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The Broken’s Feast

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_nDevotional Thought of the day:

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.  1 Kings 19:3-5

Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician.”

880    Don’t let your defects and imperfections nor even your more serious falls, take you away from God. A weak child, if he is wise, tries to keep near his Father.

There he was. seemingly victorious, and yet, he was devastated. He longed to die and saw no hope in continuing to live. He wasn’t suicidal, but he was so broken he couldn’t go on anymore. He was overwhelmed by sin, his own and that which he observed.

Even though I am a simple pastor, I’ve seen that frustration in lay people and pastors, as despair and frustration just tire us out so much we cannot even see the progress we have made. If I am honest, I’ve felt that way more than once.

Instinct in those times drives us toward isolation, but there is no solace there.  In fact, isolation only leaves us more time to contemplate our despair, to feel more overwhelmed, more alone, more… abandoned…not just broken, but shattered.

And Hungry…

Elijah wakes up to a meal prepared for him, a meal prepared by one sent by God to encourage him, to lift him up, to restore his vitality so he can journey a little farther down the road.  Eventually the journey, through storm and fire, through his spiritual and mental fatigue will bring him to the place where he will hear God. Where Elijah will be ready to hear God.

For me, in those moments of brokenness, my one lifeline is being cared for and fed by God.  It is as Bonaventure notes, it is in these times we need to receive it more frequently.  It is the feast set out for those who are broken and weary. Not just bread from angels, but the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.  The feast where He gives us His own body and blood.

It is our feast.

The feast for the Broken

A time when I can realize God is restoring what is broken, where He heals that which has been ravaged by sin.  A time just like Elijah, yet shared with friends and the family of God.  A time of great peace, and healing, and rest.

As I still have moments where brokenness is profound, where I still want to run away, where I wonder if my life will ever bee less broken and make a difference, I have learned something.  To wait it out, to look forward to the next time we gather together and are provided bread from heaven.

The nourishment we need for the journey, the blessed feast for those of us broken and shattered.

This feast, whether we call it communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist, it is the feast for the broken, the turning point where we find such grace and peace that the journey itself changes.  He will provide it, and the Spirit will draw us to it.

This is the hope we need, this is what will satisfy our hunger.

 

De Liguori, A. (1887). The Holy Eucharist. (E. Grimm, Ed.) (pp. 224–225). New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 2025-2027). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How to Survive When Prayer or the Sacraments Seem…Meaningless.

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional Thought of the Day:
7  “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. 8  Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. 9  With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. 10  Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. 11  Keep us alive with three square meals. 12  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 13  Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. Matthew 6:7-13 (MSG)

18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT2)

551    Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.

Recently, my son wanted to help me.  He’s noticed I’ve been under some stress, and he knows I can’t share some of those things with anyone, even his mother. Another friend asked how they could help.

In both cases, I answered prayer and the response led me to believe they were disappointed with that answer.  I could see it in my son’s eyes, “Can’t I do more?”, and in my friend’s response as they try and give me ideas on how to spend my “free time”

Pray, simply pray.

It might be, and is often for me, in a pattern.  Some people don’t do that well, and the pattern becomes rote, automatic, simple repetition.  For me, it can become that, but I have learned to try and savor the words, rather than just repeat them.  I try to tune into what they reveal, and how they help me experience the love of God that is too great to understand fully.  

That was St Josemaria’s key, that when prayer, meditation, adoration, studying the scriptures, etc become routine, we need to flee from it becoming routine is to realize the constant presence of God. 

Fleeing from routine doesn’t mean fleeing from the practice, it means fleeing from the practice being routine, about realizing that you are in the presence of God, to give to Him your burdens, to entrust to Him, to depend upon Him because you know He’s promised to be there.   To experience that love, despite what the world would throw at you.

For experiencing love is never simply routine…

I included the Lord’s prayer from a paraphrase, Peterson’s The Message.  I by no means want to abandon the way each of us learned it, but sometimes reading another version helps us to appreciate what we are praying a little more, to realize what the familiar words mean.  (the words that are like family)  How they do reveal the love of God, how they help us experience it, how all-encompassing it is.

