A Christmas Reflection

While I don’t normally share so much in a deep way with others in writing this seemed to be a good opportunity to share a little about what has been happening in our lives through my(Joshua’s) experience of Advent and the coming of the Christmas season. I find it helps me to process thoughts, feelings, and events when I write them down. As such, I wrote this last Friday, the evening before our Christmas Mass, however I had written it down on paper. I find that my creative flow is stifled by the keyboard so whenever I reflect it is by writing down my thoughts on just plain old paper with a pen. So I am transferring it here for your benefit, hopefully! Enjoy!!

As I await in joyful expectation the arrival of the Christmas season my heart is yearning and leaping, it seems almost as a bride awaiting the coming of her bridegroom to her.

At the turn of every season of the Church I find myself opening up to what the Lord has to offer me or teach me. In prayer I ask to be led deeper, but what is so different about this Advent, about this year? Why do I feel the ardent yearning, this great desire for my true lover. For he is surely already near to me, indeed with me!

Amidst the fullness of life with 5 children(age 7 and under) we have been the worst this year with maintaining a daily Advent prayer. It has been busy, with being in Whitehorse for the first week of Advent, however grace filled with being able to enter into the mystery and depth contained in this beautiful season, and in our faith during our pastoral retreat. Coming back and feeling like I haven’t really caught up with certain “business” things(letting go of control) and leaving to go to Watson Lake in 30 to 40 below temperatures to help with renovations at the rectory there and returning with oozing power steering fluid and air in the system, arriving back safely I’m sure on the many rosaries prayed during the five and a half hour drive. Then having to deal with a squealing alternator, which I will more than likely have to replace next week with the new one that just arrived with the new drive belts today. And this week, with all of the preparations, God has called me deeper in prayer and I am really just encountering a new zeal and love for Him. He has led me into prayer this week, helping me to recognize in a new way the importance of starting my day with a substantial committed prayer time, even being joined by one of my daughter’s one morning.

I continue to recognize His blessings in my life that, even being what seems so far away from family, all I need is Him yet being blessed with so much more. He has even blessed me with breakdown in entertainment technology, (as silly as it may seem that the old iPhone I have that I would watch youtube videos on no longer supports youtube videos, and it happened two weeks into Advent.) so that I have had more time in prayer and reflection while washing the dishes; really one less thing to pull at my time and attention has made a big deal for me. Sometimes it is just so hard to let go of things on our own, although hard at first I can now thank the Lord with a fuller heart.

So with fresh snow on the ground, a beautiful time of adoration on Wednesday evening, and anticipation for Mass(the last one here being three weeks ago) I can run with joy and awe and hail Him as the lover of my soul, my Saviour in whom is wrapped up my heart.

I pray this also for all of you, that you may find yourself open to Him and His great love for you. Ask the Lord, as I now remember doing near the beginning of this Advent, to help you to encounter His great love for you in new ways. He will not disappoint you, and maybe even surprise you!

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” – John 1.1-3

(An excerpt from the Christmas Gospel reading for Mass during the day)

 

May the Lord richly bless you and your family this Christmas season!

 

 

Crisis at Christmas

A reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent (Year A)

The Gospel today shows highlights for us the crisis at the first Christmas. (Matthew 1.18-24)

We may picture the first Christmas to be like what we see on many Christmas cards, a peaceful, picture perfect night, but the Gospel today offers us a moment to internalize and connect with the events preceding Christ’s birth. As we look back on these events we can see God’s hand in the work of salvation, yet I’ma sure at the time for Joseph and Mary God’s plan wasn’t so clear.

For Mary maybe you can see how difficult it would have been, being found to be with child before she married. How is she supposed to explain this, being impregnated with God’s child, without sounding crazy? How were her family, and Joseph and his family supposed to understand? As for Joseph, we can perhaps feel his struggle. What was he supposed to think? Can you imagine his anxiety and confusion? And also being under the pressure of the Law and custom to have her killed (for being with child, not of him).

Like Joseph & Mary, how do we respond in our own lives when things don’t go as we think they should? Perhaps we build things up in our own minds and fabricate our own way through instead of asking the Lord to show us a way through, a way to understand, a path of clarity.

