TO SERVE AS FOUNTAINS OF HIS SPIRIT

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

January 17, 2019

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, He proclaimed, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,  and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now He said this about the Spirit, which believers in Him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. – John 7:37-39

children playing in a fountain

A process is here expressed, a process regarding the flow of the living water, the flow of the Spirit that enables the human and the Divine to be One with other.  The thirsty come to Christ and drink from the flow of the River of Life, His words, His manner, His values, His quality of soul, His way of bringing about the peaceable Realm.  And it is as if this cup of cool water serves as the priming of the pump, then this same Spirit, these words, this manner, these values, this quality of soul, this way of bringing about the peaceable Realm serves to quench the thirst of the world.

Living water flows.  It as if the flowing is what makes comes alive.  It is the movement of the Spirit and all its qualities from God to Christ to us to others that causes the wonders and ways of God to abundantly flourish.  This Living Water is not mere thought.  It is not a moral code etched in the cold stone.  It is not rules and the enforcement of rules.  It is not the logic of a theological system.  No, the Living Water is Life itself, the Life Divine infused into the flow of human history.

I have experienced this flow of Divine Life by way of human fountains.  They loved with a quality of Love that refreshed the very vigor of my own life.  They were Beautiful souls who were deeply human, yet in their humanity something Divine was at work.  I only pray that a few others might experience that wonder flowing through me.

Loved Ones, allow the Spirit of the Lord turn your life into a fountain of Life, sparkling and splashing and satisfying our mortal thirst.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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WITHIN THE MERCY, A CHALLENGE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

christ, woman caught in adultery

Early in the morning Jesus came again to the Temple. All the people came to Him and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them,  they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They said this to test Him, so that they might have some charge to bring against Him. Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the dust of the temple construction. When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again He bent down and wrote in the dust.  When they heard this, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? 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 8:2-11

The story of the woman caught in the act of adultery.  The scribes and Pharisees used her as a pawn in setting a trap for this rabbi from Galilee to disregard what was written in Scripture.  In Leviticus it clearly states that an adulteress is to be put to death.  But Jesus did not condemn her to death, nor did the accusers when they were confronted with their own sinfulness.  Had the Bible changed the centuries since the writing of Leviticus?  No, it was still there, but it was the maturing of understanding of the faith that had taken place.  The writer of Leviticus may have demanded the stoning of this woman … but instead, Jesus chose not to condemn, but rather to reveal, to forgive, and to command her to sin no more.  I find this shift in the manner of dealing with sin is at the crux of the Christian distinctive of faith.

To reveal, to forgive, to command the forgiven to sin no more … this is system of justice in a new realm of grace.

Here is no cheap grace, no easy-to-come-by mercy, but a gracious mercy that is filled with the chance for a fresh start and a challenge to sin no more.  We are not condemned so that we might keep repeating the same sin; but we are forgiven with the challenge and opportunity to sin no more.   It is a rehabilitative justice rather than a punitive justice; it is a restorative justice rather than a vengeful justice; it is a justice that sifts the wheat from the weeds rather than a justice that burns the field.

“Go and sin no more”, the woman was tendered a most daunting challenge … “go and sin no more.”  When we seek the forgiveness of the Lord … do we merely walk away feeling like we were excused?  Or do we walk away … challenged.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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A DIVISION IN THE CROWD

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, January 15, 2018

jesus in the crowdBut after Jesus brothers had gone to the festival, then Jesus also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. The Jerusalem authorities 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 crowd.” Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jerusalem authorities.  – John 7:10-13

The crowds were of a divided opinion about this traveling rabbi from Galilee.  Some thought Him a force for the good of God and the good of the people; others thought Him to be surely a deceiver, a prophet of false hope.

Why such controversy about a man as good and godly as Christ?  Like today, the crowds had disparate opinions about exactly what IS “good and godly”.

