WHAT IS ETERNAL LIFE?

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, November 18, 2018

In the midst of His disciples, Jesus prayed …  “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  I glorified You on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.  So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in Your presence before the world existed. – John 17:3-5

What is “eternal life”?  I suppose there are many ways to explain the nature of “eternal life”.  I think that most people think of eternal life as a never-ending time after time.  In my contemplative tradition we speak of eternal life as a Timelessness in which time is no longer about clocks and calendars.  But Christ in the Gospel of John states that eternal life is the knowing God and Christ in deeply intimate ways.  It is the knowledge not confined to thoughts and feelings, but the knowledge that is experiential.  It is the knowledge of the bee of the flower.   It is the knowledge of coming together in a work of providential creation.  It is the knowledge of an interplay of lives.  It is the knowledge of the essence of life.

eternal life image

When we “know” God and Christ in such an intimate way … we enter into a Realm which is beyond what we once experienced in a limited way, a Realm where the qualities of heaven and earth come together as well as where the qualities of Forever and the Present Moment come together.  It is the “abundant life” of which Christ speaks; it is the “glorious life” of which we sing.

So, my Loved Ones, draw close to the Lord and the life of the Lord will appear in your midst, and the eternal life will become known.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

KEEPING THE SPIRIT IN THE LAW

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, November 16, 2018

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”        – Luke 16:18

reading torahChrist with this teaching is not emphasizing a Biblical Law, or bringing it back to mind, but rather is about scribes and Pharisees, Sadducees and others who used holy scriptures to justify their callousness of heart.  This law of divorce applied only to men who treated their wives as property, there is no counterpart from the perspective of the woman.  In this very way, it is unjust in its text.  Christ characterizes this law of divorce as a means of dealing with a man’s callousness of heart. 

This teaching is a caution to the men who were listening that they must remember that God looks to the heart, to the true motive of a person, to hidden intention.  To manipulate the scripture in a self-serving way is a matter of concern for God.  “Just because you can justify your intention with a quote from scripture, does not turn a wrong into something right. And when you do … you set into motion a cascade of moral dilemmas. 

We still use scripture in self-serving, possibly even more so than those “devout” men who listened to Christ admonish them.  We still treat scripture as codes of intricate law, wherein the weaving of citations we can confound God’s loving intention.  We go about making laws and rules rather than fulfilling the intentions of the Lord; we go about patching together disparate passages to prove our point-of-view.

Like humanly contrived tax law … there are always those who try to find the loopholes for their own personal gain.   Loved Ones, this is sin … the manipulation of the intentions of God.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE BEAUTIFUL “SECRET”

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

November 15, 2018

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.  “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:1-4

ALMSGIVING 2

“So that your alms … your giving to the poor … your love made tangible in the practice of charity … may be done in secret.”  I have come to believe that Christ is here revealing something Beautiful in the nature of God’s Grace … a secret key into an even greater Realm of Grace … authentic charity of the heart that allows one to hear the applause of angels.  It is the glorious joy of being part of the Mercy of God.

We often speak of Christ calling us to be one with Him and with the Father.  And here in this tucked away teaching to which we give merely passing nod, Christ us a tangible expression of that oneness … being one with the providential work of God.  In this giving of alms, this giving to the poor, we become as the rain and the sunshine to a farmer’s field.  We enter into a most holy work … an instrument of the merciful Love of God.

Oh, when we seek the praise of onlookers in our giving to the poor, we decline to fully enter this experience of Oneness.  We are seeking satisfaction from worldly sources rather than from sources Divine.  Such giving has its worth and it is a good thing within its limitations, but it steals from the experience of becoming a radiance of the Glory of God.

Loved Ones, be as the rain and the sunshine on a farmer’s field.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

OUR IRRATIONAL REACTIONS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

cHRIST AND WEEPING SOUL

One Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched Him to see whether He would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against Him. Even though He knew what they were thinking, He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to scribes and Pharisees, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” After looking around at all of them, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. But the scribes and the Pharisees were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. – Luke 6:6-11

Such an irrational reaction to a man being healed, to react with fury, fear and disdain!

One can be so obsessed with defending doctrine that one loses its essence and its purpose.  The original law was to rest on the Sabbath, to devote it to the Lord and not to one’s own personal gain.  The original law was to not become enslaved solely as a worker for a worldly master but to be more than this … to live lives that are more than one’s industrial worth.  But by the time of Christ, the scribes and the Pharisees were caught up in the making and keeping of rules, to the debating of the details at the sacrifice of the Divine intention.

I think we as Christian community seem to repeatedly fall victim to the folly of the scribes and Pharisees.  Over and over we slaughtered the Goodness and the Love out of zealotry for this or that.  Sometimes it is over a detail of doctrine; sometimes it is over a moral specific.  And as a result … we subconsciously or unconsciously and almost unintentionally plots schemes to circumvent Christ’s teaching and example.  Yes … we keep doing it for it is how our mortal sinfulness confounds God’s ways and wishes.

