Posts Tagged ‘#SecularFranciscan’

On Carrying Your Cross…

May 26, 2018

“Look on the needs of the saints as your own; be generous in offering hospitality . Bless your persecutors; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.

Have the same attitude toward all. Put away ambitious thoughts and associate with those who are lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never repay injury with injury. See that your conduct is honorable in the eyes of all. If possible, live peaceably with everyone. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves; leave that to God’s wrath, for it is written” Vengeance is mine; I will repay says the Lord”. But “ if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink; by doing this you will heap burning coals upon his head” Do no be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.” ( Romans 12:13 – 21 )

There is, in our spiritual lives, an ever present struggle. This struggle takes the form of knowledge and application. We have both the ideal, and the reality. The ideal is that we become saints, the reality is the struggles we face to get to that point. You may think that being a saint is to grand a thought, too lofty a goal, to much to even hope for. Let me assure you that it is not.

For a moment lets change that paradigm, and lets say that the ideal is living your life exactly as Jesus told the disciples to do. We are going to love everyone.. OK.. so I failed there.. maybe I will do better with the next one.. Nope.. That boss at work, who is a jerk. I have to love HIM ? Even when he is directing his attitude in my direction ? Still ? Really ? OK. Well I can’t stand him. So the answer to the question is, I will just avoid him and that way I can just not have to deal with it.. and I can “love” him from far away.. FAR FAR away..

How would it have worked out for us, if while Jesus was going through his agony in the garden, he knelt down and said “ Father, I am just not feeling the whole crucifixion thing. I think I will save these folks from one of those nice seaside resorts with palm trees and handmaids to wait on me.. that sound good to you ? “.

Going through the trials and tribulations that we have are “good” for us. In same way that disciplining a child is “good” for them. They wont like it to be sure. It will not be pleasant. In the end, however, they will come to understand why it was good, and they will tell others about the experience more than likely.

In the same way, we have crosses we carry. Most of them are not pleasant, and some feel horrible and we really seek to find some reasonable explanation for them. We , we cry, we might feel defeated. In the end however, we come out the other side, and no, we might not have the answer to why but, we will have learned something, and hopefully gotten some insight into our spiritual lives.

Just like our Lord, your cross is visible. Possibly not to all, but to some. Your cross and your response to the cross you carry may also be the testament for another person, a lesson on how to carry their own cross. Everyone has one, at every stage of life.

Finally, the cross that every person of faith carries, is the struggle to bring our spiritual world into our earthly existence. To be sure the more you are aware of what you are called to, the greater that cross is, however, at the same time, as large as that cross might seem, not only are you given the spiritual muscle to carry it. Just as Simon helped Jesus carry his cross, God places people in our lives to do just that. It could be priest, or a brother or sister who cares, or it just might be someone you witnessed carrying their cross. Consider this as you carry your own.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

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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 !

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 !

Pray Without Ceasing ?

April 12, 2018

“ Pray without ceasing” ( 1 Thessalonians 5: 17).

I have a friend who asked me about this recently. I have a good understanding of what is meant here. It does however take a bit of forethought, not only in what is going on. What is the story, behind the story. ( Thank you Father John, for drilling that into my head with a deeply Italian accent ) .. To really look at its origin, its meaning, and its application will take a bit of background.

So lets get to it..

Paul is busy writing epistles to the early church community in Thessalonika, and is providing a basic laundry list of things for the community to follow. These are to enforce some basic Christian virtue into the daily lives of the community members there. Like any other community it has had it’s share of growing pains. Paul is there to help out.

This is a list of reminders. Respect each other… respect your elders, admonish those who have not been pulling their weight, be kind, be helpful, be patient. Seek out the good not just for the people within the community, but for everyone. PRAY..PRAY.. PRAY.. and give thanks always. Your basic hallmarks of Christian living.

He (Paul) is still waiting for the second coming which he still believes will be soon. So he does not want to have this fledgling community in a state of sin when the Lord returns. So this is what is going on.

Each morning, the church offers its morning prayers. For those in the various orders and institutes of the Church, we pray the Morning prayer upon rising each day. The prayers include the offering of the entire day. We offer our challenges, pains and sufferings and join them in union with Christ, both in the way that is reparation for our own sin, and for the sins of our fellow man, we offer the day, in thanksgiving and in joy. In Thanksgiving, because of the fact that even in our challenges and in our sufferings of the day, it is through those challenges and sufferings that God ultimately uses those things not only to our own benefit, but to bring about the Kingdom of God.