For some, Christ was the hope of a liberation from the Roman occupation; for others, Christ was a dangerous voice who might arouse the fury of Caesar.  For some, Christ was the herald of coming glory; for others, Christ was the harbinger of even further oppression.  For some, Christ was the champion of the poor and the outcast; for others, Christ was an agitator of the restless and frustrated crowd.

Yes, it is a question people have tried to answer in often disagreeable conflict … just what IS “good and godly”.

As for my own soul and conscience, I find the “good and godly” is imbued with the qualities of love and grace, equitable justice and bountiful mercy, hope and a vision for a better tomorrow.  I find the “good and the godly” is not conjured by fear but rather brought forth by compassion.  I find the “good and the godly” is self-serving but rather self-sharing.  I find the “good and the godly” is not rewarded by earthly treasure but rather by heavenly treasure.  I find the “good and the godly” is not a spirit of vindictiveness and vengeance but rather a spirit of forgiveness and peace-making.  I find the “good and the godly” to be in the quality of spirit as found in Christ and not in the quality of spirit as found in the Crusaders.

Loved Ones, like me, you are among those who stand in the crowd forming our opinion as to who Christ truly is.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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STAYING IN TOUCH WITH THE ESSENCE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, January 14, 2019

Now it was the Sabbath on that day.  So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.”  But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’”  They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?”  But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. – John 5:9b-13

christ helping man

Jesus heals a man.  The Jerusalem leadership is concerned that he was breaking a rule, a nonsensical rule about what it means to work on the Sabbath.  The man healed walks and Jesus walks away, while the rules-makers debate on whether this is proper or not.

So often, we, the devout, lose touch with the essence of what is good and godly and, in turn, makes us lose touch with what is humane.  Rules beget rules and the rules come with their punishments, but so little is added to the “good”.  Oh, we practice diligently the restraint of the evil, like those rules-makers at the pool of Bethesda, but adding to the good, well, the rules seldom accomplish such a virtue.  Rules and punishments are part and parcel with the other; and thus the essence of the good is neglected.

A man is healed and he is thankful.  A man heals and he is thankful.  But the religious of the day, the keepers of the rules, they choose to assume the role of judges.

Loved Ones, it is key to purer and mature spirituality to not lose touch with the essence of good and the godly and the humane.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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TO LET DIE THE OLD PREJUDICE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, January 12, 2019

So Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by His journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.  A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Could I a drink of water.”  (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)  The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (At that time, Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) – John 4:5-9

jesus and woman at the well

Devout Jews and devout Samaritans, separated from each other by way of long-standing resentment, and though, living in close quarters, also resentful of the other.  So Jesus, a Jew, breaks a taboo and asks a Samaritan woman for a cup of cool water to quench His thirst.  Did He no remember how the Samaritans collaborated with the enemy centuries ago?  Did He not respect the honor tradition of His people?  Did He not keep alive the ancient hostility?  Whatever the answers to those questions this He now knew … all of this history had now devolved into prejudice.

Most prejudice is germinated from some experience in the past.  Often a specific negative experience with a certain individual in a certain circumstance mutates into a generalized characterization of all people in a certain distinguishable subgroup of humanity.  Other times, prejudice is something inherited without ever being questioned as either valid or still valid.  Most times, prejudice is a warped way of making one self better than others.  But Christ in a most casual encounter at a well … dismissed the folly and sinfulness of ethnic or class prejudice.

Christ offered His humanity to a fellow human soul, a human soul who understood the nature of thirst and of how thirst much be quenched.  Then Christ communicated that He would no longer participate in this deeply set social prejudice.  And then Christ drew her into sharing a common hope, the anticipation of a Messiah finally arriving.

I have found that prejudice is often practiced and affirmed by many of the zealous devout.  And this prejudice is often assumed and embraced by many of the barely devout.  It is a human frailty of our humanness, this penchant for harboring resentment even ancient resentment to the point where it becomes a societal bigotry.

