THE CHILDREN OF FOREVER

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, September 10, 2018

People were bringing even infants to Jesus that He might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it.  But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Realm of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the Realm of God as a little child will never enter it.” – Luke 18:15-17

OLD MAN PLATING TREEI once met a man, a farmer, a saint who though well into his eighties, still planted oak trees on his farm.  That old man understood what it meant to be a child in the Realm of Forever.

The New Realm of God is a Divine process by which the Present Moment weaves itself into the fabric of Forever.  Our faithfulness in this present day is our choice of possibilities that enter into the formation of the future.  Like that old man who planted oak tree saplings who shade under which he would sit, he in this small way set in motion the formation of the future.  One day, another child who sit in the shade of a choice he had made.

Christianity, when it does not regress into legalism and man-made rules, when it does not retreat into a nostalgic reverence, serves as an instrument into the unfolding of Forever.  Forever is not clinging to the past day after day, but rather Forever is weaving this day, these moments, into the tapestry of Forever, a tapestry not yet finished.  Christianity is thus creative as the Creator is creative.  The Creator may have rested on the seventh day, but on the eighth the Creator returned to work, this time with the ongoing work of unfolding that which was in its potentiality in Creation’s Beginning.  And so in being filled with potentials and possibilities, Christianity is always venturing into and in certain ways charting the course of the Future.

I observe that as people age they tend to either yearn for the past or dream of the future. There are souls in their aging who find comfort in rocking back and forth in yesterday and there are those souls who find vigor in planting saplings along the road into tomorrow.  This is why it is the children who can enter into the Coming Realm of God, these children no matter their age.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE TEMPTATION OF EMPIRES AND NATIONS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to Him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.’”  Then the devil left Him, and suddenly angels came and cared for Him. – Matthew 4:8-11

TEMPTATION OF CHRIST

This is the third temptation of Christ in the wilderness that the Gospel of Matthew reports.  It is the temptation that comes to people whose ego has made them yearn for power and control.  This is the temptation to control the lives of people.  This is the temptation to rule as sovereign.

History is littered with talented people skilled in political manipulation who allowed the temptation for worldly power to turn their ambition into human tragedy.  Often it is the demon that weaves webs of intrigue; often it is the impulse that leads to war.  It is the demon that allures by flattering our pride.  It is the demon that begins with noble words but ends with an abandonment of noble principles.

For most people, this temptation works by way of proxy.  We support those who promise that we become numbered among the elite by giving us license for our anger, bitterness, arrogance and pride to somehow become virtue.  We place our hope in those who lure us with military might and economic reward.  We become part of the frenzied crowd willing to be hypnotized by the call to build empires and rise above all others.

Christ would become a King, a Sovereign, but one not made so by wealth and weapons, but way of self-giving Love and the gift of Peace.  Pilate mockingly said to Christ, “So you are a king!”  And Christ answered, “I am king but not in the manner of worldly kings.  My realm is a heavenly realm that will permeate throughout all the nations.” [my paraphrase]

Yet … no matter how many kingdoms rise and fall … humanity seems always vulnerable to be tempted once more by visions of national glory.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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THE PROCESSES OF MATURING IN THE LORD

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, September 8, 2018

ASK, SEEK, KNOCKThen Christ said, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Luke 11:9-10

In these later years of my life, I have come to an understanding of this passage that is probably different from the common understanding.  It is a nuance, an emphasis upon the active verbs, asking, seeking, knocking.

When I listen to others, especially those who lean toward the prosperity gospel, I hear “ask for whatever you desire and God will give it to you, go searching for the text that justifies your opinion, keep knocking on the door that want to be opened.”  But I now hear this passage speaking of a far more insightful understanding.  “It will be in the process of asking that you will learn what to ask; it will be in the process of searching that you will discover things you would have never intended to search for; it will be in the process of knocking on doors that you will come upon those doors chooses to open.”

By way of the process of asking the questions we are taught by the Lord.  By way of the process of searching for that which is holy we are taught by the Lord.  By way of the process of knocking on doors to new possible realms we are taught by the Lord.

I have a prayer that I often use in times of the doldrums, and I probably ought to pray it daily.  It is based on this teaching of Christ… “Lord, give me a question to ask, a truth to find, and a realm to explore.”

Loved Ones, be one who keeps asking the questions, who keeps searching for answers, who keeps knocking on the doors of possibilities.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE GLORIFICATION OF THE LORD

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, September 7, 2018

Jesus answered some Greeks who had come to see Him, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit …”– John 12:23-24

WHEATFIELD

To these Greek seekers and to His disciples listening in … Christ explains the process of His glorification.  He will die but yet He will come alive in those who live on following His ways in the manner of His person.  He will be the seed and we will become the field of grain, and the harvests will continue forever.

In a certain way, I pray I will express the glory of the Lord in my own life, pouring the grace and mercy I have received into that barley field of life.  I pray my life will now become part of many lives … just as Christ became part of life and so many others like me.  Our reward of glory, our own glorification in the Lord will be found in future fields of barley, golden barley dancing with the wind, ready to be harvested to feed a hungry world.

