A Reminder of Who We Are Called to Be

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Daily Reflection – 9/17/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3)

Reflection

Today’s scripture is a snapshot of the daily life of Jesus Christ.  Going from town-to-town healing and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.

Accompanying him were a number of women. Here only 3 were named. All of the women were the caretakers of the small group surrounding Jesus. They assured that the group travelled relatively free of material needs and their compassion inspired the group.

The three women named were as disparate as could be. Mary Magdalene had lived a troubled life but she was privileged to see Jesus as the risen lord. Joanna was the wife of King Herod’s chief financial officer (if you will). Under ordinary circumstances, they would never have met one another. But they and the other women were united in a bond of friendship, service, and loyalty to Jesus.

 It was Jesus and his message of the kingdom of God that had transformed these women. Unlike the apostles, who took great pride in being the chosen twelve, these women did not seek position or demand special privileges. Jesus had touched them so deeply that they were grateful to be of service. They brought their gifts and resources to Jesus to use as he saw fit.

They came to serve just as Jesus did.

What about us? Isn’t there a message for us? It begins with recognizing that each of us had something to contribute. Each of us has a place at the Lord’s table. Each of us is loved by God. It does not matter from whence we came. It does not matter what our economic or social status was or is. We are called as we are to serve him by proclaiming his good news. We are called to recognize the common bind of his love. We are called to live his love and, in so doing, to honor his life and his death for us.

But too often we let the news of the day and the latest falsehood or conspiracy taint our thoughts and actions. Suddenly instead of being united by his love, we look for the divisions that set us apart. Instead of a language of love prompted by him who was love, we resort to crude incivility. Words are used to divide us. To cheapen us. To call out to the dark spots in our lives. To invite evil in where only love and goodness should prevail.

The measure of the authenticity of our love is measured by the kindness of our life. Where sadness prevails, we are called to bring joy. Where pain is dominant, we are asked to bring the salve to deaden the pain. Where coarse words become part of our daily existence, we are asked to rise above them, to call them out as divisive, to replace them with words of acceptance, respect and love.

We are called as we are to be more than we are.

Our privilege as children of God and disciples of Jesus is to serve as Jesus served with humility, selfless love, generosity, joy, and a willingness to do whatever God asks of us. God, in his turn, gives us every good gift and grace we need to carry out our task and mission.

God in his infinite power needs no one, but in his wisdom and love, he chooses to entrust his work through each one of us. His Holy Spirit equips us with all that we need to love and serve others. No one is unimportant or unnecessary in God’s economy. The least in his kingdom find a home and a mission at Jesus’ side. Do you know the joy of serving Jesus in company with others who love and serve him willingly?

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, set my heart on fire for you that I may give freely of the gifts, talents, and resources you give me, for your sake and for the work of the Gospel.”

Daily Note

Are you more like the status-conscious apostles who were concerned for their position, or like the women who were content to serve Jesus quietly and generously with their personal resources? In our fallen state, our natural tendency is to want to be served and placed first and to avoid giving too much of ourselves to the service of others. And besides, who really prefers to take the lowly place of a servant who puts the needs of others before their own needs? Jesus is our best example who “came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom” for us (Matthew 20:28). The Gospel honors these women who imitated Jesus in his selfless sacrificial love and humble service.

Still Clinging To Darkness?

Luke 7:36 – 8:16 – Oceanview Baptist Church
Daily Reflection – 9/16/2021

Sacred Scripture

A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?” Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”( Luke 7:36-50)

Reflection

In today’s scripture, Jesus showered an abundance of grace on both the sinful woman and the graceless host. Instead of condemning the woman, he told her that her faith had saved her and that she could go in peace.

Instead of condemning Simon for his faults, Jesus answered his unspoken criticism with a question. When Jesus told the tale of two debtors, forgiven for two very different-sized debts, he asked which debtor would be the most grateful. Simon’s response showed that he clearly understood Jesus’s meaning. Jesus had given Simon a chance to reflect on and repent of his cold, judgmental attitudes.

In truth, we all need to reflect on our sinfulness because it is only recognizing our sin that we come to realize how much the love of Jesus and his unfailing forgiveness means in our life.

But too often we hold on to our own darkness.

