CHRIST ASKS US ALL: Do you see who I really am?

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, July 20, 2018

Christ and Peter 2

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church … – Matthew 16:13-18a

“Who do people think I am in this mission I take?”

“Some say, He is John the Baptist returned from the dead!  Others say, He is the Elijah is to return to herald in the new age.  Others say, He is Jeremiah, the prophet who warns and then weeps for the people will not listen that their ways are leading to their destruction.  Others say, He is either merely another prophet or finally a true prophet, a reader of the times we find ourselves and how God wants us to respond to them.”

“But who do you think I am Simon Peter?”

“Well, Rabbi, I believe You are the One who comes to save us, the Messiah, the Christ.”

“Heaven has revealed this truth to you, Peter.  And it is this very understanding upon which the Church shall be built — this perception of me as the Christ.”

The essence of Church is to behold Christ, to behold Christ as He was and is, to behold Christ in the spirit of the lessons He taught, to behold Christ in the mission that we now carry on, to behold Christ with clarity and four-dimensionally without the filters of our cultural prejudice.

When you look long and deep into the life, person, work of Christ … who is the person you behold?

Sadly, too many church-goers know Christ as but a passing acquaintance.  Sadly, too many churchgoers see Christ through a lens of culture to which we do not realize exist for we have become far too accustomed to their presence.

In Christ’s Service Always,

Fr. Charity de la Cruz

 

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THE HEALING OF THE DEAF, THE BLIND

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Christ frustratedAnd Christ said to His disciples, “The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.’  But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. – Matthew 13:13-16

I have lived with the frustration of people not understanding me.  Maybe it is the timbre of my voice; maybe, it is the choice of my words; maybe, it is my manner of reasoning or maybe it is what I have experience in life and they have not.  On the other hand, possibly they choose not to listen, to not understand; possibly they are unable to hear for a deafness has come upon them or possibly they have not the faculties to hear my heart.  For whatever or combination of reasons, it has been so frustrating to me.  And I can hear in these words of Christ … it was certainly frustrating to Christ.

Of late, this frustration has been tormenting for I cannot understand why others cannot see the evil I see, the hypocrisy I see, the self-centeredness I see, the emotional dysfunction I see, the wolf I clearly see within his cloak of fleece and flag.  Nowadays so much of my prayerful conversation with Lord is about the question …”Why can they not see what I do see; why can they not hear what I do hear?”  Why?

Is it the distortion that comes when one wears ideological lenses?  Is it the willingness to look the other way for the sake of a specific cause?  Is it an acculturalization that plays havoc with healthy perspective?  Is it the work of angelic-looking demons who have mastered the art of deception, delusion, and distortion of values?  Is it the work of sin too long suppressed?

Lord, why cannot the people see and hear?  Lord, why do I often not see and hear?  Lord, what sinfulness does now flourish among us?

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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THE TEMPLE OF FALSE GLORY

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

cLEARING THE TEMPLE

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'” – Matthew 21:12-13

Here we witness Christ in the act of protest, a protest against corruption of the House of Herod’s Temple.  Herod’s Temple was more a nationalistic display of power by the corrupt Herodian dynasty, a dynasty that declared itself a “royal and priestly” line of Kings.  The Temple was one of Herod’s magnificent building projects that he and sons used to restore “glory” to Israel, to make Israel “Great Again.”  Why even the Herod who began this project was known as Herod the Great, guilty of using the Faith in pursuit of political power.

The massive building projects were expensive and required ongoing sources of revenue.  The renting out of tables and booths for various vendors of religious goods and services was part of that flow of revenue.  And like so many ventures, the fundraising becomes more and more the mission of the endeavor.

In walks a rabbi with his traveling rabbinical school of disciples, a ragged bunch from the backwoods region of Galilee, a band of preachers who had no authorization or vested power to question the leaders of the Temple.  And this ragamuffin rabbi does a most shocking and disrespectful act … He participates in a demonstration of protest.  Overturning the tables would not have resulted in any permanent change … but it served to focus the attention of many who were disappointed, discouraged and disgusted with both the extravagance of the Herods and the indifference of the Temple leadership to the needs of the common people.

