Are You In or Out ?

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Daily Reflection – 10/30/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”( Luke 13:22-30)

Reflection

This Gospel could be named The Sober Truth. Because it speaks to us as it is.

As he often did, Jesus compared God’s kingdom to a big banquet hall .It is entered through a door. That door to salvation was once locked, double-bolted and barred to sinners. But Jesus threw it wide open by his life and death in place of sinners. He invites all to enter heaven—through faith in him. Jesus is the door, the only door. That exclusive claim came from his own lips: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Admittance to heaven is granted one person at a time, through personal faith in Jesus. Unbelievers can’t coast in on the coattails of their believing relatives. And no one can fit through the door with any luggage, like a bag of unconfessed and unforgiven sins. Some people try to justify their sin with comments like, “Jesus loves me just the way I am. The good and loving God won’t hold it against me that I had some fun in life.” If that’s true, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die. But he did die, and paid for every sin of every sinner. Now he urges everyone to repent. Leave the guilt of sin at his cross. Leave behind the life of sin. Only the penitent person will enter salvation.

Religious surveys routinely show that about 80-90% of people surveyed expect to be in heaven. The Bible’s truth is that far less will be saved. But the real question is “Will you be saved?” “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door,” not by what you do but by what you believe. If you don’t trust in Jesus for life and salvation, don’t delay anymore. Stop resisting his call and power to repent and believe the good news. Honestly confess your sin and accept his forgiveness, full and free.

To every believer ,  Jesus warns, “Don’t get complacent.” Are you getting lazy in daily deploring your sins and turning to Christ? Are you willing to let God’s law sweep out the rooms of your heart where you don’t often dwell, but unwilling to let it touch the rooms where you really live, in sins like selfishness, greed, gossip, worry, anger, and revenge? Or are you drinking the worldly Kool-Aid that says, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” meaning Bible study, worship, baptism and the Lord’s Supper aren’t high on your list of priorities? Repent now. Daily confess with the tax collector in the temple, Trust that the blood of God’s Son purifies us from all sin. Begin again to live as the saint God has declared you to be.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, help me to always trust in your saving grace, especially when I am tempted and put to the test.  Help me to be faithful to you and give me the courage and strength to resist temptation, especially temptation to compromise or to be indifferent to your word

Daily Note

Through the cross Jesus opens the way for us to enter into his kingdom.  But we must follow Jesus in the way of the cross.  The word strive can also be translated agony.  To enter the kingdom of God one must struggle against the forces of temptation and whatever would hinder us from doing the will of God (even apathy, indifference, and compromise).  The good news is that we do not struggle alone.  God is with us and his grace is sufficient!  

 

 

 

 

Will You Rise Up Also ?

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Daily Reflection – 10/29/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.” Again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.(Luke 13:18-21)

Reflection

Yeast is a fascinating thing. It is so small in size and yet has such a powerful effect upon the dough. The yeast works slowly and somewhat miraculously. Little by little the dough rises and is transformed.

That is how the Gospel works in our lives. Right now, the Kingdom of God is first and foremost alive in our hearts. The conversion of our hearts will rarely effectively take place in a day or in a moment. Sure, each day and every moment is important, and there are certainly powerful moments of conversion we can all point to.

But conversion of heart is more like the yeast causing the dough to rise. The conversion of heart is usually something that takes place little by little and step by step. We allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives in a continually deepening way and, as we do, we grow deeper and deeper in holiness just as dough rises slowly but surely.

While the parable of the mustard seed dramatizes the presence of the kingdom in its insignificant beginnings, the parable of the yeast reminds us that even small beginnings are powerful and eventually change the character of the whole.

When we pray the words Jesus taught his followers, we invite the coming of God’s kingdom and the doing of God’s will on Earth as it is in heaven. That tiny seed of God’s kingdom takes root in the here and now, in the places where we live and work and raise our families.

Reflect, today, upon this image of yeast causing dough to rise. Do you see this as an image of your soul? Do you see the Holy Spirit working on you little by little? Do you see yourself changing slowly but steadily?

Perhaps today Jesus is reminding us that we are called to be “leaven” in today’s world.  As Christians, we are called to share the love of Jesus with every person we meet.  The gift is there is a multitude of ways to be leaven in our world.  It may be by sharing a smile, offering to help someone with their grocery bags, being a “listening ear” for a friend or family member who is struggling, or laughing with a friend who is struggling. 

Today Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is in our midst!  Today will we build up the Kingdom of God or will we ignore it?  The question is: will we be “leaven” in our corner of the world?  Only we can decide!  