In the Gospel we hear how an angel appeared to Joseph in his dream and revealed God’s will for his situation. Notice how his first words are “do not be afraid”. Now it is usually never this easy for us, but it gives us an opportunity to ponder how God speaks to us. Are we leaving room in our lives for Him to speak to us and to reveal his plans?

Recently I have been reflecting and praying about something in my own spiritual journey that has been repeatedly coming up, in conversation and in reading scripture, and, although it is not a crisis, it has caused me to look past the surface of what I would think God is saying to how he is truly speaking, to my soul. I can picture how, in a different situation under stress, I may not have had the same clarity or openness.

It really is quite beautiful that while God could have saved us any number of ways he chose to come among us and become one of us. He came into the world because of our great need. He came into the world prophesied by Isaiah as Emmanuel (‘God with us’) and foretold by the angel to be named Jesus (‘God saves’), both which we hear in the Gospel today. He comes into our turmoil, our anxiety, our crisis, our need! He comes into our daily lives as a child bringing change, but also a joy and a peace.

So as we draw nearer to his birth at Christmas let us remember God is with us, to save us, from our anxiety, our doubts, our fears, our lack of faith, in whatever we are going through. He gives us the example of Joseph and Mary today in order to realize that we need to open ourselves to how He is speaking to us and embrace the clarity that he offers when we lay aside our own plans and seek his. He comes amidst us no matter what the situation of our life may be this Christmas, we can find him wherever we may be if we are open to his voice speaking to us.

Further reading:

Isaiah 7.10-14

Psalm 24

Romans 1.1-7

Are you willing to put your life on it?

The first reading today(2 Maccabees 7.1-2,7,9-14) is powerful and moving. We hear of this family of 7 brothers and the mother, one by one tortured and executed because they would not partake in practices that contradicted their faith in God. They were essentially killed because of their faith.

As brutal as this sounds we all know that this is not just something that happened in biblical times, but that it still happens today. As one who doesn’t follow the news a whole lot, a quick internet search brings up countless stories of others who have died because of their witness, by their actions, to God.

I have often wondered what I would do when placed in a situation where I was challenged for my belief in God, where death was placed before me? How does someone have this amount of courage, to be able to die to this world with peace and hope?

The answer comes in our Gospel today(Luke 20.27-38). There is a reason that these people who die for their faith are called ‘martyrs’. The word ‘martyr’ means “witness”. Martyrs witness to the existence of a higher realm, to a world beyond what we know here. This is why their persecutors have no power over them, no way to convince them otherwise, as I heard explained recently by Father Robert Barron, “A persecutor’s power [such as in the case of someone on trial for their belief in God] comes from a conviction that this life and the goods in it constitute the entirety of reality.” But for those who are martyred real life is eternal life. Faith in external life enables them to sacrifice their earthly lives for Christ, for the promise of something even greater, eternal union with God, as we hear in the Psalm(17): “I shall be satisfied, Lord, when I awake and behold your likeness.” We hear Jesus affirm this as He is challenged by the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection and loved the pleasures of the world(even disregarding many of the common Jewish practices and beliefs); “The children of this age…nor are given in marriage.” What Jesus is basically saying here is that those who believe and put their trust in the world worry about things of the world, but those who have their life set on things above do not worry about the things of this world.”

So what does this mean for us? How can we witness? How can we be ready to die for our faith? We will probably never have to face death because of our beliefs, but we can still witness even if it isn’t with our own blood.

We can witness by living our lives for heaven, by putting our trust and hope in the Lord. Jesus died on the cross before he rose. In the same way, we also must die before we can rise; die to the things of this world, our attachment to it and to sin, by pursuing that which pleases God, and die to our own will and our own desires in living by Christ’s example. We can be assured by Paul’s letter to the Romans(6.8); “If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.”

There is life after death, this is our hope and this is what we witness to as believers in God and in his Son Christ Jesus! So the real question is; are you willing to put your life on it, as many have before you?!

 

Further reading:

2 Thessalonians 2.16-3.5

Why are you so wonderful?

Today in the book of Wisdom (11.22-12.2) we are given a glimpse of the world from God’s perspective. It really is a beautiful passage. There is so much richness in it. You could take several of these sentences and reflect on them for a whole day!

