Devotional Thought of the day:
“I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.* 17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.* 18 And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.*”
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 NLT
2 But who will be able to endure the day when he comes? Who will be able to survive when he appears? He will be like strong soap, like a fire that refines metal. 3 He will come to judge like one who refines and purifies silver. As a metalworker refines silver and gold, so the LORD’S messenger will purify the priests, so that they will bring to the LORD the right kind of offerings. 4 Then the offerings which the people of Judah and Jerusalem bring to the LORD will be pleasing to him, as they used to be in the past.
Malachi 3:2-4 (TEV)
814 Ask Jesus to grant you a Love like a purifying furnace, where your poor flesh —your poor heart—may be consumed and cleansed of all earthly miseries. Pray that it may be emptied of self and filled with him. Ask him to grant you a deep-seated aversion to all that is worldly so that you may be sustained only by Love.
There is a part of me that fears to pray as St. Josemaria suggests.
There is so much to lose, so many things I cannot see apart from myself. Yes, those things include not only what I perceive as the pleasures of life (and are not) and the miseries of my existence.
Could I deal with that radical of a change in me? Could I allow myself to be defined not by broken heart (in my case, both physically and figuratively) but spiritually as well? How can I allow God to take the scar, many of which I find a perverse pleasure in, knowing I somewhat survived them, and not just remove them, but heal the damage they have done?
St Josemaria describes it well as a furnace, for the heat and pain it will take to separate us from these things which haunt us is intense. How do I let Him remove all this, and the sin which so easily ensnares me
How do I find the strength to pray this?
How dare I?
What if he doesn’t answer the prayer? What if He does?
As Malachi points out – how will we endure it?
I think St Paul has the answer, it is not found in us, but in the promises God has made to us, promises He stands behind, promises that are coming true in our lives, even if we do not see it.
It is in those promises, in His making us holy, that we find comfort and learn to trust Him. In those promises, we find the strength to work, to hear Him in a way our soul resonates with what He is doing, to nor fight against His purifying our lives.
You and I, we need this, we can’t continue to live in our brokenness, even if we have gotten used to its stench. The life that God provides, cleansed, purified, holy, is beyond our comprehension. We see it here and there, our souls thrive on it in the moments we experience it, at the communion rail, deep in lament, in the middle of serving others, As God purifies us, as He applies the heat and we cling to Him, these moments we are aware of Him grow… and we begin to desire them more.
So pray for God to refine you and purify you. Pray for me as well, and I pray we all will realize the blessing of walking with God. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3357-3360). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)
A good communicator is sensitive to beauty, perceives it and does not confuse what is beautiful with what is fashionable or only “nice” or simply “neat.”
Because it is human, sometimes beauty is tragic, amazing, touching; it sometimes pushes us to think what we do not want or unmasks our errors.
One of the challenges we face, whether we are with friends and family at a meal, or if we are before the church preaching the gospel, is communicating the beauty that is our relationship with God.
We can’t describe heaven, and I think that is intentional, for heaven is not about the location as much as it is the presence. The presence of the people of God in the presence of God. No sorrow, no tears, no pain, rather we will know the purest of joy, the most incredible peace. These are things that cant be described in words, we just will never find ones that significantly portray this beauty.
Not that we understand beauty all that much.
A pretty girl in a bathing suit may be considered beautiful by most, year, does that compare to a picture of a wounded soldier, being greeted and welcomed home by his family? Or a picture of Mother Theresa embracing a poor victim of leprosy in the streets of India? What about a rainbow, coming out on the edge of a storm,
I think the most vivid thing we can communicate, the most beautiful thing we can describe is the scene of redemption, the prodigal being embraced by a father, whose tears of joy wash the young sinner. The face of Peter, as Jesus reminds him, despite the betrayal, to feed the sheep. The face of Moses, a stubborn pessimistic, man hiding from his destiny, in awe at the bush on fire that doesn’t burn. The sinner at the communion rail, who finally understands the words, “for you…” and doesn’t want to leave the only place they have found peace. The old man, who with severe memory problems, looks for meaning in the church, decides to study for the diaconate and preaches an incredible sermon of our need for God, and the fact God was with us. (the amazing tears that flowed from his wife’s face, as she was convinced that he actually could do this… I cry just thinking of them. ) The little six-year-old, who begs and pleads for the body and blood of Christ, and lights up at her first communion
These things are beautiful, and though not perfectly described, give us a hint of the beauty that awaits us, as the redemption, as what is broken in our lives is healed. THere is beauty, a beauty that is found in the incredible transformation as we go from being alone to being in a relationship with God. As we realize that is our existence, our meaning in life.