Prayer of The Day

Lord, I do desire to become holy. I desire to be transformed little by little every day. Help me to allow You to change me every moment of my life so that I can continually walk the path You have laid out for me. Jesus, I trust in You. 

Daily Note

That tiny mustard seed can hardly be detected hidden among the clods of dirt and clay where it is planted and yet it holds within it the potential for abundance. In a similar way, we have to search out even the tiny signs of God’s kingdom, confident that the fullness of that kingdom will emerge as we hope and believe and work in this garden that is our Earth. We can create for its abundance by continually finding ways to be leaven to one another.

 

 

Facing A Decision ?

 

 

Related imageDaily Reflection – 10/28/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.( Luke 6:12-16)

 Reflection

One can’t help notice that today’s Gospel said that Jesus spent the entire night in solitude and prayer?  How often do we use the excuse that we don’t have time to pray?  Jesus made prayer the first priority in his life.  But prayer is often the last thing on our mind when we have a problem, or need to make a decision about something. We work through it on our own, but everything seems so much harder.  We often second guess ourselves, wondering if we are really doing the right thing or not?  Or else, our important decisions are often made on the spur of the moment, without consulting God at all in the decision-making process.  Why do we go to so many different people, like our family members, friends or coworkers, to ask their opinion on what we should do?  The very first place we turn to, should be to turn to God in our prayers, and yet He is often the last one to be consulted. No wonder we aren’t sure if we did the right thing or not, because God wasn’t included in the process.

Even though Jesus was both human and divine, it seems like God also strengthened Jesus with extra graces during the solitary periods he spent in prayer. This was true during his prayers in the agony in the garden, but it was also true after John the Baptist was beheaded in prison too. Jesus retreated to the mountain to pray when he learned of his death, and ended up performing two miracles that day. He fed 5,000 men with the five barley loaves and two fish, and after praying alone on the mountain, Jesus walked on the water to join his Apostles in a boat on the lake.

The source of Christ’s power already originated within him, but Jesus received extra strength, grace and support during the solitary times of prayer that he spent with his Father. He didn’t make any major decisions on his own, although he had every right to do so. God the Father guided his decisions, and strengthened him with the grace to accomplish the tasks that lay before him. He will do no less with us!

We also have the ability to make our own decisions in life, but they turn out so much better when we carefully consider the facts of the situation, and seek God’s guidance first, before we make any decision about it. We need God’s grace and His strength, to see us through the challenges and difficulties we face in life.  Without God’s grace, our best laid plans could fall apart if it wasn’t His will to begin with.  It is better to start laying our plans, in accordance with His will, right from the start, just like Jesus did in today’s gospel.

Prayer of The Day

Father, help us to approach you always in prayer, bringing our hopes and dreams, fears and failures, decisions and challenges to you, trusting in your will and mercy as we know them both through your crucified Son. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 Daily Note

Jesus had a lot of things on his mind, but he didn’t sort through the decision-making process all by himself.  The example of how Jesus handled this very important decision, is probably the best advice we could ever receive, on the right way to make a good decision in our own lives too.

 

 

 

Keeping The Compass Steady

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Daily Reflection – 10/25/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain — and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot — and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time? Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you; you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Luke 12:54-59)

Reflection

Put most simply, Jesus asks how we can know so much yet miss what is essential.

At this point in the story, Jesus has just admitted the stress he’s under as the one who bears the kingdom message that sets even family members at odds. He’s on his way to Jerusalem to meet the cross. And as he travels he meets more resistance and his message grows only more insistent, even desperate.

And so he wonders how we – his audience than and now – can know so much but miss what’s essential. The examples he uses are taken from the everyday. We see clouds and prepare for rain; we sense the south wind blowing and expect heat. Why then, do we miss what he is trying to tell us about love – about God’s love for all of us and the invitation and command to love each other in response?

Instead of embracing and sharing God’s love, we take each other to court rather than treating each other with respect. Or talk behind each other’s backs rather than guard each other’s reputation. Or grow jealous of another’s accomplishments or possessions rather than give thanks for all the good things in our lives.

Here’s the thing: we do, way more often than not, know what is right, but fail to do it. The reason? Out of our insecurity and fear we end up trusting ourselves rather than each other or even God. And believe me, the culture we live in will only amplify our anxieties and encourage us to look out for ourselves all the more.

Perhaps the challenge today is accepting His teachings in our life. There are a growing number of Christians who ‘profess their faith in Jesus’ but find convenient and clever arguments not to keep His word; the two are inseparable.

