TO SPEAK THE PURE TRUTH

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, July 7, 2018

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:33-37

OATH

Perjury is the willful giving of false testimony under oath or affirmation, before a competent tribunal, upon a point material to a legal inquiry. ”

We hear much about the matter of perjury in the political and criminal news of our times.   You often hear the phrase …”but what will he say once he is under oath?”  I think Christ might be more concerned with “what will he say even if he is not under oath?”

Truth is truth.  A falsehood laden by a thousand oaths is still a falsehood.  A falsehood rationalized as actually being the truth is still a falsehood.  A falsehood spoken in support of a cause is still a falsehood.  No, no matter how you spin it, no matter how your disguise it and twist it, a falsehood is a falsehood, never to be turned into a truth by one’s own will and desire that it be the truth.

Let your “Yes” be actually a true and accurate “Yes”, and let your “No” be actually a true and accurate “No”.   It is rather simple once you untangle the defensive or deceptive rationalizations.  Seek to speak the truth not as you yourself define the truth but as the integrity of God defines the Truth.

Why do we lie?  Because we fear to be exposed.  Because we fear to be found inadequate.  Because we fear to be found needing to confess and needing to change.

I find it takes constant vigilance and ongoing self-examination to keep one’s “Yes” as a pure “Yes” and one’s “No” as a pure “No”.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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AN ACCOUNTABILITY OF OUR WORDS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, July 6, 2018

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak … – Matthew 12:36

WORDS2

I am forever and reverently mindful of these cautionary words spoken by Christ.  No matter how people might spin their theology of forgiveness, I do believe that we will still give an account of our lives, our actions and our inactions, our words and our silences.

I find the air flooded with careless words.  Some are deceiving and deceptive words.  Some are insincere and hollow words.  Some are words of cruel condemnation.  Some are hurtful, wounding words.  Some are mean-spirited words.  Some are manipulative, self-serving words.  Some are boastful words filled with hubris and haughtiness.  Some are words that ignite rage and words that blind the power of wise discernment.

Every sermon I preached, I was vividly aware that each word I spoke was listened to by the Lord.  And I believed that the Lord who called me and the Lord who guided me required of me keen consciousness of the authenticity and veracity of my words.  Often my preaching was at odds with the prejudices that lingered within me and went against the grain of my own sinfulness.  For the most part, I preaching to needs of my own mortal soul, allowing the congregation to listen in.  And when I stand before the Lord and lean into His Mercy, I know there will be words spoken that I then will regret.  But I pray they will be few and the few will be forgiven … for the Lord will know the intent of my heart.

My Loved Ones, I do not speak to aggrandize myself.  I do not speak to further some ideological cause.  Rather I speak in allegiance to Christ and to speak words that come from His Holy Conscience.  And I pray that you will join me.

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, – Matthew 12:36

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

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BLOOD SACRIFICE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, July 2, 2018

Spilt WineThen Christ took a cup, and when He had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” – Matthew 26:27-29

Moses slaughtered the bull and took some of the blood, and with his finger he put it on all the horns of the altar to purify the altar. He poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. So he consecrated it to make atonement for it. – Leviticus 8:15

I am one who believes that the crucifixion was, at least in part, the closing act of blood sacrifice required by the Old Ways.  From that moment on, the sins of the people would be washed away by the work of the Spirit and the Spirit’s work through the agency of merciful humanity.  From that moment on, it would the processes of repentance and forgiveness that would restore the Oneness both with God and with one another.  No more bulls to be slaughtered in rituals of atonement, no more lambs to be sacrificed for the sins of mortal.  At least, this was the hope and intention of Christ pouring out of the wine of his own sacrifice.

Yet, the Church through the centuries has far too often turned to punishment and violence, to casting out and to shaming, to deal with sins of others.  Too often the Church was so preoccupied with judging that it had little time for confessing.  Too often the Church kept spilling blood both figuratively and literally in their claim of advancing the Kingdom of God.