We need that, we need to be in communion with God, in communication with Him. We need to leave our burdens on His doorstep, We need to pray, and receive the sacraments, and spend time seeing Him revealed to us, so ready to love us as we read the Bible, as we read those who realized it before us.

This is God, right now, right here!  He is with you! (me too!)

Talk to Him, realize how much He desires to be with You!  Adore Him, and begin to realize what it means for Him truly to be YOUR God.

Dwell in His merciful peace..  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1331-1332). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why Mondays Feel So….Empty….

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!”  John 6:68-69  HCSB

4  I have asked the LORD for one thing; one thing only do I want: to live in the LORD’S house all my life, to marvel there at his goodness, and to ask for his guidance. 5  In times of trouble he will shelter me; he will keep me safe in his Temple and make me secure on a high rock. 6  So I will triumph over my enemies around me. With shouts of joy I will offer sacrifices in his Temple; I will sing, I will praise the LORD. 7  Hear me, LORD, when I call to you! Be merciful and answer me! 8  When you said, “Come worship me,” I answered, “I will come, LORD.” Psalm 27:4-8 (TEV)

The pure in heart shall see God.  The seeing of Him will be the sign that we are like Him, for only by being like Him can we see Him as He is.  But when shall we be fit to look at Him in the face, God only knows.  That is the heart of my hopes by day and by night.  To behold the face of Jesus seems to me to be the one this to be desired.

Whenever we speak to God, whenever we open ourselves to God, we ourselves are renewed. Conversely, whenever the world closes itself to God, whenever it turns away from him, it is like a planet broken loose from its field of gravity and forever wandering aimlessly through nothingness. When a person loses God, he can no longer be genuinely himself because he has lost the fundamental norm of his existence. When we cut ourselves loose from our proper norm, there remains only excess or reversion. Some theologians suggest, as a precaution, that theology be so worded that it will still be functional “etsi deus non daretur”: even if there really is no God. But if God does not exist, we will have lost more than just an ornamental bauble on the periphery of our existence. If God does not exist, nothing will be as it is now; everything will proceed from emptiness and will revert to emptiness.

Part of my daily time I spend in prayer, talking to God, trying to listen, meditating on his word includes the two Bible readings above. There is a pattern, an order for morning prayer I use that includes them both.

And every Monday these words hit me in the face, and I feel like a hypocrite. I know God’s words are the words of life, I know how wonderful it is to be in His presence, I know how special it is to be in God’s presence.

Yet Mondays seem so empty of all of that, so distant.  Even in this holy week, it’s MONDAY!

So there is a part of me that feels convicted, even judged and condemned as a hypocrite when I say these words.  It’s not that I don’t want to feel this way, I want to, but it seems like I can’t. I feel like the theologians who imagine theology to be able to functionally exist if God doesn’t exist.

Monday’s seem empty, which is ironic because the day before was so full of His presence I would think my joy would never fade or fail.

So as I start my time dedicated to being in His presence, it starts out as a struggle, (it doesn’t help that the first reading was also in my readings today,)  Or the McDonald reading, or that from Pope Benedict.  Each reminded me that this is how I should be.  Each reminds me that my reality is not what I want it to be.

Each reminds me of how hungry I am for life to change.

I guess over the years, I’ve realized that these feelings could so easily betray me, these feelings that I am the worst hypocrite, these feelings that I am just going through the motions.  The dissatisfaction with my own faith and practice could cause even more of a spiral into guilt-ridden apathy until my cold heart no longer cares.  It’s easy enough to stagger down that road.  Will I ever be fit to see Him face to face?  That is my question on Mondays, when my heart lies, and tells me, no.

I need to read these words of scripture and ask God for help to make them mine.  I need to find that desire, and the only way to do it is to depend on Him to renew me, something that happens when I enter His presence as I am broken, tired, empty. For then I do see God as McDonald desires.  I do become who I am, as Pope Benedict points out.  Because God is the one who renews, who revives. It is His love that draws me into His presence, that makes me aware of it

It seems counter-intuitive to need God to provide the desire, the strength to desire to be in His presence. But it is the reality I’ve come to learn to live with.  I have to dive into my pattern, for there, Mondays lose their emptiness, the meaningless.. or perhaps, they have no meaning, because meaning is all wrapped up in being in God’s presence, and the day doesn’t matter.