Is it holy and acceptable to heal on the Sabbath?  The answer is yes!

Is it holy and acceptable to plot treachery on the Sabbath?  The answer is no!

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TO BE AS WINDOWS UNTO CHRIST

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival.  They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. – John 12:20-22

I always enjoyed doing the “Children’s Chat” during my years of pastoral service, that few minutes where the whole congregation gave the children their time in the sunshine of worship.  I recall one such children’s chat when at the time I experienced as a bit embarrassing, but looking back, it was remarkably insightful.  A little boy I had not seen before asked me …”Are you Jesus?”  Of course, the congregation chuckled and I suspect there were parents out there trying to hide.  At the time I answered his question with something life …”No, I am not Jesus but I work for Jesus.”  To which he responded …”Like those Santas in the stores work for the real Santa.”  “I  suppose … now who can tell me what this is that I am holding in my hand?”

“Are you Jesus?”  In a certain way, no, yet in a certain other way, yes.  Some Greeks, probably from Jewish families that had emigrated to other countries, probably more of the Greek culture and the Greek mindset than of their ancestral Hebrew culture and mindset, asked a disciple if they might have an audience with Jesus.  “They wanted to see Jesus”.  Now St. Philip the Apostle is venerated, a famous messenger of the Gospel.  But then … Philip was merely a guy who seemed to have access to Jesus of Nazareth.  It was Jesus Himself with whom they wished to converse.

Back to that little boy’s question … “Are you Jesus?”  Maybe I ought to have offered …”Well, I hope that when you look through me you might catch a glimpse of Him.”  I know … a rather advanced abstraction for such a young mind, but still a deeper theological understanding that I am but a lower grade version of the real Santa/Christ.

LIGHT THROUGH WINDOWIn these my contemplative years, I seek to live in such a way with such transparency that people can catch a glimpse of Christ by looking through the window of MY life.  Oh, the image of Christ is probably rather dim and distorted, but I do pray that others can somehow sense that they see Him.  And in our prayerful conversations these Greeks and I somehow will sense they are conversing with Christ.  I call these moments when Christ is manifest in the conversation of souls, interpersonal communion, the Christ within the Christian calling forth the Divine Image that is latent in the Creation of all souls.

Live, my Loved Ones, with such transparency that others might behold Christ through the window of your living.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WE ARE SERVE AS THE RADIANCE OF CHRIST

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, November 12, 2018

To the disciples gathered on the Galilean hillside, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven … “ – Matthew 5:14-16

It is stated as both a fact and hope …“Fellow Galileans, fellow children of Israel, you ARE the light of the world!”  And for we who seek to be radiant with the Presence of Christ, these words apply to us as well … wherever we might be found on the face of the earth … we serve as lantern and lighthouse to all the nations of the earth, for the new Realm of God is a universal realm.  The new Realm of God recognizes no borders.  The new Realm of God is an international community, one might say a supra-national community, not allied or alloyed with any form of nationalism or ethnicity.  We ARE a light to all the world, in all the world, for all the world.  And we are TO BECOME a brighter and purer Light to all the world, in all the world, for all the world.

The people listening to Christ on that hillside were keenly and personally aware of the Roman military occupation of their land.  And before the Romans, the Greeks, the Assyrians, Babylonians each in their turn and their time occupied their land.  And with each occupation, there were Galileans who were dispersed into foreign populations yet still were ever mindful of their history with God as children of Abraham and Israel.  Thus they were not isolated from other nations of the earth, but to the contrary, they served as a highway for the nations in their international commerce and in their wars and conquests.

To serve aradiantchrists a Light to the world, what might that mean?  The shining example, but an example of what?  The guiding light, but guiding who and to where?  The lamp in the night, but for what purpose.  The shining example … of love and mercy.  The guiding light … to both home and promised lands.  The lamp in the night … to behold more clearly both truth and wisdom.

We, in Christ, are to be radiant with the Pure Light of God, un-tinted by the prejudices of any one worldly culture, unfiltered by the limitations of politics and self-interest, dimmed by the ideologies of worldly power.

Loved Ones, we are to serve as and then serve all the better as the Light of the Radiant Christ.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A COMPASSIONATE CENTURION

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, November 11, 2018

CENTURIONS SERVANTWhen 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.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The Roman centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have You come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those following Him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith…” – Matthew 8:5-10

Forefront in this teaching moment is the Roman officer’s high faith in Christ’s miraculous power, not one demanding signs nor rationality.  This Roman military officer simply believe that not that Christ could heal but that Christ would certainly heal by whatever means Christ chose in this particular circumstance.  But I sense that in the background was another quality of this Roman military officer that gave evidence of great faith … and that quality was compassion.

“Lord,” military officer said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” 

The Centurion did not come for self-serving reason but out of compassion for his servant.  “He is at home paralyzed, suffering terribly!”  In the context of those times, within the culture of severe military discipline and stoic bearing, this compassionate response of this military officer for a servant jumps off the page as being something quite remarkable.  I believe it emphasizes that Christ was impressed not only by the man’s confident trust in Christ but also by the compassionate response of the soldier.  Though the soldier describes his faith in the martial discipline of the chain-of-command it is actually stirred by a deeply human motivation … he has deep empathy for his servant.

