OUT OF A CRUEL INJUSTICE

 

JUSTICE CHRISTIANUS

FIRST DAY OF LENT

3/6/2019

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:24

In the midst of a cruel injustice, in a place where the executioners killed an innocent man, in a time when truth was of no matter, Christ bestows forgiveness on “them”. But who are the these whom Christ forgives?  The Roman soldiers who were only following orders?  The mocking passers-by that were blinded by the lies?  The clergy and political leaders that thought their ends justified their means?  The holy “devout” who were concerned about other matters?  The power that corrupts?  The societal indifference?  The fallen nature of humanity?

Justice is defined in many ways and each way has its nuance.  Retributive justice that seeks to punish those who have done wrong; procedural justice that attempts to assure that just processes are followed to achieve an impartial decision; restorative justice that seeks to bring back into “rightness” the consequences of a harmful act; distributive justice that insures a rightful and fair share of the common wealth.   But during this Lenten season I offer another definition of justice, “Justice Christianus”, the new form of justice to be practiced in the New Realm of God.

“Justice Christianus” is both restorative and redemptive.  “Justice Christianus” is both providential and distributive.  “Justice Christianus” is both merciful and transformative. “Justice Christianus” involves the processes of conscience, consciousness and conviction, the processes of confession, repentance, and forgiveness; the processes of new beginnings and hopeful ends, resurrection and sanctification.

Being ever mindful of the injustice inflicted upon Christ, we will deeply contemplative how by the God’s transformative power that this cruel injustice became a means of a new form of justice, a Divine justice that seeks to save the world and not condemn it.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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REPENTANCE IN WAYS UNMENTIONED

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Christ head{Jesus said to His disciples before sending them out on their missions) “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” – Luke 10:13-16

Hard words spoken by Christ, stern warning to the towns to where His disciples would be bringing His message of a New Realm of understanding, a realm of mercy, grace, and authentic love.  So resistant to change, even when the change is one brought forth by the Lord in the fullness of Time, these places where rigidity was mistaken for faithfulness.

Hundreds of times, I reckon, I have heard righteous voices warn the times in these places that unless the nation repent, all will be lost.  The problem I have with such self-designated prophets is that the sins needing repentance are usually of a sexual concern.  Seldom do I hear them speak of such concerns as greed, prejudice, self-indulgence, indifference to the needs of the poor, injustice, cold-hearted-ness, trusting in the security of Caesar’s might, the devotion to the god Money rather than to the God who provides so we might share.  No, it is usually about concerns sexual, often described in lurid detail.  Sometimes these prophets seemed obsessed with the sins they condemn.

But what was cause of these town placing themselves at risk?  By rejecting Christ and the message Christ Himself did bring.

Oddly, rather paradoxically, in our present times … the very words of Christ, His teaching, His commands, His example, His stories … are not the focus of certain expressions of Christianity.  No … it is focused instead on a doctrinal conformity and on a selection of moral rules, and faintly with lip service, the words of His message and the mission of His Life.

Loved Ones, we all need to repent, to change the course of our lives and the course of our human history … but in ways about which few seem concerned.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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WE ARE PEOPLE WHO CARRY CROSSES

 

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, March 4, 2019

Jesus sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then He said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? – Luke 9:21-25

Simon of Cyrene

“To be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes”, this experience I have known.  Rejection by itself does make one right by merely the experience of being rejected, but rather to be rejected for doing what God requires of you.  Why was Jesus rejected?  He spoke a new way of understanding  that would supplant the former understanding and He called for an authentic enlightenment of spirit and conscience.  He was rejected for calling for authenticity in a world of hypocrisy; He was rejected for making merciful grace a priority over law and punishment; He was rejected for demanding compassion to replace indifference and self-interest.

Too often I hear a certain breed of Christianity that seem to brandish the cross rather than carrying the cross.  They use the cross as a psychological spear.  They use the cross for the purpose of fending off sinners and witches according to their own designation.  They use the cross not in the manner of humility but in the manner of declaring “I have got it, and you do not!”

Too many, though they rationalize not to be applicable to themselves, who are going after the worldly rewards,  Money, fame, even power and prestige, these rewards they seek while slowly, often imperceptibly, they let their soulfulness slip away.  Even my own life has been tempted this way.

As we near the season of Lent … may we remember that we are people who carry crosses … we are people who love and serve in our humble ways.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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TO BE FREE FROM THE LAW THAT WE HABITUALLY CREATE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday March 3, 2019

cHRIST TEACHING PARABLES

Then His disciples asked Him what this parable meant. He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the realm of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’ – Luke 8:9-10

Such an intriguing comment made by Christ to His disciples, almost counter-intuitive, somehow out of character for Christ.  Like that mysterious instruction not to cast your pearls before swine, this passage is remarkable in its stridency.  And so over and over … the Lord and I have talked over this passage.  Is this the statement of a principle, Lord; or is it a bit of practical advice.