Perhaps we have been hurt. Someone has treated us poorly or betrayed us, and we cannot bring ourselves to forgive that person. Every time we think of him or her, our stomach churns and our anger rises. We know that holding on to that hurt will lessen our lives. Yet we do not let it go. We choose anger and hurt over freedom. 

We all have areas of darkness. Yet we keep clinging to what hurts us. The path to our loving and forgiving Gpd is to leave the darkness, not by focusing on the darkness but by focusing on a truth.  The truth on which we focus depends upon the darkness in which we find ourselves.

If we are unable to forgive, the truth on which we should focus is our own imperfection. Have others hurt us? Yes. Was that wrong? Certainly. But, we ourselves are not perfect. We ourselves have hurt others, and we ourselves must depend upon their forgiveness and God’s forgiveness. When we can claim the truth of our own imperfection and our dependence upon the forgiveness of others, it can free us to forgive and to leave the darkness behind.

When we accept the truth of our own imperfection, we can forgive. When we accept the truth of our own value, we can leave destructive relationships behind. When we accept the truth of how blessed we are, we can come to find joy in our lives. Now of course, it is not always easy to face the truth and enter the light. But is well worth the effort. If we do not choose to enter the light, our only other option is to remain in the darkness.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, your grace is sufficient for me. Fill my heart with love and gratitude for the mercy you have shown to me and give me joy and freedom to love and serve others with kindness and respect.”

Daily Note

The stark contrast of attitudes between Simon and the woman of ill-repute demonstrates how we can either accept or reject God’s mercy and forgiveness. Simon, who regarded himself as an upright Pharisee, did not feel any particular need for pardon and mercy. His self-sufficiency kept him from acknowledging his need for God’s grace – his gracious gift of favor, help, and mercy. Are you grateful for God’s mercy and pardon?

His Love Binds Us As Family

Lorence Hud on Twitter: "R.T.G. you misuse the Bible by trying to imply  that it is vain to pray for #Justice and protect my #Mom Jesus protected  His mother with His Final
Daily Reflection – 9/15/2021

Sacred Scripture

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)

Reflection

We Christians grieve differently than the rest because we grieve with hope. We see that in this poignant scene at the foot of the cross.

The cross brings us face to face with Jesus’ suffering. He was alone. All his disciples had deserted him except for his mother and three women along with John, the beloved disciple. The apostles had fled in fear. But Mary, the mother of Jesus and three other women who loved him were present at the cross. They demonstrate the power of love for overcoming fear (1 John 4:18).

Mary did not despair in her sorrow and loss, since her faith and hope were sustained by her trust in God and the love she had for her Son. Jesus hanging on the cross, in the final moments of his mortal death, consoles the few standing there and entrusts them to one another.

The mystery at the heart of the gospel is that through Christ we participate in the intimate union of love that exists between the Father and the Son.  This is the good news.  This is what we must hear and believe in above all else. 

 Why is it so important to hear it, to listen to it? 

 Because the minute we forget our status as beloved daughters and sons of God, the Good News evaporates.  The minute that we begin to substitute some other identity in place of our identity as beloved children of God, the Gospel vanishes.  I can testify that from the experience of over 45 years of ministry, there is no more common or fatal mistake made by Christians than to forget this basic identity.

When we ignore our status as beloved daughters and sons and begin to see ourselves primarily as sinners, as victims, as unlovable, as flawed, as unworthy, the power of the gospel is lost to us.  Do we sin?  Are we flawed?  Is there a real sense that we are unworthy of the tremendous love that God showers on us?  Of course.  But despite all of those flaws, we remain chosen and beloved children of God.  It is only by claiming our true identity that we find the power to turn away from sin, the power to heal our hurts, the power to claim the dignity that God has so freely given us.

God never forgets that we are beloved daughters and sons.  For all of our faults and all of our failings, God continues to look at us with love.  This is what we must listen to.  This is what we must never forget.

 So when you become discouraged, when you find yourselves losing hope because of your faults, because of your inability to be as patient or as generous as you would like, because of your inclination to be judgmental of others, remember: God loves you with the same love that God loves Jesus.  When things are going wrong, when you cannot find a way out, when you are beginning to think that God is punishing you, remember: God is not about punishing you.  God is about loving you with a love that never ends.  When you become overwhelmed with grief, with sickness, with an emptiness that will not let you go, remember: God’s love for you is everlasting.

