The “Why” of our “Ways”

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

woman with alabaster jarWhile Jesus was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.  Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume?  It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” – Mark 14:3-6

Today I share about the Beautiful Thing and how it contrasts with the ugly thing.  And I see it in two places, once in the obvious focus of the moment, once in the subtle setting of the moment.

Almost casually this moment long remembered is placed in its setting … in the home of Simon the Leper. A man who is known by his affliction, leprosy, someone who was labelled as untouchable, an outcast, someone to avoid, a person from whom you kept your distance.  This avoidance of lepers was a matter of Biblical law based on then a lack of understanding the disease.  (Biblical law has a premise that it often draws upon … with the knowledge we have at the time, we will conduct ourselves prudently and cautiously.)   But against the flow of the culture, Jesus and His disciples dine in the home of Simon the Leper.  The Beauty of acceptance of an outcast, the ugliness of an unfounded prejudice, this is the contrast.

Now, the more obvious example is the woman who lavishly anointed Christ.  This was the Beautiful thing, to love lavishly.  The contrasting ugliness is the rather cold-hearted criticism of the woman’s extravagance.  As happens so many times in the Gospels … Jesus turns a situation into a teaching moment.  I used to hear Christ’s words, “Why do you bother her?” as a chastisement of the disciples, but lately, I am wondering if these words were more of a penetrating question about their attitude and behavior … “Why?  Why is your reaction one of criticism?  Why are you so self-righteous in your appraisal of her?  Why are so insensitive, so blind to the Beauty?  Why?”

Yes, I find this a lesson in the need for self-examination … why do we do what we do?

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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FOR THE SAKE OF THE WHOLENESS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

August 13, 2018

After the parable of the lost sheep, Luke has Jesus continuing on with a parable of further explanation … “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. – Luke 15:81-10

COIN NECKALCE

I am told that the ten coins may refer to a necklace of coins, with the ten coins making a complete set.  And if that be the case … I think Jesus is extending the theme of why we go about helping the lost to be found.  In the story about the lost sheep, I noted that this story speaks of the Christian ethic about the significant worth of the individual, an ethic which goes counter to the ethic found in much of worldly philosophy, possibly even against common sense.  Here, I believe, Jesus is adding another dimension about why we search for the lost so that they might be found … and that dimension is restoring the wholeness of the community.

The necklace of coins was in need of that one coin that made the necklace whole.  It is the story of a desperate effort to restore wholeness to that community of coins. It is the teaching that completeness has a worth even beyond the total of the parts.  Community itself, wholeness of the whole, the full set of the individuals, has value in itself.

But the Church through the centuries has often been unwilling to preserve the whole.  Too often if one coin is lost they simply do without.

We live in times when the temptation to divide the community is great.  Oh, it is usually coached in terms of conscience, and that, at times, must be.  But as I observe these times, selfish pride and self-righteousness are more at work, along with a measure of tribal vindictiveness.  But the well-being of the whole does matter in the eyes of Christ … and so we go searching for that one lost coin.  It goes against common sense and long-term strategy I suppose … but it does seem to matter to the Lord.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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THE CHRISTIAN ETHIC OF THE INDIVIDUAL

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus.  And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So Jesus told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?  When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. – Luke 15:1-5

Obviously, this parable is about tasking the risk to save the one who is lost.  It is about the Christian ethic of the worth of the individual.  It is about rescuing those imperiled rather than to playing it safe.  But this morning I allow myself a rare chance to wander off on a tangent path.

shepherd carrying sheepIt is again one of those details that we often overlook, a detail that may have a significance not at first noticed.  When the shepherd finds that lost sheep, he lays it across his own shoulders and rejoices.  No reporting of the shepherd chastising the sheep; no reporting of the shepherd punishing the sheep; no reporting of the shepherd chasing the sheep back to flock; rather the shepherd carries the sheep on his shoulders and while carrying that sheep, rejoicing.

Why did the shepherd carry the sheep on his shoulders?  Fear that this wayward sheep would runaway again?  Possibly.  But I think it was more likely that the sheep was wounded or in distress.  So the shepherd carries the sheep.

And that emphasis on rejoicing on the part of the shepherd.  This is also noted in the similar parables of the lost coin and the prodigal son … the woman and the father rejoice when what was lost is found.  This rejoicing … I imagine it is part relief, it is part the thanksgiving that comes when the fear of loss results in a happy ending, it is in part the peace that comes when wholeness is restored.

In our ever burgeoning mass society, the individual can easily be lost in the crowd.  Individuals become numbers in a chart of profit and loss.  Individuals become expendable in the corporate cause.  Individuals become but acceptable casualties in an ongoing war.  Individuals become just one soul lost in the crowd or lost in the unseen loneliness.

That one sheep … when tending a flock of so many … why worry about a wayward sheep?  In God’s economy … each individual matters.

