AGAIN, I SAY “REJOICE!”

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, January 7, 2019

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

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

rejoicing

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

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

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

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

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

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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ON THE FRONTIERS OF FAITH

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Paul writes …“Not that I have already obtained oneness with Christ or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14

Christianity is neither a way of belief that is frozen in time nor a way of belief that is lost in the past, but rather is a forward-looking journey into the future by way of faithfulness in the Present Moment.

weaver at loomThe Christian Way is a creative way of life.  The Church, though we are often tempted to make it so, is not a museum but more like an artist’s studio.  Like a weaver at a loom, the Church weaves eternity, each day a passing of the shuttle through the threads.  Day after day, we weave a tapestry that one day in the future we will finally behold in its fulfillment.

The Christian Way is a visionary way of life.  Though the Church has its recollections, its living vibrancy is found in its dreams and visions.  We are dreamers of what could be; we are envision-ers of what will be.  It is the spirit of the prophets to interpret the present times in light of what will come to be.  It is not a yearning for what was, but rather a yearning for what could yet be.

The Christian Way is an unfolding way of life.  The Church is part of the unfolding Creation.  Through the ages of Time we can see that Creation was not a static event but rather a dynamic event.  Creation included within itself this yet unrealized potential that would slowly progress through Time until its ultimate fulfillment.  The Church thus has as its work not the preservation of the past whenever that “sacred past” might have been, but rather the work of blazing the trail into the frontiers of the unfolding future.

We indeed press on toward the goal for the prize of a heavenly, beckoning, guiding, inspiring call.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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WHATEVER BECAME OF INNOCENCE AND PURITY

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, January 4, 2019

To the Church members at Philippi, Paul writes … Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. – Philippians 2:14-16a

purity swan

Purity of soul is much more than the vehement keeping of a few selected rules … it is a quality of spirit, a quality of thought, a quality of intention, and a quality of Love.

Being blameless of life is not a matter of what one can get away with and still be “legal” … it is the fulfillment of both the human and the Divine within our living, a fulfilment of God’s hope in our Creation, a fulfillment of our love become more and more a More Perfect Love, a fulfillment of the Christ born within growing into full maturity.

I find that in the processes of religious zealotry, innocence and purity are not often considered, eventually cast aside as unnecessary.  In our obsession with the crusade, we slowly begin to rationalize our methods and means as being subservient to our ends.  If not vigilantly mindful, we allow our “cause” to demonize the quality of spirit where innocence and purity are found.  In his temptation of Christ, the Deceiver sought to lure Christ away with visions of power and success … but Christ not willing to sacrifice the innocence of His ways and the purity of His motives, declined such mortal enticement.

Of late, my Loved Ones, there has risen a form of Christianity that rationalizes away the need for innocence and the need for purity by way of a self-indulgent disrespect of God’s great mercy.  In our wallowing in self-righteousness without any need for confession and repentance, we allow the ways of the world to become our own endorsed ways of the Realm of God.

Too often we become mean-spirited , insensitive, disrespectful, victory-at-all-cost people, possibly viewed as “successful” rather than “blameless and pure”.

Loved Ones, do not slaughter the innocence of the Priest-King Herod once did, do not neglect the purity as Judas Iscariot once did.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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WE ARE NOT PAMPERED PRINCES AND PRINCESSES

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, January 3, 2018

Paul writes … “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! – Philippians 2:5-8

POOR WIDOWToo often in today’s Consumer-Christianity, I observe preachers peddling an enticing gospel, one that views Christians more as pampered princes and princesses than as humble servants.  Within their holy sounding words is  sanctified arrogance and a glorified self-indulgence.  And when I witness this consumer-ization of the Christian Way, I weep at how far distant it is from the genesis of Christianity.

At the heart of the Christian Way is a self-giving Love, a Love that is willing to sacrifice all for the sake of those who are beloved.  At the heart of the Christian Way is a sharing of God’s blessings with others, the mercy, the grace, even the material blessings of Providence.  At the heart of the Christian Way is a humility that does not seek to control others but rather to serve others.  The Christian Way is about sharing one’s basket of bread with the crowds; the Christian Way is about washing the feet of the road-worn and weary; the Christian Way is about giving of self and the Christ within one’s self.