You are not one among many people.  Your dreams and your needs are always before God’s face.  Jesus himself assures you, “You are God’s favored daughter.  You are God’s beloved son.” Listen to him.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus Christ, by your death on the cross you have won pardon for us and freedom from the tyranny of sin and death. May I live in the joy and freedom of your victory over sin, condemnation, and death. May I live my life remembering how much you love me.”

Daily Note

Jesus, in his grief and suffering, did not forget his mother. He entrusted her care to John, as well as John to her. No loss, no suffering can keep us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39). Paul the Apostle says that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:3). We can find no greater proof of God’s love for us than the willing sacrifice of his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, on the cross. Do you know the love that enables you to bear your cross and to endure trial and difficulties with faith and hope in God?

The Sheer Joy of The Cross

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Daily Reflection – 9/14/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.( John 3:13-17)

Reflection

John 3:16 is arguably one of the best known and most often quoted verses in all of the Bible. This verse is so beloved because it is the core of our faith: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life.” When we meditate on this and repeat it to ourselves, we come to a deeper understanding of God’s very personal and intimate love for each one of us. 

As one great mystic said, each of Jesus’s five wounds are like a pair of lips saying, “I love you this much!” God’s love was so great that he was willing to bear such torture and death for each of us.

The Cross is also the great sign of God’s humility. Real love is willing to do anything for the beloved, and God was willing not just to come down from heaven and take on our human nature, but to allow those he created, those he was about to redeem, to torture, abuse and kill him in order to save them and us. Jesus was willing out of love to undergo everything we might undergo as human beings, even worse. Whatever pain we might suffer, Christ suffered more. Whatever injustice we might bear, Christ bore it before us. Whatever loneliness we experience, Jesus felt it, too.

The Cross of Jesus reminds us of the negative strength of evil, and the  gentle omnipotence of the mercy of God. The Cross seems to declare the failure of Jesus, but in reality, it marks his victory. On Calvary, those who mocked him would say to him: ‘If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross’ (cf. Mt. 27,40). But the opposite was true: precisely because he was the Son of God, Jesus was there, on the cross, faithful to the end to the loving plan of the Father. It is precisely this reason why God ‘exalted’ Jesus (Phil. 2,9), conferring on Him a universal kingship.

When we truly confront the reality of the Cross, we cannot remain a detached bystander. But to honor that cross and his life given for us, we need to embrace it as a way of life. That’s what Jesus clearly wants us to do and calls us to do. He never said to us, “I’m taking up the Cross so that you don’t have to.” Rather he said, “If you wish to be my disciple, you must deny yourself, pick up your Cross every day, and follow me” and “whoever does not pick up the Cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” We’re here because we want to be the disciples of the Lord. We want to follow him all the way to heaven. But to do this, we need to follow him to Calvary; we need to walk the Way of the Cross. We do that because there is no other ladder to heaven but the ladder of the Cross. To be a disciple means to embrace the Cross.

The second thing that embracing the Cross means is that it commits us to the path of self-sacrificial love. Many Catholics when they hear Jesus’ command to deny ourselves, pick up our Cross and follow Jesus think that it means “offering up” their hardships, their difficulties, their pain, and bearing with peaceful resignation the contradictions of the day. That is part of it, but, actually, a small part of it. To embrace the Cross means to kiss Christ’s love and to imitate it. Jesus said, in the greatest of all commandments, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Picking up our Cross and following the Lord means following him down the path of selfless self-giving love. Jesus, in fact, gives us the Cross so that we, like him, might die on it, die to ourselves for others, so that he might live fully in us and love others through us.

 This is exactly what St. Paul pointed to when he wrote to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” We want Christ to live in us and Christ himself wants to live in us, but the only way that happens is to be crucified with him through the gift of the Cross. The most beautiful reality is that when we do this, we not only abide in Christ and he in us — and share in the fullness of salvation — but we become co-redeemers with Christ.