I have found that great faith must be accompanied by great compassion.  Somehow they are intertwined.  Selfish faith is shallow faith; compassionate faith is deep faith.

I pray that I mature spiritually into this remarkable of faith known as compassionate faith.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE SILENT DISSENTERS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, November 10, 2018

After the crucifixion of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jerusalem leadership, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed His body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. – John 19:38-40

jOSEPH AND nICODEMUSIt appears that both Joseph from the town Arimathea and Nicodemus were esteemed members of the Sanhedrin, the city council of Jerusalem.  They may or may not have been members of the executive committee of the Sanhedrin, the ones who probably questioned Jesus after His arrest in the Garden.  But still, Joseph and Nicodemus were among the leadership of Jerusalem, and also were clandestine supporters of Christ.   But they were silent during this plot to rid themselves of this contrarian from Nazareth and were afraid to come out of the closet for fear of themselves being accused.  But for some reason … they appeared to be ready to handle the funereal matters of Christ’s body.  And as the years passed, legend has it that they both became leaders in the early Church.

How many more of the Sanhedrin were sympathetic to Jesus’ teaching?  How many more were keeping silent lest they themselves might be accused?

Groups tend to keep the dissenters in line by way of peer pressure and intimidation.  It happens in social groups, tribal groups, political organizations and even in religious institutions.  They demand loyalty to the “company line” even when that loyalty requires an abandonment of conscience.  Heretics are excommunicated and protestors are thrown in jail … and so there are always many who are silent out of fear.

Perfect love casts out fear, both the fear we ourselves experience and the fear we ourselves draw forth from within others.  I am of a tradition that supposedly believes that Christian maturity involves progress toward a More Perfect Love.  But the desire to control others by enforcing a uniformity of beliefs so often keeps us from that further maturity.  So I believe Christ would counsel us to seek not to control the beliefs of one another, but rather to so mature in our Loving that fear is no longer needed.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

IN A CULTURE OF CONJURED FEARS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, November 9, 2018

And Jesus said to His disciples, “Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. – Matthew 24:9-13

Tucked into a vivid description of when the beginning of the fully realized Kingdom of God on earth is an insightful observation of human nature.  It is an insight into the psychology of the human mind, the dynamics of human groups and societies … “and because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold”.

Lawlessness incites fear and insecurity whether it be the lawlessness in the streets or the lawlessness in the cathedrals of power.  This fear and insecurity brings forefront the primal instinct to survive, even to the point of lashing out at perceived threats even threats imagined or conjured.  And when this primal instinct to survive becomes paramount, the circle of love and mercy shrinks, first to nation, then to tribe, then to family, then to self.   And in this process of the constricting this circle of compassionate concern, the love grows ever fainter and the fearful rage grows all the stronger.

Christ Crown of ThornsInto this cauldron of fear and insecurity, rage and defensiveness comes the quality of Love that we find in Christ.  It is the Love that sacrifices self for the sake of others.  It is the Love that endures crosses for the sake of a peace to come.  It is the Love that casts out fear, that is not cowered by threats.  It is the Love that humbly endures the mockery of a crown of thorns in a journey to higher nobility.  It is a Love that grows stronger in the face of evil; it is a Love that has faith in its own ultimate power.

In the times of Christ, in an era of crosses and whips, Christ brought forth a Love that the lawlessness could not daunt.  And as has occurred throughout the centuries, we again deal with the increase in lawlessness and the resultant growing cold of love.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

JUSTICE AND MERCY

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, November 8, 2018

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations. – Matthew 12:18

The writer of Matthew’s Gospel draws from the imagery of the prophet Isaiah to describe the work that Christ would do.  An aspect of that work was “to proclaim justice to the nations.

JUSTICE AND MERCY

What is this justice?  Is it the justice of law and order enforced heavy-handedly by an authoritarian regime?  Is it the justice of severe deterrence used by an emperor to cower and control a population?  Is punitive justice, is it the justice of the powerful and mighty, is it the justice for the privileged and not so much for the poor?

This justice of Isaiah and the One whom He foretold is a redemptive justice, a restorative justice, a justice that seeks to bring about the enduring peace.

In law school, I learned the old British oft-used term for justice … “keeping and restoring the peace, the peace all hold in common”.  Keeping the peace is not a vision of justice as controlling people with threats and fears.  That is tyranny even if used in the name of God.  No, keeping the peace is a matter of creating an environment and ethos in which hope is not denied.

It has always been with humanity, this justice administered through threats and fear, deterrence and punishment.  But of late, I have become sensitive that the conjuring of fears and the casting of threats is becoming more and more the sole definition justice.  And such a definition is imbalanced and distorted for it lacks the quality of mercy that is always part and parcel of the justice of God.

So, my Loved Ones, if you desire justice then you must also desire mercy.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment