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Being Effective Is Not Always a Blessing!


clydes-cross-2Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:

20  He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? 21  It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”   Luke 13:20-21 (NLT)

5  In coming to the other side of the sea, the disciples had forgotten to bring bread. 6  Jesus said to them, “Look out, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  ………11  How do you not comprehend that I was not speaking to you about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12  Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.    Matthew 16:5-6,11-12 (NAB)

397      Don’t place obstacles in the way of grace. You need to be convinced that in order to be leaven you must become a saint, and must struggle to identify yourself with Him.  (1)

The exquisite elites know how to pucker their noses when confronted with failure; they are scandalized. They prefer to set up models of the Church based on “common sense” rather than on the failure of the cross.

Being effective is not always a blessing.   In fact, some of the most effective things in the world are deadly, those viral and bacterial infections that can run amok and kill or gravely would everyone that comes in contact with them.

The scriptures above show this as well, as two different things are compared to the idea of yeast or leaven.   The Kingdom of God can be like that, as we see the church explode during the time of the apostles, and in certain parts of the world today.  Growth that goes beyond anything pragmatic, that causes us to scramble to try and adjust our plans to compensate for the growth.  Yet the other passage shows a negative form of leaven, that of the teachings and practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees, groups that promoted a very pragmatic approach to being the people of God.

Yet their very approach was an obstacle to grace, a way that blocked people from identifying themselves as God’s children,  And they were very effective – so effective that they were able to kill God, even as they nailed Jesus to a cross.

St. Josemaria talks about effectiveness that arises out of faith, not of reason.  That the leaven we need to become is found in our holiness, in our being set apart to God,  It is found, as Francis says,, not in models set up in common sense, but in the failure of the cross.  For drawn to the cross we find Jesus, that is where the Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus, binds us to His death and resurrection.  That is where we are given gifts like repentance and faith, where we are declared God’s people, where we are cleansed. At the cross, we are infected/affected by His great love and mercy, and find ourselves set apart to Him. It is here we become infectious and spread the gospel simply by being in people’s lives.

Not a very pragmatic or reasoned approach, this dying and rising to life, this admitting our failure and our desperate need for God.

Yet it is how God would affect us, infect us, and see our effectiveness, as the Kingdom of God testifies not only to our presence but His presence in us.

Lord, help us see you on the cross, and know the depths of your mercy, and know you have risen, as it testifies to Your immeasurable love, and may our lives be effective, as we are united to You. Amen!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1548-1549). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.

Who would weep when those who do evil die…?


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Devotional Thought of the Day:

33 The king was overcome with grief. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he cried, “O my son! My son Absalom! Absalom, my son! If only I had died in your place, my son! Absalom, my son!”  2 Samuel 18:33

19 When David noticed them whispering to each other, he realized that the child had died. So he asked them, “Is the child dead?”
“Yes, he is,” they answered.
20 David got up from the floor, had a bath, combed his hair, and changed his clothes. Then he went and worshiped in the house of the LORD. When he returned to the palace, he asked for food and ate it as soon as it was served. 21“We don’t understand this,” his officials said to him. “While the child was alive, you wept for him and would not eat; but as soon as he died, you got up and ate!”
22 “Yes,” David answered, “I did fast and weep while he was still alive. I thought that the LORD might be merciful to me and not let the child die. 23But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Could I bring the child back to life? I will some day go to where he is, but he can never come back to me.”

55      Is it possible, you asked me, that Christ should have spent so many years—twenty centuries—acting on earth, and the world should be now what it is? Is it possible, you went on, that there should still be people who do not know Our Lord? And I answered you with conviction: It is our fault. For we have been called to be co-redeemers, and at times, perhaps often!, we do not follow the Will of God.  (1)

A man suffers the death of two of his beloved sons.

The evil one, the one who died in open rebellion trying to kill and replace his father, is grieved over.  Grief consumes the father, unbelievable, paralyzing grief.

The innocent one, the one who dies because of his father’s sin, seemingly isn’t grieved over.  The death is accepted, life moves on, even to the extent that God is worshiped, not questioned.

This doesn’t make sense!  Why wouldn’t David have the opposite attitude?  Why wouldn’t guilt and shame and grief eat him alive as his “good” son dies?  Why wouldn’t there be a sense of relief, even a little joy as the son who tried to kill him, who raped his concubines died?  Why does he move on from the first, and become a paralyzed, bawling wretch over the death of the second?