God with us… nothing more beautiful in this life, or the next…
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 302). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:’
He has watched over your journey through this immense wilderness. The LORD your God has been with you this past 40 years, and you have lacked nothing.’ Deut 2:7 HCSB
It has become habit to read through the Old Testament every year, and changing translations each new year. There are times it seems a drudgery, a journey through this guy begat that guy or a recitation of all of the different ways to sin. (as if I needed a detailed list!) What will I find here, I wonder, that will make this habit worth it. Where will I find something that is nourishing in this wilderness?
And then I come to a verse like the one above, Tucked into the history of Israel’s rebellion and sin, a recounting of all the times they did what was right to them, completely disregarding God’s directions, given through Moses.
Go here, they go there. Do this, they do something else. It sounds like a group I would find myself some like-minded companions. People who struggle just the way Paul did, doing what they shouldn’t, and failing to do what they should.
As Moses tells them their own history, there is this incredible verse. He tells them that as they have walked through the Wilderness, their punishment, their discipline for the sin they have committed, where God was.
There. providing for them. For 40 years, He didn’t abandon them as He disciplined them.
That is an incredible thing to realize.
By no means should that continue to wander in sin, we need to confess our sin, trusting in God to forgive those sins, because Jesus came and died to pay for them.
But there is a comfort to know that God doesn’t abandon His rebellious children, that He desires, truly desires that all come to repentance and that this is part of the work of the Holy Spirit.
What an amazing, loving merciful God we have, that allows us to wander, that disciplines us, and yet provides for us during that time, giving us what is truly beneficial!
He is with us, even when we don’t see it, even when we don’t want to see it. When we are faithless, still e is faithful.
So if you are wandering today, you can’t escape Him, so it is time to come home, and confess your sins, and find the incredible love and mercy of God is yours. Come, confess your sins, and find that He is faithful, forgiving you of those sins, and cleansing you of all unrighteousness.
His Presence Blesses Us, as
He Makes us Holy!
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen your dependence on Him, as God fulfills His promise to make you Holy!
How many of you…
A serious question to start with this morning.
How many of you are always, and I mean always, joyful?
How about this one?
How many of you never stop praying? Every moment, of every day?
And how many of you can you say you are thankful for everything God is doing in your life and has done in the last six months?
Has anyone been able to answer all of those questions positively?
I couldn’t, either.
Which is why the apostle Paul urges us to do so if it was common to do, he wouldn’t be urging his readers then, or us now, to do so.
But rather than hear him urging us to do so, because he knows we will benefit from it, what we usually hear just causes us guilt, and maybe some shame.
Why can’t I do what God wants me to do, our mind says, why can’t I be the person who knows joy every moment, the person who is always thankful, the person who always trusts God and gives to him all that worries us in prayer?
And so what is good advice turns into something we feel we can’t live up to…
And what about this? (Stifling the Spirit)
Then there is the challenge that Paul presents in verse 19, where it talks of not stifling or quenching the Holy Spirit.
The word there in Greek means to suck dry, to dampen, to take all the punch out of it.
It explains it a little clearer in the next verses, as we see the challenge to not dismiss those who claim to speak for God but to test them.
To see if they speak what is Godly and scriptural, what is good.
Does it teach what scripture says, to first love God and then love our neighbor?
Does it work within the guidelines God sets up in the Decalogue, the ten commandments, or in Philippians where Paul instructs us to Philippians 4,
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)
If it fits within those guidelines – this is good, hold on to it, hold onto it!
Don’t let go.
If it pulls you away from God if it causes you to put yourself before showing love and mercy to others, if it is contrary to any of God’s commands, then drop it.
For it is bad, it is evil.
That is the simple test – if it helps you know God and shows love to your neighbor – hang on to it. If it doesn’t completely stay away from it.
And if you do that – living joyfully, giving all your burdens and anxieties to God, and being thankful in all things becomes something that you can begin to do, for nothing is impeding the work of the Holy Spirit!
Here is where it happens!
If we struggle to do the things we should do as God’s people, then we need help.
