SUFFERING TRANSFORMED

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, May 20, 2018

How do we respond to the suffering in the world?

mother teresaMore than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5

Paul, a man who knew personal suffering, seeking to encourage people who also knew suffering, shares with them the process by which suffering can be transformed into something mighty, noble and beautiful.  Suffering, if faced courageously, can over time strengthen the spiritual, physical,  mental, and emotional endurance of a person and a community.  In the process of gaining and sustaining that endurance the moral fiber of our character is woven with threads of wisdom gained.  And when the deeper and more thorough moral character lifts one’s eyes to the noble hope of God, the hope of a new Realm of Peace emerging, we press on with purpose.  And in this pilgrimage toward that glorious Hope we learn that it is Love, Holy Love, Divine Love humanly experienced and expressed, that is the process by which the Hope is fulfilled.

Divine Love, humanly expressed is how suffering is transformed into that glorious Peace.

In His Service always,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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On the Stubbing of Toes

Dispatches from Fr. Charitas

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Jesus walkingHe walked for miles and for days along stony roads and He did so wearing sandals.  I assume that some days the roads were dusty and other days the roads were muddy.  I can’t imagine the number of miles He walked.  As He walked, He taught His disciples, answering their questions and asking them questions in return.  Some days the wind kicked up the dust; some days the rain left Him drenched.  And I wonder … what did Christ say whenever He stubbed His toe?

I think He might have blurted out, “Ouch!”  Possibly He cried our, “Curse you, you troublesome stone!”  But I doubt He reacted with the same interjections of pain that I sometimes use before I have given thought to the words that fly.  I know … such a silly consideration … yet it might illustrate an aspect of spiritual maturation.  That aspect?  The Habituation of the Holy.

I believe in daily devotional practice.  Daily reading of scripture.  Daily contemplation of truth. Daily prayers with words and daily prayers without words.  Daily acts of service and daily moments of confession.  All in a lifelong process of translating holy practice into holy nature.  After these many years of daily devotional practice, much of the Christian Way has moved from something outside of me to something within me.  Many of the qualities of Christ’s personhood have in some faint measure become qualities instilled into my own life.  And I have noticed that in a few certain, limited ways, what once took intentional and self-conscious effort have now become reflex and instinct for me.  Oh, it is but a few ways but I pray as time goes by, more will become manifest.

Like you and I believe all other human soul, we react when we ought to respond.  Certain words, certain actions, certain attitudes, certain experiences still trigger a hurtful reaction, a lashing out, a belittling, a defensiveness, a flash of free-floating anger and anxiety.  It is a human thing, this instinct to emotionally survive in the face of threats, real and imagined, but it is a human thing that is need of the transforming grace of the Holy.  To be angry but not hostile; to be frightened but not paralyzed with fear; to be sensitive to others but not offended and demoralized; to seek justice but not to be vengeful.

When I stub my toe I sometimes let out an expletive but not as often as once I did.  More and more I respond, “Lord, have mercy on me, my toe, and this stone with which I am having a most difficult encounter!”  Well … not really … usually I say, “Lord, that hurt!”  And the Lord answers, “I know it does.”

In Christ’s Service always,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

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THE SUFFICIENCY OF LOVE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL
Saturday, May 19, 2018

Is the practice of Holy Love worth the risk?

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. – I Corinthians 13:13

CHRIST HEARTI performed 1, 407 weddings in my pastoral career, and I think nearly 100% of those weddings included those words. Paul’s words are not only theological inspirational, they are also written with literary brilliance. That climactic word, like the resounding bell of a cathedral, …Love!

The human spirit is in much need of Faith and the human spirit is much in need of Hope. But the most desperate human need and its corresponding and satisfying most beautiful grace is … LOVE! Romantic love is but one share of this Love. Brotherly and sisterly love is but one share of this Love. But at the essence of this Love is the embrace of the Divine, this Divine that can abide within us, the Divine that can be found in those about us, the Divine that flows through us and upon which our lives do flow.

We use the word “love” quite casually, sometimes even thoughtlessly, when we ought to be cherishing the word “Love” with due reverence. The “Love” that begins in the heart of our Creator and the Creator of us all and all the processes of all Life is the very heartbeat of Life, the source of all that is good.

Yet, as a human species, we tend to not trust in the power of Love. We would rather trust in the power of swords, the power of threats, the power of patriotism, the power of money, the power of pride and self-sufficiency. To actually trust in the power of Love is among those who actually trust in the person, the teaching, and the mission of Christ … to manifest Divine Love in the living of a lifetime bestowed.

