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

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

THE GIFT OF A SPIRITUAL IMAGINATION

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Sunday, February 24, 2019

cHRIST AND TWO MEN

After this Christ appeared in another form to two disciples, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. – Mark 16:12-13

I can imagine no greater frustration than to share what you “know” to be true and still no one believes you.  I have experienced that frustration, and possibly have experienced it as well.

I often speak of a mystical moment in my life when in the depths of darkness, physical and emotional, I came upon fireflies and those fireflies became as “angels to me”.  One time when I shared that experience a rather cynical fellow retorted …”They were nothing more than fireflies.  All of the rest was in your mind’s imagination.”   Of course, he was objectively correct, but yet, spiritually, mystically, he could find no reason to believe me.  Only those who know about the reality of spiritual experiences could ever believe what I offered to be true.

I hear the “laughter” of a flowing river.  But those souls not willing to listen in poetic ways … they only hear the ripples over the river rocks.

I see the “aura of glory” in the face of some people.  But those souls unable to perceive the “glow” of a person’s personality … at best, they can see only a smile.

I feel the breezes that blow in “from heaven”.  But those souls who are reluctant to even consider the presence of the heavenly dimension in the experience of life can only take note of the wind.

I often speak of such spiritual experiences and there are many who find them hard to believe.  It can be frustrating … but I do not understand … there are those who are unable or unwilling to behold what at first is unseen.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WHILE MANY WEPT, OTHERS TAUNTED

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Saturday, February 23, 2019

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified Jesus.  The inscription of the charge against Him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with Him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by mocked Him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking Him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with Him also taunted Him. – Mark 15:25-32

The Gospel of Mark makes no mention of the repentance of one of the thieves, instead notes that the two bandits also taunted Christ.  It is a theme in Mark’s Passion Story … this mocking, this deriding, this taunting of Christ.  It is as if the mockery was even more painful than this cruel means of execution, a form that was savage for the purpose of deterrence.

Yet the tone of the taunting has within it, at least to my ears, the disdain that follows a disappointment.  This Jesus made such bold claims about saving the nation, yet now, this rabbi, this would-be messiah, could not even save Himself.  “Pitiful, so downright pitiful, this man who got our hopes up only to let us all down!”  So some of the mockers must have thought.  “Boasting that Herod’s Temple and its leadership would be brought down into ruins,” yet there He is, nailed to a cross.  “Some victory over the Romans!”

priest mocking christ“Only Time will tell” is the saying … only time will tell.  And this saying would prove true in the case of this seemingly defeated messiah.  The mockers, if they would live long enough, would see the Temple left in ruins, the Romans withdrawing their troops, and the rise of a new way of understanding the working of God, Christianity.  Only Time will tell … and in Time it confirmed.

I find mockery a form of assault against which few laws are written.  Mocking others is a socially permitted cruelty, a belittling of another, yet, becomes also a belittling of one’s own self.  I can’t recall Christ ever mocking anyone.  Confronting them, yes.  Challenging them, yes.  But mocking, I can’t think of a single occurrence.  So when I witness Christians entering into the mockery of another person … the spirit of Christ seems faint and shamed within them.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SOMETHING EVIL ABOUT MOCKERY

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Friday, February 22, 2019

jESUS MOCKED

 

Then the soldiers led Jesus into the courtyard of the palace; and they called together all the soldiers there.   The soldiers then clothed Him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns to make a crown, they placed it on His head.  And they began saluting Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck His head with a reed, spat upon Him, and knelt down in homage to Him. After mocking Him, they stripped Him of that purple cloak and gave Him back His clothes. Then they led Him out to crucify Him.          – Mark 15:16-20

Mockery.  One could call it the lashing of a person’s dignity.  I have to believe that those sharp thorns were painful.  Certainly the whips lefts their marks on His back.  The nails that would be soon cruelly driven into his hands and feet would prove excruciating.  But what about that mocking by the Roman soldiers?  Did Jesus’ heart suffer when He was mocked?

I know when people have mocked me, it felt like thorns jabbed into my tender spirit.  There was always anguish in the moment and over and over in the memories of that moment.  It always felt cruel … but again I am a rather sensitive soul, maybe even too sensitive.  I imagine Christ having a tenderness of heart … But then again … the mocking of my own soul wounded first my pride and my ego, and I sense Christ was a man accustomed to humility and a man whose ego was of no concern.   Yet … the mockery of Christ was painful, the pain that comes in experiences of disappointment.

Why do people mock other people?  Many people try to aggrandize themselves by belittling the vulnerable.  Many people so want to be accepted by a group that they yield to a mob mentality.  Many people, almost if by instinct, like to rid their tribe of those who are different.  Many people simply have a stunted or deadened sense of empathy.

The story of the Passion of Christ includes that mocking by the soldiers, and I believe for reason of insight into the nature of humanity.  Our sinful nature likes to ridicule others for it somehow makes us feel powerful over the vulnerable and strengthens our bonds with the like-minded crowd.

Loved Ones, mockery, no matter how subtly executed, is not found in the quality of spirit as found in Christ.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

POLITICAL TREACHERY IN THE NAME OF GOD

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Thursday, February 21, 2019

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led Him away, and handed Him over to Pilate.  Pilate asked Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “It is you say so.” Then the chief priests accused Him of many things. Pilate asked Him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. – Mark 15:1-5

cHRIST BEFOROE PILATEI can understand the attitude of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.  By his training and the demands of keeping an unruly people in law-and-order, You would expect Pilate to be rather ruthless and pragmatic in his conduct of his authority.  But the chief priest,  the elders and the scribes … these were devout men who knew will the scriptures, clergy, preachers, teachers of the Holy Way … and yet they schemed, plotted, brought false witness, sought the justice of the political power to do injustice.  These were the supposedly holy ones yet in concert they conspired to execute Christ out of ignorance and fear.  How could such deeply devoted men … deceive themselves into thinking their treachery was for the cause of God?

In midst of the interrogation of Jesus by Pilate is a rather strange reaction on the part of the Inquisitor.  Jesus offers no defense as to the charges brought against him by the chief priests, the elders and the scribes … and Mark notes … “that Pilate was amazed.”

Why was Pilate “amazed”?  Intriguing.  Was he amazed at the stoic response of Christ?  Was he amazed that Christ by His silence proved a higher dignity than his accusers?  Was he amazed that He and Christ both knew that this was all but a political farce but still with a sense of a certain unspoken destiny?

Loved Ones, many evil and tragic things have been done in the name of God … but they ought not blind us to the nobility of the innocent doves who truly live out the spirit of the Lord.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TRAGIC MISCALCULATION

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

Wednesday, February 20, 2019jUDAS AND SILVER

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to turn over to them, Jesus of Nazareth. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray Him. – Mark 14:10-11

I often wonder about both the motivation of Judas and the destiny of Judas.  Why did he do it, for what reason?  What would have ever become of Judas if he had not taken his own life out of remorse?  The gospel writers each make their case in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, but I think it was by way of tragic miscalculation and lack of a fuller understanding.

Maybe in the life-to-come Judas’ mindset will become known to us … and then again … it may have all been forgotten.   I have chosen to forgive Judas for he surely was numbered among those to whom Christ offered mercy …”forgive them, Father, for they known not what they do”.

The tragic story of Judas ought to be a word of caution to us all.  I am and most probably you as well are capable of making tragic miscalculations.  We think we know what the Lord would want us to do … most often, we discern correctly, but sometimes we discern incorrectly.  But pride, arrogance, our human hubris that we surely know better than others know … causes us to blind ourselves with the flash of the cannon fire of our zeal.

And I wonder what Judas thought of the actions and attitudes of the other eleven disciples.  Did he think them weak?  Did he think they were unwilling to do what must be done?  Did he think they were paralyzed out of fear?  Did he think they were so cautious to the brink of cowardice?

Loved Ones, we lack the humility to pause to consider … have I tragically miscalculated?  Our mortal zeal does always require the wisdom of a sabbath’s pause.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment