Posts Tagged ‘scripture’

You Who Were Once Far Off…Or Me ?

May 3, 2018

“ Now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far off have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
It is he who is our peace, and who made the two of us one by breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart. In his own flesh he abolished the law with its commands and precepts, to create in himself one new man from us who had been two and make peace, reconciling both of us to God in one body through his cross, which put that enmity to death “ ( Ephesians2:13-16 )

In this passage Paul is talking to the Ephesians, about how it is that in the process of His ministry, and in his preaching, and in his life, Jesus put an end to the divisions between not only the factions within the Jewish faiths, but also an end to the division between Jew and Gentile ( pretty much anyone who was not of the Jewish faith).

Remember that Paul spent a vast majority of his public ministry, working to being the faith to Gentiles and spreading the word of God among those who knew had not grown up with the idea of God as the Jews understood Him.

Paul is trying to explain that Jesus showed us how it is to build community, regardless of where it is that we started from, or where you are now !

We need to be mindful that we have a number of spiritual leaders in our lives. It is easy to put them on a pedestal and look up to them, believing that they are good and holy people. We would like very much to believe that we are good and holy people. If we take the time and really analyze where we are in our spiritual walk, and do some critical review of it, that we can clearly see where it is that we have work to do. Our God, being good and loving, and wanting what is best for us, will show us where our flaws are, whether we want to know them or not.

Recently I was at a meeting, and admittedly sleep deprived and nerves already a bit frayed when someone touched on a personal hot button. Now, mind you, there is nothing quite like thinking you are in a good place, and it’s all good when your talking about generalities and abstracts, but now when things hit home.. NOW we are getting to the meat of things. Needless to say, I was rather strong in my response. I was not wrong in what I said, but definitely wrong in HOW I said it. Shortly after I ceased speaking, I realized that possibly, I might have hurt the feelings of one or two others, and so
after the meeting was done, I sought them out and apologized and attempted to explain my reaction, and entered into a discussion with them about how they felt and why.

I tell you this because we need to understand that the people who are the leaders, are leaders, yes, but they are human. They are flawed and broken, they have feelings and patience ( and a limit to them no matter how loving they are). This is exactly the same bridge we need to be crossing when we deal with people of differing faiths, people who are not where we are, people who might seem different, but in truth are the same.

In this letter, Paul is reminding us that you may believe that you are in a good place and others are “far off” but through the blood of Christ, I promise, you have been brought nearer, to where they are, than they to where you are. My mother used to say.. “ Life is a matter of perspectives”. This phrase used to be trotted out usually about the point where I was angry about this or that thing, or at this or that person. As much as I hated it at the time, it did cause me to think about it.

So today, brothers and sisters, let us work on not being the one who is “far off” , but accepting that no matter how much we may feel like we are in a good place, that WE ALL are still far off, and work on building the community of global faith, that Jesus tried so hard to get us all to see.. To build a global community of love and acceptance. To build a place where even a flawed brother like me, will find a place of forgiveness. And lets begin to build that global place by building the first place in our hearts.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

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The Unblemished Lamb…

April 19, 2018

“Realize that you were delivered from the futile way,of life your fathers handed on to you, not by any diminishable sum of silver or gold, but by Christ’s blood beyond all price : The blood of the spotless , unblemished lamb chosen before the worlds foundation and revealed for you sake in these last days. It is through Him that you are believers in God, the God who raised him from the dead and gave Him glory. Your faith and hope, then, are centered in God.

By obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves for a genuine love of your brothers, therefore, love one another constantly from the heart. Your rebirth has come not from a destructible but from an indestructible seed, through the living and enduring Word of God. “ ( 1 Peter 1:18-23 ).

There are a few things about this passage that are of importance for us to take stock in. In the first part of this passage Peter, is talking to the church explaining that it was Jesus, who delivered them from
the futile way. Now.. If we didn’t know anything about history, you might be inclined to think that this statement was all about the idea of them getting into the church and not following some generic path of sin. We know however, that this “futile way” that Peter is speaking about is actually speaking about the principle of “justification by law”. “The law” were all the rules and laws of the Torah that were passed on to every child.