This Life of Love will know rejection, as Christ knew rejection. The Life of Love will require sacrifice, as Christ knew sacrifice of self for the sake of the Loved Ones. The Life of Love will know its frustration, as Christ knew frustration as He wept at the walls of Jerusalem. Yet the Life of Love will know its fulfillment, its joy, its satisfaction, its Beauty and its Grace. And the Life of Love will ultimately be victorious in one’s soul and in this world.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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The Blood of Cain and Abel

Dispatches from Fr. Charitas
Friday, May 18, 2018

cain and abelCain rather than raging at God, raged instead at his brother Abel. Frustrated was Cain and his anger seethed and he struck down an innocent soul. Possibly this is the curse of Cain upon us, we lash out in frustration at life itself.

Within our mortal souls there lives a spark of divinity but also a spark of violence. From ancient times we have believed in a God who rages as well as a God who loves. The rage we call wrath, the love we call mercy, and if it be in us God’s highest creation, then surely it must also be in our Creator. The God of Cain and the God of Abel, forever dealing with each other with the soul of the One God. The humanity of Cain and the humanity of Abel, forever struggling with each other within our common humanity. The Lord help us, for we have the blood of Cain within us and it struggles with our inner sense of Divinity.

Yes, Christ taught that God is a Holy Love, yet even Christ referred now and then to God’s Wrath. As with our human ways, God’s wrath seems to rise in God’s time of frustration, not with life but with the workings of Man.

I believe, though I have not always believed, that Christ was God’s Way of dealing with His Wrath. “I shall from this moment lean upon Mercy so that fear and the rage might subside.

My how we rage in our times of frustration and sometimes the rage becomes violence.

Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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IMPRESSIVE TOMBS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL
Friday, May 18, 2018

Why did Christ speak so often about hypocrisy?

WHITEWASHED TOMBHow terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You are like tombs that are painted white. Outside, those tombs look fine, but inside, they are full of the bones of dead people and all kinds of unclean things. – Matthew 23:27

I conducted the funeral in a hall of fine marble. The casket was of rich mahogany. And as the workers slipped the casket into its crypt. I thought how elegant was this act of hiding a dead body from sight.

Christ uses imagery apparently well-known in that time, the white-washed tombs of the rich. For the commoner, the place of rest was of a much humbler kind, but those in high places constructed monuments to themselves for all to admire. “Ah, he must have been an important man to have such a magnificent crypt!” But as pristine and beautiful was this stone edifice for the dead, inside were but the bones, no more than that.

Christ used a number of ways to explain and emphasize this one truth … no matter the persona we present to the world, it is the person within the persona that is the measure of a soul. Hypocrisy troubled Christ … for it is a common sin of the self-righteous.
Human beings tend to fear being exposed for who they really are. Human beings are trained to assume a role in the human drama, to create a character not quite their own. Human beings are timid about becoming transparent lest they be judged as being lesser than others. Human beings hide behind masks we ourselves have crafted.

To live in Christ is to live openly and honestly. Throughout scriptural history, we find so many examples of people hiding from the eyes of God and the eyes of others for fear of becoming exposed. Such is the invitation to be embraced with merciful grace … you are loved for both who you are and for who you will become. Do not be afraid. No need to hide. Come into the Light.

Always in His Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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BLUE IS THE SKY, OR IS IT?

Dispatches from Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

Thursday, May 17, 2018

NIGHT SKY, DAY SKY

The sky above me is but a bubbling cauldron of greys.  Nothing but grey from horizon the horizon … yet I know the blue sky is beyond it.  And how do I know this?  Experience I suppose.  I trust my beholding blue skies.  Rarely in the daytime when the skies are blue can I see the stars, yet I know the sky even in daytime is filled stars.  And how do I know this?  Someone told me and what they told me made sense.

What color is the sky at night?  Is it black, is it speckled, is it clear and invisible?  When the clouds are not around … I suppose all of these are true depending how beholds the night sky.

Now and then, a rainbow appears; now and then, an aurora washes the sky.  Are they not considered as part of the sky or are they entities all to themselves?  If there were no sky I suppose I could not see things occasionally colors.  But I know they are more than merely “sky”.  How do I know this?  Because I consider it to be true and no logic has proven me wrong.

We speak of truth.  But how do we know what is truth?  Is it what I experience; is it what I have been taught; is it how I choose to believe?  Is truth found in the Bible no matter how it is woven and patched together?  Is it defined in the courtroom or by public opinion; is it defined by tradition or in insight yet to be gained?  Is it in the dictates of emperor or in the soothsayer’s words?

“What is Truth,” asked Pilate.  “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” said Christ.

Loved Ones, if what we hold to be true is not in the spirit and character of Christ, then is it … truly true?