Unfortunately, ‘buffet Christianity’ is the order of the day as we pick and choose what we like and discard or ignore those that we construe as being inconvenient to our way of life. Yet the moral compass of our hearts can gauge the coming storm of judgment. Like the Jews, we too are clever enough to read the signs of the times though we may choose to ignore them. Jesus exhorted the Jews to change their hearts as He exhorts us to do the same today.

Because when we do, we see God’s love for us and all the world poured out. Because this same Jesus – frustrated, exasperated, desperate to get through to us – this same Jesus will soon embrace his destiny and show us in his own body just how much God loves us.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, change my heart and my life that I may fully live for you.  Help me to choose what is right and to turn away from every sin and from every attachment to worldliness which keeps me from loving and serving you wholeheartedly.”

Daily Note

Jesus used a vivid illustration to point out the urgency of getting right with God.  If you were up against a bad cause and were likely to get severely penalized, would you not try to settle the case out-of-court to avoid a worse penalty?  Each of us stands in constant need of God’s love and mercy.   His light reveals what is in our hearts and his grace frees us from the tyranny of sin. God’s call is urgent and his grace is available for complete transformation in Christ.  Are you ready for his grace and action in your life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will You Travel That Road?

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Daily Reflection – 10/24/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”( Luke 12:49-53)

Reflection

In our Gospel today, Jesus corrects a misperception. Some no doubt expected him to usher in the messianic peace, when the lion would lie down with the lamb. No, the time for that peace will be at history’s end, when God’s Kingdom is established in all its fullness. Till then, Christianity will often find itself in conflict with the values and powers of the world. The spark of our soul must be a strong-enough flame to avoid the cheap peace of acquiescing with the world.

How do we maintain that spark? Two things we must keep in the forefront of our minds.

One is to remember what our free gift of eternal life cost Jesus. We could not pay for our salvation, but Jesus paid it all. The price was a dreadful price, the deepest suffering and the worst agony. Did he do so gladly? Yes and no. Yes, for he loved us so much. But also no, for he suffered for a long time and at a great depth. His agony was not only on the cross, but with every thought of what lay ahead.

Every day Jesus stepped down roads that would bring him to Jerusalem, to trial, to a crown of thorns, to nails through hands and feet. He knew it and it distressed him. But he faced forward and lived out his calling. Every day he still healed the sick, still fed the hungry, still taught the crowds, still proclaimed the good news, still showed tenderness to lepers and children, still took compassion on those society had rejected, still nurtured his disciples, and still spent time alone with his Father. His mission was to do all his Father wanted. And if that will included suffering and death, so be it.

Some are motivated only by things from which they gain .Some will do only what feels good to them. Some need proof of success, preferably in the short term, or they won’t even start.

Jesus was motivated very differently, motivated by the will of the one who had sent him. But step followed step down the road to that dreadful baptism. For us, he faced the terror and gave his whole life. But it never stopped him.

Jesus also knew that following him might bring division.

Jesus is not teaching emotional hatred for family members, but making it very clear that all relationships must be secondary to following him. Jesus’ words also show that discipleship disturbs life and relationships. Jesus’ message was hard but honest. No one who hears and considers his words could ever feel misled about the cost of discipleship. But also, no one who hears and considers his words could ever doubt that there is no other choice to make than surrendering to him as Lord, no other life worth living than giving every day and every breath to him, His way is the only way.

 Prayer of The Day

Lord, you are the center of my life. I thank you for my family and pray that I will never be a stumbling block for their faith. Give me the wisdom to know when to speak and when to remain silent. Help me, so that I will never compromise the Gospel, nor needlessly alienate those whom you have sent me to serve.

Daily Note

Certainly Jesus came to bring peace. But it would never be superficial peace. It would never mean everyone agreeing. It would never make every follower likeable and appreciated by everyone else. It would never mean a life filled with nothing but harmony, as if there would be no anger, no division, no uncertainty, no struggles. Those who would go Jesus way travel a road with trouble and trial, sacrifice and sadness, darkness and despair. Yes, there will be joy, and glory, and life eternal. That will be in heaven, but also here and now. But the here and now is not only happiness but hardship, not only unity but division. The road ahead is good but not an easy road to travel.

 

The Ultimate Freedom Is To Be Bound

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Daily Reflection – 10/23/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”( Luke 12:39-48)

Reflection

Jesus’ instruction is very simple: he tells his disciples that they need to “be prepared.” However, the event they need to be prepared for is the hour when the “Son of Man” will come! Jesus tells them that He will come at a time when they do not expect him! Thus, they need to be alert and attentive. They need to have open minds and open hearts.
Jesus also is telling us to “be prepared” today! We don’t know how or when Jesus will come but He will come to us this day!