I prefer to look at this passage in this light. In the process of the morning offering, we call to mind our priestly office ( remember this means we are called on to offer prayers , praise and sacrifices, and thanksgiving to God). We recall in the morning and we pray to offer our day.

Like many other things we need practice, or reminders periodically to be better at this thing or that. Prayer is no different. As we go through the day, we receive prompting from the Spirit where we might have failed, or where we might have forgotten to pray about this or that, and in the practice of prayer, you will find that your prayer becomes more and more frequent,

Now, will you spend 24 hours a day on bended knee, and in front of the crucifix or the Blessed Sacrament ? No… Our lives generally do not allow for that. Do we have to be there to fulfill Paul’s charge to pray ? No. In fact by fulfilling the morning prayer, you have fulfilled the call, but it is so much more, and there is so much more to be done.

Life has a way of creeping in, and trying to dislodge you from your prayers. Praying is a habit, in the same way that going to have coffee every morning with your spouse, or with a friend is a habit. It is easier, the more you do it. Do not be discouraged, but take heart and press forward with your prayer life, you have to make the time to do it initially, but after you do this you will find it is an integral part of your day, and you will not want to be without it.

Until next time, may God give you the gift of His peace !

To Walk Humbly…

March 9, 2018

“ In your relations with one another, clothe yourselves with humility, because God “ is stern with the arrogant but to the humble he shows kindness”. Bow humbly under God’s mighty hand, so that in due time he may lift you high. Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you. Stay sober and alert. You opponent is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith, realizing that the brotherhood of believers is undergoing the same sufferings throughout the world. The God of all grace,who called you to His everlasting glory in Christ will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish those who have suffered a little while. Dominion be His through the ages ! Amen.” ( 1 Peter 5: 5b-11)

Horses are beautiful creatures.. They are large and very strong, and at the same time very sympathetic to human emotion/condition. Anyone who has raised animals can attest to this type of response.
If you have never ridden a horse, it is an experience. I personally have ridden a grand total of 3 horses in my lifetime to date ( it’s not in my future plans to do so). To be honest, although it may be ridiculous, being a person of not small stature, I always believed it to be an undue burden on the animal, for the sole purpose of my own pleasure. If it were a necessity, for transportation or work to be done, then by all means, it would be so.

Anyway, if you have ever been on top of a horse, one of the first things you will note is how high up it is that you feel on that mount. A very abnormal feeling , although I am sure it is one you might eventually become accustomed to.

This feeling of being high up, and looking down on all one surveys, feeling the power under your control, is exactly where the idea of “getting on your high horse” came from. In medieval times, a person who was of some nobility or rank, would have owned a horse that was very large and powerful.
His horse would be larger than that of a “commoner”, or a person of lesser rank or state.

This idea, is exactly what it is that Peter is attempting to convey in his message to the people in Asia Minor who needed some organization and to lay the ground work for the larger church. This particular passage was directed primarily to those who were part of the body of the church, not elders per Se. The idea here was to instill humility, and subjugation not only to the church leaders, but for them to be subject to each other. To care, to love and to be present to one another. To address each others needs, and to share each others burdens and to be on guard not to be proud in ones own estimation.

This echos the passage of Micah 6:8 “
* You have been told, O mortal, what is good,

and what the LORD requires of you:

Only to do justice and to love goodness,

and to walk humbly with your God “

In today’s world, we need people of faith, to provide for others not only a witness to God in their lives, but an example of HOLY humility.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

Who Will Separate Us From God ?

March 4, 2018

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ ? Trial, or distress, or persecution or hunger, or nakedness, or danger or the sword ? As Scripture says… “ For your sake, we are being slain all the day long, we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.” Yet in all this we are more than conquerors because of Him who has loved us. For I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers , neither height nor depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.”

Romans 8: 35-39

Are you struggling today ? Are you trying to find your footing ? Feeling lost, or depressed ? Unloved by someone, or feeling lost ? Feeling a certain void ?

If I could give you this passage, and have you think about this message. Ask you to take some time and REALLY think about this scripture and what it means for you.

