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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Orphans

"I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." Jn 14:18

More than once, I have heard people whose parents had recently died say that they felt like orphans. Not until my mother died did I understand what they meant. There is a kind of hole in life when one's parents die. More than a feeling of loss, there is a sense of emptiness. The people upon whom we depended, not to make decisions for us, but to help us discern important steps in life, were no longer with us and we wondered where and to whom we might go.

Jesus, though preparing us for his return to his Father, promises us that we will not be orphans, that we will not be alone, that His Spirit will continue to guide and help us. At the time of Jesus, family was the primary lens through which people understood their role in life, but Jesus wanted his followers to remember that he was redefining their understanding of family. No longer would we be bound only to the rituals and practices of the families and religious traditions into which we were born, but animated by Jesus' Spirit, to the family and body of Christ, making it impossible to be orphans!

Today, pray for those who feel totally without family of any kind.

Have you ever felt like an orphan in the church?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Persecution

"If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you...And they will do all these things to you on account of my name." Jn 15: 20,21

The early church suffered greatly. After Judas' suicide, every apostle with the exception of John died as martyrs. Proclaiming the word was costly, not only for the apostles, but for many of the earliest disciples. Although only about half the Roman Emperors who ruled from the death of Jesus until the conversion of Constantine persecuted Christians, the persecutions that did happen very vicious and violent.

Unfortunately, although we don't often hear about this in the United States, and when we do we often ignore it, the violent persecution of Christians continues. Aid to the Church in Need, (ACN) an agency created to help those being persecuted for their faith, estimates that almost 200 million Christians around the world suffer persecution daily. In a paper presented to the U.N., the World Evangelical Foundation (WEF) reports that 160 million Christians are denied basic human rights simply because of their faith, and last year alone more than thirty Catholic missionaries were martyred. (Persecution 21st century)

But the persecution of which Jesus speaks is not just physical. In most places of the world, when Christians are willing to speak on behalf of and in the name of Jesus, they are warned not to get involved in politics and to confine their efforts to preaching the Gospel on Sunday in their churches. When some ignore this warning, they risk being attacked, not because of their politics, but because they dare to challenge the status quo, but the Gospel demands this risk and we fail to follow Jesus when we ignore it.

Today, pray for anyone being persecuted for their faith.

Have you ever been persecuted for your faith?



Thursday, May 22, 2014

God Chooses Us

"It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you." Jn 15:16

Being chosen for anything is always affirming, even at those times when we would rather be ignored. As children we were chosen for teams on playing fields and in schools. As adults, some might encourage us to run for public office or a parish council. Whatever it is, when others see in us some quality that they would like in leadership, we are lifted up.

Jesus chooses us all to be servants leaders of his Father and those most in need. Sometimes we wonder about this. Does the Lord see something in us that we ignore or downplay? Does God look only at our strengths? Or does God choose us because we are all equally God's children, sons and daughters who together present an image of God's love in which others can discover God's love for all?

While these questions remain open, that God calls each of us does not. We are the chosen of God, and while we can reject this call, God does not stop calling. God has a role for each of us, a way to be in the world that gives honor to God is ways beyond our imagination. God sees, as it were, from 30,000 feet, and though we may feel like we are under a cloud, God sees the whole of our life and continues to assure us that we are not alone, no matter how dark the path may seem.

Today, rest in the realization of your personal call to  a life of faith?

Have you ever experienced God's call in a particular situation or circumstance?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Simple Joy

“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” Jn 15:11

Jesus wants us to be a people of joy, and he wants this for us no matter how heavy our burdens might be. Though the Lord is clear, it is also difficult to embrace and proclaim his message. Jesus promises us that his father will be the source of our joy by living in us despite our faults, but most of the time we want more. We want to be free of worries and struggles, and not to obsess about issues and situations that feel overwhelming, but this is the crux of our difficulty.

Joy in Christ is not about feeling better or more secure. To be a people of joy is a decision we must make on a daily basis, but we can only do this with faith. Our society often presents happiness and joy in unreal terms and fills us with expectations that are not of God. Eating whatever we want when we want, dressing well, having our own homes and cars might appear to make us happy, but this kind of joy never lasts. It is a mirage.