But there are those who are deeply devout and humbly so, believers who have allowed their faith to more fully mature, who like Christ seek to end this lineage of prejudice by their no longer participating in its sinful madness.

Yes, my Loved Ones, I find prejudice is the creation of a festering resentment, a resentment that is often not even recalled.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Father Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

 

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THE TEMPLE PROTEST

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, January 11, 2019

christ clearing the temple

The Passover was approaching, and Jesus traveled to Jerusalem. In the Temple being operated by the Sanhedrin under the auspices of King Herod, He found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”    – John 2:13-16

We usually call this dramatic moment in the Gospel (set here at the beginning of the story by John) the “cleansing of the Temple”.  But more accurately I believe it was “the protest in the Temple”.  As the events of Passion Week would demonstrate … the Temple and its leadership were not cleansed at all.  But Christ in His act of protest focused His primary concern … the pressure to raise money to build the overblown Temple Project, built more for the glory of the Herodian Dynasty than for the glory of God had slowly compromised and corrupted the religious leadership of those years.  Money, much money, had to be raised by any means available and other concerns, such as providing for the poor and bringing hope to the demoralized spirit of the people, … were set aside.  This, I believe, was the Christ’s intent in this protest.

I find that there are those sensitive, spiritual souls that are in touch with the essence of what is truly good, truly of God, truly according to conscience.  And I find there are many others who try to avoid acting by the higher conscience by investing much rationalization in justifying their yielding to lesser ways that fall short of the good, godly, and of purer conscience.   We build overblown Temples and when we do make ourselves slaves to their debt and their upkeep.  We build overblown temples of power and prestige and when we do we make ourselves slaves to win-at-all-costs desperation.

I use a phrase quite often  … I believe it to be true … “For the sake of a certain cause, the greater cause is sacrificed.”

Loved Ones, be not tempted by visions of worldly glory, prestige and fame.  Loved Ones, be not tempted to keep up with Joneses in castles of desperate debt.  Loved Ones, be not tempted by hubris and pride that makes one minion of boasts once made.

Christ reminded us by His protest that a temple is a place for prayer … a place where the rich and poor mingle in community, a place where the teacher and the seeker learn from each, a place where old and young link hands in immortality, a place where God is present in the midst of humanity.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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BEING STEWARDS OF WINE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, January 10, 2019

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” – John 2:1-3

So begins the account of Jesus turning water into wine.  The story is told in such a way that this first teaching miracle was one unintended by Christ, a rather necessary response to a mother’s request to solve an awkward circumstance.  But Jesus responds to the need … in a way that was near hidden from the eyes of the public, in a way that drew not attention to Himself, in a way that was subtly symbolic about the transition that would now take place.  That transition?  The transition from the age of preparation to the age of celebration.

water into wineIn a lifetime of pastoral work, I went to many weddings, anniversaries, baptismal celebrations … and many more times than once or twice … I felt my soul sigh …”They have no wine.”  Oh, they might they might have the trappings of the festivities, the sparkling decorations, the music playing, the cake and the gifts … but as to the wine, the essence of the meaningful joy, … well, for some reason the wine was now depleted.  Such things happen … when all the focus is on the preparation and none on the spiritual essence of the celebration.

I believe one of the ministries of the Church and the individual Christian is to be sure that people and moments do not run out of wine.  Of course, I do not speak literally, but figuratively … we are ourselves having known the joy of baptismal waters and of baptismal Spirit become jars of celebratory wine.  We celebrate of our joy.  We share our joy.   We pour our joy into the empty glasses of our loved ones.   The wine is the life of Christ and we are the wine stewards.

We live in desperate times, for many, despondent times … and I fear our society is running low on wine.  We in Christ need to rise to the need of our circumstance.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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LIGHT AND LIFE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

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

chalice of st. judeLife and Light.  Light begets life, we witness this in how sunlight sustains life on this earth.  And life begets light, we witness this in the radiant Presence of Christ.

One dark night when the darkness was heavy upon my soul, I took a slow walk along a quiet lane in farm country.  When the question of “life-or-death” was asked starkly of my soul as I foundered in my depression, I leaned on a split-rail fence overlooking a farmer’s pasture.  As I prayed I felt the stars draw closer to the earth and then suddenly the field was filled with fireflies, as if starry angels had come searching me with lanterns.  And there Light … and the great Darkness that was about to consume me began to subside … and the vigor of Life resurged within me.

To this day, now decades later, I keep a glowing light in my room as I sleep.  Why?  For I have known the darkness far too intimately and I know how much I need the life-sustaining power of His Light.

Christians, we light candles and oil lamps to fend off the Darkness; there are others who deal with the Darkness with angry torches and burning crosses.  I pray that you will be one with me … and light our candles of hope in our search for the Lord’s Peace.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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FOCUS ON THE EXCELLENT AND HONORABLE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, January 8, 2019

Paul draws his letter to the Philippians to a close … “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:8-9

keep your eyes“Keep your eye on the target.  Keep your eye on the ball.”  In sports this counsel is proven over and over to be true.  And here, in his closing words to the Church at Philippi, Paul counsels his Loved Ones to keep focusing on the virtuous qualities, that which true, honorable, just, pleasing, commendable, sterling with excellence and that which is genuinely worthy of praise.

He cautions his Loved Ones not to turn your focus on distracting lights.  Let not the love of money distract you.  Let not the quest for worldly power distract you.  Let not the latest trend distract you.  Let not the fire of zealous causes distract you.  Let not the mesmerizing preacher distract you.  Let not the temptation to hybrid your faith with nationalism or other worldly ideology.  No keep your eyes on that which is actually true and not presumably true.  Keep your eyes on the honorable conduct of one’s life and not on that which eventually brings dishonor.  Keep your eyes on justice for all and not on that which favors you.  Keep your eyes on that which is pleasing to God and not on what at first look, is pleasing to you.  Keep your eyes on what is commendable and not so much on what is profitable.  Keep your eyes on that which is excellent in quality and truly of lasting worth.

I suggest, Loved Ones, that these words of Paul might be placed on your mirror, so each morning you are once again reminded.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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AGAIN, I SAY “REJOICE!”

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, January 7, 2019

Paul writes …“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:4-7

“Rejoice” is one of those concepts that we all understand but yet when we try to detail what it means, we struggle.  Here Paul uses the verb “to rejoice” as a command, to rejoice out of an intention, to rejoice as an act of the will.  “Rejoice!”

rejoicing

To rejoice as a natural response to a joyful feeling seems quite natural, but to rejoice as a deliberate act that seems rather unnatural, even contrived.  What does it mean to go about the act of rejoicing?  I have come to believe it is somewhat like pumping water using one of those old-fashioned hand pumps.  You willfully pour a cup of water into the pump to prime the pump, then you exert one’s own power to draw forth water from a deeper reservoir of water.  To rejoice is the act of drawing forth joy from that deeper reservoir of joy within the heart of the Christian.

I have learned that the mere act of focusing on those experiences where I was joyful draws forth the joy within me.  Now in this contemplative life I live, I have certain people, certain places, certain images that I use to prime the pump of my soul.  And as I focus more and more on the joyful, the rejoicing comes to life.

What is rejoicing?  Rejoicing is letting your joy to be made visible, to bring it to the surface.  I am one who is far more comfortable and is more authentic with rejoicing with a smile or a measure of laughter than with the raising of hands or dancing.  I suppose my rejoicing is of a gentler, quieter kind … not one contrived or forced.

I am one who bundles together joy and love, thus to embrace another’s soul is, for me, the common expression of “rejoicing”.  So do not feel pressured to “rejoice” in the manner of those around you … rather “rejoice” in ways most authentic for you.

So, Loved Ones, I join Paul in encouraging you all … Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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