“ The blood of the spotless lamb” this idea hearkens back to Exodus and the institution of the Passover feast. This is where the unblemished lamb is sacrificed that was the salvation of the slaves in Egypt. Jesus was the unblemished lamb that is our salvation today. Our faith and hope are centered in God alone.

It is of utmost importance that we take heed of one particular part of this scripture. This is paramount !
“ The blood of the unblemished lamb chosen before the worlds formation, and revealed for your sake in these last days” … think about that….. BEFORE THE WORLDS FORMATION..

This bears out the Franciscan preaching that Jesus did not come into the world because of SIN, he came into the world because of LOVE. There was no sin of man BEFORE man was created . Before the creation of the world ! Therefore, we know that the plan was for Jesus to come into the world because of Love, to be our Savior, our Lord.

In the end of this epistle Peter, gives them encouragement and instruction. We all need encouragement and building up of our faith lives. Just like the disciples in the early church we struggle, and we strive in trying to live out our faith. But what does Peter tell them..? He says to them that it is because of your faith, you struggle to love your brother. Keep going ! Keep loving your brothers from the heart.
Not a superficial kind of “ see you next Sunday” sort of thing. It is a deep and abiding love for our brothers and sisters that we must maintain and build on, not only for them, but the others in our communities because they see, they learn and they are also encouraged by the strength of the love we share.

Take peace then, not only in your faith, and in your brothers and sisters, but in the Lord the unblemished lamb, who rose from the dead, who was raised in glory, and who loved each one of you before the creation of the world.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

For All Have Sinned…

February 23, 2018

“ The Justice of God has been manifested apart from the law, even though both law and prophets bear witness to it – that justice of God which works through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. All men have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. All men are now undeservedly justified by the gift of God through the redemption wrought in Christ Jesus. Through his blood, God made him the means of expiation for all who believe . He did so to manifest His own justice, for the sake of remitting sins committed in the past to manifest justice in the present, by way of forbearance, so that He might be just and might justify those who believe in Jesus.” Romans 3:21 -26

Like many other points of scripture we have a vast number of instances, this one being one of the more “popular” in usage, where people are quick to note that all people sin, and fall short.. and that is true we do sin and we do fall short. We are definitely sinners.

Too often is this passage or that passage used as a means of taking people down or worse yet, is the source of which people keep feeding their own guilt. People get stuck on the first part of the passage, the part that causes people to look at themselves, and their fellow man as inherently bad, or evil beings. Things that will never change, things that would cause you to enter into this cyclical routing of ones own soul even to the point of despair and grief.

The second part of this passage reminds us that although we are all sinners, and are all part of the human family that has a fallen nature, that Jesus has already redeemed us. The sin you commit today, provided they are not mortal sins, would not separate you from God, and can not separate you from the fact that your sins have already been redeemed by virtue of faith in Jesus Christ.

Now, this passage brings up another interesting point. In the Franciscan view we understand that Jesus was not just merely in Gods plan for the sole purpose of being the redeemer. If that were the case, then God would have seen mankind as bad or evil creatures. We know this is not true. How do we know ? Consider this. IN Genesis Chapter 1:31 – At his point was the conclusion of creation ( including man) and He declares that He looked around at everything he had created and found it to be GOOD.

This being the case we know that mankind was Good from the beginning of creation. We also know that scripture tells us that “ In the beginning was The Word ( Jesus) and The Word, was made flesh ( the Incarnation) and dwelt among us. Now the question is why? Why did Jesus dwell among us ?
God loved us from the very beginning. We were PART OF THE PLAN ! We also know that if even one sparrow falls, God knows. Each person is part of the plan. Each person has a role to play, a very specific vocation to fulfill. Each person is special and loved within the eyes of God…. within the Body of Christ.