Revealed in David, at this point, is the heart of God.  The God who reveals through Ezekiel that he doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked, the God who reveals through Peter that He is patient, because He wants everyone to be transformed, through Paul that our ministry is one of reconciliation.  And shows Paul has the same heart when Paul says,

1  I am speaking the truth; I belong to Christ and I do not lie. My conscience, ruled by the Holy Spirit, also assures me that I am not lying 2  when I say how great is my sorrow, how endless the pain in my heart 3  for my people, my own flesh and blood! For their sake I could wish that I myself were under God’s curse and separated from Christ.
Romans 9:1-3 (TEV)

This is David’s heart as well.  This is what is meant when he talks of preferring to die rather than Absolom. For if Absolom doesn’t die, there is still hope for reconciliation with God, there is still hope that God will work through all the blocks, and Absolom would find the gift of repentance. The same for Paul, who values his relationship with God more than anything, yet would surrender it, if it meant his people, Israel, would become the people of God again.

(note as well the assurance of David in regards to the “good” son.  I will go where he is…)

I think this is the missing key in St Josemaria’s discussion, the reason we don’t follow the will of God, the reason that the world isn’t saved, that really, no major attempt is being made to do so.

Is is that we count our enemies as something less than those God desires, something not worth Christ’s death on the cross? Or do we value that death enough, realizing that our enemies are not the only enemies of Christ that He died for, for we were once, as well?

I don’t’ think we fix this by having conferences on evangelism, and training seminars on arguing people into submission to our doctrine.  That hasn’t worked all too well over the last 40 years.  Being obsessed with methodology – church growth, liturgical rubrics, etc doesn’t bring about this heart.

What does is prayer, worship, adoration, contemplated on the mysteries of God’s mercy and love. What changes us it knowing in our heart and soul that we are loved, that God is here, that we are standing on Holy ground.

For people to not know this peace?  To not know this love?  For us to not desire it for all we come into contact with?  This needs ot become inconceivable.

Lord, have mercy on us!  Give us your heart, your will to see people dwell with you.  Help us to learn to cry when enemies and adversaries face death, or when they suffer.  May our hearts move to help them, may we serve as servants to reconcile them.  For we pray this in Jesus’ name.  AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 423-426). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Don’t Waste a Monday: It can be glorious!


Sunrise at Concordia

Devotional Thought fo the Day”
1  So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. 2  For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. 3  So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?
Hebrews 2:1-3 (NLT)

7      A day of salvation, of eternity, has come for us. Once again the call of the Divine Shepherd can be heard, those affectionate words: Vocavi te nomine tuo—I have called you by your name. Just like our mother, he calls us by our name, even by the name we were affectionately called at home. There, in the depths of our soul, he calls us and we just have to answer: Ecce ego quia vocasti me—here I am, for you have called me, and this time I’m determined not to let time flow by like water over rounded stones, leaving no trace behind. (1)

It is Monday morning, and the temptation is to simply outlast the day.  To go through work and life on some kind of automatic pilot, to ignore the boredom, or monotony, to survive the stress and anxiety it causes.TO just moan about the impact of the time change and on top of it, the normal Monday grind.  We can, to use the phrase from St Josemaria – just let Monday pass us by, without leaving any trace…

There is an option.

We can hear His voice.   We can hear Him call our name, and transform our Monday into something greater, a journey with our friend, the Lord who loves us and cares for us. Hearing His voice, letting it resonate within us, makes Mondays (and everyday ) a time of awe, a time where His work leaves us breathless, as He transforms everything around us.  On Mondays we have the opportunity to radiate His glory, to share in His mission, to realize as Jesus was sent by the Father, so He has sent us.

For while He has saved us for eternity, He has also sent us back into this world to help save it, as we journey through life with Him.

Why would it make sense to waste this?  Do we value our life in CHirst so little that we would rather walk into the darkness without being by His side?

Or would we rather see this as another day for salvation, another chance to see the masterpieces God creates as He calls to others through us?

May we not neglect this day, and the Lord who calls to us in it!

AMEN!

(1)Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 257-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Forging the faithful… and standing the heat…. Words of Encouragement for those who serve God’s treasured people


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the day:

28  So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me. Colossians 1:28 (Phillips NT)

12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature.
Ephesians 4:12-13 (TEV)

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?

