How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. 20 You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. 21 Praise the LORD, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love. He kept me safe when my city was under attack. Psalm 31:19-21 (NLT2)
Contemplative prayer is a process of interior transformation, a conversation initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union. One’s way of seeing reality changes in this process. A restructuring of consciousness takes place which empowers one to perceive, relate and respond with increasing sensitivity to the divine presence in, through, and beyond everything that exists.
So then, effective and faithful pastoral ministry in each succeeding era must remain intimately connected with its essential core—the divinely given presence of Christ Jesus and the truth of his word by which alone we live.
Now more than at any other time in generations, the believer is in a position to go on the offensive. The world is lost on a wide sea, and Christians alone know the way to the desired haven. While things were going well, the world scorned them with their Bible and hymns, but now the world needs them desperately, and it needs that despised Bible, too.
When one studies Theology, there is a division of the church. The first section is called the Church Triumphant; it is all those who have gone to be with the Lord at death. The second is the Church Militant, the people of the church still alive and engaged in the spiritual battles that make up everyday life.
The problem is the word militant; it brings up pictures of a great Christian army dressed for battle against the heathen, against the cults, against atheists and agnostics. We see this as if the salvation of the church depended on making others submit to the church. We are to go on the offensive – and passages like Matthew 16 and Ephesians 6 are used to cheer on those preparing for WAR!
Too often, the church has become offensive rather than going on the offensive. We have forgotten our mission is the same as our Lord’s – to see the sinner find the rest that Tozer calls a haven. That is why he talks of the church on the offensive. Those who seem to despise the church are the ones who need us the most. Hose who scorn us and think us ridiculous are the ones we are placed in the midst, for God knows their needs.
That need is described in Psalm 31, as God is praised for providing shelter, the haven. It is finding the unfailing love, the intimate care which God is revealed, even as we are drawn into His presence. Senkbeil refers to this intimate presence as the essential core of ministry. Without it, our lives are not being lived; what instead happens is akin to the life of the shadows.
The church militant is aggressive, but not in the attack against unbelievers. It pursues its connection with the Father. As the words about contemplative prayer describe, it is the transformation initiated and guided by God. It is the time in His presence where we are changed. Paul talks about pressing for this in Philippians.
Simply put, the more we are aware of His presence, the more we see Him working through us, reaching the very people that God will gather. The mroe time we spend basking in and in awe of His florious love, the more we are changed, the more we love Him, and
You want to win the world for Christ – seek how He is revealing Himself to you through the Gospel and the Sacraments. Rejoice as He provides for you, and then lovingly invite others into these intimate moments where God is…. with us.
Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.
Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers. Entry for January 1st
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. 14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:10-14 (NLT)
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)
813 I give you thanks, my Jesus, for your decision to become perfect Man, with a Heart which loved and is most lovable; which loved unto death and suffered; which was filled with joy and sorrow; which delighted in the things of men and showed us the way to Heaven; which subjected itself heroically to duty and acted with mercy; which watched over the poor and the rich and cared for sinners and the just… I give you thanks, my Jesus. Give us hearts to measure up to Yours! (1)
There is much theologically to say about the two natures of Christ. How Jesus is fully man, and fully God. Martin Chemnitz wrote a wonderful concise 3 inch thick volume about the subject, all of its implications, all of its potential issues. It is well worth reading, an amazing work about an amazing subject. It leaves you in awe, first of Chemnitz’s brilliance, and far more, of our Lord of whom the words describe.
Even so, I think that all the theology needs to be seen through something like the prayer that is written by St. Josemaria Escriva above. Which takes the incarnation seriously, which explores quickly the implications of Christ leaving His throne and being incarnate into our world, walking in our flesh. As St John’s gospel so beautifully states – He has made His home with us, The God whose love for us, whose faithfulness to the promises He made to us and to all, became present in their lives. We know His glory.
I pray your understand that this incarnation has not only been witnessed to by the apostles, by the early church, by Jesus mother who stored all these things in her heart. That incarnation, that glorious news that God has come to dwell with us, today, in these turbulent times. HE IS HERE! He dwells with His people still! We still see His glory.
As Josemaria prays that we all measure up to Christ heart, that prayer is perhaps of the highest level of theology, as well as the simplest. It is not the knowledge we would attain of God, though we desire to know Him. It is not that we could conjur up miracles that would mark as measuring up to Christ Jesus.
It is to be known to be like King David, to be a man after God’s own heart, a man who desires that which God desires, the reconciliation of all. To desire it so much that we are willing to pay whatever price to see it occur. Read those descriptions, a heart that loves and is lovable, which loves unto even death (I think of Romans 12:11 here.) Who embrace sorrow, filled with joy and sorrow, delighting in the things of men and showing them the way to heaven and heroically does what is needed with mercy, watching the poor and rich, caring for sinners and just.
That is the description of those whose hearts are growing to the measure of the sacred heart of Christ. It is the goal that pastors and others who minister long to see developed in their people.
Lord develop in us the Heart we long for, and as you promised through Ezekiel, may You replaced our shattered stone hearts with Your Heart of Flesh. Amen!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3352-3356). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.