In need of yet another touch…

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, June 22, 2018

They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had washed the man’s eyes, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  – Mark 8:22-25

What is unexpected in this account of Christ healing a blind man is that it takes more than one attempt for the man’s vision to fully return.  And as is usually the case with scripture, often the unexpected details bear the weight of the significance of the teaching moment.  The first touch of Christ enables the once blind man to see, but not clearly.  It is the second touch that brings clarity to the man’s vision.

When I listen to some Christian voices I discern blind men who has received that first touch of healing.  But they ask for no more of Christ, thinking that there is no need for more.  They think they see, but they still do not see clearly.

“To see people walking about as trees”, to see people in vague generalities, to see people as indistinct souls, to see people in a prejudicial blur caused by the dust in one’s own eyes.  This is so often why certain Christian souls seem not to be behold people and circumstances through the clear vision of Christ.

clearing visionI have learned in life, probably too late in life, that I must keep returning to Christ so that He might provide yet another touch of bringing purer clarity to my vision.  And as the Lord washes my eyes over and over, I see all the clearer.

Loved Ones, the Christian disciple is always in need of yet another touch of healing.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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THE DISMANTLING OF WALLS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, June 21, 2018

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” … The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)       – John 4:7-9

Jesus and Samaritan womanFor nearly five centuries, from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the time when the exiled Hebrews returned from Babylon, the “pure and true” Jews culturally separated themselves from the Hebrews they considered to be unfit to live in the New Jerusalem.  You see … the Samaritans were among those who did not leave the land during the period of the Exile.  So the Samaritans, no longer able to worship in Jerusalem, returned to the pre-Davidic faith and worship on the mountain, Mount Gerizim.  Thus the Jews and the Samaritans were living in a religious apartheid, a segregation for the sake of co-existence.

In the city of my youth, West Palm Beach, Florida, line of segregation was rather blatantly visible.  At the division line between the white residential community and the black residential community the names of the streets changed.  Back in the fifties and the early sixties, “Whites” and “Negroes”, well they did not mix and if they did, it was cautiously.  And then came the Cubans … and they complicated that world of division.

I would like to say that all has changed … and though much has changed … those chameleon street signs still remain.

Christ asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water.  This was a transgression of social mores of that time.  The woman was not sure how to respond.  She was cautious, possibly a little fearful, probably a bit taken back.  She confesses how she perceives the treatment of the Samaritans by the Jews.  She speaks of the cultural bitterness that led to religious division that morphed into a racial division.  She speaks of her devotion but she fears that she will not be respected.  Jesus responds in a conciliatory tone, not abandoning his own heritage but abandoning the wall that divides.  “There shall come a day when we will worship neither in the temple on Mount Gerazim nor the temple in Jerusalem, but in the realm of the Spirit and the truth.

It is the tactic of the Deceiver to build walls where their need not be any walls, to set bitter divisions between “us” and “them”.  Christ walked through that ancient wall of apartheid and offered a vision of a new tomorrow.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cuz

 

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THE POLITICS OF LAW-AND-ORDER

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

I begin with an account of Christ being confronted by teachers of the Law and those declared themselves as the Holy Ones…

Christ writing in the sandAt dawn Jesus appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
 “No one, sir,” she said. 
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”      
– John 8:1-10

They used a woman to set a trap for Christ.  In the midst of a crowd, they challenge Christ to declare if He is a man of law-and-order, adhering to the demands of the Law.  But Christ knows the nature of their hearts … they have no concern for justice, only for political power and treacherous ends.  And so Christ confronts them …

“You who claim to be so righteous, dead set on punishing those who are sinful … then be about your work … but first, look within yourselves.  Should you then not first punish yourselves for your own sins.  Let the one among you supposedly righteous people who is not a sinner in need of mercy … let that one cast the first stone!”

To cast the first stone … in truth, that is not why they came.  They came to debate the issue of keeping law-and-order.  Then Christ performed the just purpose of mercy … “I do not condemn you … you have my mercy … now go and sin no more.”  This is the holy form of justice known as restorative justice.

So the choice is ours … do we live as the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees or do we live as Christ?