The Holy Spirit provides that help and more, as the Apostle Paul also states in this passage.
“Now may the God of peace make you holy, in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again!”
You see, it is God who saves us, who makes us, and keeps us blameless
This is the blessing that comes to those who trust in God and are baptized, as we are united to Jesus at His death for us on the cross, and with His resurrection.
Not just forgiving our sins once, and leaving it up to us, but giving us the promise that in Him, every sin is forgiven.
That as James writes, we can confess our sin and know He is faithful to forgive sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
It is that ongoing ministry of God, His keeping us blameless through His words, through remembering the promises of our baptism, to the promises here as we commune with Him at the altar, that is the work of the Holy Spirit.
You see, being holy, isn’t about being perfect.
We can try.
We must try!
But holy at its root, means to be set apart.
If Dr. Larry in his chemistry lab doesn’t set apart certain pieces of equipment to deal with this chemical and not others, explosive things might happen!
For example, his students could accidentally make nitro-glycerin.
(By the way, that is why Pastor Parker was never allowed to take chemistry!)
Certain things need to be set apart for everyone’s good.
That setting something apart is what is at the meaning of the word “holy.”
and the other word which translates from the same Greek word, “sanctification.”
God makes us holy, in every way, as the Spirit brings us to life in Jesus, and then keeps us holy, giving us the desire for that relationship.
When we do sin, the Spirit reminds us and urges us to run to God and ask for forgiveness, depending on His promises.
This is how God makes us holy, His special people.
As He does so, we are thankful to Him for all He does, assured that He loves us
We learn to continually pray, giving to Him all that concerns us in prayer, all that worries us, all that grieves us.
And we live in joy, knowing the love and mercy and peace of our God.
For He has promised, and God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful! AMEN!
One more time, hear the blessing and promise the Apostle Peter gave us today,
23 Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 24 God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.
Devotional Thought for our Days:
6 “This may seem impossible to those of the nation who are now left, but it’s not impossible for me. 7I will rescue my people from the lands where they have been taken, 8and will bring them back from east and west to live in Jerusalem. They will be my people, and I will be their God, ruling over them faithfully and justly. Zechariah 8:6-8 TEV
96 Discover Our Lord behind each event and in every circumstance, and then, from everything that happens, you will be able to draw more love for God and a greater desire to respond to him. He is always waiting for us, offering us the possibility to fulfil at all times that resolution we made: Serviam! I will serve you!
One of the books I am presently reading is Metaxas biography of Martin Luther. It is more than a bit distressing, as constantly Metaxas points out that what happened was out of control of everyone involved, especially Luther.
Why couldn’t the church simply reform? Why did the leaders not listen and discuss things like the Church did at the Jerusalem council? Why was the division and later shattering of God’s family so unavoidable?
As I read Metaxas account, it seems like the reformation was a huge tidal wave, that consumed all in its path.
So where was God in it all? Can we, as another Catholic Priest/Reformer of the Church advised, “discover Our Lord behind each event and in every circumstance”?
Personally, I find this difficult, I get overwhelmed by what seemed impossible to stop, Much like the people of Israel in the time of Zechariah. It was impossible for them to even think of the restoration of the people (not the nation) Israel. The people of God who struggle with Him (that;s what Israel means), yet are His people, for He is their God. Yet the prophet assures them that for God this is not impossible, but it will happen.
God will restore His people, He will call them to His side,, He will call them home together. It is God’s plan, His desire, His will, that we shouldn’t perish, and that He will call all His people home, together.
So how to grow in faith, in confidence that what God has promised, God will deliver? Even when the darkness seems to overshadow life? How can I trust, as Joseph did, that God means all of this for good? From the reformation which shattered the Western Church to arguments which threaten my own denomination today, that God will use these storms to bless those who love Him?
I have to look to the cross, the place where God seems the most vulnerable, even more, vulnerable than when He was in utero in Mary. To look to the cross as Jesus, fully God and fully man, is murdered by those who found God’s inconvenient and bothersome. As He died for all of our sin. The sin of the Catholics, the Protestants, even the Orthodox. s He died to cover the sins for those who do not know Him yet, but will as we reveal Him to them. It is there- when even nature went dark and shook with fear, to realize even in the dark moment, God was at work. Using the greatest evil Satan could ever con man into doing, turned out to be the greatest of blessings.
As God proved He is Immanuel, God with us.