In His Service Always,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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PEACEMAKING

DAILY DEVOTIONAL
Thursday, May 17, 2018

Why are there wars, even wars within the Church?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Matthew 5:9

FRANCIS AND WOLFLogic would conclude that if we are children of God then we are also about the work of peacemaking. If we claim to be a member of the family of God, then peacemaking is an aspect of our living. Yet, more often than not, we seem inept or unmotivated to work in this family business.

Peacemaking is a challenging work. Peacemaking involves many tasks and responsibilities. Peacemaking is about building bridges and not building walls. Peacemaking is about bringing a community together rather than dividing it.

Peacemaking is about making the sacrifice of self for the sake of the others. Peacemaking is about resolving conflict and not about finding glory in conflict. Peacemaking is about loving the enemy as hard as it may seem to do.

But our fears overwhelm our efforts to love. We are fearful of the threats and even more so the imagining of the threat.

And we defend vehemently our pride when it is humility we need. We are reluctant to confess and cleanse the enemy from within us. We rage with frustration rather rejoice in thanksgiving.

Peacemaking is indeed a challenging work, but it is the trade of Christ’s family. Peacemaking is difficult to accomplish and more often than not we fail in our effort … but still … we must try, we must try, we must try.

In Christ’s Service always,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE MEANS AND THE ENDS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

SOWING SEEDWhat does it mean that we will reap what we sow?

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. – Galatians 6:7

In the eyes of God, the ends and the means are one parcel, unable to be separated one from the other. And the longer I live, the more this Biblical truth is confirmed.

Flourishing in the world is this delusion that the end justifies the means. We see it in politics, we see it in business, sadly, we even see it sometimes in the Church. We resort to somewhat devious ways to achieve a desirable goal, but when the goal is reached, something has tarnished along the way.

Deceit begets distrust. Intimidation begets retaliation. Oppression begets rebellion. Hostility begets passive-aggressive defensiveness. Manipulation begets paranoia. Selfishness begets withdrawal. Blaming begets blaming and criticism begets criticism.
Over and over through the history of Biblical thought … an emphasis of reality both human and Divine keeps being made … you will reap what you sow.

Even when one thinks foolishly, “Well, the Lord will forgive me”, we must remember that God is not mocked.

So my Loved Ones, be careful what you sow … even in pursuit of noble cause … for there is an inevitable justice inherent in God’s Creation.

Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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Dare We Live in Heavenly Ways

Dispatches from Fr. Charitas

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The world is filled with opinions, but I think opinions are overrated.  The world is filled with arguments for and arguments against … but again, I do not think they are as effective in changing minds and setting courses as tend to think.  I believe more and more as I grow old … that it is the matters of the heart that sways the crowd and shapes the community.

Where there is hate, the world becomes more hateful.  Where there is love, the world becomes more loving.  Where there is condemnation, the condemnation becomes pervasive.  Where there is mercy, peace is slowly restored.

dove on barbed wireNaïve?  Possibly.  True? Absolutely.  Yet the worldly world is fearful of trusting in love and mercy to make the peace.  But Christ brought a heavenly way, a new way, a higher way, a purer way … so that the ways of Heaven might emerge upon the Earth.

Oh,  we, even members of the Church, are devoted to the ways of the world, the sinful ways to which we have grown dependent.  Oh, some like to define the worldly ways in terms of sexual behavior, but that is but a small slice of the worldly ways we have embraced.  We dare not trust; we dare not forgive; we dare not love; we dare not share; we dare not be compassionate … for we have our worldly reasons.

No, my Loved Ones, we are more of the world than we realize.  We are reluctant to live with the quality of spirit that is of a heavenly quality.

But, yet, a few of us must try.

In Christ’s Service always,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE CONTEMPLATION/COMPASSION CYCLE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Why do some Christians seem so unloving?

water pouringWoe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside may become clean as well. – Matthew 23:25-26

I call it the cycle of contemplation/compassion.  We spend time in contemplation so that we might then go into the world to compassionately serve.  And when we do the work of the humble and compassionate servant we come to know our need for contemplation.  And as this cycle of prayer and servanthood is continued, the contemplation becomes deeper and the compassion becomes greater.

When we first seek that purity of heart within then that purity reaches out into the world with pure love  Oh, at first, the purity is not so perfectly pure, but the purity become more perfect over time.  This is the vector of Christian Love, Love practiced becomes Love More Perfected.

I find the idea of purity of soul seems so discounted and disregarded in our times.  We seem to focus on changing the world without changing ourselves.  We seem to be more focused on controlling the attitudes and behavior of others than on the quality of spirit found in ourselves.  Thus even those who say they love, so often have but a veneer of love, a love that seems to be shallow and rather contrived.  They speak of love but they are not experienced as loving.

This process of becoming more and more the embodiment and expression of Christ’s Love, this process I refer to as the cycle of contemplation/compassion, is a daily process and yet a process that spans over a lifetime.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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