The cross which was a symbol of death has become for us a symbol of life. The cross which was an instrument of torture has become for us a proclamation of good news. The cross tells us that our suffering does not mean that we are punished, because one who was innocent, suffered as well. The cross tell us that our deepest pain cannot separate us from God’s love and promise of life. So today let us re-claim the cross for what it is: our sign of hope, our message of good news. No matter how deep our pain is, no matter how deep our loss is, the love of God is deeper still.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus Christ, your death brought life for us. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may walk in freedom and joy as a child of God and as an heir with Christ of an eternal inheritance.”

Daily Note

God is always present to us even in our darkest hours. That makes the cross of Christ a sign of hope. Our heaviest burdens, our deepest pain, our most significant loss will not separate us from God’s love. Think of the heaviest burden you carry, the deepest evil you have to face, the hardest pain you need to bear. None of these indicate that God has stopped loving you. None of these evils separate you from God. If we can claim God’s love even in our deepest pain, then there is always reason for hope and always the possibility of life.

Understanding What Faith Is

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Daily Reflection – 9/13/2021

Sacred Scripture

When Jesus had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him. When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave. They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, “He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”  And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come here, and he comes; and to my slave, Do this, and he does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him and, turning, said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When the messengers returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. (Luke 7: 1-10)

Reflection

The centurion in today’s scripture gives faith a whole new meaning. So much so that Jesus was “amazed” to see and hear his faith.

There were two components of the centurion’s words . . . faith and humility. He loved his slave and was desperate for help. There was no doctor who could heal him. But he heard of Jesus the miracle worker and knew he needed his help. He had faith that Jesus would. Even though he was a powerful centurion, he didn’t think he was worthy to approach Jesus himself, and so he sent the powerful local Jewish leaders.

The centurion came to Jesus with humility and acknowledging His authority by faith. 

What even is faith? How does it affect our relationship with Jesus?

Faith is believing in something, even if it hasn’t been proven or come true yet. The centurion made the healing of his servant a reality by putting his faith in Jesus, who has proven that what is unseen or impossible, may be seen and made possible. The centurion didn’t even view himself as worthy enough to go and meet Jesus or make Him walk all the way to his house, instead he humbled himself and trusted Jesus.

Jesus proved the centurion’s faith was real and proved His own divinity in the act of miraculously healing the servant.

But what about us? Do we have that faith? The answer is “yes.” Do we live that faith? By most standards, we don’t.

In fact, while faith is a gift from God, most often it is not alive in us. It does not permeate our thoughts, our words and our actions.

Then what do we need to do to ignite that faith?

We need to make the first move. If we can allow Jesus to touch our hearts, then we can build a legacy of hope, not just for ourselves but for others as well. Like the centurion we create our own house of faith for Jesus to enter if we humble ourselves and invite Him in. It’s then the hope begins to grow and multiply.

The centurion had enough faith in Jesus that he said Jesus only needed to say a word and his servant would be healed. Jesus then turned to the crowd following Him and said, “Never have I found such faith in all of Israel”

Whatever you’re going through today, this week, this month, trust and believe that God sees you. He knows what you’re going through, and He longs to help you.

Open your heart and, with centurion-like faith, allow God inside. You don’t need any messengers to do it for you. Call out directly to Him and believe by faith He can do far more than you can ever think or imagine. I assure you; He can meet your need.

The centurion was a great example for the Israelites that day. Imagine the legacy of faith you can leave for someone today. Imagine lives forever changed, especially your own.

Prayer of The Day

“Take my heart captive to your merciful love and truth and set me free to love and serve you always with joy and trust in the power of your saving word. May your love grow in me that I may always seek to love and serve others generously for their sake just as you have generously laid down your life for my sake.”

Daily Note

Faith cannot be proven. It is a gift only God can give. But we can be confident that God wants to give it. Often when we think about people we love who do not believe, we say, “It is my hope and prayer that someday they will find God”. The good news is that this is not necessary. The people we love do not need to find God, because we have a God who can find them.