I believe the life of holy devotion is set plainly before us when He spoke about a widow who gave her two small coins, all she had to live on, while the rich gave only from the excess of their wealth.  The life of holy devotion is as a poor woman giving her last two coins.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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HAVE WE FORGOTTEN HUMILITY?

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Paul writes to the Christians in Philippi …“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:1-4

HUMIITY

From the very beginning of Christianity, humility and unselfish service has been at the heart of the Christian ethos.  Yet, throughout the generations that followed, in our past and in our present moment, a share of Christianity has forgotten or given mere lip-service to this essential aspect of the Christian quality of spirit.

Oh, we deny it, but our souls still often blush with the reality that we too often allow selfish ambition and self-centered glory to become intertwined with our devotion to Christ.  From the “prosperity gospel” to books emblazoned with our own portraits, we succumb to the temptation of selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-glorification.  Too many of us are attracted to be a part of the “bigger and brighter”.   Too many of us are attracted to more popular and trendier.  Too many of us are more in tune with “success” than with “humble devotion”.

Higher values of community, harmony, peace-making are made the lesser so that self-righteousness holier-than-thou, righter-than-thou, and zealotry might take center stage.  And when pride and arrogance enter into the soul of Christianity the very essence of the Christian ethos fades away.

Loved Ones, do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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IN SPITE OF THE MORTAL MESSENGERS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, December 31, 2018

Paul writes … “Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment.  What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.”              – Philippians 1:15-18

cHRIST portraitThe Good News, the story of Christ and the legacy of His words, this intention and invitation of God, has power in itself in spite of and overcoming the ill-intention of the proclaimer.  The clearer message, of course, comes through the voices of those with purer motive … but even the those who do so with selfish, self-centered envy and rivalry cannot silent the message of Christ.

Paul writes with remarkable and gracious tolerance.  Though he fully understands how an ill-motived heart can tarnish the message, still he has confidence in the Higher Power of Christ to shine through the tarnish.  And I join him in believing in focusing on the person of Christ, His words and His mission, His dreams and His vision, His example and His ongoing Presence.  Christ cannot be refuted by the sins of those who speak of Him.  They can be wrong in their interpretation, but Christ Himself can never be wrong; they can be wrong in their implementation, but the ways of Christ can never be wrong.

Christ above all!  This I do believe … even though such messengers as Paul and I are but mortal servants.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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A MATURING OF HEART AND MIND

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, December 28, 2018

Apostle PaulPaul writes … “And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” – Philippians 1:9-11

Throughout Christian history there have been those who have proposed emotionalism as the “true” faith and others who have proposed scholasticism as the “true” faith.  Emotionalism in its many expressions was overflowing with heart and enthusiasm but rather meager with mind and depth of thought.  Scholasticism in its many expressions was rigorous with reason and rigorous thought but rather lacking in warmth and passion.  To the maturing community of Christians in the church at Philippi, Paul writes of the more fruitful balance … a faith overflowing with love and charity yet rich in knowledge and maturing insight.

Emotionalism is vulnerable to manipulation by the fear mongers and panderers of rage.  Emotionalism is vulnerable to easy answers and conjured delusions.  Emotionalism is vulnerable to mass hysteria and mesmerizing snake oil peddlers.  Emotionalism is vulnerable to the influence of the wild-eyed “Rasputins” who preach at the edge of madness.

Scholasticism is vulnerable to the limitations of logic and cold rationality.  Scholasticism is vulnerable to skeptics and rationalizations.  Scholasticism is vulnerable to the temptation to dwell in ivory towers and cold calculation.  Scholasticism is vulnerable to the clever deception and the faulty premise.  Scholasticism is vulnerable to arrogance of presumption and intellectualism.

Paul in his own maturing appreciates more and more the absolute necessity of both heart and mind.  He understands that a mature faith is in need of deeper thought than mere parroted buzzwords.  He understood that a mature faith is in need of  a deeper compassion than intricate explanations.