God came to Earth NOT because of sin, BUT BECAUSE OF LOVE… For God so LOVED the world, he sent his only begotten son. What did Jesus try to teach us the whole time he was on earth.. He tried to teach us how to LOVE. To love God, and to love our neighbor and even how to love ourselves.

It is NOT OK to sin. Sin is ugly and hurtful, and repugnant. But it is for us to grow, to learn, and to love. To grow in our faith, to both forgive our neighbors, and ourselves, and to grow closer to God, in all that we do.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

You Do Not Know The Day….

February 2, 2018

“You know very well that the day of the Lord is coming like a thief in the night. Just when people are saying “peace and security”, ruin will fall on them with the suddenness of the pains overtaking a woman in labor, and there will be no escape. You are not in the dark, brothers, that the day should catch you off guard, like a thief. No, all of your are children of the light, and of the day. We belong neither to the darkness, not to the night; therefore, let us not be asleep like the rest, but awake and sober”. ( 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 )

In the course of my life, I have lived through many occurrences, where people have predicted the end of world. The end of life on Earth as we know it. Obviously, those predictions have all failed. It all seemed very silly to me. I seem to remember in the early 1970’s there was someone who thought they had figured out when the end was coming, and as usual, there was a great gasp, and people scurried about and worried about this and that. In the end, the appointed time passed, and nothing had occurred.
…. or did it ?

I remember taking some time to pause and ponder my own demise, as well as that of others. My family, friends, and those I cared for. Not too long after I attended the funeral of one of my grandparents. It gave me time to pause and ponder. I am pretty sure that I am no alone in the idea that when presented with a scenario where there is a potential for loss of life, that most, if not all, people tend to take a moment ,or more, to reflect on the greater mysteries of life.

Paul, was certain, that almost immediately after the death of Christ, that the second coming would in fact occur, and it would happen soon and with extreme swiftness… That however, was not the case.
You see he failed to remember that Jesus said that we do not know the day or the hour that He will come again to bring His kingdom. So it has been for lo these 2000 years.

Paul still however gives us sound advice. We do not know the day or the hour, but most assuredly, it will come and in that time, we need to be ready. Sounds about what you might expect… Can you truly ever be ready ?

Remember, that salvation is a process, not a date. The same thing occurs in our call to the Kingdom of God. Our work in this vineyard, is a process. It is never done, until we are called home. We know that our journey is a one of struggle… It is one of triumph, and failure, and having the strength to get up and move forward and continue.

It is through this journey that not only do we learn, and grow, but it is how the seeds are spread for others to gain insight and wisdom, through our witness, in how we live our calling.

If your struggling in your faith life, take heart in the idea that at the times when we struggle the most, that these are the times that God is working most closely with us.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

From Consumer to Disciple..

January 27, 2018

” You likewise know how we exhorted every one of you , as a father does his children – How we encouraged and pleaded with you to make your lives worthy of the God who calls you to his kingship and glory. That is why we thank God constantly that in receiving his message from us you took it, not as the word of men, but as it truly is , the word of God at work within you who believe.”
( 1 Thessalonians 2:11-13 )

This weeks reading we return to the book of Thessalonians where Paul is attempting to encourage the community, by reminding them of the things they are called to as disciples of Christ. The first part of that reading says that he is asking them to remember that they are to live lives worthy of the call.

Worthy of the call to the kingship. It is Paul that feels the certain patriarchy, Paul feels , a certain responsibility because he went to Thessalonika to preach and founded this community. By this time the community had gotten quite large. As the community grows, it presents some certain challenges because the humanity of the people grows exponentially as the community grows. . It requires a little more hands on approach to governance.

We as humans, we tend to fall into a rut, we get comfortable… we get sometimes too comfortable. We get into a habit of certain things…. We get into the habit of going to church, the habit, the physical act of going to church, of showing up, of going through the motions, and as a result, can become complacent in our spiritual growth.