He is the Lord of Life.  I need to know that on Mondays… and He makes sure I do…

So let’s pray together, that on Monday’s we would encounter our Lord, and know we can confidently cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!’

He will, that is what He does.

 

Daily office Meditation for 3/26 (quoted from George McDonald) Celtic Daily Prayer: Book 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.

Confession of a Tired Pastor….

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

Devotional thought for our Day:

3 He said to me, “Israel, you are my servant; because of you, people will praise me.” 4 I said, “I have worked, but how hopeless it is! I have used up my strength, but have accomplished nothing.”  Yet I can trust the LORD to defend my cause; he will reward me for what I do. 5 Before I was born, the LORD appointed me; he made me his servant to bring back his people, to bring back the scattered people of Israel.  IS. 49:3-5 TEV

795         To be happy, what you need is not an easy life but a heart which is in love.

Tomorrow is the 9th anniversary of my installation as Concordia’s pastor.  We’ve had some hard times here, as we closed our elementary school. And harder times, as we’ve lost many to people who were a part of our identity, those people who you can’t imagine our church without their smiles, their laughter, and their antics.

We’ve had our times of great joy as well, as children are born and baptized, as others have realized how incredible the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist is, as prodigals have come home.

But there have been days where I have been tired, where I understand the words from Isaiah above.  It is the challenge that many in ministry face when we know we are exactly where God wants us, and yet, we don’t see (in that moment) the fruit of our work.  When we’ve used up all “us” and don’t see anything beneficial. 

I’ve been there a time or two in the last 9 years, I’ll confess it, I’ve been tired.  And as I read these words this morning, as I looked at the bulletin that someone saved from my first “official” moment here…. I felt the tiredness again.  And when you are tired, your eyes close, your vision isn’t as sharp, and fail to see the beauty around you.  For the moment. 

My mind focused on the words of the frustrated prophet, they resonated deeply, and I failed to see the words around the passage.  

Words that talked about God’s call on our lives, that our vocation, our service to Him is something from birth (see Eph. 2:10 as well)  (v.1 & 5 & 7) 

Words that promise He is the source of our strength (v.2 & 5) 

Words that remind us our task is greater than it appears, (v.6 ) for we have the world to reach with this gospel.  (Gee more work?)

But what strikes me after catching the entire context, is that miraculously, this passage isn’t describing just Isaiah’s feelings, or yours and mine.  This passage is about Jesus. About his work, not just in the world, but in our lives.  

There could be the temptation to give up on us, for the suffering He endured for our sake was great, and seeing the results in our lives, takes an eternal perspective.  There is the hatred and dismission, not only that the world has for him, but sometimes seen in our lives, as we fight against His word and promises, as we dismiss our time with Him to do something “more productive)  

And yet God continues on, loving us, even when it isn’t easy. And yet, in loving us, we find God full of joy, as He shares with those He calls His glory and the glorious acts that call and reconcile the world to Him.

I wouldn’t say the last 9 years were easy.  Our church’s mission statement and motto bear that truth plainly.  Concordia is the place where broken people find healing in Christ while helping others heal.  But as we see God dealing with that brokenness, as we see Him working in the lives of those we love… there is a special joy and an incredible peace that can’t be explained – only experienced.  

For God has called and is calling us together.  

To Him be all the honor and praise.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3290-3291). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Loving God With All Your Soul – The Blessing of the Incarnation.

MarkJ AdventLoving God with All Your Soul– the Blessing of Incarnation

Isaiah 61:1-10

 † I.H.S. †

 May Jesus’s incarnation in your life be so real, so tangible that your love for Him grows with every breath you take!

 My eyes are dry…the broken soul

It seems that many people this year would describe themselves with one word.

Tired.

There may be some factors that cause us to be so weary, so many it seems like all we do is go from trial to trauma, from prayer request to prayer request.  And as we talked about hearts being broken and needing Christ’s healing presence last week, the song talks about another part of us that is just worn down.

Our souls.

The part of us, that inner part that provides our courage, our character, our desire and the holiness that we need to walk through life in love with God, and to love our neighbor.

As we look at loving God as He asks, with all our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength, this one is hard.