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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CHRIST AND THE CHILDREN

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

cHRIST AND A cHILDJesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  – Matthew 19:14

In the context of the mores of the times, Christ’s interest in small children is rather remarkable.  But Christ and the writer of Matthew’s Gospel emphasize that this new Realm, this new relationship between God and humanity will be a children’s crusade for a freer and better future.

I also believe that these children’s moments were provided to teach us about the personal qualities of Christ and, in turn, those who would live with Christ living within them.  Here was an approachable man redefining God as an approachable God.  Here was a man who had compassion for the children revealing God’s intimate compassion for all children.  Here was a man who embraced all children as if they were His own, teaching how God feels about children, they are all family in need of my care.

Welcoming the children, caring for the children, giving time for the children, preparing the way for the children, embracing the children … I believe it has always been at the heart of the Christian way of life.

Always in His Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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LAW AND CONSCIENCE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, June 18, 2018

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a Roman military officer came to Him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” – Matthew 8:5,6

A Roman military officer there in Galilee to enforce the Roman occupation of that land comes to a Galilean rabbi asking for help.  I find that rather unexpected, but then again, on several occasions certain Roman officers were viewed positive light.

centurion and servantHere we experience a Roman military officer who has compassion on his servant.  Not a man wielding an intimidating sword or demanding that this Galilean obey his orders… but a compassionate man respectfully, rather humbly, asking Christ for a measure of healing mercy.  In the end, the military officer’s request is granted and Christ affirms him as a man of great faith.  Later, other soldiers would brutally whip this rabbi, mock this rabbi, drive nails into his hands, all the while obeying orders.  But this one soldier acted in response to a greater command … to alleviate the suffering of a commoner, a servant.

The Christian has always struggled, or at least, those who are sensitive in spirit, with the tension between obedience to man’s law and obedience to the conscience of God.  Sometimes law and conscience coincide or at least tolerably coincide, but at other times, they cannot be reconciled, the demands of human law and the demands of a conscience Divinely graced.

Sometimes in human history and it has been often when Christian were called to be faithful to conscience, that Divinely graced conscience and were made martyrs by their lack of “patriotism, one defined in terms of law-and-order”.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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The Sin of Holy Malice

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, June 17, 2018

On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled.  The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. – Luke 6:6,7

PhariseeSupposedly they were godly men, these Pharisees so committed to keeping the Law and these Bible scholars who knew every jot and tittle of the scriptures … yet their zealotry led them into vile treachery.  They would watch this ragamuffin rabbi from the rough country of Galilee to see if He would yield to their authority and keep the letter of the Law.  They believed that a person could do no work on the holy Sabbath, though did have loopholes and self-exempting exceptions.  Would this Jesus goes against the Law of God by healing a wounded man?  Who is this rabbi who breaks with tradition, who does good on the holy Sabbath?

How can this happen, holy men, so schooled in the minutiae of the Faith, leaders who consider themselves so devout, so dedicated to keeping discipline, have hearts so filled with scheming, judgmental malice?  But it happened in that synagogue and it still happens in holy places in present times, this seductive sin of holy malice.

Look to the heart, Christ taught.  Look to the heart, it is God’s way.  Look to the heart and observe what is actually abiding there.  The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were so concerned for the sins that Christ might commit that they  were oblivious to the sin within themselves.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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Suffer the Children, Suffer the World

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” – Matthew 2:6-8

Matthew knows how this account of the furious Herod venting his rage on the families in the region of Bethlehem would stir moral outrage in the Judeo-Christian communities.  It is a sacred bond, this bond of mother and child.  How iconic is the image of Mary holding the Christ Child.  No worse moral transgression can there be, this ripping the children out of the arms of the mother.

Sophies ChoiceI think of the horrific scene in Sophies’ Choice when the Nazi guard executes a cruel law all the more cruelly by separating child from mother.  That Nazi guard was on one level obeying the law; but on so many other levels, he was disobeying the moral imperative.  When I revisit that scene I always cry.