“The whole world before you, O Lord, is like a speck…and like a drop of morning dew.” (Wisdom 11.22) We are so tiny before God, who is the great Creator, and yet how vast is it to us. The world adds nothing to His greatness. By this definition we would seem so insignificant, yet we are each so significant to Him – “[He is] merciful to all” (Wisdom 11.23)

This next line is the real kicker:

“Lord you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured had you not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved?” (Wisdom 11.24-25)

The world speaks of love often, but what is it really? Love is willing the good of the other. It is a choice. So for God, “how would anything have endured had [He] not willed it?” So it is by God’s love that we were brought and are held in being.

To quote Bishop Robert Barron “God doesn’t love things because they have wonderful qualities. That’s the way we tend to love. For example, if someone is attractive to us, kind to us, just to us then we love them. Rather, they have wonderful qualities because God loves them.”

To repeat: “God doesn’t love things because they have wonderful qualities. Rather, they have wonderful qualities because he loves them.”

With all of this in mind we hear the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19.1-10). A man who had a lack for nothing of this world. “He was chief tax collector and was rich”. Everyone around him was grumbling and declaring he was a sinner. Yet something called to the heart of Zacchaeus, I would dare to say he heard about this man Jesus and something in his heart was drawn to discover, or at least see, Him. He was being drawn out of himself because of the love of Jesus, the image of the living God, who loved him even though he didn’t know it yet.

Jesus sees him and says “I must stay at your house.” And Zacchaeus welcomed him. This coming in of Jesus into his house symbolizes Jesus totally moving into his life. Amidst whatever was in Zacheaus’ life Jesus’ love spoke to the depths of his heart and he repented; he was changed.

You know, I was speaking to someone the other day, talking about life and he said to me, “I have become convinced that it doesn’t matter what vocation I live in this life or what work I do, if I do not have relationship with God, if I do not live in His love then my life and my work means nothing. It is precisely because of his love for me, and out of that love, that I am able to be happy wherever I am and in whatever I am doing!”

This really is an important message for us to hear today; You are loved. I believe this is our biggest crisis today, is that when people do not know they are loved they search for meaning and purpose in things that will never bring meaning and purpose but leave them shallow and empty. There are times when we have all done this and still do this.

Our God is always there, he has been since the beginning of time, and now even more intimately he is present to us through his Son. It truly is His love for us that enables us to live fuller lives. And it is precisely because we are loved by Him first that our hearts are drawn to Him and we are drawn to change, to repentance and true happiness.

So during this Jubilee of Mercy, let us entrust ourselves totally and fully to the Lord our God, as Zacchaeus does today, welcoming him in to the “home” of our lives, thus allowing ourselves to experience the true joy of being loved by our Creator and our God.

Remember: “God doesn’t love you because you have wonderful qualities. Rather, you have wonderful qualities because God loves you.”

Attitude of Gratitude

Why are you here today in this church, at this service? I know I am putting you on the spot. But take a few moments to think on that. What is your purpose of being here today? Or on any given Sunday?

My answer ties in with our Gospel reading today. We heard the story of the 10 lepers who were healed(Luke 17.11-19). As Jesus approaches a village he is approached by these lepers who try to get his attention, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They are so desparate and hopeless, shunned from society and from their families. Leprosy is a disease where your body decays over a period of time. It is a slow, painful, and humiliating existence awaiting inevitable death. It was one of the most horrible of the ancient diseases. Jesus was their final hope. He tells them to go and show themselves to the priests, a requirement of the Old Testament law in order to insure a full cure so as not to spread the disease, and they were cured as they were on their way. Can you imagine the joy that they would have had at being cured? And yet there was only one leper who returned “praising God” and he thanked Jesus.

It is interesting to hear how Jesus’ immediate response was a focus on the ingratitude of the other lepers; “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?” Jesus demands gratitude, not for himself; notice how he says, “none of them was found to return and give praise to God.” So Jesus here is showing us just how important gratitude is for us. While the one leper was transformed by his gratitude I imagine the nine who were unable to express their gratitude returned to their old attitudes, habits, goals, and general shallowness of life. Nothing else in tham had changed besides being free from leprosy. It is the same for us, so it is necessary to express our gratitude as it manifests recognition for how this particular act has touched or changed our life. Now, obviously Jesus deserves our thanks as he has brought us hope, not by a mere command as he does with the lepers, but by his life, suffering, and death on the cross. Have we thought about offering him our due thanks and praising him for this great gift of eternal life which he shares with us. God also deserves our utmost thanks, for all that we have has come from Him.