In our present times, we tend to punish the “sinners”, the “wayward souls, the “flawed ones”, the “heretics”, not so much with swords, but with words used in the manner of swords.  We tend not to burn them at the stake but to banish them from our midst.  We tend to see ourselves as the “righteous” rather than the “sinner forgiven”.

I remember the tears in the eyes and the voice of an old veteran of World War II.  In commenting on military parade in our local town, he said to me …”So many of my friends died not so that we might fight yet another war, but that we might make an end of war.  Yet, we keep preparing for the next war to be fought.  For some reason, we love war too much.”

The sacrifice made by Christ … was made to change our ways … but, at times, I find that change is something reluctant for people and a land to make.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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What belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God?

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Caesar coin“Tell us, then,” the Chief Priests asked, “what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” – Matthew 22:17-21

Later they shouted to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate …“They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar. – John 19:15

A famous declaration made by Christ that possibly could be heard as a command, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.”  But it begs the question … what does belong to Caesar and what does belong to God?

In our times, I hear much about military personnel who give their lives in service to their country.  It has almost become a state religion with the flag as its graven image.  This military/nationalistic religion with its martyrs and its own code of ethics and its set of values can slowly infiltrate and then take over the soul of the Christ.  Remember the warning of Christ … “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!”  But what is that yeast?  Surely a trust in law-and-order to bring about salvation for both the individual and the nation, surely a trust in the glory of Herod’s Temple to restore the greatness of Israel, surely the conscience that allows hypocrisy to flourish, and surely a willingness to vault Caesar as “King”.  Remember the words of the Chief Priests at the trial of Christ … “We have NO king but CAESAR!”

In His encounter with His inquisitors about whether Jesus was a tax protestor, part of the resistance against the occupation by Caesar’s military forces, Jesus subtly exposes their own collusion.  Christ asks for a coin … and they produce a Roman coin from their own pocket, evidence that they already were identifying with the might of Caesar.  “Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar!”  And what was Caesar’s?  A coin, a participation in the Roman economy, their loyalty, their silence, their cooperation, their hypocritical collusion for the sake of their own safety and security?

And then Christ continues, “But render to God what is God’s?”  A loyalty, a devotion, an allegiance to godly values, one’s life, one’s priorities even they go counter to the values of Caesar?  It is a decision that all Christians must make in whatever nation they live … what belongs to the reign of Caesar and what belongs to the reign of God?

Sadly, even in our own time  … you will hear certain Christians declare …”We have no king but Caesar!”

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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THE PEACE OF OLD OAKS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  – John 14:27

Christ gives to the disciples the gift of Peace, a peace that is of another quality than the worldly peace of treaties and temporary cessation of hostilities.  This Peace that Christ bestowed to His disciples is the Peace of Eden before Eden succumbed to human selfishness.  This Peace that Christ endowed to His disciples was a Peace crafted out of a More Perfect Love rather than conjured out of fear and condemnation.

Christ gives His disciples the gift of Peace, but soon conflicts would flare up, most of the disciples would be martyred, many would be sent into exile, and all would be spurned by the supposedly devout.  Yet He says that He gives them Peace … a Peace that will endure and survive the hatred, a Peace that will carry them through these years of rejection and hostility.

This quality of Peace I imagine in the quality of soul in old, oak trees.  Storms come, yet they endure.  Wounds come, yet OLD OAK BWthey continue.  Seasons change, yet they keep steady their pace.  They are rooted; they are weathered; they are committed to growing; they communicate a quiet strength, a steady manner, a fearlessness of whatever might come.  At least, in my soul’s sense of an oak tree’s soul… and maybe this is why … I go to them to restore my inner peace.