By its nature Christian Love is a self-giving Love that invests itself in the lives of others.  It is in the giving that experience that subtle, unspoken sense of glory knowing that we did not remain merely ourselves but a part of so many others.  Our sense of glory is not to be found in “Look at me” but rather in the prayerful joy, “Behold them”.  And in beholding that field of beautiful, providential grain we behold the Presence and Work of the Lord as well.

Yes, the life of Christian Love is the investing in that harvest field.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE LORD COMMANDS, “BE OPENED”

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, September 9, 2018

The people brought to Jesus a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay His hand on him.  He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”  And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus  ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” – Mark 7:32-37

christ embracing

An intriguing detail in Mark’s account of this healing of a deaf man who struggled to speak … Christ looks up into heaven and Christ sighs.  You would expect the word “prays” but it says that He “sighed“.  Why did Christ sigh?

The crowd brings to Jesus a man deaf and near mute, asking Jesus to heal him.  And for some reason, Jesus then takes the man aside from the crowd for the sake of privacy.  Why?  Jesus orders the crowd to tell no one … but instead they proclaim this all the more zealously.  Why did they not honor Christ’s request?

What was the intent of the crowd in bringing the deaf man?  I think it may have been for the purpose of putting Christ to the test.  Was this the cause of the sigh, this bringing of a deaf man to be healed not out of compassion but out of putting Christ to the test?  I think this may be indeed the reason for the “sigh”.  The crowd seemed to pay no mind to Christ’s request or even Christ’s command.

“Ephphatha” a word translated as “be opened” is the word Christ utters when he heals the man’s deafness and his ability to speak.  Be opened!  Again, an unexpected choice of words.  Why not, “Be healed”?  Or is this the very point of this teaching moment … “Be open, be self-revealing, be transparent with your motives, be open-hearted and open-minded, hear what I request and hear what I command, listen to my teaching!”

We tend to hide our motives.  We tend to hide our wounds.  We tend to hide our questions.  We tend to hide our Inner Light.  And we tend to hide our guilt and shame.  And so Christ keeps sighing …”Be open.”

Always in Christ Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE RATIONALIZATION OF GREED

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

And Christ said to crowd, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then Christ told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly.  And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’  Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’  So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God. – Luke 12:15-21

GREED

“Be on your guard against all kinds of greed”… for the sin of greed is disguised in all forms of excuses, rationalizations, and justifications.  Most greedy people never see themselves as greedy for greed does blind the greedy.  They see themselves as successful in life and worthy of the wealth.  They see themselves as prosperous and financially secure.  Some see themselves as having proven they are numbered among the winners and some feel this proves they are blessed and approved by God.  No, greed is seldom recognized and thus seldom confessed.

Am I greedy?  I think sometimes I am.  I want more and more of what is not truly needed.  I find my security in the barns of my retirement fund rather than in the daily providence of God.  I sometimes check how my “net-worth” is increasing or decreasing.  I sometimes prove my success in financial measures. But on the other hand, I am trying to live with a generosity that is enabled by a life of simplicity.  I am trying to see my worth not in financial terms but in spiritual terms.  I work not for the sake of becoming wealthy but rather for the sake of doing good work.

From day one, I instinctively sensed that the “prosperity-gospel” as conjured by certain preachers was no more than self-sanctified justification of greed.  I always knew that it was a distortion of the Gospel by way of selected scriptural passages that were spun to allure the financially-wanting or the financially-obsessed.  I always knew in my God-tended conscience that greed in a gospel-fleece is still greed.

Christ speaks to instead of being rich in worldly wealth that instead “we be rich toward God”.  But what does it mean to be rich toward God?  I take it to mean to be prosperous in such qualities of the spirit such as being merciful and gracious, loving and charitable, a peace-making and a reconciler, a seeker of wisdom and discernment, a soul who shares with the community for the sake of the community’s well-being, being one who gives their own self in service to others.

I believe that there is virtue in both being hard-working and humble.  Yet to keep building more and more barns to hold more and more wealth is actually the sin of greed.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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WHY DO YOU WEEP, MARY MAGDALENE?

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

mARY Magdalene weeping[After looking into the empty tomb] the disciples returned to their homes.  But Mary Magdalene stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). – John 20:10-16

In this account of Easter morning, we can behold in vivid detail the human experience of grieving.  Grief is not so much sadness, but rather emptiness, a searching for that someone or something that has been snatched out of one’s life.  It is the shock of  apparent loss; it is the wound left by detachment; it is the anxiety of disorientation.  It is a very human experience, an experience that accompanies the experience of love.  So the angels and the Lord ask Mary Magdalene the question, “Why are you weeping?”  This is not a question arising from their not understanding and this is not a chastisement under the guise of a question.  This is a question the angels and Christ know that Mary Magdalene needs to answer for the sake of her moving on.

Why are you weeping, Mary?  They have snatched away this one I love.  They have taken him away from me.  I am searching for him but I can’t seem to find him.  And there is the question that those grieving must ask and eventually answer … where can I find my loved one?