The Best Way To Remove Splinters

The Blind Leading the Blind - Matthew 15:14 - Bible Verse of the Day
Daily Reflection – 9/10/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus told his disciples a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”( Luke 6:39-42)

Reflection

Christ has a way of asking questions that tap gently (or sometimes knock heavily) upon our heart’s door and open it to deep ponderings. “Can the blind person guide a blind person?” he asked his disciples. Of course, both will fall into a pit. But what does the deeper “knocking” of that question suggest to us? Perhaps it is an invitation to ask ourselves: “Who is leading me?”

 Are we being led by our own blindness or that of others? Christ wants to be our eyes. He wants us to learn to see what he sees in others, in circumstances, in our own selves, in God’s action in life, and in the world.

To do that, to be that, we must recognize that our tendency to criticize others is a deflection of not looking in the spiritual mirror of conscience. We see others’ faults much more clearly, sometimes, than we see our own. He wants us to take out the forest of redwoods from our own eyes so that we can see clearly and afterward help our neighbor to address their own problems.

In all of this, he is trying to help us see things as he does, to see things as they really are. That’s why there’s a sentence that seems out of place. After talking about the blind leading the blind and before speaking about planks and specks, he says, “No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.”

Jesus wants us to be fully trained so that we might become like him. To do that, we need to see everything as he does. We need to view everything with the eyes of faith. And for that, we need to remove all of the obstacles that impair our vision.

It is only then that we can live a life of kindness. For kindness guided every step of Jesus.

Mark Twain called kindness a language that the deaf can hear, and the blind can read. What is kindness? It is the ability to understand another person, sensing the burdens which that person must carry, and using our own resources and power to ease those burdens. Kindness is in reality a forceful power than can save and heal.

We are talented responsible people. From day to day we live, doing the things which our lives require of us. How important is it for us not to undervalue the importance of kindness? When was the last time you were kind? You make decisions with your spouse, give advice to your spouse. But when was the last time you tried to understand what was going on inside of your spouse? When did you see what he or she needed from you and tried to meet that need? To do so would be an act of kindness.

You provide for your children and give them guidance. When was the last time you tried to recognize their insecurities and take steps to assure them of their goodness, their value and their ability to succeed? To do so would be an act of kindness.

We should not forget the power that comes from kindness. Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can read. Kindness can cut through hypocrisy and posturing. It can eliminate indifference and selfishness.

This week, then, as we work and play, as we organize and create, as we advise and guide others, let us not forget to follow the example of Jesus. Let us recognize the importance of understanding others, of sensing what they need, of hearing their cries for help. Let us not forget to do the kind thing.

Prayer of The Day

“O Father, give us the humility which realizes its ignorance, admits its mistakes, recognizes its need, welcomes advice, accepts rebuke. Help us always to praise rather than to criticize, to sympathize rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy, and to think of people at their best rather than at their worst. This we ask for thy name’s sake.” (Prayer of William Barclay, 20th century)

Daily Note

Jesus states a heavenly principle we can stake our lives on: what you give to others (and how you treat others) will return to you (Mark 4:24). The Lord knows our faults and he sees all, even the imperfections and sins of the heart which we cannot recognize in ourselves. Like a gentle father and a skillful doctor he patiently draws us to his seat of mercy and removes the cancer of sin which inhabits our hearts. Do you trust in God’s mercy and grace? Ask the Lord to flood your heart with his loving-kindness and mercy that you may only have room for charity, forbearance, and kindness towards your neighbor.

The Moral Rot of Hatred

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Daily Reflection – 9/9/2021

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”( Luke 6:27-38)

Reflection

Jesus’ words in today’s scripture about loving our enemies, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who mistreat us, turning the other cheek, is the most difficult of all of his teachings.

When someone hates you, you have two choices: to hate back or to refuse to hate. Jesus clearly asks us to refuse to hate, to love our enemies, to do to others as we would have them do to us. That’s his teaching. But it is clear that many people do not follow his teaching. They may feel that the golden rule is foolish or impractical. Therefore, they decide to return hate with hate, to return hurt with hurt. Their golden rule is: “Do to others as they have done to you.”

The results of this approach are easy to find. Look at the newspapers. Watch the media. Look at the situation in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, in India and Pakistan: “You hurt us, we’ll hurt you.” Look at the retribution that characterizes the gang violence in our cities. Recognize the number of families in our society who are addressing their disputes with handguns. “We’re just getting even,” they say. But of course, it never amounts to getting even. Violence grows into an escalating cycle of destruction and hatred.