We need to take responsibility for our own formation, for our own spiritual growth. We have too often become the “consumer of church” . We go expecting to be entertained. We want it to be comfortable.. we want it to be nice.. We want it to be easy, and we want it to feel good ! absolutely NONE of that is what we are called to. The practice of our faith life is not comfortable, it is not easy, and it takes work.. .HARD WORK.

The kingship that we are called to is to know our selves, to know our failures, to have the responisbility
to the other, although they too are called the kingdom. They too are called to the same work. We have a responisbility to them, for them. Our call is to serve. In order to serve effectively, we must first take a good hard look at the state of our spiritual lives. Our spiritual education.

We have a 2 fold service. service to God, and service to our fellow man. Both of these require us to know and experience God in our daily lives. In our study, in our practice and our works.

In today’s world you don’t just walk into a job, where it is being a mechanic, or being a professor, or doctor… any kind of job and simply expect to begin working with no background. Likewise, you can not advance within that job, without additional study, practice, mentoring. Along with that training there will need to be some hands on work, or practical experience. Our faith lives are no different.

You are called to be Priest, Prophet and King, but you need some basic instruction from where to begin. Faith life becomes a point of practice. You take this basic information, and plug that knowledge into your day-to-day life. You develop understanding where you excel and others where you fail. You make changes and you grow hopefully.

The problem is that all too often people stop there. Sure, they go to church every Sunday. They consume what they are given in the way of scripture and sacraments, which is good and necessary.
It tends not to be enough. It is just enough so that you are maintaining the minimum. Its like going to the mechanics and getting the oil changed. You know you need to do it.. You do it so that you can keep going. It protects you so that your car will keep going. But its not enough.. there is work to be done.

When I first started studies as a Spiritual Assistant, I talked with a priest friend , who gave me this one piece of advise. If you want to grow in your faith. If you want to REALLY know the heart and soul of your faith, study the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

In the heart of the Gospels you will find the true center of our faith. The things we are called to know, to share and to bring to others. You can not ” Go forth and make disciples of all the nations”…. if you don’t know what you’re making them disciples of ? !! Sharing your faith with others means that the people who you are sharing your faith with, will have questions. I dare say, that in sharing your faith, you too might have questions that you do not have the answers for….. AND THAT IS OK ! its GOOD !

The most intelligent thing, the most responsible thing, is to tell them something like :

” I don’t have the answer to that question, but I will find the answer for you, and let you know..”

Why ? It’s being honest, and the person who is asking the question, will hear the ring of truth. AND, honestly, if you don’t have an answer, then this will be a point of growth for you as well.

Too often we have become reticent in our study. To a certain degree, they can become repetitious. You will come to know the answers to these questions. They are usually pretty basic questions. People want to know why you believe this , or that ? Why do you DO this or that ? How do you know that God exists ? Why did God allow this, or not do that ? Give me a reference in the Bible, for your belief in this or that.

But guess what ? THAT too can become commonplace, and a habit. So then what ?

You will have to find answers to your own questions ! GO and seek out new questions, and find the answers, because if you find the questions, eventually someone else will have those questions too ! You can be the laborer who plants the seed of deeper faith and spread God’s kingdom. That seed will eventually bear fruit not only in their lives and in the lives of those that THEY touch, but in your own spiritual life as well.

Keep asking questions, and keep asking questions until you get more questions, deeper questions, until you run out of questions ( You never run out of questions ! ).

By your seeking, by your learning, by your faithfulness, you will answer the call to fulfill your vocation as a disciple of Jesus Christ !

May God give your the gift of His peace !

Because I Bore Your Name…

January 12, 2018

“Remember me Lord, visit me, and avenge me on my persecutors. Because of your long-suffering banish me not; know that for you I have borne insult. When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and happiness of heart, Because I bore your name, O Lord, God of hosts ”
( Jeremiah 15:15-16 )

Here is Jeremiah. Jeremiah is having this discourse with God over what has been going on. He is saying to God basically four things through this process :

First, he saying Hey Lord, remember me ? I’m the guy down here trying to follow all the orders !
Maybe some of you have felt this way. A feeling of frustration with the world, with your life, with what is going on in your life or in the lives of someone close to you. Maybe you feel like you have been down here on your earthly plain, trying to follow all the precepts of your faith, and lets just say that over all, things are just not going the way you think they should because, lets face it, your praying, your pleading, fasting, and performing pious acts, and you are just trying your very best but things are just not working out and your just not getting what you want ?!!! Jeremiah can relate.

Next, he says, well, don’t give up on me. I get it, you have put up with a lot from us over the years, but don’t toss the baby out with the bathwater. Then, just like some child we might all know.. Jeremiah says.. Hey, and don’t forget when I put up with a bunch of stuff just because of you ! Those people called me names and treated me like dirt. ”

You can see that Jeremiah really wants to do what is right and good and holy.. but he is having a really bad , tough day at the office and it’s just hard to be good ALL THE TIME ! Can you please just get this off my plate I am exhausted and exasperated and just plain done. Sound familiar ?

Last week at the office I had a bad day, and there was an issue that was laid at my feet. It was not something I was blamed for, but frankly I had pretty much had my fill of the entire situation, and for just a moment, that nasty human temperament took over, and I growled at the person who laid the problem at my feet because, well, because I was tired of dealing with this particular issue and thought it had been laid to rest and the policies that were in place to keep this from happening, meant that I was not supposed to have to deal with this particular issue.

In the end, I was forced to deal with the same issue again, with the same people involved, and with same headaches, and to be honest, I was fuming. I did not want to speak to anyone for fear the tongue would be set loose, and well, that is never a good thing..

After I had some time to sit with my unhappiness for a time, one of the brothers came to me and said,
just remember all that Christ has suffered for you…

Of course, then the anger gave way to guilt, and dissipated. It didn’t mean that I was happy about the issue that was laid at my feet, or that I wasn’t going to have to deal with shouldering the issue, it was that I could handle it, and would for the sake of peace. Could I have pushed that back to someone else, Yes. But, it would not have been productive for anyone.

The last part of the passage, shows Jeremiah saying I “devoured your words”. I didn’t just nibble and ponder, I DEVOURED them. I went after your word with reckless abandon. Why ? Because “I bore your name …”

OK, This is important. How many of us go after the Gospels, or scripture with reckless abandon ? How much time do we dedicate to educating ourselves about our faith ?

There is a funny thing about studying scripture, and it is sort of the same paradox that is evident in other parts of our faith life. The more you study, the less you know. What I mean by that is that in the course of studying scripture, faith, and life in the Spirit, The more you study, the more you learn, and as you learn more, it becomes evident how much it is that you don’t know. The problem occurs, that in order for you to know, what it is that you don’t know, you need to study.

Ask the hard questions, first, ask them of yourself, then go find some answers, and then keep asking questions until you are satisfied with those answers, AND they lead you to other questions. None of us have ALL the answers. We do however, have places to seek the answers. The important part is to find the questions, and keep seeking answers. This will become your joy !

Why ? Because we bear His name !

May God give you the gift of His peace !

We are Bound to Thank God for you…

January 5, 2018

” We are bound to thank God for you always, beloved brothers in the Lord, because you are the first fruits of those whom God has chosen for salvation, in holiness of spirit and fidelity to truth. He called you through our preaching of the good news so that you might achieve the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. ” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 ).

In this passage, Paul is writing to the church in Thessalonika and like most of the other letters that Paul sent to these church communities, he is giving them greetings, and encouragement, and some direction as well.
Like many parts of the church history there are times in various communities where things go a little awry and the church has to step in and make some necessary corrections in a pastoral and fraternal way.