When our soul is weary, when it is worn and broken, we hear the encouragement to love God, and we think about trying, and our soul cries out,

I’ve got nuthin.   Nuthin.

It’s that dryness that causes us to wonder why we pray, or if God is listening, or if He cares at all.  It is that dryness that causes us a spiritual exhaustion that robs us of hope, and leaves us thinking we still abide in the darkness.

He incarnation changes us… it dresses us.

Which is why we need to think about the incarnation, not just the incarnation when Mary is carrying Jesus in the womb, although contemplating that helps us contemplate His incarnation into our lives.

He came then, and angels sang.  They sing as well as Jesus draws us into Himself on the cross, taking all of our sins into Himself, and cleansing us of it. He takes that dryness as well, as we understand the cross, as we understand he is not distant.  He is here.

Isaiah’s second reading now makes sense –

I rejoice Heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul!

We are in Him, we abide in Him, and as we realize this, everything begins to change as well.

This is the joy we find in Advent, the restoration of our soul when we realize that Holy Spirit is there, despite our dryness, that He is here to comfort us, to restore us, to translate our prayers as Paul tells the church.

26  In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27  And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. 28  We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-30 (TEV)

See that?

So, even in those periods where we aren’t sure if God is listening, He is listening.  Hearing and responding to the deepest cries of our heart. Even when we don’t know what to say. Even when we are too dry to say anything.

He is with us, He is here, ministering to us, assuring us of His presence.  Using speed bumps to help us slow down, and know He is God, and He cares. As we realize this – so much happens, our souls come alive, as we realize His power saving us, as we are dressed in His righteousness, as He treats us as His beloved bride.  Our reaction, from the deepest part of our soul, is to love Him back… with all we are.

This is why our services include the Lord’s Supper, even before our eating dinner.

Because as we commune we stop and we find ourselves giving Him everything, our burdens, our anxieties, our fears, our sins, our dryness.  In his presence they actually fall off us, God removes them…as we stop and receive His blessed Body and Blood, given to us, His beloved, which strengthens our faith, helps us to depend on Him all the more, and dwell in peace.  AMEN!

 

Tired at Work? of Work? Me too! Yet….


Devotional Thought fo the Day:
17  And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 (NAB)

23  Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, 24  knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.   Colossians 3:23-24 (NAB)

277    You ask me, “Why that wooden cross?” And I quote from a letter: “As I raise my eyes from the microscope, my sight comes to rest on the cross—black and empty. That cross without a corpus is a symbol; it has a meaning others won’t see. And I, tired out and on the point of abandoning my work, once again bring my eyes close to the lens and continue. For that lonely cross is calling for a pair of shoulders to bear it.”  (1)

It is Friday, and I am sitting in my office, trying to get my act together, to prepare an inspiring sermon.  I’m tired, my allergies are not helping! Neither is a sore back.  I want to whine and complain and go home and escape into a television show, or more likely a book.

And I know even those who aren’t tired are counting down the hours until the work day is over, and then get that rush of energy which signifies that it is the weekend!

O wait – the laundry needs, to be done, the garage cleaned, the …..

The energy drains and we are back to being tired.

As I was reading this morning, I was reading the book of Colossians, lots of good rich teaching in that work of Paul. Could have written about anything from preaching and baptism to the fact we dwell in and for Christ.  IN fact, I was thinking about writing on the incredible song of praise that starts in 1:15, until I got to Josemaria’s writings, and the quote in blue above.

“Tired and abandoning my work….”

Uhm, yeah – I have not only been there, I am there.

And the ministry waits… and yet the cross has no body…

Will I bear my cross?

Part of me wants to say no, I’m too tired.  I hear the invitation to bear the cross as one demanding more sacrifice.

Then I remember the other cross, the one where I am there, and His body has taken it up. There love is revealed in all of its fullness, where I find hope beyond belief.  Where joy is the focus, not the shame (see Heb 12:1-3) Where I am invited to die with Him, that I may live with Him.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether my work is writing a manuscript from which to preach from, or listening to a co-worker, or a friend. “Whatever you do” Paul reminds us – all of it do in God’s name, for His glory, knowing we have already been guaranteed a reward of all of eternity, sharing in His glory.