Look at politics around the world including the United States. Civil discourse is absent. Neighbor is set against neighbor. Words of rancor, of meanness, of retribution are splattered across the internet, social media and the world of twitter. And very often, they come from people who claim to be followers of Christ!!!

So, I must ask these questions. How is “getting even” affecting your relationships? Are you satisfied with the way hurting and hating back is shaping your life? Do you find that holding on to resentments with your family or friends is working for you? Are you satisfied with waiting for others to suffer as you have suffered? In short, are you satisfied with the kind of world that emerges when we respond with hate and hurt, when we do to others as they have done to us? Most of us would admit that such a world is a disaster.

Hatred is a moral cancer. Just as cancer spreads and ultimately destroys its host, so too does hatred. It slowly affects every thought and every action. Make no mistake about it. It is evil and a blaspheme against God. It destroys a person and a person’s relationship with God.

Now let’s be clear: when we talk about loving our enemy, when we talk about forgiving those who hurt us, we are not denying our right to defend ourselves. We are not advising that we accept abuse and manipulation. We are saying that when we respond to our enemy, we choose to do so in a way that breaks the cycle of violence rather than feeding it. We choose not to hate because we know that hating will only lessen our life and endanger our world.

Jesus’ teaching is not easy. We would all like another option. But there are only two options on the table. Therefore, if you are satisfied with the kind of world that results from returning hate with hate, getting even, treating others as they have treated you, then reject Jesus’ teaching as misguided. But if that kind of world of increasing violence and hatred sickens you, then maybe it is time to follow what the Lord commands. Maybe it is time to love our enemy, to forgive the one who hurts us, to do to others as we would have them do to us.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, your love brings freedom and pardon. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and set my heart free with your merciful love that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, nor make me bitter towards anyone.”

Daily Note

What makes Christians different and what makes Christianity distinct from any other religion? It is grace – treating others, not as they deserve, but as God wishes them to be treated – with loving-kindness and mercy. God is good to the unjust as well as the just. His love embraces saint and sinner alike. God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us. Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return.

Seeing It Through His Eyes

Quotes about Not knowing God (48 quotes)
Daily Reflection – 9/8/2021

Sacred Scripture

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. “But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. “Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. “Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. (Luke 6:20-26)

Reflection

We know from experience that no one can escape all of the inevitable trials of life – pain, suffering, sickness, and death. When Jesus began to teach his disciples, he gave them a “way of happiness” that transcends every difficulty and trouble that can weigh us down with grief and despair.

Jesus began his sermon on the mount by addressing the issue of where true happiness can be found. The word beatitude literally means happiness or blessedness. Jesus’ way of happiness, however, demands a transformation from within – a conversion of heart and mind which can only come about through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit.

His teaching of the Beatitudes is so fundamental to our beliefs that diverse characters including Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have all understood the beatitudes of Jesus as the central core of his teaching and the most important part of his message.

So, what do the Beatitudes tell us. They tell us how God sees the world.

 God sees as blessed those who are poor. God sees as valuable those who mourn, those who are lonely, those who are persecuted. The Beatitudes reveal that God is committed to those who are in need and those who suffer. It is because God is present to them, they are blessed. The Beatitudes do not say that it is a blessed or wonderful thing to be poor, or to be grieving, or to be persecuted.

They do assert that whenever any of these distressful things happen to us, God comes to us. God is attracted to us because God knows our needs. Because God is present in those distressful circumstances, those who are distressed are blessed.

So, this is the God that the Beatitudes reveal to us: a God who lifts up the lowly, who cares for the poor, who stands with the oppressed. It is this vision of who God is that stands at the center of Jesus’ ministry and forms the heart of Jesus’ teaching.   There are two distinct and immediate consequences that flow from this God of the Beatitudes, two things which those who follow Christ must adopt: hope and solidarity.

 To be a disciple of Jesus, we must be a people of hope. Because we know that when we are poor, when we are grieving, when we feel rejected or worthless or in need, God comes to us.

We believe in a God who comes to us in our struggles, a God who is with us and leads us to a place of fullness and joy. Those who follow Jesus must be people of hope because God cares for us in our need. 