Jesus is asking us to live our lives with freedom – with the freedom that comes from knowing who we are.

That freely lived identity is formed and tested in our everyday lives. It is formed by the defining relationships in our lives and by the choices we make, which shape us into the persons we become. This faithful freedom to be who we are called to be is tested by all the attractions of the world, which pull us in other directions. Usually it is greed or lust – something just looks so attractive that we feel drawn to want it or to at least try it. Sometimes it is fear – anxiety, and worries about the “what ifs,” steal our ability to be courageous and steadfast.

In all of these defining moments of our lives, Jesus is there coming to meet us with the offer of grace, with the gift of freedom, with the loving encounter that calls us to be our most loving and self-sacrificing selves. He simply asks us to be ready to meet him at the time he comes to us today.

In the final analysis, Christ as God’s gift to us flows from the loving provision of the Father and our role is to be sensible, faithful stewards. God gave His all to us, even the gift of Himself. Perhaps we need to pause and ask what have we done to God’s gift to us? What He has given to us for free, have we shared with God’s people or have we kept it within the enclosures of our selfish hearts? Have we done our share of opening up to the Spirit and allow His work in us so that our character may be formed according to Christ?

At the end of our life, the only thing that will matter will be what we did for God and what we did for others; that is, what we did with the blessings and love we received.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, open our hearts today and every day to receive your gifts of freedom and to encounter you in the many people you place in our lives, in the many choices which can bring us closer to you. Free us to love more freely to say “yes” more completely, to think of the needs of others first and to know what is the right choice. We ask this in your name. Amen.

Daily Note

Let us open our hearts to the mighty action of the Spirit as accountability from a Christian perspective at the present time is not meant for punishment, but for growth in God’s grace.  How well have we cared for God’s people within our community?  How well have we shared Christ with others? How well have we all grown in His grace? Our goal is to become more like the One to whom we ultimately are to give our account.  Let us resolve to be faithful to our calling as His disciples and servants and bear fruit.

 

 

 

 

So Again, The Question, Are You Ready?

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Daily Reflection – 10/22/19

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.” (Luke 12:35-38)

Reflection

A clear and straightforward message, The instruction to “be ready ” is an important message because, I suspect, very few Christians are truly ready to serve Christ. According to Scripture, Jesus’ Second Coming is a mission of judgment.

So regardless of whether we live to witness the Second Coming of Christ, we will witness a type of coming of Christ when we die. And so the question remains, ‘Are you ready for Christ’s coming?’. If Christ came today, would you be satisfied with how you have lived for Him?

Legend has it that Francis of Assisi was approached one afternoon while he was gardening and was asked, ‘Francis, if you knew that Christ was coming this very hour for your soul, what would you do?’. At this, Francis paused from his work, looked up at the man and replied, ‘I would finish my gardening’. Francis could finish his gardening because he had no regrets about how he lived out his commitment to Christ.

The command to “be dressed for action ” cuts to the heart of the matter here. The Christian life is not a life of passive and smug indifference to the rest of the world. The Christian life is a life where action is paramount and where, in a world of darkness, we are called to be beacons of light.
Action ” does not stop after an hour of warming a pew.The type of action Christ calls us to is needed every day. Every day of our life is a gift from God to be used wisely for His glory. We do not know when Christ is coming, that much is for certain. It is also true that there is plenty of kingdom work to be done–on this earth, in our community, and in this church.
So what is your current condition? Are you sleeping? Then it is time to wake up, Jesus the thief could come at any time. We are the body of Christ. As the body of Christ, we are not meant to sleep. As the body of Christ, we are not to pollute the body with the things of this world. As the body of Christ, our obligation is to be “dressed for action “.

Prayer of The Day

Lord, you are faithful even when I fail.  Help me to remain ever faithful to you and to not shrink back when I encounter difficulties.  May always live in your presence and be ready to meet you when you call me on the day of judgment.”

Daily Note

 We are truly blessed if we are spiritually prepared, alert and vigilant when our master returns. For each of us, our Lord’s coming is one that is intensely personal, whether it would be at his second coming or when our life’s journey comes to an end. Whichever way He chooses for us to join Him, may we prepare ourselves spiritually and mentally for that day. May we constantly be reminded that our stay is fleeting but His coming is definite.