. Peter was afraid that Jesus would never forgive his betrayal, so afraid, he couldn’t be in awe of the Lord’s resurrection. Perhaps he feared the holiness it required would further alienate Peter from the one he adored.
Sin is more than one or two actions, it is deeper, and it affects us more than we would like to admit. Far too often we simply ignore the pain, and not believing the wounds that separate us can heal, we amputate the relationship. We simply deaden ourselves to the pain and refuse to grieve for what is lost. But without that grieving, we soon become dead to the world and dead to ourselves.
We forget the power of God that is at work in us, was the power that raised Christ from the dead!
That power can heal our brokenness, even restore that which we amputated, the relationships we cut off. This is the power of the resurrection that is Jesus Christ in us, and we in Him. Those sins and the unrighteousness that divides us? It was taken care of in our baptism, as they were washed away by the flood of Christ’s blood shed on the cross.
He lifts us up, as Esau lifted his brother up off the ground, as Peter was embraced by the risen Christ, and once again invited to walk with Jesus.
He holds us close to His heart, so very close! As he longed to do with the people of Jerusalem, when he wanted to embrace them, as a hen covers her chicks with her wings. He desires to clean us up, to make us spotless and pure, a glorious companion, as He shares life with us.
It may take us a while to learn this, we may need to relearn it a time or 20 , or 200.
But He is there, with us.
For He loves and cares for us… even when we struggle to see it.
Lord Jesus, help us to realize your love, help us to trust you and let you pick us up, and cleanse and heal the wounds and damage of sin. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 799-803). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Days:
31 Well, whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God’s glory. 32 Live in such a way as to cause no trouble either to Jews or Gentiles or to the church of God. 33 Just do as I do; I try to please everyone in all that I do, not thinking of my own good, but of the good of all, so that they might be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 (TEV)
The Benedictine tradition is marked by a spirituality rooted deeply, intentionally in the issues and activities which confront us every day. These include the seemingly endless quotidian chores which fill the greater part of most of our days. Working. Eating. Caring for the sick and providing for the poor. Talking. Reading. Dealing with difficult people, just like ourselves. The Rule emphatically validates the sanctity of these efforts, drawing them up into the same sphere of holy activity as prayer, and meditation on sacred Scripture. Kitchen utensils and garden tools of the monastery are to be treated no differently than the sacred vessels of the altar. Guests are to be welcomed as one would welcome Christ himself. Rather than drawing lines between sacred and profane, or attempting heroic theological gymnastics to keep the high work of spirituality unspotted from the lowly tasks of this world, the Rule unabashedly weds life in Christ to life in the sanctified dust and sweat of our daily-grind existence.
6 Do not be afraid. Do not be alarmed or surprised. Do not allow yourself to be overcome by false prudence. The call to fulfil God’s will—this goes for vocation too—is sudden, as it was for the Apostles: a meeting with Christ and his call is followed… None of them doubted. Meeting Christ and following him was all one.
There are times the people that make up the church today seem to have a split personality. ( Or would it be better to say we are simply two-faced?)
We create one set of rules for behavior with our friends at church, that is our sacred world’ and another set of rules for our behavior in the secular world. And as a result, we don’t bring our religion/relationship with God into the “real” world, and we don’t want to bring before God in prayer our real life.
I am not sure if we think he wouldn’t be interested, or is incapable of understanding it (I mean Jesus “lived” so long ago! How could He possibly understand the fast-paced, media-hyped, techno/cyber crazy world in which we live?
Or maybe we want the disconnect between our sacred and secular worlds for our own benefit. Do we keep this illusion, that it is sacred and secular in order that we can have our sin and our Communion too?
Is this a big deal? It is when we think of the mission of the church, to be ambassadors of reconciliation, of bringing everything, of shepherding everything back to Christ. To reveal His active and grace-filled presence to those around us, to the effect that they are saved But if we have disengaged the two worlds, at least in our minds, then we can let them go, each to their own way.
Until the distance is so far we can’t stand on both. Then we become hyper-spiritual and condemn all the physical, or we become even more driven to satisfy our own pleasure, hedonists of the first order.
Some have tried to counter this division – Luther and his talk of vocation comes to mind. The quote from Robert Webber above, citing the work of the Order of St Benedict is another. And undoubtedly this get to the heart of St Josemaria’s Opus Dei – walking in faith in the midst of a broken world.
We need to stop dividing the life we have been given by God!
He walks with us through every part of our day, and we need to rely on Him during every part of our day. It is His mission to save the world and to do it through His people. Whether they work at Subway, or a University, whether they are pastors or stay at home moms. Whether they are 12-or 92. God walks with each of s, everywhere.
Knowing that changes things, it changes them by making them holy, precious, the work of God.
When we cry out, “Lord have mercy on us” it includes all of our lives, all that we do, all that we encounter, and we need to know, He is here, the Lord is with us! Not to judge, but to guide. Not to condemn but to comfort, to give us hope, to draw us into His glory and love.
Sacred? Secular? Hole? Profane? Religious? Worldly?
These divisions aren’t real for us, for rejoice, we dwell in Christ!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 252-257). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days:
15 GOD then said, “Dress up like a stupid shepherd. 16 I’m going to install just such a shepherd in this land—a shepherd indifferent to victims, who ignores the lost, abandons the injured and disdains decent citizens. He’ll only be in it for what he can get out of it, using and abusing any and all. Zechariah 11:15-16 (MSG)
15 And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:15 (NLT)
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15 (NLT)
There was a mother who, like all mothers, was passionately fond of her little child, whom she called her prince, her king, her treasure, her very sun.