Loved Ones, our faith journey is both a gaining of wise discernment and a gaining of a more Perfect Love.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

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FAITH MUST MATURE

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

I, Paul, thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:3-6

In my tradition, I was taught about the problem of backsliding, the deterioration of one’s faith by the retreat into former ways.  But now, I believe the more common problem among Christians is stagnation, the reluctance to move forward, to advance, to mature in one’s faith.  Where many are concerned about people abandoning the faith by the side of the road, I am more concerned about people imprisoning the faith in some time in the past.

Paul, speaking to a Church that was vibrant in the living faith, encourages them that they will continue to move forward, to advance, and to mature in the faith.  He speaks of a living faith continually being formed by the spirit involved in human endeavor.  He speaks of a living faith that has yet to reach its full maturity.  He speaks of a living faith that is at no time chiseled into stone tablets but is still being written in the journals of the voyageurs to that future point in the fullness of Time when Christ does return.

No, according to Paul, salvation is not something that happened in some moment in the past, but is something forming as we continue to be faithful through time.  Salvation first begins and then is ultimately fulfilled.  A spiritual journey always contains its beginning and its ending and the pathway that leads from the former to the latter.  Faith is in this way … something that is formed by our faithfulness through time.

The New Realm of God is not a transformation that once took place in the birth, teaching, death, and resurrection of Christ but rather is an ongoing process, an advancing Realm, a maturing understanding.  To imprison our understanding in our former understandings is to mummify the living faith, to suffocate the Breath of God, to silence the Voice of the Lord, to turn Christ and the disciples into statuary.

DISCIPLE STATUES

And so, with Brother Paul, I say to you … I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

 

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THE MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE OF CHRISTMAS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, December 1, 2018

mARY AND aNGEL

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be known as the Son of God.”– Luke 1:34-35

I choose to not speak of the mystical birth of Christ, the mystical coming together of realms human and Divine, but of the experience described here by the angel. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow.”  From one perspective this speaks of the activity of God; but from another perspective this speaks of the human experience of God.

We do go out and “get” the Holy Spirit, rather the Holy Spirit comes to us and if we allow ourselves to experience this nearing of God, the Holy Spirit enters into us.  Though many people speak of dramatic happenings when the Spirit comes upon them, I have found that among the saints of history, the human experience is one of profound Wonder and a sense of inner transformation.  The imagery of a woman experiencing the awareness of her being with a child forming within her speaks of this Christmas experience of having the Holy Spirit come upon you in a most intimate way.  It speaks of the Wonder in experiencing the power of Life-Creation taking place within one’s own life, a creation of a human child of God.

When the Christian faith becomes a code of laws and rules, when the Christian faith becomes a battle over doctrine, it loses this experience of Wonder, this Christmas Wonder, this Christmas Wonder of the human and the Divine mutually creating New Life.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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CHRISTMAS IS FILLED WITH LULLABIES

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, November 30, 2018

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord. – Luke 1:41-45

mARY AND eLIZABETH

Two unborn children stir within two hopeful mothers, mothers who were both kin and kindred spirits.  I believe both Mary and her cousin Elizabeth were women of faith and that faith was centered on hope.   They lived with a faith that promises would become fulfilled.  They lived with a faith that though long-delayed God would come to the aid of their nation, saving them from the heavy boots and sharp swords of the Romans.

Yes, I believe both mothers, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, reared and nurtured their sons in the spirit of Hope, anticipation of a new era dawning and a new realm forming.  John and Jesus, I believe now more than I ever did before, were deeply influenced by the quality of faith so abundant in their mothers.

Luke, the compiler of this Gospel, a man who was deeply influenced by the faith of his own mother, took much time in detailing this story of Mary and Elizabeth.  Possibly, he was keenly aware of the life-changing grace received in the embrace of maternal love.

Yes, more and more I cherish that quality of Divine Love expressed through feminine sensibilities.  Maybe that is why Christmas is so filled with gentle lullabies.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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