As I look at a broken and fractured church, on his the supposed anniversary of the Reformation, my hope is in God’s promise, that not one of those in Christ will be lost, that He will call all of us home, and that He will continue to make us a holy people.
Lord, have mercy on us! Help us to see You in everything we encounter, and in all of History!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 553-556). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our days:
5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. Galatians 4:5-7 (NLT)
14 Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15 Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are but did not sin. 16 Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:14-16 (TEV)
80 If you are a good son of God, in the same way that a little child needs to be assured of the presence of his parents when he gets up in the morning or goes to bed at night, your first and last thought each day will be for Him.
Luther saw in this the very essence of Christian theology. God reached down not halfway to meet us in our vileness but all the way down, to the foul dregs of our broken humanity. And this holy and loving God dared to touch our lifeless and rotting essence and in doing so underscored that this is the truth about us. In fact, we are not sick and in need of healing. We are dead and in need of resurrecting. We are not dusty and in need of a good dusting; we are fatally befouled with death and fatally toxic filth and require total redemption. If we do not recognize that we need eternal life from the hand of God, we remain in our sins and are eternally dead. So because God respects us, he can reach us only if we are honest about our condition. So it fit well with Luther’s thinking that if God were to bestow upon him— the unworthy sinner Luther— such a divine blessing, it must needs be done as he sat grunting in the “cloaca.”
It is not what we think of as a holy place, yet it was.
A man who suffered incredibly from guilt and shame, whose anxiety nearly paralyzed him, when it wasn’t driving him mad.
And he finally had that aha moment while sitting on a toilet. During a particularly hard bowel movement.
Seriously? Yeah, seriously.
In a way, it is the perfect parallel physically to what needs to happen to us spiritually. We might call it thus, “The Kingdom of God is like a good laxative! We need to get rid of all the crap in our lives, the sin which binds us up! We try to eliminate the sin’s stench by trying to legitimize our behavior, to justify or excuse it. We do all things these, and all they do is cause us pain, and grief, and more foul air. And when God comes to us, all that crap is eliminated.
We need God to meet us there! And that is what Luther realized God would do, a God who loves His children so much that He will meet us even there. A God who would answer the cry of a child in pain, a God who would be there for us, no matter what we are dealing with in life. A God who knows the crap we’ve been messing around in, and loves us enough to set aside the stench and do what needed to be done.
As we realize this, how it changes us! How it reforms us and the way that we look at life! How it draws us to Him, to adore Him,, to love Him, to worship Him, even as we run to Him with confidence, assured that he can take care for the crap we cannot deal with by our own reason or strength.
This is our God, cry out to Him in confidence! Lord have mercy on me!
And assured of His love and grace, know the relief, the peace that His presence brings! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 498-500). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Metaxas, Eric. Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (p. 97). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 When the seventy-two n came back, they were very happy and said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we used your name!”
18 Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Listen, I have given you power to walk on snakes and scorpions, power that is greater than the enemy has. So nothing will hurt you. 20 But you should not be happy because the spirits obey you but because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20 NCV
10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)
I think that the hands of a priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving the absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.
For priests, pastors and all those who minister to others, there is a fine balance between humility and confidence. And if we are honest, it is when we are struggling with the latter that we don’t act all that humble. I imagine there may be one or two of us that think they are God’s gift to the church. (In a way they are0 But many of us still wonder why God has put us here, why God has entrusted to us this incredible, sacred, beautiful, demanding ministry.
I love Pope Francis’s words about our ministry. He nails it when talking about the awe that hits you when you pray over someone, or see their body loose every bit of tension and anxiety as they realize God’s forgiveness, as they realize He is present. I still can recall the eyes of people after I have baptized them, or their children. (Two incredible “devout” atheist/agnostic types come to mind as I baptized their children – eyes bright and full of tears… and God isn’t done with them either!) But his also occurs when we pray with someone over breakfast, or see people having an “aha” at work, as they realize another dimension of God’s love because we said something.
It is in those moments that our lives do feel like a work of art, as God weaves our lives with others, and creates something wonderful. If it iis awe-inspiring to consider sinners in the hands of an angry God, how much more incredible is it to see God work through the hands of a repentant sinner who trusts in Him?
Still, my heart cries out… why? Why me? What did I do to deserve this?
Nothing of course.