To run to bear our cross, to embrace the work, even the suffering is not just a challenge, it is an opportunity to experience God, to know His presence that sustains us.  For while we were nailed to a cross with Christ, He is with us, as we bear our cross.

Knowing that, the work takes on a new meaning, a time of contemplation, a time where His peace overwhelms my brokenness, my tiredness.

God is with you, share the work with Him, as a child shares their work with their dad.

Have a blessed Friday!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 735-738). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Let’s Not Get Tired…. REALLY? A sermon on Galatians 6

Let’s Not Get Tired!

Galatians 6:1–10, 14–18

 In Jesus Name 

May God’s mercy and peace rest upon you, as you live a life drawn to the Cross, for you are the people of God!

No Un-obeyable Orders
But Don’t get tired?

Every summer I read a series of books by one of my favorite authors.  He writes series about the military and the police, novels based on true events.  In one of the books I was reading this week, an older retired officer mentioned to a younger officer that you never issue an order you know can’t be obeyed, or won’t be obeyed.  Specifically, if the character of the person you are directing leads you to believe they can’t or won’t obey the order, don’t bother.

Find someone else, or find a way to replace the person.

For some reason that piece of wisdom made me laugh, when I was reading Paul’s words to the church in Galatia,

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.

Of course, when I read it, I read it more like, “don’t get tired while doing good!”

Too late – been tired for a while – way too tired sometimes.

But oh the feeling of accomplishing something good is… to Goood!

Even if we are tired.

So today’s lesson could be titled – How not to get tired of doing good to other even when we are tired.

So how do we do that?

Obeying the Law

First, we have to define what it means to do good. Not that’s not right, we don’t get to define it, God does.

What we have to do Is have revealed to us what God sees as doing good, or doing what is right. The easy answer is found in next week’s gospel – a passage I preached on 30 years ago.  To do good is to do this,
“‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Luke 10:27 (NLT)

If you all agree that everything you do will fulfill that, we can have communion and go home!  Seriously, we need to understand that, and today’s epistle gives a number of examples, such as,

“if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.”

“2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3″

These are pretty strong commands, pretty challenging.  For how many of us are willing to go to someone who is sinning, and try to help them to see the need to stop?  How many are willing to invest and risk what it will take to gently and humbly restore that person.

Knowing that loving them this much – even with a gentle and humble spirit could mean that they strike back, and tell you to mind your own business.  Or even worse?

How many of us are willing to help someone bear their burdens, to be there in times of sorrow and in times of tears?  What about in the dark times, where anxiety and doubt and guilt are crushing them?

This is as much doing good as is celebrating the service of those who are retiring, or those whose ministry is changing.

It isn’t easy, it takes commitment, patience, the old kind of patience which is called long-suffering, it takes faith, and the ability to set aside our own self-interest, to make sure the physical, emotional and most importantly spiritual needs of others are taken care of, that they are okay.

But how do we do that?  How do we set aside a basic interest of self-preservation to minister to others, to share their burdens?

Treasuring the Walk

We remember Jesus, and we let Him draw us back to the cross.  Here St. Paul again,

14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died!

This is our hope, in the cross, where Jesus was brutally put to death.  At the cross, where he was nailed, and where a spear pierced his heart and lungs.  In Christ lifted up, drawing us to Him, that we could become children of God.

Where our transformation into His likeness begins.

That is where the interests of the world disappear, that is where what drives the world, riches, fame, pleasure and even health don’t seem as magnificent as seeing Jesus looking at us, knowing only as God can the love for us that says the torment and pain are worth it.

For he freed us from sin, from Satan, from the power of death that would separate us from God and all that is good.

Getting tired, exhausted even?  Feeling like you do not have another step in you?  Like I said, some of us have been there and done that often.  Sometimes, it is at that point where we see another in need, someone desperate for help. Someone caught up in sin and struggling to stay afloat.

Look to the cross, see the love of Christ, dying there for you and the person in need.  You won’t tire of responding to that need then; You won’t say I don’t have the strength, or I can’t make that sacrifice.

You will simply take their hand, and lead them to the cross, to the Lord of love, to the one who was crucified, died and was buried and rose again… for us.