Always in Christ’s Service

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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LOSING ONE’S SOUL THROUGH FALSEHOOD

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, August 11, 2018

MARTYRA

And Christ said to His disciples, “So have no fear of the powerful; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.  What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. – Matthew 10:26-28

Maybe it was some childhood preacher or teacher, or those long years of indoctrination in a certain expression of the faith, but it only today, that I caught a misreading I had made all through the years.  “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  I always presumed that the pronoun “him” referred to God, but the text does not actually define who the “him” is.  Oh, a theological system might provide argument that of course this “him” refers to God … but what if it refers to the Deceiver we sometimes call the devil or satan.  Or what if referred to someone in political power, Caesar, Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas?

So this brings us to the question, “We can destroy both soul and body in hell?”  The obvious, traditional answer is God Almighty, Judge of all things.  But what if it referred to those wielders of power who snatch away true faith and replace it with a false faith?

To His disciples He encourages them to not fear being martyred for being faithful to the Truth and being a faithful proclaimer of the Truth; but be especially careful about dealing with people who seduce your soul to its onw destruction.

Is our Christian faith based on the fear of hell?  Not mine, at least.  Oh, I do revere, respect, hold in awe, the Lord God … but God’s Love has chased away that fear.  But I do have a fear that the spirit of anti-Christ so adept at deception and corruption might allure me and those I love into the ways that lead to a soul’s demise.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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As the Wisdom Divine Unfolds

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, August 10, 2018

John the Baptist’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, John sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”
At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So He replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.  Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me. – Luke 7:18-23

Christ and John the Baptist

It does not usually come to mind but Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, also had disciples.  Also, it is striking that John the Baptist is not absolutely confident that Christ is the One to whom John had proclaimed would come.  Even in people of great faith, even those ordained by God for a mission,  there can be moments of uncertainty.

Jesus reassures John’s disciples that He is fulfilling the messianic promise … restoring clear vision to the blind, strengthening the legs of the lame, cleansing lepers of that which caused them to be banished, enabling the deaf to hear what they have not heard before, reviving the dead and giving them new life, and bringing good news to the poor.  And it seems that the reassurance given by Christ was reassurance enough for John.

But I want to spend a few moments to contemplate that enigmatic phrase that concludes Christ’s words to John and his disciples, “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” What exactly does it mean?  Why are these words spoken in that moment?

Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.  I sense it is placed here to reassure John’s disciples that He does intend to abandon the ethic and cause of their mentor, John the Baptist.  It is as if He were saying to them …”You were not wrong in following John but I am here to carry the mission forward to its fulfillment.  Steady your faith, do not become defensive in protecting John’s ministry, do not become jealous, do not become fearful, give it time … you will understand.”

An aspect of faith is the willingness to give matters their necessary time.  In God’s Realm, from the beginning of Time to the ending of Time, the wisdom and ways of God unfold.  God works most often in an evolutionary manner rather than a revolutionary manner, allowing the fullness of time to provide the harvest.

Loved Ones, do not let new insights and new possibilities frighten you … for the faith keeps unfolding as time goes by.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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WITH A SENSE OF FOREVER

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, August 9, 2018

BREAD 2

When the crowds found Jesus on the other side of the Lake of Galilee, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “You are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of bread. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on Him that God the Father has set his seal of approval and authority.” Then they said to Him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” – John 6:25-28

The crowds were hungry.  Christ initiated a miracle of providence by sharing what he had with the massive crowd.  And now the crowd crossed the expansive lake of Galilee looking for yet another miracle … for the people in those times were hungry.  And to this hungry crowd, hungry for both bread and a measure of hope, Christ said … “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

The crowds were hungry for bread for these were hard times as the Roman occupation was depleted them of their resources through both taxation and exploitation.  And thus, this crowd was also desperately hungry for someone to liberate the land, a Messiah, a Savior, the Son of Man who would come to make things “right“.  And so as the crowd came to satisfy their hunger, Christ declared, “I am He, this Son of Man who comes to makes things right and to return your land to you.  But …”

Yes, Christ redirects their hope in a way they had not considered and quite possibly cared not to consider.  You must find your Hope that goes beyond daily sustenance, but rather you must set your Hope on that which goes on Forever.

“Give us this day our daily bread,” so Christ prayed and in remembrance and for the reason on the ongoing need, we pray today.  Yet, I believe Christ also provides us on a daily basis something I term, “the Sense of Forever” in our daily living.  In Christ, we are invited to join with Him in a way of life that is filled with the values and practices of the Heavenly Life, the Forever Life.  For Christ prayed and we do so in remembrance, “Your  Realm that is arriving but not yet fully arrive, Your wishes and ways that we are committed to fulfill, here on earth in the manner which it is done in Heaven.”  Or as is the more traditional wording …”Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Loved Ones, if we so choose … we can daily live with this sense of Forever in our hearts and in our loving, in our grace and in our mercy, in our sharing, in our giving.  We can abide within the radiance of Heaven … if we daily seek to feast on the Bread of Life.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FAITH WITHOUR FEAR

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

That day when evening came, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along. There were also other boats. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” – Mark 4:35-41

jESUS CALMS THE SEA

Like the disciples themselves, many people consider this a story about Christ calming the stormy waters.  But I am one who believes it is a story about the quality of faith that is not based on fear.  And why do I think this?

I see one of those details of emphasis in the beginning of the story.  The story requires the detail that Christ was sleeping on a cushion in the stern of the boat.  And while He was sleeping, the disciples were becoming fearfully distressed.  The storm was raging, the wind was howling, the waters were churning, the boat was shaking, yet Christ was sleeping.  The disciples, most of whom were well-experienced fishermen on these Galilean waters, were frightened, their souls churning with apprehension and panic.  So they waken Jesus in desperate hope that He will do “something” to save them.  So Jesus gets up and calms the storm.  Jesus then turns to His disciples and asks them a soul-searching question …”Why are you fellows afraid?  Especially you fishermen.  Surely you have survived storms such as this.  Have you no faith?”  But faith in what or whom?  Of course, the first answer is the watchful care of God, but I think that also He may be referring to their faith in themselves and in their experience.

Yet … like so many people … they seem to miss the lesson in the moment … for when they considered the power of Christ to settle the storm, it reads “and they were terrified” of such power found in Christ.  Fear replacing fear … but still no insight into the ways of faith.

Faith is often defined as trust … and it is, but I think that faith can only be defined as confidence.  And as I have both experienced and now still observe … so much of Christianity is still filled with fearful distress.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

 

 

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IN THE QUALITY OF THE VOICE

 

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

VOICE OF THE SHEPHERD

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” – John 10:1-5

For the Jerusalem religious-political leadership, Christ’s growing popularity was disconcerting, a problem in the making.  Why were they following Him and not following their leadership?

Christ warns of false prophets, those who seem to be representing God, but somehow their words and their manner do not resonate with the timbre and tone of Christ’s Voice.  Oh, these false prophets are clever is the patching together of scriptures to build a seemingly shut-and-close case … but something is not right in the tone and timbre of the argument.  Oh, these false prophets know how to push the buttons and anxiety and fear, the buttons of zealotry and human passion … but something is not right in the tone and timbre of their fiery rhetoric.  Oh, these false prophets can recruit frenzied crusaders motivated more by unholy rage rather than holy reasoning … and again, something is not right in the tone and the timbre of their battle cries.

The most Christ-like and spiritual souls I know … have nurtured the grace that both listens for and listens to that distinctive, gentle, merciful voice of Christ, for they can discern which voice is truly imbued with the tone and timbre of a More Perfect Love.

Possibly this is why people in conflict shout their slogans so loudly … in an effort to drown out that one voice that often comes by way of whispers.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE WORK OF THE LIGHT

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, August 6, 2018

Then Jesus said to Nicodemus, a teacher of the scriptures and a member of the Sanhedrin,  “and this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.  For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.  But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” John 3:19-21

Nicodemus came and spoke to Jesus under the cover of night.  I believe he came as an emissary from the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Jerusalem, either appointed or self-appointed to “check out” what this popular Galilean rabbi’s intent and beliefs.  What I find striking in the exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus was how ignorant of and blind to these essential teachings about the Jewish faith expressed in terms of spirituality.  To be born once more from above, to have the Spirit come seemingly from nowhere and pass through one’s soul, ideas that Nicodemus simply could NOT understand.

LIGHTDDARKNESS

I sense with a bit of frustration, Jesus then speaks to Nicodemus about the scriptural concept of Light and Darkness.  I am sensing made all the more tangible considering the circumstance of this meeting in the moonlight.  The Darkness is secretive.  The Darkness is a place where evil  hides lest it be exposed by the Light.  The Darkness is filled with fears.  The Darkness can also a place within the soul where either unknown or frightening spectres hide.

Christ declares to Nicodemus …”My judgment is simply the work of the Light to expose what is happening in the Darkness.  To bring out from the shadows within human hearts and human societies that which is in truth evil yet hides within a cloak of religiosity and national pride.  Nicodemus, I speak in the Light of Day but you come to me in the cover of darkness.  Go back to the other members of the Sanhedrin and observe what evil will be done in the shadowy places.”

So much of our Christian witness is about bringing lanterns into the Darkness and inviting those hiding in the Darkness to come out into the Light.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

 

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CHRIST’S PROCESS OF BECOMING

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” – John 14:5-7

wheat growing

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  I am thinking that we tend to think of the words of Christ as a listing of three different ideas.  But more and more, I believe it is not a listing three different thoughts, but rather a description of a process.  Christ used this language of process when speaking of a field of grain … first the stalk, then the head, then the grain, and then the harvest.  One step precedes the other in a necessary sequence from the seed of faith to the maturity of the harvest.

The Way of obedience when followed teaches in so doing the Truth, the understanding the wisdom, the whys and the wherefores, and by gaining of this accumulation of wisdom you mature into Life that becomes itself a harvest of Divine Providence.   Out of the obedience to my way of self-giving Love you will gain the understanding of the wonder of the power of grace and mercy, and then eventually your initial obedience becomes a human life, Divinely formed.  This is how you come to know the Father … through this process of first doing what I do, understanding why I do it, and then living my Life as your own.

I call this Christ’s Process of Becoming, the Christ-ification of our mortal lives … this Way of Obedience that teaches the Truth about God and humanity that that helps us to know the Christ-ified Life.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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