But this protest by this Galilean rabbi was unnerving to Herod and the Temple leadership … for it exposed their corruption and inspired a movement of revolutionary change.

The turning over the table of the moneychangers whose work was to exchange for a fee foreign currency into acceptable Temple currency… the disruption of Temple commerce the selling of doves and lambs for Temple sacrifices … was a cry by Christ on behalf of the people and on behalf of God …”WE DO NOT NEED THE EXTRAVAGANCE OF THIS HERODIAN DISPLAY OF POWER … but rather we need to recover our humility and be about the work of holy prayer.

History has repeated this conflict between political power in the guise of religion, over and over again.

Always in Christ’s Service,

 

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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BEWARE OF THE YEAST OF PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Then Jesus cautioned His disciples, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!”  Then they understood that He had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. – Matthew 16:11b-12
PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES

The Pharisees and the Sadducees, two quasi-political Jewish parties with quite different approaches to theology.  The Pharisees might be seen as the “reactionary-conservatives” hoping that returning to the “old ways” would bring about the return of the glory of Israel and shake off this Roman occupation.  The Sadducees might be seen as the “philosophical-progressives” hoping that accommodation of Graeco-Roman philosophy with the Jewish faith would bring about an enlightenment of the faith.  Though they are so often paired together in scripture, they were seriously in conflict with each other with only the matter of the Roman persecution to hold them together in alliance.

But Christ cautions his traveling rabbinical school of disciples to be vigilant about “yeast” that is present in either of these religious-political parties, a yeast that seems to be but a bit of this or that but eventually changes the whole loaf.  Yeast was an oft-used metaphor in Jewish theology.  Often it is used to signify something that slowly changes a soul, sometimes for the good, more often for the bad.

So what IS this “yeast” of which Christ speaks?  Oh, a million sermons have tried to flesh out the specifics and the possibilities are multitude.  After a lifetime of reflection on these words of Christ I think Christ’s concern about the “yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” surely included the following.

The yeast of the Pharisees was the notion that a retreat into even more legalism of the past would restore glory.  “No, my disciples, we must be pilgrims into a new future of Divine possibility and not a people trying to restore the past.  Our salvation will not come through rules and laws ever more rigid and widespread, but by the entering to the Creative process of a new Realm of God.

The yeast of the Sadducees was the notion that we must alloy the faith with the understanding of this world in order to insure our survival and salvation.  “No, my disciples, we must be guided not by the worldly rudders of materialism, self-indulgence,  greed and lust for power, but by the heavenly rudders of love and mercy, compassion and self-giving, goodness and godliness.

To the contrary, Christ might offer that we are to be the good, pure, heavenly yeast in this world, transforming both souls and histories into a more heavenly realm.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

 

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TO DISCERN WHAT IS HIDDEN

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, July 16, 2018

No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light.  Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away. – Luke 8:16-18

A newspaper prints on its masthead the words, “Democracy Dies in Darkness”.  This refers to the primary reason for free press … to carry a lantern into the hidden places of those who govern.  I believe the free press is an expression of Christ’s own commitment to the Truth and to His being a revealer of that which is plotted in the darkness.

In the account of the Last Supper, it says that Judas left that upper room and went out into the darkness of night.  The betrayals of Peter in his cowardly moments took place in the cover of night.   The Sanhedrin executed their plot in the darkness of both their hearts and in the night in a garden of Gethsemane.  Throughout Biblical history, we find that evil prefers to work in the shadows and to hide in the darkness of secrets.  Yet the Lord in the beginning cried out, “Let there be Light!”