I was talking to another person in ministry this week, and we were talking about how to encourage young people to make the sacrifices of entering the ministry.  Within the context was also the discussion of the sacrifices we make to serve others. One of the sacrifices you might realize as you read the words in blue above.

If we are to be the instruments that which the Holy Spirit uses to “forge” people, to shape and mold them as we teach them and administer the sacraments, that weans we have to deal with the heat as well. Using more Lutheran terminology, you can’t preach Law and Gospel without hearing it yourself.  For that is how St Josemaria’s forge works, as we are purified and fashioned for the life God has planned for us – to be there for them.

Yet if we spend time at the forge, we have to be there in the heat, we have to hold on, and care for those God gives us to care for, to be there with the fire and the hammer, to work despite the heat, despite how it zaps our strength, despite their sweat and tears (and even the stubborn refusal to bend to God’s will)

Over 20 years of preaching in jails and churches, spending time at bedside and with those who are ill and dying, this is what ministry has taught me.  It is those moments where the heat is the hottest that I remember – not for the pain, but for incredible beauty that appears as the Holy Spirit transforms them, as the Spirit revitalizes them and reveals in them the image of God in which they were created, which was marred and broken by sin.

And being in the heat – you get to witness this, you get to see it. You get to look to God and say – I see what you did there, Oh my, how holy!  How they shine because of Your care, your mercy and love!  How they reflect your glory!  As we see this, the heat is forgotten, the Lord and His beloved children are all our mind can focus upon. It is an incredible blessing to see, more than any discomfort, far worth the sweat and the tears…

Miraculously something else happens, those of us who serve as tools, who endure the heat for others, realize the same heat that transformed them, is why we are able to bear the heat, because we too have been transformed and tempered as well.  While sometimes we think we are not made for this work, God turns our lives into masterpieces as well.

Praise God for the heat of His forge, and the work He gives us…. for it is an incredible thing to have a small part in, as He uses us.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 226-231). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

“My own faith?” … not so much!


Discussion thought of the Day..

 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 And God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. 10 This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven. 11 Dear friends, if this is how God loved us, then we should love one another.1 John 4:7-11 (TEV)

“A disciple of Christ can never think as follows: “I try to be good; as for others, if that’s what they want… let them go to hell.” Such an attitude is not human. Nor is it in keeping with the love of God, or with the charity we owe our neighbour.”  (1)

This Lent the theme of most of our readings continues to be reconciliation among the people God has created.  We have seen God’s heart – that he will not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, that He only wants them to come home, as the prodigal did. 

When will our heart break for those who walk without Christ?  I am not talking about the kind of guilt caused by a spiritual version of those programs that show starving children, seeking to get us to send wads of money to appease our shame, to give us the feeling that we helped a little, therefore it is alright to go back to living life.  I ask the question again, when will our hearts truly break for those that do not know the mercy of Christ, or the peace of God our Father.

When will we love them, as He loves them?

It has to come down to whether we see ourselves as His family, that our neighbor, even the one we struggle with, as someone as close to us as family.  It is because… they are.  Christ died not just for us – our faith is not an individual faith, Jesus is a personaly savior – He died to reconcile us all to Him, and therefore to each other.  We aren’t really talking aboout ng strangers, but our own people, our own family.  And that takes patience, and love… time.

So look on those who do not know the love of Christ, and love them and be patient with them, until their journey brings them home as well.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3358-3361). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Triune God…revealed


Devotional thought of the Day:

A Catholic priest once wrote:

“God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours”       Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 237-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It is a beneficial thing to contemplate on the trinity.  From an Academic standpoint, the creeds, those incredible statements summarizing the work of the Trinity – they are great!  Pretty good for contemplation as well, as we focus in on why we have confidence, why we trust in God, Father Son and Spirit.  A lot of weight in these statements that we have had handed down to us!

Escriva’s words, taken in conjunction with those creeds reminds us that there is more to the Trinity than academic and theological insight.  There is an intimacy with God, what some of the guys I work with reluctantly once, now playfully refer to the “r” word – the relationship. And that’s what Escriva’s words help us to remember – all those incredible things – all the creation, all the word redeeming us, all the work in making us holy, making us saints – proof that God is with us.   The challenge, when we are talking about the Trinity, is to realize that They keep us in their conversation, that They are One, yet call us into that dance, that call us to share in that love, that dance with joy as the people that are called by Their name… realize that very truth.

Rejoice my friends, the Triune GOd loves you!

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