We must also be people of solidarity, solidarity with the poor and oppressed. If God is close to those who struggle, if God is close to those who are persecuted or in need, we must act towards them in the same way. We cannot worship God and ignore those for whom God cares. We must as followers of Jesus be people who are committed to eliminating poverty and injustice and oppression because those are the very things that our God is also committed to eliminate.

Since our God is committed to them, do we even have to ask the question why should we?

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, increase my hunger for you and show me the way that leads to everlasting happiness and peace. May I desire you above all else and find perfect joy in doing your will.”

Daily Note

How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution? If we want to be filled with the joy and happiness of heaven, then we must empty ourselves of all that would shut God out of our hearts. Poverty of spirit finds ample room and joy in possessing God alone as the greatest treasure possible. Hunger of the spirit seeks nourishment and strength in God’s word and Spirit. Sorrow and mourning over wasted life and sin leads to joyful freedom from the burden of guilt and oppression.

You’re On Call. Ready?

1,852 Proverb Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from Dreamstime
Daily Reflection – 9/7/2021

Today’s scripture asks us to consider the call of the disciples and, in so doing, to consider our call.

Our call. Yours and mine.

We can’t call ourselves followers of Christ if we don’t recognize the call that Jesus gives us. Our faith is a “way” not a classroom. Christ summons us to come and go. We’re supposed to be journeying in our pilgrimage of faith, and on that pilgrimage not just following Christ’s footsteps on the outside, but walking in him, doing everything in him, having an interior yoking with him. And that yoking goes on throughout or life whether at 17 or 77.

God makes us. God saves us. God sends us. God has a plan, a plan for the world, and we are part of that plan. That is why as sons and daughters of God we must always be ready to hear the word “Go”. “Go” is the word that God uses when there is something for us to do. The disciples hear the word in today’s gospel. “Go and make disciples of all the nations.” But this command does not only apply to the first disciples. It applies to all disciples. It applies to us. We must be ready to go.

 “Wait a minute,” you say, “Go where? Do what? Are you sure that God is sending me?” I am sure. To what God is sending you I cannot say, but the fact that God is sending you is not in doubt. Sending is what God does to God’s daughters and sons. God makes us. God saves us. God sends us.

 If you want to know to what God is sending you, all you need to do is listen. We usually do not listen; and because we do not listen, we do not hear; and because we do not hear we imagine that we are not being sent. We wake up each day and we plan our own schedule: first I’ll do this, then I’ll do that, and if there’s time, I’ll fit this in. But how often do any of us take a breath and in all honesty ask the question, “Lord, is there anything you want me to do today?”

I dare you to ask, “Lord, is there anything you want me to do today?” I promise you that if you ask, God will answer. It may be in that moment, or an hour later, or a day later; but if you ask, you will hear God say, “Go. Go to that person at work and tell her.  “Go to your friend and ask him. Go to the phone and dial this number. Go to your spouse . . . Go to your daughter . . . Go to your neighbor . . . and do this.”

God might be calling us to do an act of kindness for someone at work who annoys us or to a person who does not share our political beliefs or with someone no one else will associate. You say to God, “You’ve got to be kidding. I don’t want a new friend. I don’t want to hang around with this person. What will people think of me if I reach out?” God says, “I’m not asking you to be their friend. I’m asking you to do a simple act of kindness and to do it for me.”

If you dare to listen, you will hear where God is sending you. What you hear might surprise you. It might even seem not to fit. Or make sense.. If this is the case, feel free to object.

As sons and daughters of God, we have the right to question, when it seems that God is sending us on some fool’s errand. Just remember that the fact we can object does not mean that God will change the call. God does not act that way. What God tends to do is listen to our objections and say, “Yes, but go anyway, and I will be with you.”

God has a plan, a plan for the world. We are a part of that plan. As sons and daughters of God we must always be ready to be sent. Christians are always “on call.” I dare you to listen. I dare you to sincerely ask the question, “Lord, is there anything you want me to do today?” If you ask, God will answer, and you will soon find yourself going forth to do your Father’s will.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Inflame my heart with a burning love for you and with an expectant faith in your saving power. Take my life and all that I have as an offering of love for you, who are my All.”

