IN THE MOMENTS OF ANXIETY

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”– John 20:1-2

mARY mAGDALENE AND pETER, jOHN

Mary Magdalene, finding the empty tomb, enters into a state of anxiety, the kind of anxiety that comes with sudden changes and a bewilderment as to what to do.

Mary Magdalene, by her coming to the tomb to do widow’s work, was quite naturally trying to extend her love of Jesus.  He had died, she had wept, now his body needed to be prepared and then laid to rest.  It was what loving widows did in those days … and it appears Mary Magdalene placed herself in that role.  But then … even that grieving act of love was snatched away, his body was nowhere to be found.  Surely an anxious gasp filled that bewildering moment …”What do I do now?!”

She first runs to find someone to lean on, to ask the questions that now fill her mind, to find an embrace of comfort for the wounds in heart.  “What has happened?  What do I do? What does this all mean for me and for all of us?”

I have lived through a number of those anxiety-filled sudden changes.  And each time my mortal self has cried out to God, “Lord, what has happened?  What do I do?”  It is a shock to one’s soul, and each time I “ran” to someone and Someone who would give me an emotional embrace, give me time for the shock to settle, and then to reassure me that soon I will better understand.

Everyone needs a someone and the Someone in times of sudden anxiety.  It is the work of faith that has someone and Someone into whose steadying arms one can run.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE COMPASSIONATE RESPONSE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, October 20, 2018

 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:35-36

cHRIST AND THE CROWD

And Christ saw with His own eyes and with His own heart that the people without power, the poor and the working poor, those deemed of possessing less worth than those with money and positions of prestige, were harassed and helpless.  And today … when Christ looks out over the people, He still sees with compassion the harassed and the helpless, the defenseless and the desperate.  And if the heart of Christ had this compassionate response … then it would seem that our own hearts, we with Christ living within us, would have that same compassionate response.

Yet, so many Christians in whom the qualities of compassion and mercy appear rather faint, choose instead to blame, chastise, cast aside, ignore these people in the crowd .We fear being taken advantage of by these lesser ones; we fear being asked to share in God’s Providence for the community; we fear being burdened with dealing with the needs of others.

Jesus speaks of flocks without shepherds, leaders who care, guide, protect the flocks, shepherds willing to risk themselves to provide care for both the individual and the community.  Jesus understood that He would need to be that shepherd and His disciples in their turn and we in our turn.

When you look upon the crowds, the poor, the refugees, the harassed and the helpless … what is the response of your heart?

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

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SOUL-TENDING

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, October 19, 2018

monk sweeping

[Then Jesus said] “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’  When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. – Luke 11:24-26

In recovery groups, they often talk about relapse.  Sobriety is entered into with sacred vows, and then … a relapse takes place … and the addiction returns … needed then a new beginning in sobriety.  Here Christ, I believe, is talking about the matter of relapse in our spiritual sobriety into which we entered with sacred vows.

When I look gut honestly at my history in the Christian life, I have had my relapses.  Oh, nothing so dramatic as to cause a “gasp”, but the returning of old habits, old sinful ways, in spite of my sacred vows.   And it does seem true when a sinful attitude or practice returns, it tends to bring many other sinful attitudes and practices with it.  And thus, I have learned from my Loved Ones in life who are in recovery that a soul is in ongoing “soul-tending“.

I have lived with this belief … that a sacrament such as baptism and communion when taken with great devotion, the mercy of God returns us to innocence and purity.  Yet, it is plain and obvious that this newborn innocence and purity gives way.  If we are serious and committed to daily soul-tending, the old sins return often in sanctified garb and bring it expressions of sinfulness we never knew before.  We relapse.  Some do through confession and mercy do begin afresh having cleaned the house within us; but so many, though I do not know how many, become accustomed to this returning guest and often  cloak it with self-righteous rationalization.  Thus the once-converted slowly relapse without realizing that they have.

When I was a young and even when I was less than young, I struggled with flashes of anger, momentary rages that led me to regrettable words and actions.  In a certain way, my conversion was out of concern for this aspect of my life.  But then … that rage would invite itself back into my life, sometimes I resisted, sometimes I relapsed.  And throughout my Christian it has required much soul-tending, learning how to be angry without the demon of rage.  Mind you, this is only one aspect of my sinfulness in my life that the Lord and I have needing to tend … so slowly I learned to continually return to the altar, not to be saved over and over again, but to tend to the salvation I have received.

So to those who have made their sacred vows … be mindful of your housekeeping.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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THE WORD DWELLS ALSO BEYOND THE PAGES

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, October 18, 2018

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people.   The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. – John 1:1-5

GOD SPEAKING

According the writer of John’s Gospel, the Word was present in the processes of Creation; according to the writer of John’s Gospel, the Word was present in the life of Christ; but nowhere does the writer of John’s Gospel declare that the scriptures and the Word are one and the same.

To be sure, the Word was active into those souls who wrote the scriptures and the Word was active in the historical moments that the scriptures record; but the  Word and the scriptures are not one in the same.  And because of this understanding of mine … there are those who accuse me of heresy.

I read the scriptures continually through each and every day.  Reading them deeply to the point of hearing once more the whisperings of the writers themselves.  I learn from the scriptures; I am inspired by the scriptures; but I do not deify the scriptures.  They are but one means through which the Voice of God makes itself to be heard.  That Voice I hear in the wondrous processes of Creation.  That Voice I hear in the words and the manner of Christ my Lord.  That Voice I hear in sacred moments that I experience.  That Voice I hear in the soulful conversation I have with others.  That Voice I hear even in the silences within my hours of prayer.  And that Voice I hear by way of beholding the Light that diminished the Darkness.

The Word of God is found with the pages of a Bible; but the Word of God is not confined to those pages of a Bible.

Read scripture.  But also listen for the Word as it echoes throughout the unfolding of Creation and as it expressed in fleshly form in Christ and in the Christ among us.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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OUR DESIRE TO CONTROL

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

But after His brothers had gone to Jerusalem for the festival, then He also went, not publicly but as it were in secret.  The Jerusalem leadership of the High Priest and the Council of the Sanhedrin were looking for Him at the festival and saying, “Where is he?” And there was considerable complaining about Him among the crowds. While some were saying, “He is a good man,” others were saying, “No, he is deceiving the masses.”  Yet no one would speak openly about Him for fear of the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. – John 7:10-13

ANGRY PREACHERI believe it to be the essence of humanity’s sinful frailty, this impulse to try to control both other people and God.  We seem to have this primal instinct that is part and parcel with our mortal fears to assert our own will over the will of God and the will of others.  And so often it is ironically the fostering of fear in others that we use to quiet the fears within.  Even the Church through the centuries and within almost all expressions of the faith has used fear to control the people, and with much sophistication to bend the wishes and ways of God.

Christ had become the talk of Jerusalem.   They whispered among themselves either the hope of this Galilean messiah-to-be or the risk that His new understanding might bring into this cauldron of Roman military threat and seething zealots.  Christ was a fulfillment of a long-awaited hope or He would prove to be yet one more false prophet leading the people astray.  I sense the High Priest and the Sanhedrin were frantic and determined to manage this “Jesus of Nazareth Problem”.

In striking contrast to this instinct to control others … Christ invited others, Christ shared with others, Christ inspired others, Christ made of Himself an example to follow, Christ offered Himself to others and gave Himself to others.  But to seize control … to overcome fear with fear … this was not His Way nor ought to be the way we carry on His Work.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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FAITH AS CERTAINTY AND UNCERTAINTY

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

When the disciples who were fishing had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. – John 21:9-12

Christ on the beachThe Gospel of John to provide details, often details with no specific reasoning why they are included.  Possibly they are there to reassure us the reality of the moment. One hundred and fifty- three large fish?  The net was not torn?  Fish on the campfire, yet Jesus asks that they bring some of theirs?  I end to believe that these details meant something significant for John, but for we who read his words now … they are but clues to a mystery.

But today … I speak of that quality of Christian faith that enables us to “see” Christ when, in all honesty, we are not absolutely sure.  The disciples recognized this man of the beach on an early cooking fish to be Jesus … yet still they wanted confirmation that what they saw was actually true.

So many moments in my life when I believed I could Christ in certain faces, in certain actions, in certain places.  And yet … so often I ask in my thoughts … “Is that truly You I see, my Lord, or am I merely imagining it all?”  Faith has this enigmatic quality that the more we believe, the more we know what we believe to be true, yet … there is always this mortal uncertainty, no matter how slight, which must be bridged through the daring to believe.

I offer that it is this “bridging of the uncertainty” that activates the spiritual imagination within the depths of our being.  Faith is the “bridging of the uncertainty” which once accomplished leads us to fuller measures of certainty.  Without faith … the mysteries remain forever veiled.  Without faith … the journey is never furthered.  Without faith … we deny ourselves the obedience to serve and to love which in so doing we learn all the more about matters both human and Divine.

I cannot identify with that encounter in the mist of an early morning down by the lake.  I can smell the smoke and I can savor the taste of fish.  I can behold the Someone whom I believed to be the Lord.  And in that encounter … my soul is reassured.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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LIFE IS “EVEN MORE”

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, October 15, 2018

CEDAR WAXWING

Jesus said to His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! – Luke 12:22-24

Life is more than food … more than paychecks and insurance policies, investments and dividends.  Life is more than clothing … no matter how fashionable … more than the closet in the bedroom in the house that holds them.  Life is more than this.

But what is the “more” in life?  What is the more to life than mere existence?  For you, is it fame?  For you, is it prestige or power?  For you, is it a life of ease or creaturely comforts?  What is the “more” that would make your life abundant?

I have enough to provide for the necessities of life.  I have food enough; I have satisfactory shelter; I have medical insurance; I have a shirt on my back.  What is the “more” that I need?

I have the love of the Lord.  I have the love of a wife.  I have the love of my children.  I have a community of faith.  I have a Creation to behold.  I have a song to sing.  I have an art to express.  I have a book to read.  I have dreams to pursue.  I have mercy for my sins.  I have the ministry to provide.  I have a soul that can enjoy both heaven and earth.  If I had the time I could you more of the “more” that comprises this abundant life of mine.

Loved Ones, I believe it is good for the soul to give thanks both for the necessities and the “even-more” that the Lord has provided.   I find it brings into one’s soul even more of the peace and the joy.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

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IN EXCHANGE FOR ONE’S TRUE SOUL

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, October 4, 2018

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their soul (life)? Or what will they give in return for their life? – Matthew 16:24-26

MAMMON2If ever there was a cautionary message for the financial and political affairs of humanity it would be those words of Christ … For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?  And yet over and over and over again … the world and far too often the Church does not take seriously and deeply these words of caution.  Why?  Because we at some point confuse heavenly power with worldly power, we confuse spiritual prosperity with financial prosperity.

The word “soul” refers not to some ghost within you, but the living essence of who you are … your life, the life that lives within your earthly existence.  It includes one personhood, one’s values and priorities, one’s sensibilities and one’s imagination, the wake of one’s life-journey, one’s dreams, one’s memories, and still even more.  The soul is that through which flows the eternal River of God.

Every day I watch the world rally around the demagogues of wealth and power.  They find their security in the false gods Mammon (god of money) and Caesar (the god of military might).  They cloak these false gods in sanctified robes, justifying them with a contortion of misused scriptures.  They hide these wolves who prey upon the soul with the appearance of sheep’s clothing.  And as the gods of wealth and worldly power become more and more dominant in the soul of a person and the soul of a people … they slowly corrode and consume the soul bestowed by the Lord.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their soul (life)? Or what will they give in return for their soul (life)?

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE ANXIETY OF ORPHANS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Christ said to His disciples just hours before His crucifixion …“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.” – John 14:18-19cHRIST IN UPPER ROOM

Christ, as He looks into the faces of His disciples in the flickering of the oil lamps, mindful of the events about to take place, shares a most poignant, pastoral moment.  “I will not leave you orphaned.”  This moment when Christ gazed into the souls of His spiritual brothers always invites me to love all the deeper.

So many times in a lifetime of pastoral ministry, I have experienced both the feeling of being an orphan and ministering to people who fear to be left orphaned.  “Am I the only person who feels this way?  Am I fearful of being abandoned?” Often, this tearful plea was spoken in grieving words, but more often, in gaze through tearful eyes.  It was in these moments, that I powerfully sensed the Lord coming to us.

I believe we all have had moments when we felt abandoned, alone in the circumstance, wondering if there is anyone who understands us.  I believe we all have had moments when we felt detached from the One who surely loves, wondering if that Someone will ever return.  All through the Psalms, so mentioned in the Prophets, even from the cross when Christ cried out, “Why have You forsaken me?”, we witness the mortal anxiety of being left alone.  I believe Christ in those moments in the Upper Room tried to prepare His disciples for those hours of feeling abandoned.  And in time … they began to understand that Christ had not abandoned them … but return them in resurrected glory and in the presence of the Comforting Counselor, the Spirit.

Loved Ones, when I felt abandoned or detached … I have cried out and the Lord have always come to me.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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A GUILD OF HUMBLE SERVANTS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, October 12, 2018

SERVANTSWhen the other ten disciples heard James and John and their request for positions of authority, they began to be angry with James and John.  So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:41-45

The Christian Realm is a realm of humble servants, and if it were even possible, a “Christian nation” would then be a nation of humble servants.  But these servants are not the serfs of some worldly aristocracy, tyranny, oligarchy, or even the privileged of the society, but rather mutually supportive servants in the Realm of God.  None is greater than the other; none is lesser than the other.  They are servants each and all of them.

As a lad I loved to watch the television program, Robin Hood.  You know … the one who took from the rich to return it to the poor.  In that series, Good King William was away engaged in a distant war.  Prince John, his proxy, was the evil counterpart who worked his villainy through the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham.  A vibrating string in that extended ballad was the hope that if King William returned home, he would make right the wrong of the king’s proxies.  Looking back, I find these ancient ballads of the people, the humble people, served as morality play concerning the accepted doctrine of the divine right of kings.  The King is only Divine when the King does what is right, good and just.  And as to these proxies who oppressed and exploited the humble … they placed themselves in jeopardy in the fair justice of the truly Divine.  Intriguing that Robin Hood with all his mischief was considered noble and heroic.

Governments, most industries, and even a good share of the Church is organized into a hierarchy of power and authority.  In the world’s sense of order, this seem to be the way things ought to be administered.  But Christ and His disciples and the disciples who followed those disciples … were a guild of humble servants.

Servanthood, Christian servanthood is much more need in our present circumstance than a hierarchy of power and a Divine right of the powerful.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

 

 

 

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