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The Necessity of Good Works

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4  May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! 5  Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. 6  Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. 7  And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. 8  In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9  Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9 (TEV)

116      Fill yourself with good desires, which is a holy thing, praised by God. But don’t leave it at that! You have to be a soul—a man, a woman—who deals in realities. To carry out those good desires, you have to formulate clear and precise resolutions. And then, my child, you have to fight to put them into practice, with God’s grace.  (1)

Since Adam and Eve left the garden it seems, there have been discussions about doing good works, about purity of thought, about living a life that would please God.

I realized something about such conversations, they are rarely practical.

They can be theological, discussing how faith and works interact.  Or how works and salvation are related.  Most say that works aren’t necessary for salvation, but the arguments occur after that seemingly go on forever.  The same can be said about the laws of God, and the Law of God.  How does it impact believers, are we bound to first use of the law, or is there a third use.

Nice academic exercises.

One of my parishioners recently hit me hard with a comment, showing what conversations we don’t have.   She mentioned that I explained the what well, and the why well, but often leave out the how.  I thought about it, and I think she has a major point.  It reminds me of one of my greatest fears.  Trying to teach my wife, or my son, how to drive a stick shift, a manual transmission. It is about sensing, not thinking, and therefore it is hard to explain.  Well, that is my excuse, and I won’t stick to it.

So here goes…. how to accomplish good works

When it comes to works, the first step has to be internal.  You can’t do what is right, if our minds are always focused on what is not.

Which is why Paul tells us to fill our minds with things that deserve praise, the good things in life.  Think on these things,  On God’s love, on mercy, on His presence and peace.  Don’t just think about them for thirty seconds, but often dwell on them.  Think of Christ’s example, or that of apostles or those who’ve gone before us in the faith.

From dwelling on these things – to the point of desiring them in your life, desire them.  Think of the good you can do, and for everyone this is different.  It might be holding the hand of someone who is stressed and anxious.  It is always praying for people, not just saying that you will keep them in prayer.  It may be offering help, physical, financial, more often emotional.  POinting them to that which will help their anxiety fade, pointing them to what will strengthen their faith.  (An example – asking them why we commune, or what their baptism means – and reminding them that God is in their life..reminding them of passages like Romans 8:28-38)

Desiring to spend more time walking with God is the key, hearing Him, knowing Him, realizing the peace He brings,   That is the key to doing good works, and yes, in Christ we can… for our lives, our souls are God’s good work, as He transforms us and guides us in doing what He has planned….

So think on Christ’s love, often… let it dwell in you richly… so much you sing about it unconsciously…..

Oh and the necessity of doing this?  Try it for a while, then you will understand….for what happens is beyond our understanding….

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 610-613). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Lord is With You? What you say matters….?

Devotional Thought of the Day:The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

45  A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart; a bad person brings bad out of his treasure of bad things. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45 (TEV)

7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived. You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me.   9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:7a,9 (TEV)

26      It is painful to see that after two thousand years there are so few people in the world who call themselves Christians and that of those who do call themselves Christians, so few practise the true teaching of Jesus Christ. It is worth while putting our whole life at stake!: working and suffering for Love, to accomplish God’s plans and co-redeem.(1)  

I hear people claiming they know God, that they invited Him into their heart, that respond, “and also with you” or “and with your Spirit.  I do as well, and yes, this blog is written at me, as well as many of you.

If this is true, an I read the first quote from St. Luke’s Gospel correctly, then what should flow out of our mouths should be Christ Jesus’s words.  Words that encourage, words that heal, words that forgive and reconcile, words that invite people on a journey with Christ, towards the Father, towards eternity.

But what comes out of our mouth more often is complaining, criticising, lofty words that extol theological treatises, but never point to Christ.  Words that are full of innuendo, cheaping the blessing that God gives in the intimate relationship between a man a woman that He has joined together in marriage.   Words that lie, or gossip (is there a difference?) the demean, or dominate.  Curses, swears, false oaths. Words dripping with sarcasm, not realizing the blood those words can draw. Words that not only judge, but condemn and call for death to those whose sins are different than us. Words that betray a heart that doesn’t trust in anything, nevermind praising God for the promises He is fulfilling in our lives.

When I was a younger pastor, I would suggest that we just need to be disciplined.  That we struggle to be righteous in our words by simply a force of will.  Except that I didn’t quite get that the words are but a symptom of a heart and soul issue.   We might be able to discipline our tongues in some things like word choice (though we will slip out now and then…) But what about our thoughts, our attitudes, and what we truly trust in?  Those still will betray us unless there is a change.

Unless our souls, our hearts, our minds find themselves being conformed to the mind of Christ. Unless we see the cross, and its suffering that Christ embraced as an example of His love and desire for us.  It is there, in awe of the Body of Christ broken, the blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of sins, that change begins to happen.  It is as we realize that God has marked us, claimed us, sealed us as His in Baptism, that He has reconciled and absolved us in sin.  That the Father in Heaven calls us His children, that Jesus will call us His brothers, that the Holy Spirit will reside in us; this is when this transformation, this metamorphosis happens.

it is them, like St Josemaria encourages, that we begin to desire to put our whole life on the line, and work and sacrifice in ways without even considering that it is work, that it is sacrificing our lives.  It is then, tired, weary, even burnt out, that what comes from our hearts, souls and minds are the words of God.  The miraculous words that bring to Him a people, who weren’t a people.

The Lord is with you always, dwell on that, recognize its truth, meditate on the blessing that is, a blessing revealed in God’s word, and delivered in the sacraments.

The Lord is with you…and He has brought you many gifts, the gift of faith, and the gift of repentance, the gift of reconciliation, the gift of life. ….

The Lord is with you, showing you the depth, the height, the width and breadth of God’s love you…. dwell on this, as often as you can……and then watch what happens to your words, and your thoughts.

The Lord is with you…

AMEN!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 329-333). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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