After Christ’s resurrection, none of the disciples surrendered to fear … they did not resort to violence … they did not loathe their enemies … they did not abandon their cause … rather they provided nests for the young ones and shade for the old ones.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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A SACRED RESPONSIBILITY

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, June 29, 2018

cHRIST AND pETERChrist then said to Peter,  “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 16:18-19

My Roman Catholic brothers and sisters hold this as foundational to the formation of the Church, the work of Saint Peter; my Protestant brothers and sisters also hold these words as foundational to the formation of the Church, but they emphasize the faith that Peter possessed.  But I focus more on the responsibility of the Church as Christ expressed in the ultimate words of this teaching.  “…a nd whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

The Church will be held accountable for what it does in the name of the Lord.  The Church will define for the people the ways of heaven, whether they be in harmony with the actual ways of heaven or whether they be in disharmony with the ways of heaven.

The Church can choose to portray God as the spirit of judgment, or the Church can choose to portray God as the spirit of mercy.  For the people who place their trust in the Church they will most often believe heaven to be in the manner of the Church on this earth.

I tried to begin each message I preached with this prayer …”Lord, let my words be words of truth; let me never stray from Your Wishes and Ways.”

A few weeks ago, a devout lay member of the laity shared his experience of having dinner with a pastor in the area.  He shared with a reluctant sadness … “He did not seem to have the heart of a pastor.  My wife and I thought, ‘He seemed so cold and insensitive.”  And as they shared their negative experience, I thought to myself … “What quality of soul do others experience when they experience me?”

The Church historically has been a world of words.  We try to explain, we try to persuade, we try to defend, we try to justify … but now at this stage of life … it is the tone of words and the spirit of the speaker which tends to be long remembered.

And the Lord said to Peter and the other disciples … You will set the tone and spirit of people’s earthly experience of heavenly ways … you best be responsible for the heaven you create in the minds of the people.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

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SO CALLED DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, June 28, 2018

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.  But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. – Luke 4:28-30

ANGRY CROWD

I am intrigued by the drama of this encounter between Christ and his hometown synagogue.

I dare raise a paraphrase by way of parallel.  All the church members were furious at what the preacher said.  The committee met and said, “We must fire this pastor for his speaks most troubling words.  How dare he question our ways!”  But the pastor moved on from there and continued being faithful to his Lord.

Those who were about toss this young rabbi over the cliff, these were church-going people.  They probably attended classes on the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  They all went through the rite of passage into adulthood.  They were Jews of a Jewish nation.  They were people who prayed.  They were people who sang the old hymns.  They were people who kept the rules their forefathers wrote.  And they dragged a rabbi to the edge of a cliff.  Synagogue people sometimes did unholy acts in unholy ways in a false delusion that they were protecting the ways of God.  And church-going people sometimes do unholy acts in unholy ways in a false delusion that they are protecting the ways of God.

But it is the manner of Christ in this moment of crisis that models for me the Christ-incarnated way we are to carry ourselves and to advance the work of God’s Realm of a More Perfect Love.  “He walked through the crowd and went on His way.”  No kowtowing to the rage of the crowd, no surrendering to the status quo, no fighting back using their unholy ways … no, He simply carried Himself with dignity and walked on in His pilgrimage of faith.

I seek to face the judgmental ones with rage in their voices and murderous intentions in their hearts … with nobility of soul, without resorting to the ways and will of the crowd, and continue in the authentic ways of the Lord.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE SHARING OF A LIFE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

For God so loved the world that God gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

I suspect this is one of the most famous quotations in scripture.  I have heard it all my life.  I have had it etched into my soul.  But now in my maturity … I believe so many may have distorted in its actual meaning.  And they did so not out of ill-intent but out of the theological scheme in which they were immersed and colored their reading.