Authentic joy in Jesus is relational. The only real happiness is a consequence of opening ourselves to love and offering love to others, not because they deserve it, but because Jesus commands it. When we do this, everything changes. Our lives are not reduced to our accomplishments, our wealth, our importance in the society or church, but are measured solely by our willingness to be vulnerable to the love and transformation Jesus ask us to embrace.

Today, offer someone a joyful smile for the sake of the Gospel.

What kind of joy do you desire?




Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Authentic Compromise

"Some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, 'It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.'”  Acts 15:6

Finding a middle ground between two very different view points can be very difficult. We have only to look at our Congress these days to know this. Without denigrating people on either side of the political divide, we all realize that the Congress has to do something in order to keep the government functioning and vital. While everyone realizes that we elect people to govern us so that they can find a path that helps everyone equally, the attainment of this goal is never easy.

The first disciples of Jesus experienced this. Wanting to welcome Gentiles and traditional Jews to the Way of Jesus, they worked hard to interpret Jesus' teaching in a manner that would allow Jews to understand Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law, and Gentiles to enter the church without having to become Jews, but their efforts were never completely successful. Like many today, they wanted both to cling to the mores with which they grew up, and join the body of Christ without losing their identity.

In the twentieth first century the disciples of Jesus continue to search for ways to accept and benefit from the new  digital technology while not letting go of our basic values. How we use the internet and social media to announce the Good News without reducing the message of Jesus to tweet or three is a challenge and an opportunity upon which the health of the church rests. Remembering that following Jesus has always demanded careful thought and discernment can help.

Today, ask yourself whether you are clinging to the past for your own comfort or as a witness to the power of Jesus.

Whose wisdom has helped you discern difficult personal and family challenges?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Paralyzing Fear

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.'" Jn 14:27

When we read about the life of Jesus' first disciples, especially after Pentecost, we realize that following Jesus was no cheap grace. The price of discipleship was high. Many would lose their lives through martyrdom, and many others turned away from Jesus because of their fear.

Fear can be a very difficult emotion with which to deal. Sometimes paralyzing, and always uncomfortable, we often choose to ignore or deny it rather than realize that fear in the face of danger is necessary, and for the Christian, a means of transformation. Acts of the Apostles tells us that Paul was stoned so badly in Iconium that his persecutors thought he was dead, but in fact he lived, left that town and continued to announce the Good News despite its cost.

Jesus acknowledges and addresses the fear in his followers and promises them they will have his peace as a companion, but we should not be naive about this. The peace of Jesus is the ground upon which we build our faith, but it is often tested, and does not guarantee that we will be free of a fear that can paralyze us. Jesus will experience his own fear during the terrible night of his scourging and on the cross, but gives his life to his Father freely and powerfully. When we stay close to him, he assures us we will have the same strength to face our fears as he had during his agony.

Today, be with your fears and do not turn away from the trials of faith.

What about faith has helped you live with your fears and anxieties?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Humble Faith

"Why are you doing this? We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God." Acts 14:15

Sts. Paul and Barnabas led something of a schizoid life. Hated and attacked both by Jews and Gentiles in Iconium, Paul and Barnabas, in order to escape being stoned, fled to Lystra and Derbe, but when they arrived there they were given names of the Greek gods because people wanted to worship them as miracle workers. In both circumstances, Barnabas and Paul knew they could not abandon the path God had set before them. They had to continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus and insist they were neither devils nor Gods, but instruments commissioned by Jesus to announce the Good News.

Knowing who we are as Christians is vital both for our own spirituality and the life of the church. If, at times, our passion for the Gospel overwhelms our good and common sense, we will appear to others as extremists who want only to convince others of our opinions, not the truth of Jesus. When Paul and Barnabas reacted strongly to stop those who were trying to worship them, they were living the faith. Their actions reminded everyone that they were about Jesus, not themselves.

All of us continue to search for ways and paths to announce the Good News. When we avoid exalting ourselves, and become servants of all as Jesus instructs us, when we get on our knees to wash others' feet and take the lowest place at banquets and dinners, we help others to know the God who humbled himself to come among us so that we might live with God forever.

Today, remember who you are and offer another person some simple service in Gods'd name.

Whose humble faith most convinced you to live more simply so that Christ might increase and you decrease? (John 3:30)