I want to go back for a moment to last weeks reflection, where we talked about salvation. Do you remember how I shared with you that the Franciscan view is that Jesus did NOT come to into the world because of SIN… He came into the world because of LOVE.

For God so LOVED the world … Not for God thought the world was a totally wretched placed and all of humanity was so sick and twisted with sin that letting them kill His son was the only way to fix it all. NO..

Consider this passage, and examine the depth of Love it contains. This , brothers and sisters is a declaration of undying, unending and eternally abiding love. There is nothing that can separate us from the LOVE of God. From the very beginning.

Remember that “ In the beginning was THE WORD, and THE WORD was with God, and THE WORD was God, and THE WORD was made flesh, and dwelt among us. “ (John 1:1)

THE WORD is Jesus Christ, and notice that Jesus was not an after thought, not a remedy, but instead always has been and there in Love from the very beginning and was part of the plan of the world.
THAT plan is like a great jigsaw puzzle. Each person, each life, each vocation , each soul, is a piece.
That piece is unique. It only works when it gets put in the place it was meant to be, when it joins together and clasping together with the other parts.

You are like that piece. You are unique ! You have a purpose, a reason , a vocation that only you can fulfill in this life. I don’t mean vocation in a career sense, I mean a spiritual/ministerial vocation, a function in the puzzle of life. And it only works because in that piece, fitting into that puzzle, you are there to touch other lives, other souls. You are grasping together with others.

The picture on the face of the puzzle is the story of salvation. Yours, and theirs, throughout all of the history of mankind. This type of unending, unflinching,, undying love that God has for us that is
there for us every day. God in the Trinity, is the great love of our lives. No matter where you are in your life, there is nothing that can separate us from the LOVE of God. If you have faith, if you allow yourself to experience and share that love with others. You will know that in the end, it will be as it was in the beginning, nothing but the love of God.

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 !

Advent…It’s Here !

December 2, 2017

Advent…. It’s here.

“And do this because you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;

the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the armor of light;

let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,* not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” ( Romans 13:11)

This is the very beginning of the season of Advent. Advent means to come. It comes from the Latin Ad ( to ) Venire (come). It is applied to the church calendar as the season prior to Christmas. It is set aside for us as a period, not unlike Lent, as a time of preparation, a spiritual house cleaning if you will.

Not unlike Lent it has been a time of fasting and praying. In fact there was a period of time when there was a 40 day fast that was just like Lent. ( without the fish frys). If we look at the time of Lent and the time of Advent as mirrors of each other, both have certain characteristics that are very similar in tone and purpose.

Both serve the purpose of preparing our hearts as a birthplace for Christ to reign, a channel through which God may share the blessings of Heaven with and through us. Prior to His arrival however we have a little preparation to do.

As a child the time previous to the holiday season, there was a certain amount of that ” spring cleaning” that my mother would always have my brother and I to do. There was silver to polish, vacuuming, scrubbing and There was a brass table to polish and well as the candlesticks that stood on either side of the fireplace. Dusting the furniture and all of that came after taking care of the animals we had. ( which in itself was an 8 hour job).

Yes, the preparations were something that we as kids did not look forward to in the least, as we would rather have been exploring the forest that we lived in, or the just relaxing around the house. On the other hand, once all the work was done, and night had fallen, there was a cool nip in the air, and we would turn off the lights in the livingroom, and light a fire in the fireplace. The house took on that certain feeling of “Hearth and Home”. When the holidays came, and we were able to entertain guests, and share our home with friends and family there was a certain comfort, a certain joy to be able to serve them and make them feel at home.

The same thing applies to our spiritual lives. Paul is telling us to use Advent as a time to remove from our hearts the spiritual “baggage”. that we need to throw off. Those things that belong to the dark, and not to the light. Those things that we have been holding onto, that do not aid us in our spiritual journeys, those things that hold us back from serving Christ, or keep us from being the conduit of the blessings, or keep us from helping someone else from seeing Christ because of our actions.

So let us work on throwing off those works, those deeds, and put in some of the work in those areas of our lives to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. Throw out those pains, and grudges, lets fix those broken relationships. Let’s be the one who extends the olive branch, and extends the hands. Let us be the Christ in the season, and really live the life of faith we profess.

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 !