Some people feel the need to codify all teaching, make it law, make it a clearly stated rule.  Personally and professionally, I think taught now in terms of laws and rules, but rather in terms of principles and commands quite often the form of teaching stories.  Stories have such a deeper depth-of-field than does a maxim or a declarative statement.  Within the teaching story there is a dimension of the human story, a dimension that communicates more than can be included in a rule.  Truth told within a story is an invitation into a greater mystery, a mystery that keeps revealing.  Christ’s teaching stories are not like Aesop’s fables where at the end is pasted the meaning of the story.  No, in Christ’s teachings the meaning lives within the story itself.  And in the retelling of a parable and in the hearing once again a parable, the meaning within becomes all the more.  That is … if you do not snatch the story from Christ’s voice and turn it into mere, cold law encased forever in a former interpretation.

If I could for a moment dare to put words in Christ’s mount … it is as if Christ were counseling His disciples … “teach them the stories lest they too quickly make final conclusions.”

I am always stunned by people who claim that Christ set them free from the shackles of the Old Testament Law and its questionable corollaries … and turn right around and make New Testament Law out of attempts to bring the spirit of Christ to the cultures of this world.  We were not called to legislate more entangling, controlling, enslaving Law … but rather to bring to life the stories that Christ did give us.  We are called to fulfill but two commandment … Love God with everything within you … and … Love others as you would love your own self.  Upon these Laws all else is but the story of Christ living on.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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CHRIST’S COMPASSIONATE HEART

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Soon afterwards Jesus went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a large crowd went with Him.  As He approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized the people in the crowd; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” This word about Him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country. – Luke 7:11-17

Christ and Nain

Through the years of my pastoral service, I experienced what Jesus experienced here at Nain.  When I saw a family member weeping, a rush of compassion overwhelmed me.  As if by instinct, without much thought given to it, I would embrace the family.  And when it was time to conduct the funeral, again by instinct, I would then pause and touch the casket.  I don’t know why.  Possibly to take away a bit of the fear of death, possibly to exemplify steady courage to the family, trying to encourage them, possibly to allow my compassion its yearning to touch.

The life of Christ was marked by compassion.  And then I would assume, those of us who believe that Christ lives within us and through us ought also to be marked by compassion.  Yet, I have experienced some declared Christians who feel not compassionate much at all.  And I find … I have compassion for persons such as them.

Loved Ones, if a doctrine or a dogma or a cause diminishes your Christ-like compassion … it is time to kneel in prayer.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE CONTRAST BETWEEN PAST AND FUTURE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, March 1, 2019

Then Jesus looked up at His disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”

“But woe to you who are rich,for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.  Woe to you who are laughing now,for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” – Luke 6:20-26

cHRIST AT sUNRISE

Christ teaches His disciples a litany of contrasts.  The future will bring blessings to those who are struggling with the present circumstance; and the future will bring woes to those who are not struggling with the present circumstance.   The future, though it may seem bleak at the moment, will one day bring a revolutionary change in how society is stratified.  The poor will prove rich in ways the present rich cannot understand; the downtrodden will be liberated and find justice.

Indeed, the peaceable realm of fairness and mercy will eventually come to be, but at present, the disciples must endure the struggle.  And this unjust realm that mocks the fair mercy of God will one day crumble in ruins.

In this world, money, prestige, and power are the motivators of society, but in the world that is slowly merging, these motivators will give way to a yearning for peace, love, justice with mercy.  The ways of this world will be turned upside down and those who oppress will have a great fall, and all the kings horses and soldiers will not be able to put all the broken pieces of their world back together again.  But those who seek the prosperity of heavenly values and who seek to live in heavenly ways, they will inherit the new earth that is part and parcel with heaven.

So much of the injustice in the world is constructed by those in power who seek to sustain their power and to keep the powerless in their place below.

Loved Ones, my life is devoted to this Future Realm that God is in the process of bringing into this world and not to the Past Realm where the powerful reign over the powerless.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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THE WORSHIPPERS OF RULES

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, February 28, 2019

cHRIST AND FIELDS OF GRAIN

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and His disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”  Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” – Luke 6:1-5

Rules, especially rigid rules, rules that confound their very purpose, Jesus spoke against them.

The Pharisees challenged this rabbi and his traveling rabbinical school, “Why do you break the rules of the Sabbath?”  And Jesus responded … “Sometimes the rules must be adapted to the specific circumstance.”

This attitude of Jesus concerning this adaptability of the rules in contrast with the attitude of the Pharisees and their rigidity of the rules is, I believe, at the heart of Christ understanding of the holy life.  The Holy Life is not the keeping of rules but rather the fulfilling of purposes Divine.