Knowing this, the peace of God our Father is your, the peace beyond all understanding; that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Why do We Seize Defeat in the Midst of Victory?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  I lie defeated in the dust; revive me, as you have promised. 26  I confessed all I have done, and you answered me; teach me your ways. 27  Help me to understand your laws, and I will meditate on your wonderful teachings. 28  I am overcome by sorrow; strengthen me, as you have promised. 29  Keep me from going the wrong way, and in your goodness teach me your law.   Psalm 119:25-29 (TEV)

205      Tell Our Lord with your whole heart: In spite of all my wretchedness I am madly in Love!, I am drunk with Love!  (1)

I understand the cry fo the Psalmist,

There are days I want to lie in defeat, to just give up the fight.

Oh, I bravely dismiss this in front of others, half joking that I want Jesus to return tomorrow.

Yet even as I say that, even as I assure the others of the truth we all know and depend on, that God is with us, even as we know this, like the psalmist, we can be overcome with sorrow.

There are times where this lesson seems like a never ending rollercoaster, as we bottom out in despair, as God lifts us up and we catch our breath, another wave of sorrow swamps us.

We aren’t the first to learn this lesson, one only has to hear the words of beloved hymns, such as

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul

or

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said.”For hate is strong. And mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

You can’t read the great pastors of the church, from Chrysostom, Augustine and Luther, to the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, without hearing this echoing rollercoaster.  Psalm 199 times cries out for God to revive us, not in parallelism, or as a chorus, even as we hear it across so many of the Psalms, across the prophets.

The answer, of course, is always the same.

God is not dead, it is well with our souls, He has revived us in Christ!

THE LORD IS WITH US!

Yes!  We need to hear this over and over, for the waves will come, we will have those times where we feel like we are defeated, the temptation will be to believe that we can’t go on another moment.  We want to snatch defeat, right in the midst the victory we have gained, when the Spirit of God descended upon us in Baptism, and united us to the death of Christ, that we may live.  That our lives would be abundant and filled with the love of God.

In the midst of the anxiety, the agony and stress, these words of St Josemaria wring out – and it is hard to fathom, but knowing God is with us brings hope, as we learn to be thankful, as we learn to adore Him.  Yes – we adore the Lord who allows the storms, but also is there, assuring us, comforting us, helping us to remember the peace which He has given us.

For this is what we know, it is what we teach, it is what we depend upon, and it is real.

We just need to be reminded, often.  Even as the night is still dark, and we wait for the sun to rise.  It shall, He has promised.

AMEN!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 907-908). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How to Prepare for Suffering (aka Monday )

Devotional Thought of the Day:

38  Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39  Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.   Matthew 10:37-39 (TEV)

5  For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. 6  And we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin.   Romans 6:5-6 (TEV)

14  But far be it from me to have glory in anything, but only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which this world has come to an end on the cross for me, and I for it. Galatians 6:14 (BBE)

On the Cross this readiness is put to the proof, and precisely the darkness in which Mary stands engulfed reflects the fullness of the identity of her will with that of Jesus. Faith is a community formed by the Cross, and it is only on the Cross that it achieves its full perfection: the place where redemption seemed utterly beyond our reach is actually the place where it is consummated. We must, I think, relearn our devotion to the Cross. It seemed too passive to us, too pessimistic, too sentimental—but if we have not been devoted to the Cross of Jesus in our lifetime, how will we endure our own cross when the time comes for it to be laid upon us? (1)

It is the week after Holy Week, and many students are returning to school after a week of freedom.  They dread it, for the switch from freedom to discipline, from play to work is never easy.  I think they get this, in part, from the adults they observe who return to work every Monday weary, tired, robbed of hopelessness.   It’s as if we, adults and students, expect a lifetime of suffering during the week. 

In truth, most of us don’t have ti that bad.  It may not be Disneyland, but then again we aren’t listening to “it’s a small world” 400 times!

To put it simply, we don’t know how to deal with discomfort; we don’t know how to embrace suffering.  We don’t want to lose the things that are precious to us, from family to creature comforts, to the comfort of our sin.  And so we avoid those things, find escapes from dealing with the reality of life.

Which is why we so hate Mondays, why they cause such dread.

We don’t want these crosses, because we haven’t taken the time to contemplate the glory of the cross.  Even the idea of it being glorious is a thought we are troubled by.  We might write it off as a necessary evil, or the price Christ had to pay to redeem us. Glory in it?  That sounds absurd!