I thought of you. And I understood —for what father does not carry deep inside some maternal feelings?— that it was no exaggeration for that good mother to say: you are more than a treasure, you are worth more than the sun itself: you are worth all Christ’s Blood!
How can I fail to take up your soul —pure gold— and place it in the forge, and fashion it with fire and hammer, until that gold nugget is turned into a splendid jewel to be offered to my God, to your God?
As I begin to read St. Josemaria Escriva’s devotional book the Forge, I came across the words in blue in the prologue. It describes the heart of a pastor, a priest, a shepherd and caretaker of souls.
It is a heart to aspire to, at least in my mind.
I have been involved in a couple of conversations recently about pastors and their relationship to their people, to their parishioners. One raised the question of whether pastors could be friends of their parishioners. Another was about the difference between worship and work at the church. A third was about pastors retiring from ministry, and finding something completely different to do in their retirement. Let’s just say I was in the minority in several of these discussions, and to be honest, I don’t understand the idea that ministry is work, that it is just a job, like caring for inmates or hotel guests.
I think our hearts have to break when our their hearts break. I think we have to desire what God would have for our people, to realize the treasure He sees in them. To give them the sacraments, assured of the blessing we are giving them, as we untie them to Jesus death and resurrection, as we give feed their souls, as our words (actually His words) mend and heal broken hearts and souls.
So how could this be a career, isn’t it our very life?
I won’t claim I have arrived. There are still long days that weary me out, there are still people who ability to get under my skin challenge the pastoral heart I want to have. There are people that hurt me, and I struggle to have a pastoral heart toward them, Or the people who won’t listen to God, and choose lives that are lived in rebellion to God. Those people cause frustration, and often tears. ( I want to say I would love to just stuff them into St Josemaria’s forge) I am not going to say pastoring these people is easy, but it is necessary. A pastor can’t just dismiss them as alligators, that decision and judgment is not in our pay grade. Weare simply to try to reconcile them to Jesus.
This is why Jesus talks about good shepherds, as opposed to the stupid shepherds that have served his people in the past. About shepherds who will have His heart for His people, which can mean laying down our lives for them, sacrificing time, energy, money, whatever it takes to see them drawn to Christ, and made holy by the Spirit that works within us all.
Again, even as I write these words I am torn. For that is what I would desire as a pastor, yet I know I fall short, often too far short. That is not an excuse or a reason to stop desiring to see my people grow. Their failures and mine are not a reason to distance me from them as if that can reduce my brokenness. Instead, it is a reason to cling all the more to God, for He will pour out comfort and mercy, continue to transform me, and yes, He will continue to cause us to grow, to forgive our sins, to transform us into the image of His son ( see 2 Cor. 3:16ff)
Lord, have mercy on Your shepherds, break our hearts and give us hearts like Jesus, so that your people can be assured of their salvation, and set apart to walk with You! Amen!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 226-231). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30 For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (TEV)
329 We all need to foresee our lack of objectivity whenever we have to judge our own behaviour. This applies to you too. (1)
If we are to guide people to Jesus and the cross, we need to do it as He did.
In the passage above Jesus talks of being gentle and humble in Spirit. Look into the Greek a little and you will find the words underlying those two thoughts include words like empathetic, compassionate, caring, and subservient, self-sacrificing, not proud.
It is similar to the list of attributes that Paul lists in regards to love in 1 Corinthians 13, the love which is necessary for ministry, for preaching and prophesying. The unique combination of love and mercy that puts the good of the other first, no matter what the cost, even the cost of death. An interesting side note to this was from another devotional book of mine,
He reminded us that the scarlet robe of the cardinals is a symbol of their readiness to undergo martyrdom. The Church explains this in the formula: “He who wears it must be willing to defend the faith usque ad effusionem sanguinis—even to the shedding of blood.” (2)
It is that love that results in Jesus, and all who imitate and follow him to be gentle and humble in their ministry to others, calling them not to a legalistic obedience, but to hear God, and love Him back by walking with Him, (and therefore obeying, as the Old Testament promised from the law written on their hearts)
This isn’t an easy way to minister, and like the cardinals of old were reminded that their ministry could indeed include their martyrdom, we who minister, whether lay or clergy, have to be prepared to offer our lives as living sacrifices. (see Romans 12) For most of us, that doesn’t include a physical martyrdom, but one of our will, one of our hearts (which are circumcised by God – Col. 2)
Which is St Josemaria’s point in the quote in blue. We have to be aware of our lack of objectivity, we have to be able to recognize when “we” get in the way of His work. We need to examine ourselves and pray that God would eradicate in us the tendency to be proud and the spirit that is narcissistic.
Not because of some legalistic pietism, and not even so that we actually minister more effectively. Rather, because we are trusting God, realizing that walking with Him is walking in the promise our baptism, and in letting the Spirit transform us (see 2 Cor 3) more and more into His image results in this.
Gentle and humble, empathetic and self-sacrificing, ministering effectively because we are allowing ( and we grow to desire this ) God to crucify our egos, our lack of objectivity, even as we are embraced by God on that same cross. We learn to depend upon Him that much.
This is the life of faith, it is time to live it, it is time to enjoy this peace. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1546-1547). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) 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.