This is why I am here at this service today, to give Jesus Christ my due thanks and to give God praise for all His gifts, for my very life. He doesn’t need our thanks, but we need to thank him. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that we are reflecting on this as we celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend. I believe it can be easy to be thankful for what we have, but to show gratitude is an expression of faith; our utter reliance and trust in God.

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A great thing to do today, tomorrow, this week, [something concrete] is to look back on your life; think of the people and events that the Lord has put in your life. Maybe at the time you didn’t realize they were a blessing, but looking back now you can see that they were. Have you thanked the Lord for that? The simplest and best prayer we could say is, “Thank you!”

Obviously God deserves our utmost thanks, but it is also important to recognize and appreciate the small or large favours and services done by others for us each day. Are there people in your life, maybe not even at the present moment, who have helped you on your way? Maybe in a deep or profound way, maybe in a simple way. Take some time to thank these people, a simple letter or note; “Your words, your act of kindness meant a lot to me!”

When we can express gratitude and thankfulness to God and others we can stand with the leper of today’s Gospel, hearing the words of Jesus resound in our own transformed hearts, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

 

Scripture readings:

2 Kings 5.14-17

Psalm 98

2 Timothy 2.8-13

 

 

 

what can faith do?

All 3 readings today speak about faith. ‘Faith’ is a word that is used quite often so we may be familiar with it, but I am not so sure that we fully know what it means in our lives. These readings today opened up, at least for me, a new insight in to what faith really is. So, what is faith really?

The apostles open our Gospel passage today by asking Jesus, “Increase our faith!” Now these are men who have walked with Jesus, who have seen his miracles first-hand, and who have witnessed time and again Jesus life given over to the will of the Father. Obviously they feel like they are still lacking faith. They realized that they couldn’t do life on their own, that they were not in control and that they needed help. In this they show us exactly what faith is; an attitude of trust in the presence of God. FAITH is an attitude of trust in the presence of God.

Jesus responds to the apostles request with a bit of an exaggeration; “Say to this tree be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would listen to you.” Meaning that what looks impossible can become possible with just a small seed of faith. When we live our lives out of this perspective with true trust and true confidence in God we are relying on His power, as St.Paul puts it in our second reading, already at work in us. What I think of when I hear this are the lives of many of the great saints. Just one example is Mother Teresa(now St. Teresa of Calcutta). Leaving her teaching job at a school in Calcutta and moving in to the slums, the worst slums in the world, having nothing; no money, no material resources, no support. What she did have was faith. An attitude of trust. Now we have this great order of the Missionaries of Charity spread throughout the whole world doing the work of God. There are many more examples, and it shows us what God can be accomplish in our lives with just this little seed of faith.

Maybe in your own lives you have seen and experienced what a seed of faith can do. When we entrust our lives to God, when we have confident trust in His power greater things can happen; when we realize that He is in control and we are not.

Lastly, Jesus shares a sobering example and reminds us, “You also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’” This statement may rub us the wrong way, but it really puts things in perspective for us, as Jesus is trying to make a point. As human beings it is almost an automatic reaction for us to assess what is coming to us, what our reward is. This sense of justice can even be seen in children, “That’s not fair”. It’s almost instinct. This isn’t a bad thing, however in the light of the Gospel today, this sense of justice implies that we are still in control, that we still have demands and expectations. In the light of faith Jesus is showing us that to grow in faith we must let go and trust God so that we can live simply in faithful service of Him. All that we have has come from Him.

So today let us repeat the apostles words in our hearts, “Lord increase our faith’, remembering that our lives are not about us, but that our lives are an exercise in trusting God; an exercise in openness to what God will reveal to us, what God will do through us, and what God will invite us to become with just a little seed of faith.

Scripture readings:

Habakkuk 1.2-3,2.2-4

Psalm 95

2 Timothy 1.6-8, 13-14

Luke 17.5-10

Return on your investment?

I am sure you never came here today expecting financial advice. And while I am no expert on these matters Jesus is. Yet it is a different kind of financial advice that Christ offers us today, as he states, “You cannot serve God and wealth.” He is getting at something deeper here as he uses a story to compare for us the zeal for worldly wealth with the zeal for His kingdom.