In the background of this reading Paul has a few items he needs to address. First, is apparently there were a few in the community who were not really doing what was in the agenda in the way of work, AND,
they were busy minding everyone else’s business but their own. It does not really tell us much about what it was, but that really was not the point anyway.

Lets take a note of something that I really, love, which is how Franciscan it is.. that when Paul went to Thessalonika to spread the Gospel, what happened ? He worked, and not just a little it says in this passage that,
they strained, they worked hard in order to insure that they were not a burden to others while they were there. They did not come in and expect that everyone would just open their homes and let them stay. It is logical to assume that the time necessary in order to spread the Gospel, to teach, and to develop a church that would have enough of a local foundation to be able to stand on its own would take time and effort.

The story goes, that Saint Francis and another brother were walking through a town in the pre-stated objective that they would be preaching the Gospel. They performed many charitable acts, but the brother was anxious to get to the business of preaching. Near the end of their journey the brother asked when they were going to start to preach. St. Francis said, we already have. ” Preach the Gospel at all times. .and when necessary use words. “.

The apostles certainly did this. They went to Thessalonika and worked and while they worked, this was so that the community there would have an example of what to do, and how to build the church there.

It was also important for Paul to give encouragement which is the point of this particular part of the story. You can tell that the church in Thessalonika is important to Paul.. in a way it is like a parent, whose child has gone away to school or off to work, and they want their child to know of their love for them. It has that familial feeling. In a traditional sort of style, just as we read from the Gospels, the style of instruction to the Jews, there is a history, something that causes them to remember where they are and what they have done, or some part of the prophecy, or covenant that they knew, or possibly some trial or tribulation they went through in order to learn some important lesson.

Here Paul is just giving them a reminder of their bond, and how it is that this community was one of the first, and they are almost obligated it would seem, to thank God for these people., that they were called , that they have the work ahead to get to the salvation this is there for them. THAT is the work, and the standards that they are held to, and the standard we are held to. This does not mean we are perfect, and it does not mean we are not to fail, or be understanding of either our own failures OR the failures of others. It simply means this is the goal we are working towards.

Paul gives is the example in how we are to approach people in a fraternal correction, to do so in a positive light, to do so in a way that is supportive, loving, sensitive and by way of example, we can show others how to do that same thing we are attempting. We should be able to give encouragement, share our own journey, and provide formation in a positive light.

In the same way, I want to encourage all of you, my brothers and sisters, to spend time working on your own formation, your own spiritual development. It is part of the work we are given, as part of our faith family, to learn as much as we can, and discern the meanings for our lives, and apply those things not only to our own lives, but in helping our brothers and sisters along the way.

Remember that the biggest challenge we have, is the battle over our own will, over our own natures, over our own inclinations.

My Father used to say ” What ever you are, be the best that you can be… ask the hard questions, and learn “.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

I Will Give You a New Heart…

December 29, 2017

” I will sprinkle clean water on you to cleanse you from your impurities , and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts, and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statues, careful to observe my decrees. You shall be my people, and I will be your God. ”
(Ezekiel 36: 25-28 )

This passage is part of the fall and restoration of Israel and the Jews. Israel had engulfed itself in sin, and turned away from God. Then Israel fell into slavery and there stayed. In Gods time, he cleansed Israel from all its sin, and its idolatry. This was before the time of Christ. In fact, this time was the preparation of the time of Christs coming. It is before the world is ready for Christ, They had hearts that were hard, and sinful. In order to prepare the hearts of men, God allowed Israel in order to prepare for the coming of Christ.

The heart, that is spoken about in this passage is the voice of God.. ” taking from your bodies your stony hearts…” The stony heart is the heart of sin, it is hard, and unimpressible, untouchable, unreachable. We have all had people that we want to reach, or we really want to talk to , or teach, or gain an understanding of. We reach a point where it is that we are unable to make the connection we so desperately want to make. The other person is not desirous of being reached or participating and happy to be left alone.. So you are forced to leave them to their own devices until they are ready.
This is exactly where Israel was in this process. their hearts were hard, happy to be left in their sin and vice and not ready to hear, and not ready to receive the Word.