So many people mentally change one of the words and that word is “gave”.  They subconsciously translate it to mean “sacrificed the life”.  They assume this verse speaks of the sacrificial atonement of Christ.  But the verse does not read to sacrifice His Son’s life but to give to the world His Son’s Life.

cHRIST bRAZILThe gift to the world … the life of Christ, to learn from words, to learn from His example, to learn from the mission He undertook.  But there is more.  This gift to the world also includes the Life of Christ that continued on in the lives of those who dared trust His words and His ways.  The Church, the essential Church, is the living out of this gift of Christ’s very life in our own lives together.  We are the ongoing earthly Life of Christ living on with the “genetics” of the Lord’s Spirit within us and among us.  We are the ongoing voicing of Christ’s words and Christ’s stories.  We are essence of the Divine in the experience of the human, as was Christ in His incarnation of the Love and Concern of God.

Many will say that we are saved by the sacrifice of Christ, and that would be in certain ways would be true.  But I am one who believes that we are to a greater degree are saved by the life that He lived and His way of life now lived through us.  We will be saved, not merely me but oh so many … by the living out of His ways, His words, His compassion, His quality of spirit, His priority of values, His mission and His method.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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THIS SERVANT’S WORK OF OURS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

WASHING FEET BWWith a basin of water and a towel, Christ knelt before Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”                                       “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. – John 13:6-11

I think this is a defining moment in what it means to be a Christian, this conversation between Christ and he would continue with the work of Christ.  This back-and-forth speaks of moving from the place of being-in-control to the place where one places one’s life in the hands of the Lord.  This intimate interaction speaks of the abandoning of the hubris of false pride and the taking on of the humility of one who serves.  This give-and-take, this heart-to-heart, reveals where the true joy and peace of Christ is found … in the servanthood.

We live in times of blustery boasts.  We live in times of shameless self-centeredness.  We live in times when being the greatest is everything and than the being the humblest is a shameful cowardice.   We live in times when leaders are obsessed with controlling rather than serving.  We live in times when the assertion of self overwhelms being part of a whole community.

I do believe … now more than ever … that we find our true Christ-likeness in being the humble servant.  And isn’t that the message Christ whispered into the heart of Peter … when I am gone you will need to serve humbly.

Always in Christ’ Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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A MATTER OF TRUTH DIVINE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, June 25, 2018

(And in that upper room, Christ prayed for His disciples.) My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your words from Your Mouth comprise the truth.   As you sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify Myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.  My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. – John 17:15-21

DISCIPLESChrist has set us apart for a holy work.  This is the meaning of the action, to sanctify.  And this holy work given to the disciples, both those gathered in upper room that night before the crucifixion and we who have followed in their footsteps and in their spirit,  is to care for the world without adopting and using the wayward ways of the world.  As did Christ gave His own life a few hours after He prayed this prayer, so we, the disciples through time, sacrifice our old world ways so that we might then live with ways that remain faithful to the Truth of God, the ways that are also the ways of the heavenly life.

But alas, we are so accustomed to the ways of this world that we assume they are the ways that must be.  And so often we use the ways of this world to achieve heavenly purposes.  We resort to half-truths, shaded meanings, switch-and-bait sales pitches, distorted logic, false assumptions and conjured delusions.  But when we use tainted truth we slowly walk away from the pure, Divine truth.

Divine Truth, the Truth one hears in the Voice of God, is transparent, confessional, invitational, in quest of clarity and in search of an understanding that is both fully human and fully Divine with the latter forming the former.

The line between truth and falsehood has been blurred; the half-truth has infected the Truth; lies become means to accomplish a worldly agenda; the meanings of words are changed.

If we dare think we are disciples of Christ, then we must be sanctified by the thoughts that flow from the Mind of God with the tone and timbre of the Heart of God.  As Christian disciples, we are not to be formed by our political ideology but by the Lord, not for our worldly purposes but for God’s heavenly purposes.  As Christian disciples, we are not to be formed by world standards of success, though so often we are, but by the fulfillment of our duties as servants in the Realm of the Lord.  As Christian disciples, we are not to be formed by such worldly values as racism, nationalism, age-ism, misogyny, militarism but those heavenly values that so often go counter to the world’s values.  As Christian disciples, we sacrifice our selfishness for the safe of More Perfect Love among all.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

 

 

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