And yet, even today, two thousand years later, we still have some Pharisaic voices who exchange the fulfilling of Divine purposes for the sake of rigidly keeping a certain selection of rules.  And the rules they emphasize are more of their own cultural mores than of the ultimate purposes of God.  So often for the sake of zealously keeping this rule or that rule, they slaughter the essential spirit of it all.  The Sabbath was not meant for the purpose of starvation, but rather for the purpose of celebrating the wonder of God.

The Way of Christ was not the way of rules and laws but rather the Way of a More Perfect Love seeking to reach its fulfillment.  The Christian Way is not about the keeping of rules but the fulfillment of purposes.  The Christian Way is not about law and punishment but about grace and mercy.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE THORNS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Again Jesus began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around Him that He got into a fishing boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.  He began to teach them many things in parables, and in His teaching He said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil.  And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away.  Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”  And then Jesus added, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” – Mark 4:1-9

Through the metaphor of a farmer broadcasting the seed, Christ explains (at least in my mind) how so often the hoped-for Beauty of the Good News fails to mature.

By its nature, evangelism, the casting of hopeful seeds of a bountiful harvest of grace and mercy is sown widely, much like the seeds of the dandelion are carried off by the wind.  Some of those hopeful seeds will end up on the well-worn path; others, the thorny patches, others; the barren, scorched places; yet, thankfully some seed will take hole in fertile fields.

thorns and wheatToday, I contemplate those thorny patches, possibly by extension of the metaphor, those thorny people, in which the thorns outgrow the hopeful seeds and choke to death the deeper hope waiting to mature.

Christ explains the thorns in this way … “and others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word …”

The cares of the world … too quickly we identify those worldly ways to be ways we believe are a part of ourselves.  Christ identifies the lure of wealth as one.  He communicates though this is but one.  Possibly among those “other things” are such things as seeking power, seeking fame, seeking to control the thinking of others, seeking one’s own comfort while being indifferent to the critical needs of others.  Maybe among these “other things” is the allure of the brighter spotlight and the bigger stage, the allure of being a celebrity, the allure of being “greater” than others, the allure of pride and arrogance, the allure of being the all-knowing judge.

The problem with thorns is that they take for themselves the nutrients in the soil, and thus the wheat is slowly being starved to death.

Loved Ones, the ongoing process of self-examination, humble confession, and heartfelt repentance is actually a way of dealing with the thorns.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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The Sight of Descending Doves

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Now when all the people were baptized by John the Baptist, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” – Luke 3:21-22

christ and dove

I suppose my life of holy devotion is not so I might be saved.  I know I am already rescued by embracing the mercy of my Lord.   No, my life of holy devotion is a desiring for the sight of descending doves and the hearing of my Father’s loving voice.  I yearn to fee the reassurance of my Lord that I am a child of God with whom He is well-pleased.

I view this scene at the baptism of Jesus by John as a public declaration of adoption.  We often use the image of being born again, but here I find a complementary image, the image of being adopted by the Father.  I have experienced being born again, anew and from above; and I have experienced being chosen, embraced and adopted.

I seek to be a person of peace in the midst of a world at war.  I seek to be a person of love in the midst of a world racked with hate.  I seek to be a person so thankful for being embraced by the Lord that I am eager to embrace all others.

In this scene of a descending dove and an embracing voice, we witness the flow from repentance to celebration.  In our willingness to changed we in turn are transformed.  In our kneeling in humility we in turn are lifted to our feet.  In our willingness to come to the waters, in turn the doves of peace come upon us.

While the world wages wars of threats and fears, in Christ we can actually hear the distant cooing of doves and the whispering of Hope.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE SIN OF MAKING ENEMIES

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, February 25, 2019

cHRIST AND dISCIPLES

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in Your Name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”  “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.  – Mark: 9:38-40

The zealous disciples of Christ made an error of judgment, partly out of zeal, partly out the sinful instinct to try to control others.  Immediately, and I sense rather sternly, Christ corrected them.  “For whoever is not against is for us.” (I am working through more people than only you!) (my personal gloss to the text)

Christian history is scarred by the pattern of those once declared as “heretics”, in time, then declare others as “heretics”.  Heretics are those who are out-of-step with the declared orthodoxy of a certain group in a certain time.  Yet certain heretics have proven to be a prophetic voice over time, and other heretics have grown silent over time.

I believe our sinful nature likes to judge and condemn people who in some way we find different from ourselves.  I also believe our sinful nature, when given power, likes to control the thinking of others whom we perceive to be a threat to our traditional way.  And further, I also believe our sinful nature likes to from tribes, our tribe the righteous tribe, the other tribes, the enemies.

Christ did not abandon the “us” He shared with His disciples.  Yet … He gave grace and tolerance to “them” who also worked in the spirit of Christ.  It is as if Christ were saying … “My disciples, there will be enemies who will persecute us … let us not make enemies of those who seek to be our friends.”

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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