Eventually after their exile, once they were spiritually freed, then they could be physically freed from their slavery in order to receive the land God had prepared for them. They were now free to begin the work to prepare the land to receive the Lord.

In this time he brought them ” natural hearts “. These hearts that were impressionable, hearts that were gentile, hearts that were docile, hearts that were spirit filled and hearts that were ready to receive the Word, and then carry the seed God so desperately wanted to plant.

I like to consider this passage in the backdrop of the Advent and Christmas season. Look at the world we currently live in. We are at this time, no difference between Israel of old. and the time we are living in today. We have a world that is full of people with stony hearts. Their hearts are hard, unimpresisonable, unwilling, unyielding, unforgiving. These are hearts that have turned from God, or replaced God in their lives with the idols are greed, materialism, and indifference. Hearts that are full of self-love and self-importance. We have turned from God in our hardness of heart.

In particular, once every year, for a time, we have our stony hearts, that get replaced with natural hearts. During Advent, that special magical time before Christmas, where we allow ourselves to feel, to open our hearts not just to our fellow man, but to God. Sure, there is a vast amount of materialism and greed that goes on as well, BUT, there is still this grand glimmer of hope.

We get the chance to see the spirit work in our hearts, and the hearts of our fellow man. To see the kind of world that Jesus taught for us to live in ALL the time. On the calendar, Christmas is not just a day, but a season. In truth, what is intended, is that Christmas should be a lifetime. Carry your natural hearts you gained this year, through your whole life, loving God and neighbor.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

We Are Travelers…

December 16, 2017

” May God our Father give you grace and peace. We always give thanks to God , the Father of our Lord ,Jesus Christ , in our prayers for you because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you bear towards all the saints – moved as you are by the hope held in store for you in Heaven. You heard of this hope through the message of truth , the Gospel , which has come to you , has borne fruit, and has continued to grow in your midst, as it has everywhere in the world.” ( Colossians 1:2b-6a)

By way of a little background, in this passage Paul is writing a letter to the Colossians and it is meant as both encouragement and instruction. The church in Colossae, was new, and growing and vibrant, but Paul, had been unable to this point to be able to travel there or meet with them personally so everything he was learning about the community he was learning by way of Epaphras. Epaphras was the head of the church in Colossae..

The letter is a result of Epaphras’s time with Paul in prison in Rome. The reason for the letter came about as a result of Epaphras’s concern for the church, and some incorrect teachings that seemed to be creeping into the body of the church, as well as some encouragement.

I would like to take some time to take a page from Epaphras’s book, and offer not only some encouragement, but a little instruction as well.

When you enter an Order, and go through the initial formation processes, it can feel a bit like you are going to school, and indeed , to a degree, you are. There is a great deal to learn, and to consider, to think on and write about. The subject matter can be very simple, and it can be very weighty. That initial process can be very intensive and after that process has completed, You have the opportunity to shift focus a bit from the interior workings, The initial learning or getting up to speed , the graduation if you will, and then you have the chance to shift your focus to an outward gaze. To look into the community, and into the world, and begin anew to feel your way through the processes.

One of the things that becomes very apparent in a very short period of time is that everyone lives out their own vocation, their charism, their spiritual life in very different ways. Your community can at time fluctuate between what might feel like your immediate family, or your extended family.

Either your brother or sister, with whom you are very close, or maybe like that inappropriate uncle that gets invited to family functions ” because he is family”… They don’t “act right”, and maybe don’t behave or think about things in the same way that the others in the family does. What ever that thing is, basically you have a familial love for them, but occasionally they really annoy you.

As my Mother used to say…” Life is a matter of perspectives…”

It is important, to remember that regardless of what your vocation is in this life, the responsibility for the formation of your spiritual journey rests squarely on your own shoulders. Sure, there is a certain responsibility of the person who is doing the teaching, to separate their own opinion and editorializing from the true teachings of the church, but it is the sole responsibility of the individual to seek out what is the truth, and the differences between what is the central “required” truth, and what is simply the other soul, being at a different place or a different expression of the journey that they are on.

The fact that there are so many different Orders within the church, is testament to the differing ways within which will find the truth in their faith, and yet still find that there are so many different and yet beautiful expressions of their faith !

I want to encourage you on this road of your faith life, to never quit seeking, never quit asking difficult questions and once you have found the questions, then go out and seek the answers for yourself, and then take what you have found and review that with a pastor or priest, religious, or someone you might recognize who has been at the same point you are , or further down the road of their faith journey. Test out your information, get new insights, and learn from the process.

Finally, be patient, solicitous, kind, and loving with those who might not be where you are on your journey, because they too, are seeking truth, and seeking answers. Help them along their journey, if they are asking, even when they can’t find it within themselves to ask.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

We Are All Sinners ( Part II)

November 25, 2017

We Are Still All Sinners ( Part II)

Last week, we began to talk about the scripture passage Romans 15: 1-6, where Paul is reminding us that we need patience, with others who might be at a different place in their faith lives , and in their walks than we are, or at least believe ourselves to be.

Today, lets we are taking that a little bit further by way of example, as we examine the passage in John 7, where Jesus encounters the Pharisees and the stoning of the adulteress.

Consider the example of the woman who was to be stoned to death for adultery. ( John 7:53 )

In this scripture , the Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus in their attempts to discredit him and the things He is trying to teach His followers.

Lets take a look at the Pharisees and see what is going on with them. First, the Pharisees don’t like Jesus, and they are trying to trap Him into discrediting Himself. So, here is the trap. First, they have this adulteress, who according to the law (Leviticus 20:10) who must, by their law, be stoned to death.

On the other hand, we have Jesus who has been going about the land, preaching love, and forgiveness, and mercy. The Pharisees believe that by trying to force Jesus into judging the woman, by either method they have laid out for Him to choose, they will discredit Him, as he will either follow “the law” and at the same time, condemn the woman, and discredit His teaching on Mercy and forgiveness,

OR

He will break the law, thereby discrediting Himself, and giving them a reason to end His ministry.

It is important to note here in the scripture, that when they ask Jesus to judge the woman, He is initially silent for a time… He does not speak right away.. WHY ? in fact, in a number of stories in scripture when put to a test or a trial, Jesus takes time before he speaks.

The pause occurs, to allow time for the Spirit, to work. Time is given in order to allow the Pharisees to consider what it is that they are trying to do, or possibly to gain a bit of perspective on how committed they might be to both stoning this woman, or trapping Jesus.

It give the woman time to consider her own predicament. It gives her time to consider and reflect on how she found herself in this position to begin with, and her own sinfulness, her own forgiveness, and her relationship with God at this moment.

Jesus gives the perfect answer. He tells them to let the one who is without sin, cast the first stone.

Going back to last week where we take a look at how it is that we deal with others who might not be at the same place in their faith life that we are, should heed this example. It is a perfect reflection of how we should deal with others who are dealing with their own struggles.

Can you see yourself in each of the people in this story ? Are you the Pharisees , that are condemning or judgmental of others who are not where you are in your walk ? Are you the adulteress, sinful, sorrowful, broken, guilty, remorseful , and seeking a way out ? Are you Jesus to others, inviting the Pharisees to self-examination, encouragement, to consideration that they, like the adulteress are also guilty of sin, and are imperfect as well.

The further it is that we travel on this road to Emmaus, the more obvious ones own sin becomes. It is a paradox of the Christian life. At the same time, however, the more obvious God’s love and mercy also become. We are called to bring God’s love and mercy to our brothers and sisters.

We need to strive to do better, to be better , to live and love that message better each and every day.

May God give you the gift of His peace !