Yet the man who would become Pope Benedict has it right, he understood Paul the Apostle so well!  We need to contemplate the cross, to meditate on it, and understand what it means that no only was Jesus crucified there, we were crucified with Him. Our real life begins there, with Him, in a place where redemption and healing seem absurd, but both begin.

The Test of Discipleship, so fearfully laid out in Matthew’s gospel no longer seems as daunting. For when we realize the glory of His cross, when we realize it’s impact on us, then we can trust God to get us through the little cross we struggle with, especially on Mondays.

Our cross?  In light of His cross, in light of the glory revealed there, may we run to it, bearing it, trusting God to use these crosses to bring blessings, to create something good, evil when “they” meant evil, or when the cost of suffering seems too high.

Even on Monday.

Cry out on Monday that cry that speaks of both despair and faith, “LORD HAVE MERCY!!”

And rejoice as that mercy is made sure.

AMEN.


Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 110). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Discouragement, Weariness, and Walking with Jesus

Devotional Thought of the Day:
19  What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. 20  Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.    Galatians 2:19-20 (MSG)

“We are children of God, bearers of the only flame that can light up the paths of the earth for souls, of the only brightness which can be never be darkened, dimmed or overshadowed” (1). Responding to our divine vocation demands a constant warfare. Our fight is not a noisy one as it takes place on the battlefield of our ordinary life, for to be “a saint (…) doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end” (60). We must accept that there will be defeats in this interior fight, and we may be threatened with the danger of discouragement. That is why the Founder of Opus Dei constantly instilled in souls that cry of Possumus!—”We can!”—of the sons of Zebedee.6 It is not a cry that arise from the presumption but from a humble trust in God’s Omnipotence.

There seems to be today a resurgence in the concept of the superhero.  People who take on great odds, and despite fighting in themselves a war, work for righteousness  There’s the movies, of Captain America, Iron man, Thor and their crew.  There is always the Star Wars and Batman and Superman.   There are now television shows that link the Flash and what has become a favorite, the Arrow.

It thinks they are becoming popular for the same reason their comic books became popular after World War II.  In times of great stress, if we can’t be the heroes, we need someone to inspire us, to assure us, to help us know the heroic is possible. In a recent episode I watch, the hero was away, and it was left to the non-super heroes to save the day. But there were interesting discussions about how to survive when the hero wasn’t there to inspire.

As believers, we want to  be heroic.  Most of us probably not the martyr for the faith type heroism, but the kind that lives the kind of life that a Christian should live.  We want to be good people, those who are respected for their moral character, and their love for their family and maybe even community.  We might not desire true holiness, but we want to be better than the evil world out there.

In the process we don’t like the struggle, we don’t like what St Josemaria calls being “threatened with discouragement.”  It means accepting their will be defeated, but never using that as an excuse.  Defeats where sin and temptation get the best of us, where anxiety overwhelms us.  We don’t want others to know of these struggles, because if they did, our illusion of righteousness might fail us.

Paul knew this failure well; I love the simplistic nature of Peterson’s The Message as it translates here the struggle.I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work.

That would be most of us, and often as we get more tired, beyond just normal weary, the harder it is not to fall into that trap. The harder it is not to presumptuous about succeeding on our own strength.  Our ego calls us to “get er done”, and we push a little more, go out on the edge a little more,

We don’t even have the wisdom, reason or strength to know when we approach the point of burn out; so how can we avoid it?  We can’t – and Paul’s epistle explains it.  We don’t have to prove Christ lives in us, we just have to trust Him, We have to identify with Him, really to recognize that He identified us as His. He provides the strength, the ability, the power to serve, and His presence, so clear that we trust Him.  It knows His presence, His omnipotent presence that allows us to have the humility we need.  It is crying out, Lord, help, have mercy, save me, that sees Him answer.

That is where the secret of holiness lies, not in the outward acts that reveal it, but in the discouragement and weariness, where the only option left is to rely on Jesus.  Can we bear our cross and walk with Jesus?

Yes, because we are walking with Jesus.

Whether you are weary or energetic, may you have the humility to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the love and peace in which you life, for you life in Christ.

AMEN.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 154-162). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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