IN A CULTURE OF CONJURED FEARS

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, November 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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JUSTICE AND MERCY

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, November 8, 2018

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

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

JUSTICE AND MERCY

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

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

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

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

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

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE RELIGIOUS LOVERS OF MONEY

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

love of moneyNo servant can serve two masters; for a servant will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Money. The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him.  So He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.”                    – Luke 16:13-15

The lovers of money … the religious party, the Pharisees, a conservative voice in the time of Christ, a movement that called the people to the legalism of the past, a Jewish movement that had gained much power in the land … Christ notes that they were also lovers of money.

The accumulation of wealth comes with a cost.  Wealth-gathering has its own rules and its own demands, its own priorities and its own values.   Wealth-gathering entices with the delusion that once gained all will be well.  Once wealthy one can then sleep in peace, one will be then satisfied and fulfilled, one will then have no worries or anxieties, one will then be free.  But alas, it is a false promise … and once one has lived a life in service to the god of money, one can take stock of all that was lost in the process.

The sad foolishness of the Pharisees is in believing that the love of money and the love of God can co-exist in the life of holiness.  They had come to believe that a holy life can be defined on one’s own terms of self-interest.  As long as I do this ritual or that ritual, as long as I believe this doctrine or that doctrine, as long as I keep this rule or that rule of my own choice, as long as I do not commit this sin or that sin but neglect the sinfulness within my own life … then I can fill my own barns with more than enough while neglecting to share with those in need, I can be found to be living the holy life.  But the holiness of the More Perfect Love is not found in such ways of a divided heart.  The holy life is wholly devoted to the wishes and ways of God, wishes and ways that begin in a purity of heart.

To live humbly in the midst of the community,  to live simply thus enabling generosity,  to live in desire for the treasures of heaven and not those of the earth, this is to serve the Lord with total, undivided devotion.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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THE MATTER OF LAYING DOWN OF ONE’S LIFE OR EVEN ITS PARTS

DAILY  DEVOTIONAL

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Christ and Peter keys

Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.”  Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.” – John 13:36-38

To lay down one’s life for the sake of one loved.  I would certainly do so for the sake of my wife and children.  I think I would do so for the sake of an innocent one under attack.  But how many more?  I confess probably less than I would hope, yet Christ did it for all our sakes.

But I sense that Christ was challenging Peter to lay down less dramatic aspect of his life.  I suspect tucked within that question were matters such as … will you lay down your pride for my sake?  Or … will you lay down your arrogance for my sake?  Or … will you sacrifice your livelihood as a fisherman for my sake?  And then by extension to each of us … will you lay down your life’s prejudices and preconceived notions for my sake?  Will you lay down your worldly ambitions for well and prestige for my sake?  Will you lay down your judgmental attitudes and your self-defined righteousness for my sake?  Will you lay down your reluctance to serve and your resistance to transformation for my sake?  Will you lay down your hatred and indifference for my sake?  Will you lay down your loyalties to worldly powers and to worldly ideologies for my sake?

Like Peter, we are mortal.   But also like Peter, we can recover to be about the work of sacrificial love for the sake of Christ and those whom He loved.  We must remember that on that night in Jerusalem Peter denied knowing Christ three times for fear of losing his life.  Yet … there would come a day … when Peter did exactly that … He gave His life in His work of Holy Love.

Now and then, when in the midst of serious self-examen I picture Christ looking to my eyes and asking that question He asked of Peter …”Fr. Charitas, will you lay down your life for my sake?  Will you lay down certain aspects of your life for me?”

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

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The Scattering of Stumbling Blocks

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Monday, November 5, 2018

Then Jesus continued, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes! – Matthew 18:6-7

stumbling block

A stumbling block is an obstacle to progress or an impediment to belief or understanding. (Merriam-Webster dictionary)

A millstone is either of two stones for grinding something; a heavy burden. (Merriam-Webster dictionary)

As a Pastor I was always mindful of not being a stumbling block, at first out of not wanting to wear that millstone around me neck, but eventually out of compassion and conscience.  I never wanted to be an obstacle for another’s progress in their faith’s maturation or the cause of their limiting their understanding of matters spiritual.  And now, in these December years of my life … I am mindful all the more.

I pray daily for the Lord’s assistance that my behavior, my attitudes, my actions do not tarnish the character of Christ and Christ’s Way.  I pray daily for the Lord’s assistance that I build fences that limit the possibilities the Lord has for their lives.  I pray daily for the Lord’s assistance that I might be a pilgrim clearing the stones on the path so that those who follow might not stumble near so much as I have.

But I do have deep concern about how many Christians, by their attitudes, their words, their actions, their uncleansed prejudices, their beliefs that are alloyed with worldly perspectives, scatterers of stumbling blocks to the young ones who have not yet traveled this far.  I have a compassionate concern for these careless, bigoted people, these hypocrites who fail to recognize their own hypocrisy, these wolves in sheep’s clothing, these shadowed soul in who the light of God penetrated into the attics and closets of their souls, for the burden they take upon themselves is as heavy as a massive millstone.