Which is where the first gospel reading helps us maintain some manner of balance. As wonderful it is that God can use us, the even more wonderful thing is that we already are certain He’s got us, we are HIs, our names are written in the Heaven,
That is even more amazing. As broken, as sinful, as able as I am to screw up something, God has claimed us as His.
SO tomorrow, as you go to preach, or lead worship, to distribute communion or work with the children’s ministry, or just tell the person next to you – God is with you, indeed, you are being used by God, you carry His presence within you, and it is blessing others. Remember though, that is simply proof of a greater mystery, a greater blessing. You are one of God’s people, He is your God, and He loves you! (me too!)
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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 He has by his own action given us everything that is necessary for living the truly good life, in allowing us to know the one who has called us to him, through his own glorious goodness. It is through him that God’s greatest and most precious promises have become available to us men, making it possible for you to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust produces in the world and to share in God’s essential nature. 5 For this very reason you must do your utmost from your side, and see that your faith carries with it real goodness of life. Your goodness must be accompanied by knowledge, your knowledge by self-control, your self-control by the ability to endure. Your endurance too must always be accompanied by devotion to God; that in turn must have in it the quality of brotherliness, and your brotherliness must lead on to Christian love.
2 Peter 1:3-5 (Phillips NT)
Since then, O my soul! thou art capable of knowing and loving God, why wilt thou amuse thyself with anything less than God? Since thou mayest put in thy claim to eternity, why shouldst thou amuse thyself with transitory moments? It was one of the most grievous reflections of the prodigal son, that he might have fared deliciously at his father’s table, whilst he was feeding amongst filthy swine. Since thou art, O my soul, capable of possessing God, woe be to thee if thou contentest thyself with anything less than God.
This morning, as I arrived at church, two little girls who go to our preschool were greeting each other with great joy. Laughter and giggles were loud, as they danced around their moms who were obviously more aware that it was Monday, and that we shouldn’t be excited or enthusiastic about a new day.
My ten year old observed that it was because they were anxious to see each other, to share the week together, that explained the joy we observed. As I read St Francis de Sales words (in blue above) I thought it echoed my son’s words of wisdom. Why should we have the Monday drama?
Isn’t there something good about this day? Isn’t it one of the days the Lord has made?
de Sales talks about the woes that accompany those who are capable of possessing God (realizing they are in His presence, that they have His attention and His heart) and find contentment ( or at least settle for) something less than God. That we accept the doldrums, the burdens of our lives as being the reality.
We are capable of knowing and loving God! This is what the cross means, this incredible encounter with God who lives and reigns. We are invited to walk with Him through life, to behold the masterpiece He would make of it!
That’s why Peter talks so…. so gloriously about a life with Christ. A life where we know the Father, where we endure and find the ability to endure because of our devotion to Him, a devotion that is a response to His giving us everything that is needed to live what Peter calls ( in the midst of a dungeon that could make the worst Monday appealing)) the “good life.”
It’s not what we endure that makes it good, but that we live in the presence of God while experiencing it that makes the difference. Like the two little girls, greeting each other with great joy, we can greet our Lord, and see His smile, and rejoice in His presence!
So stop amusing yourself with anything but God… and find in Him the joy that overwhelms even a Monday you return from vacation!
Alleluia! He is Risen! He is risen indeed! And therefore – We are Risen indeed!
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:14-16 (NLT)
917 Nonne cor nostrum ardens erat in nobis, dum loqueretur in via?—“Was not our heart burning within us, while he spoke to us on the way?” If you are an apostle, these words of the disciples of Emmaus should rise spontaneously to the lips of your professional companions when they meet you along the ways of their lives. (1)
At first, I felt an incredible burden as I read the words of St Josemaria this morning. While I know, we are sent into this word, that we are all apostles, the idea of people responding to us the way the two disciples on the road to Emmaus did seems so unlikely.
I read these words, and my heart asks whether St Josemaria knows we aren’t Jesus. We aren’t perfect; we don’t have the wisdom, we are righteous enough, we are too bogged down by brokenness and anxiety.
So how could people react as if they encountered the holiness that is natural for the Son of God?
Because they have. When they enocunter us, they encounter Jesus, for He is with us!
The promises are there; we will never be forsaken by Jesus, He will be with us for eternity. The Holy Spirit dwells within all those who believe and are baptized. The Holy Spirit is transforming us into the image of Christ, even as we see His glory.