 

Throughout history, all despots use ever intensifying methods of intimidation to aggrandize their power and to work their will.  It is in the nature of this particular demon to lust for more and more self-aggrandizement.  They lust for the salutes of the frenzied loyalists and the fearful crowd; they lust for absolute loyalty and control.

The early Church went through a series of shifting persecutions.  First by Herod, an egotistical despot, a man who declared himself to be of a priestly caste; then by the Caesars who considered themselves to be as gods.  Through all these waves of persecution, the early Church obeyed where they could morally obey, but resisted where they could not morally obey.

Evil persists through the centuries, but thankfully also does the Good.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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FORGIVENESS IS A PROCESS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, June 15, 2018

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. – Matthew 18:2,22

I have heard a few take this literally, the limit is either seventy times or seven times seventy times.  I have heard a few who say this is a mysterious code tie in with the Book of Revelation.  I heard scholars emphasis the perfection of the numbers 7 (as in Sabbath) and 70 (as in the generations).  I take it to mean that Christ told Peter …“do not give up on the process of life-changing mercy.”

At one time I thought of forgiveness as a one-time declaration like throwing the matter out of court.  But my life experience, especially a lifetime of practicing forgiveness, I find forgiveness is closing the distance from the place where we find ourselves in our relationship to the place where ought to find ourselves in our relationship.  And most often … it takes a process of time after time.

waves washing

I have found this applies to forgiving to others and to forgiving one’s self.  And as an old man I am finding this applies to even forgiving life itself.  The grudges linger.  The hurts linger.  The frustrations linger.  The injustices linger.  The accusations linger.  The conflicts linger.  They keep returning to most human souls … so the forgiveness must come in waves … until sometimes after the seven times seventy … that which lingered has finally gone away.

Do not be flippant with forgiveness, offering a lip-service declaration of what may not yet fully processed.  Forgiveness so often is a human experience that requires some time to be fulfilled.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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AS WERE THE PROPHETS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:11,12

I have friends who are conservative and they have claimed this verse as one which speaks of their personal experience.  AND … I have friends who are progressive and they too have claimed this verse as one which speaks of their personal experience.  And both I believe are actually speaking about the experience of “being reviled”.  One definition of “revile” is … “to criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting manner”.

In His placing this last in the list of the Blessings, I find that it is rather confessional on the part of Christ.  I sense He is saying to the people, “As the prophets of the past were in their reviled and persecuted, so am I in this my time.”  And He prepares His followers for what they too will experience … in their time.

revileZealous people can venture into cruelty.  Defenders of a certain point-of-view can step over the line into cruelty.  People who are trying to gain control can resort to cruel ways.  But as Christ modelled for His followers … we must not allow the ways of the revilers and persecutors become our own ways.  We must not seduced into the hatred they espouse.

And what is the compensatory blessing which comes to one who suffers at the words and the revilers and at the hands of the persecutors?  The respect of the Lord for choosing the nobler course.  And for myself … that is of great worth to my soul.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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THE GLORY OF OUR IMPERFECTIONS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

While Christ continued His journey, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

blind children“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” to this Christ responded, This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him…” – John 9:1-3

The simple answer to the question asked by the disciples would be, “No, neither!”  But Christ then followed up with a miracle, a parable by example about the worth of people,   even people society might consider deficient.

“His blindness will prove to be something glorious, something that will prove of great worth, something that will be remembered and talked about from this moment on!”  What if this man was not blind he would have been but a figure in the crowd.  But because he was blind he brought his blindness into service for the Lord.

Loved Ones, we all have our imperfections.  Even our eventual “perfection”, our More Perfect Love, will include our imperfections now place in holy use.  People may have their sins, people may have their broken places, people may have their disabilities, but people are not defective.  No, people and their imperfections are here to be an aspect of God’s Glory being made manifest in this human experience.

And yet, in spite of all that we have learned, too many still hold that our imperfections must be caused by something sinful.  That somehow God made certain people superior and certain people inferior.  No, that is not at all in God’s heart.  We are all “imperfect” in one way or another; it just is in the caprice within the complexity of life.  And we are all, we the imperfect, are here so that works of God might be displayed in our living.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

 

 

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