Loved Ones, be mindful of the stumbling blocks you might unintentionally leave in the wake of your journey.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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THE SUBTLE EVIL OF RATIONALIZATION

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Then Christ said to the Pharisees and scribes, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to Go)—  then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother,  thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.” – Mark 7:9-13

The unholy “holy” sin of rationalizing God’s command to serve one’s own intents and purposes, this seems to be a vulnerability of religious communities.  Especially when among religious leaders, yet everywhere present, this transforming God’s desire into a worldly, selfish, often subtly form of an evil that confounds the wishes and ways of God.

wolf sheep

Lurking within all human nature is the shadowy intent.  Yet within all human nature there is that capacity for moral conscience.  So what is the tempting recourse this conflict within us must take?  Rationalization.  We torture the desire of God until it seems to yield to our mortal desires.  It is an aspect of the Deceiver’s course, to enable us to deceive ourselves.  We do it through denial.  We do it through self-delusion.  We do it through a cleverness which is devoid of wisdom.  We do it through self-defined righteousness that self-justifies our hypocrisy.  And I must add … we do it through using righteous causes to hide our unrighteous motives.

I speak not of a Biblical literalism that in itself is often used as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but rather a humble, stark honesty with God.  It is in an ongoing life of confession that seeks purity of motive and means.  It is in a continual beholding of the person of Christ so that we not allow ourselves to wander to far away from the incarnational model of Divine expressed through human form and the human endowed with Divine Presence.  It is a coming clean, a sacrifice of the false and sinful self in hope of maturing one’s true and holy self.

The Pharisees and the Temple authorities at the time of Christ were masters of self-serving tradition couched in clever doctrine.  Yes, doctrine is a most common form of “tradition” that can often be used to confound the intents and purposes of God.  They did it then, we do it now.  My Loved Ones, “traditions” if left unchallenged can slowly corrode into something more of Man than of God.

Be honest with yourself; be honest with God; be honest with others.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

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IN THE READING FROM A SCROLL

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, November 3, 2018

When Jesus came to his hometown of Nazareth,  He went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was His custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” – Luke 4:16-21

cHRIST READING FROM SCROLL

One of those most dramatic moments in the Gospel story … Christ’s accepting the call of Isaiah.  He is given the scroll by the keeper of the scrolls; He unrolls the scroll; He picks up the pointer known as the “yad”; and reads the prophetic words of Isaiah.  And when the hush is at its climax Christ announces … “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

I personally believe we would have a truer understanding of scripture if they still were written on scrolls rather than compiled in one book as most of us have today.  I think we would cherish how each scroll was entity in itself.  Each scroll containing the words of a uniquely inspired writer.  Each scroll speaking in the context of a specific time.  Each scroll with its blend of that author and the Lord.  Each scroll  a message in itself.

I believe Christ also by his own words and example teaches us about the full process of inspiration.  The words are written by one who listens for the voice of the Lord.  The words are read by one who seeks to bring those words back to life.  The words are heard and taken to heart by those who listen to those words as they come alive once again.  The full inspiration is much more than the ink on the paper sitting on a shelf.  It is the flow of the one who first listened who then placed ink on parchment leading to the bringing back to life that voice in its later oral reading which is then heard by yet another listener.

And when the community of God’s people come to believe the words such as the words of the prophet Isaiah, those words they are coming into their fulfillment right there in the midst of the people in the mystery of that Moment.

But alas … too many places have lost the drama of the bringing to life the words on a scroll.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

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THIS NEW WAY OF LIFE

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DAILY DEVOTIONAL Friday, November 2, 2018 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed … Continue reading

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DO YOU WANT TO WALK AWAY AS WELL?

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DAILY DEVOTIONAL Thursday, November 1, 2018 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend … Continue reading

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KEEP THE MOST IMPORTANT, THE MOST IMPORTANT

 

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Then Jesus continued, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. – Luke 11: 42

Among the woes Christ lists about the Pharisees’ version of living the holy life is this concern … You make such a fuss about the rules for tithing … yet, you neglect the far more important matters of treating others justly and expressing the Love of God.

Jesus and the Judging Pharisees

Even today in the guise of crusade for the cause or moral indignation over this or that … we neglect in the blindness and narrow focus of such zealotry the far more important matters of treating others justly and expressing the Love of God.  It is the sin of the sanctimonious, the spiritually unbalanced, and the indoctrinated.  It is a sin of greater weight for it is done in the name of God.

So often, over and over again throughout Christian history, Christians we ourselves become sinful in the ridding the world of the sin in other people.  When we ought to have been confessing and repenting, we instead went about condemning with supposedly holy wrath.  And the more passionate our zealous cause, the more and more we neglect the quality of spirit found in the humbly just and the mercifully loving.

Woe to the Pharisees and woe to those fall into the delusional holiness of the Pharisees.

Focus on the matters of universal justice and Divine Love.

Always in Chris’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

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