We know these things theologically, that is not enough! We have to realize the reality of what we know. It has to sink deep into our hearts, our souls, even as we explore the vast dimension of the Love of God for us, revealed in Jesus.
This doesn’t happen through academic learning. It happens as we pray, as we spend time aware of God’s presence and peace, His comforting us and healing our brokenness, forgiving sin, removing resentment. We are altered at the altar, as we receive Him, His precious Body broken for us, His blessed Blood, which confirms our relationship with Him and reminds us of all of His promises. This is a life that is one of prayer, and meditation on His word. Not to prove our righteousness, but because in these encounters with God, we find His peace, we rest in Him.
As much as some would shy away from experiential aspects of our faith, these experiences where God is transforming us through His promises we hear in HIs word, through the sacraments He commissioned, these are His means.
We may never be aware of the result of the work, save when someone realizes Christ’s passion and care for them through us, and that is okay.
It’s not about our glory; it is about people being changed by our dwelling in HIs glorious presence. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2132-2134). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
16 I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. 17 For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.”
Romans 1:16-17 (TEV)
When relating these events in his Gospel, Saint Matthew continually emphasizes Joseph’s faithfulness. He kept the commandments of God without wavering, even though the meaning of those commandments was sometimes obscure or their relation to the rest of the divine plan hidden from him. The Fathers of the Church and other spiritual writers frequently emphasize the firmness of Joseph’s faith. Referring to the angel’s command to fly from Herod and take refuge in Egypt,7 Saint John Chrysostom comments: “On hearing this, Joseph was not shocked nor did he say: ‘This is strange. You yourself made it known not long ago that he would save his people, and now you are incapable even of saving him—we have to flee, to set out on a long journey and spend a long while in a strange place; that contradicts your promise.’ Joseph does not think in this way, for he is a man who trusts God. Nor does he ask when he will return, even though the angel left it so vague: ‘Stay there, until I tell you to return.’ Joseph does not object; he obeys and believes and joyfully accepts all the trials.”8 Joseph’s faith does not falter, he obeys quickly and to the letter. To understand this lesson better, we should remember that Joseph’s faith is active, that his docility is not a passive submission to the course of events. For the Christian’s faith has nothing whatever to do with conformity, inertia, or lack of initiative. Joseph entrusted himself unreservedly to the care of God, but he always reflected on events and so was able to reach that level of understanding of the works of God which is true wisdom. In this way he learned little by little that supernatural plans have a logic which at times upsets human plans.
There are days where it is a challenge to live by faith, to live in view of the brutal world where people are butchered, tortured, and enslaved. There are days where the pain is much closer, a friend struggling with cancer, a son dealing with the death of a parent, the parent dealing with the death of a child. It can even be more of an irritant, an argument among friends, or even a relationship being broken, a relationship between people who should be united, but can’t get past their brokenness.
Some may dismiss these latter things by noting that we are sinners, that we are supposed to be broken, that what we need to do is be confident in our absolution. Surely that is true for sins in our past, but the danger lies in assuming that such a lack of faith is appropriate for tomorrow. The lesson that some will hear is that we don’t have to be concerned about loving our neighbor, caring for the widow and orphan, and if we fail to because of self-interest or greed or apathy? Oh well, confess it, and be confident in your forgiveness.
St Josemaria, in talking about Joseph, quotes one of the key verses for Martin Luther. The just shall live by faith! But what does that mean? Does it mean that we are simply quickened (as the old Creed says) and are alive because of faith, or does it mean we actually LIVE, day by day, moment by moment, dependent on God, trusting Him for what He has promised, revelling in the joy of His presence, even when life sucks?
That is life by faith, life in Christ, real life, the kind of life that accepts what comes to us, trusting and depending on God. This was ultimately freeing to Luther, not just in absolution, but in living. For Joseph, Escriva claims it gave him the strength to obey the angelic visitation that occurred in dreams (unlike Mary who encountered the angel face to face.) He just went, because he trusted God. He went depending on God, despite the oddities, despite the lack of answers, despite the appearance that God didn’t care.
You want to be right? Live this way, dependent on God, so dependent that obedience becomes more natural, and that when we fail, we run for forgiveness – in both cases dependent on the promise of God… How does this grow? Through encountering Christ through His word, through sacraments like the Eucharist, and through prayer and meditation on Christ.
For this is life!
Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1355-1371). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.