Daily Note

When Jesus embarked on his mission, he chose twelve men to be his friends and apostles. In the choice of the twelve, we see a characteristic feature of God’s work: Jesus chose very ordinary people. They were non-professionals, who had no wealth or position. They were chosen from the common people who did ordinary things, had no special education, and no social advantages. He chose these men, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under his direction and power.

Give yourself unreservedly to God – he will use you for greatness in his kingdom
When the Lord calls us to serve, we must not shrug back because we think that we have little or nothing to offer. The Lord takes what ordinary people, like us, can offer and uses it for greatness in his kingdom. Is there anything holding you back from giving yourself unreservedly to God?

What Causes A Withered Hand?

Rejecting Love - First Presbyterian Church of Hackensack
Daily Reflection – 9/6/2021

Sacred Scripture

On a certain Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so and his hand was restored. But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6: 6-11)

Reflection

In just six lines of scripture, Luke recounts a scene in the life of Jesus that should sober us and then propel us forward in our life.

Jesus’ mission was not just to save and sanctify but to revolutionize, to turn right side up, the way his people had distorted religion, to give us new wineskins to receive new wine. This distortion was epitomized by the way the Pharisees and Scribes treated the Sabbath, making it a day of extraordinary rules about everything they couldn’t do, rather than a day of loving God with all they had and loving their neighbor.

The Scribes and the Pharisees went to the Synagogue on the Sabbath, but they really weren’t going for that reason. St. Luke tells us that their main focus was to “watch Jesus closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.”

Jesus’ mission was not just to save and sanctify but to revolutionize, to turn right side up, the way his people had distorted religion, to give us new wineskins to receive new wine.

The suffering of the man with the withered hand didn’t matter much to the Pharisees. Even though they would rescue an animal from a trap on a Sabbath, they wouldn’t care for their fellow man, as if restoring him to health would somehow be offensive to God. So Jesus, reading their hearts, asked the question: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” It was a poignant question because he was intending to do good and to save life, and they were intending to do evil and destroy life.

Jesus worked the miracle in today’s Gospel not only on the Sabbath but in a synagogue to show that he had come as Messiah to rehabilitate the meaning of worship, indicating to us that to love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength involves loving our neighbor as he loves them.

The new worship Christ came to inaugurate involves this union between faith and life, between what we believe and what we do. Our worship of the God of love is meant to transform us more and more into his image. That is our faith. Anything less than should tell us that the words of Jesus Christ mean little in our lie.

In fact, that’s the big question on which the meaning of our life hinges:

Does love really compel us?

Is our passion for God something that transform the way we treat everyone else?

Do we see that the way we treat the least among us is the way we treat the Lord?

 Do we grasp that whenever we receive someone in Christ’s name, even a child who was insignificant at the time of Christ, we receive the Lord himself?

 Do we behave toward each other, even in community life, with the reverence with which we would give to Jesus himself?

Dorothy Day, once said, that we love the Lord to the extent that we love the persons we like the least. And so does our relationship with the Lord drive us toward really sacrificing, praying, forgiving, caring for those people we don’t get along with, those who might treat us poorly, those who might even behave as if they despise us?

Does Christ’s mission of charity toward us change us in such a way that we, too, become missionaries of charity?

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, in your victory over sin and death on the cross and in your resurrection you give us the assurance of sharing in the eternal rest of heaven. Transform my heart with your love so that I may freely serve my neighbor for his good and find joy in moving closer to you.”

Daily Note

Ambrose of Hippo who lived three hundred years after Jesus wrote: “Then you heard the words of the Lord, saying, ‘Stretch forth your hand.’ That is the common and universal remedy. You who think that you have a healthy hand beware lest it is withered by greed or by sacrilege. Hold it out often. Hold it out to the poor person who begs you. Hold it out to help your neighbor, to give protection to a widow, to snatch from harm one whom you see subjected to unjust insult. Hold it out to God for your sins. The hand is stretched forth; then it is healed. Jeroboam’s hand withered when he sacrificed to idols; then it stretched out when he entreated God (1 Kings 13:4-6).” (Ambrose of Hippo 337-390AD)