Mary Magdalene became an Evangeline for the Church.  She is recognized as a saint.  And it is told that she was a bringer of the Love of Christ to many.  So she did find Him, not only in a voice that she recognized but in the living remembrance that continued to inspire her life.  We have no record of Mary Magdalene weeping after this moment, though I sense she often did.  But she lived on … because what she thought had been taken away from her had not been taken away at all.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

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I BELIEVE IN A CHRIST IN THE SPIRIT OF ISAIAH

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, September 3, 2018

When Jesus became aware of this, He departed. Many crowds followed him, and He cured all of them, and He ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 
“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased.  I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory.  And in his name the Gentiles will hope.” – Matthew 12:5-21

Isaiah-Chrst

So many ways to describe Christ and Christ’s Way.  The writer of Matthew’s Gospel chooses to quote a description found in the writings of the prophet Isaiah.  There “He” is described as a servant, a proclaimer of justice not only to the people of Israel but to those other than Jewish.  There “He” is described as a quiet voice, a gentle soul who somehow brings about justice to both Jews and Gentiles.  He will be a Jewish man who will bring hope to the Gentiles.

The historical Isaiah spoke during the Assyrian control of the Jewish nation; the historical Jesus spoke during the Roman control of the Jewish nation.  In certain ways, Jesus was much akin to Isaiah, and we often view Christ in the images that Isaiah brought forth.

I find I am much in the spirit of Isaiah’s  and Matthew’s description of Christ … a servant, a proclaimer of justice, a quiet, steady voice, a gentle soul in his manner of peaceful overcoming, a bringer of nations together, even if those nations were neighbors much like today’s Israel and Palestine.

My Loved Ones, it is easier for a preacher to galvanize a following by providing them an enemy to hate.  It is far, far more challenging for a preacher to persuade a people to become peacemakers.  But I believe … and I will stand before the Lord believing … that we as Christians are called not to trigger an Armageddon but rather we are called to be about the family business of peacemaking.  Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall called the children of God.

Always in Christ Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

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THE REVERENCE OF ACTUALLY LISTENING

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And there Jesus was transfigured before them,  and His clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.  Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.  Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” – Mark 9:2-7

listeningToo often, far too often, we only half-listen and, at times, barely listen.  I offer that too many Christians fail to truly listen to Christ, but rather only half-listen or even barely listen to the voice of Christ.  I am saddened when I think that so many Christians claim Christ as their Lord and yet know so little of His teaching.  And even worse … when so often when they actually listen to His words, they rationalize them away. And yet that Voice from the cloud did plead with the disciples …“This my Son, the One in whom I have poured my Love, LISTEN TO HIM!”

If we are not intentional and vigilant, we only hear what we want to hear.  This is a rather common trait in the human experience, but with those who claim to follow Christ, this amounts to arrogance and a lack of reverence.

My wife has asked me that question …”Are you listening to me?”  At times, in a time of pastoral conversation I have asked my self …”Are you actually and deeply listening to the person who sits across from you?”  And even in times of prayerfulness … I sense a pause as if the Lord were asking me …”Are you listening or are you half-listening or even barely listening?”

I find the art of listening is a most challenging skill to master.  It takes self-discipline; it takes focus; it is takes a willingness to give the necessary time for reflection; it requires the right follow-up question; and it takes patience to allow the thoughts behind the words to emerge.

Practice and practice the art of prayerful listening, not only in listening to God, but also listening to others, and even listening to yourself.  Practice and practice for its mastery takes time.  And then … respond to the plea of God who said to the disciples of Christ, and I pray I am among their number, … “This my Son, the One in whom I have poured my Love, LISTEN TO HIM!”  Actually read His words in the Gospels and listen to the Man.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE APPEARANCE OF MATTERS DIVINE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Jesus answered Nicodemus’s question, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”– John 3:5-8

So many ways to explain the words “unless they are born of water and the Spirit”, and so many have.  I have come to understand this phrase to mean … that one can only find themselves in the Realm of God by way of washing away that which blinds us and by way of allowing the Presence of God awaken and sustain us.

cleaning glasses

I recall my first year in seminary.  For the last couple of years in college my grades began to slip and reading had slowly become an experience I subconsciously avoided.  By way of some urging that I cannot now recall, I went and had my eyes checked.  I remember the words of the optometrist, “How do you find your way anywhere without eyeglasses!”  So eyeglasses were ordered.  I can still relive that moment when I walked outside wearing those glasses and being awestruck by how clear and beautiful the world appeared.  Once my vision was adjusted it was if a whole new world appeared.  Somehow this is like what happens in the spiritual experience of being born with water and the Spirit.

The Kingdom of God, or as I prefer to call it the Realm of God, is always present, but so many cannot see it … except for those who allow themselves to be cleansed of the dust that blinds and to be given a new set of eyes.  When Christ speaks of “entering” the Realm of God I think of it in the sense of the Realm of God appearing, appearing within the midst of the Creation and Providence around us.

Each day I have a ritual I go through.  As I shower, I also shower my soul with confession and resultant mercy.  As I slowly awaken, I pray for the Lord the awaken my spirit.  It is a rather intentional ritual … but it serves as reminder of how the Lord walked me into the Realm of God.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

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