I am intrigued by a phrase often overlooked in this teaching of Christ, the phrase, “Then pay attention to how you will listen …”  Christ tells his disciples to listen in a certain manner while He is teaching about Light and Darkness.  “Pay attention to how you will listen …”

VIGILMy pattern of devotion includes periodic night vigils of prayer.  After awhile praying in the darkness, the stars grow brighter and the moonglow becomes stronger … I have observed that my listening becomes keener.  I can begin to hear what was previously hidden in the darkness … and I sense I can “see” my surroundings all the better.

Learning how to listen comes by way of quiet, quiet prayer.  It is the manner of prayer that first quiets the noise of the world trapped within us, that first quiets the crowd of voices that keep echoing within us.  It is the manner of pray to listen to that tries to be hidden.  This manner of prayer, this school of deeper listening, bestows to the seeker the greater ability to discern the truth and what is actually happening.  Most people do not take the time to refine these listening skills that allow one to discern that which tried hide in the darkness … and so … they not only remain deaf but also half-blind.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

 

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The god of Money

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, July 15, 2018

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.                         – Matthew 6:24

When one serves God, one does what God requires of her or him.  And when one serves money, one does what the money requires her or him to do.

When one serves God, one pursues the desires of God; when one serves money, one pursues the desire of money.

When one serves God, one believes in the power of God; when one serves money, one believes in the power of moment.

I recall a farmer who was so wise and devout.  I still am inspired by his down-to-earth faith that was still so very profound.  During a Sunday dinner, we talked about the concept of prosperity.  He said, “I have friends who say that I ought to buy more land so that I make more money.  But I say to them … ‘I have enough money, but I do not have enough time.'”

money

For those who are motivated by the allure of making more and more money, they never seem to have enough.  For those who are motivated to provide for their loved one by way of the mutual undertaking known as Divine Providence, they know the satisfaction of having “enough”.

More and more as experience this world … the more and more I see that the god of money is truly a seductive force that takes possession of souls and controls them.

I am thankful on this Sabbath, that I can say to the god of Money … “The Lord and I we enough, even more than enough, enough to share with others.”

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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THE NOBILITY OF A POOR WOMAN’S SOUL

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, July 14, 2018

And Christ looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two small coins. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all;  for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”                  – Luke 21:1-4

This momentary comment by the Lord I find so significant, so powerful, so insightful.  This commentary on rich people and a poor widow shines light on the essence of holy devotion, on the struggle of the poor, on the arrogance of the rich and privileged, and on the significance of sacrifice in the Christian ethos.

The rich are portrayed as “pompous” and self-glorifying in their giving while the poor widow is portrayed as humble and God-glorifying in her giving.  The rich are making no real-life sacrifice but merely giving a won’t-even-be-missed share of their surplus; the poor widow is making a real-life sacrifice, periling her own existence for the sake of devotion.  The rich are seen as egotistical patrons while the poor widow is totally devoted, all-in.

Through the years as I have relived this passage I try to discern the feelings of Christ.  Was Christ feeling sadness in seeing her sacrifice being squandered in support of a self-glorifying project of this overblown Temple?  Was Christ disappointed in how the rich were seen as giving when it was the widow who was actually giving more?  Was Christ inspired by the widow’s humble yet noble devotion?  Was Christ frustrated at how powers that be favored the rich and ignored the poor?

WIDOWS MITE

Through the years, I have experienced so many moments like these.  Now and then, a well-to-do parishioner would make a spectacle of a “gift” to the Church and sometimes we placed a plaque on the wall.  But now and then, as was often the practice in years gone by … when I would visit a homebound widow she would always hand me an offering envelope with change enclosed.  Looking back … the widow’s envelope was a far holier event than watching the rich man unveil his plaque.

Holy devotion is about humility that somehow transforms into nobility and about love that transforms into a life of sacrifice.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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THE GEHENNA-FIRE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, July 13, 2018

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother or sister will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the  smoldering fire of the burning rubbish field called Gehenna.” – Matthew 5:21-22

I do not like these words of Christ for they are troubling to me, they expose a capacity to hate and violence that I wish was not there.  Yes, these ought to be troubling words to humankind.

The “anger” to which Christ refers is a simmering, brooding, vengeance-in-making anger.  It is unresolved anger.  It is anger that nurtures malice in the heart and furthers the distance between souls.  It is an anger that consumes the angry.

Anger breeds anger like a fire growing wider.  It can become more than understandably justified anger … it become the dominant tone and timbre of our lives.  This anger once specifically focused becomes a generalized anger that is no longer under our control.

GEHENNA

I am guilty of this Gehenna-anger, this smoldering in my soul.  When it takes over my soul it breaks relationships and causes me to erupt in places and moments when their ought to be peace.  I think of God’s conversation with Cain …

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – Genesis 4:6-9

Always in Christ’s Service

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

 

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WE WILL NOW BE HEALERS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, July 12, 2018

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mark 2:15-17

Christ and tax collectors

The tax collectors, often Jewish people who collected the Roman taxes, even the Temple tax ordered by Herod, who made their living on keeping a percentage of the collections.  For the traditionalists in Judea and Galilee, they were seen as collaborators with Roman occupation;  for the working poor, they were seen as exploiters of their circumstance.  Levi was one, a man with a Hebrew name in the tradition of the priestly line.  And Christ sat down for dinner with this man of questionable character in the eyes of many, and He did so for His own reasons.

I think Christ may have joined in meal-fellowship with the tax collector to stir the very judgmental questions boiling in the self-righteous Pharisees.  The tradition was not dine with such unclean souls.  The Pharisees thought this unwise on the part of Jesus, maybe, even a betrayal of Hebrew cause.  The irony … is that it would be Pharisees who would collude with the Roman authorities in ridding them of their Jesus-Problem.

I also think that Christ may have joined in meal-fellowship with the tax collectors to model His strategy for dealing with the “enemy”.  Hate begets more hate, violence begets more violence, but reaching out with love slowly transforms the “enemy”.  As foolish as it may seem to those of us schooled in worldly ways to deal with “enemies”, this was the radical approach of Christ.

Add to these, I believe Christ joined in meal-fellowship with the tax collectors to make visibly God’s initiative of healing grace.  In this New Understanding, we come not to judge and condemn but to offer ourselves as healers of broken and infected people and cultures.  We are to be the Healing Presence that turns “tax collectors and sinners” into honest souls.

Yet, at the heart, I believe Christ had meal-fellowship with the tax collectors because he was trying to love the man.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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A TRUST IN MERCY

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Jesus straightened up and said to the woman that was caught committing adultery, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” – John 8:10-11

JESUS AND WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERYForgiveness is not saying that the sin did not matter … but rather saying … you matter more than your sin.

Too often by too many, justice is limited to punishment and the fear of punishment, to serve as a “paying of the price” or to serve as deterrence by way of fear.  And in the Biblical history of dealing with human sinfulness this undoubtedly played a part.  But yet … Biblical justice has also the dimension of “restorative justice” and “reformative justice” and these alloyed the seemingly separate concepts of justice and mercy.

Christ chooses not to condemn the guilty woman and chooses to set her free from her guilt in an act of restorative, reformative justice.  “Go now … and sin no more.”  And we remember that moment now 2000 years later … the confidence of Christ in the power of mercy in the court of justice.

Oh, this belief in mercy seems foolish in the minds of most.  It seems unfair.  It seems unjust.  And the Church has a history of demanding punitive justice of those who break the rules.  Inquisitions, crusades, banishments, burning of heretics … even the Church has demanded that we control people by way of deterrence and a price to pay.  It seems to make sense.  Yet Christ let a woman walk free in an act of restorative justice by way of reformative mercy.  Even from the cross, Christ set the accusers, the mockers, and the executioners free by way of a most remarkable mercy …”Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

The world will continue to deter certain behavior by way of punitive justice.  But those of us in Christ … is there a mercy-filled justice the world does not yet understand.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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