We hear the story of a manager today, as unfaithful as he has been with his master’s wealth, when asked to give an account of what he has done realizes he has been caught. He has used his master’s wealth to propel himself forward in life, and yet at this point of being caught he still doesn’t give up.

I think there are a two major things to notice here, two lessons that we can learn from this story as Jesus teaches us how we should act in relation to his kingdom from the experiences of this unfaithful and dishonest manager.

Firstly, we can see the intensity, and the desperation, of the unfaithful manager. He realizes the situation he is in with being let go from his job; “I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.” And so he works diligently to find favor with his master’s debtors by forgiving them some of their debt, even though it is at the expense of his master. Furthermore, his master even commends him on this act, “… for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” In today’s world many people are dedicated to developing worldly skills and in gaining knowledge to hold down a job or a career, but when it comes to faith there is not near the same amount of effort. From this the Lord is encouraging us to show the same intensity in spiritual matters, in living truth, in prayer, in our relationship with Him, as we make in our worldly efforts. If we could see how God sees us, as the rich man saw how his manager had been dishonest, how desparate would we be to further our spiritual cause. It is worth pondering!

The second lesson we can learn from this story is how to invest our wealth. “I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into eternal homes.” This is an interesting image Jesus uses to instruct us on how to use money (or as it is put, dishonest wealth); the dishonest manager used the money at his disposal to make friends who could help him in the next stage of his life. At some point money and worldly wealth will be useless to us, but how are we using our money and resources to bless others. Just as the world tells us to invest our money to reap words in the future, so too does the Lord. By giving it away to those most in need, those who will speak on our behalf, we are storing up or wealth in heaven.

So, as we have been entrusted with this “little” let us strive today to be faithful with it by putting spiritual matters ahead of wealth and the world, and by investing for our spiritual futures. Surely we cannot accomplish this alone, for the pull of the world is strong. We need to get on our knees and pray for God’s grace to grant us strength to prefer God to the world and also to grant us a spiritual desperation that would bring us a deeper desire for “thy Kingdom come and thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!”

Scripture Readings:

Amos 8.4-7

Psalm 113

1 Timothy 2.1-7

Luke 16.1-13

A Sheep & A Coin

Our Gospel today(Luke 15.1-10) presents us with 2 parables, each one exploring the notion which is at the very heart of the spiritual life, namely, that God is one who searches for us. And this is the very essence of what the Bible is about; God’s story of finding us.

Let’s look at the parables a little closer; step into the stories for a moment, if you will, because they reveal to us the heart of our Father.

First we hear of the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to go after the 1 lost sheep. Now this doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me. What shepherd would leave his flock (I’m sure his whole livelihood)“in the wilderness”, open to the elements and predators, to go after 1 stray sheep. It just seems so absurd and crazy, at least to my mind. And yet the shepherd was willing to take this risk, and rightly so he rejoices in finding the lost sheep.

Next we hear of a woman who had lost a coin. Now she has ten of these coins, so you wouldn’t think that losing one of them would be such a big deal. However, she goes through the trouble of lighting a lamp and sweeps the house searching for it. Upon finding it she “calls together” her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her. Now I can’t say entirely what this would have looked like if she had them over to her place, but I’m sure the hospitality would have been to have tea and goodies available for her friends also. She probably spent close to the amount of money she had found on celebrating!

So we see two common elements in these stories of losing and finding; the craziness of the searcher and also the immense joy and celebration in the finding. These two elements, these two stories are meant to reveal for us the love of our God, our God who searches for us. He is crazy in love with us. No matter what we have done, as the sheep who wandered astray, or how helpless we may feel, as the coin is unable to do anything to be found, our God is crazy in love with us and will stop at nothing to find us. He not only searches for us, but it is what he rejoices in doing!

[We also see examples of this in our other readings today: St.Paul to Timothy(1 Timothy 1.12-17)-shares his testimony of how the Lord’s mercy and love saved and restored him. Exodus 32.7-11, 13-14- God’s mercy for his people even in their unfaithfulness. We see the myriad of ways God works for and loves His people no matter where we are.]

So, with this in mind, let’s take a look back at the 2 parables:

Place yourself in the hooves of the lost sheep; the loneliness and fear you would be feeling, the vulnerability of being away from the comfort of the flock and the shepherd. And then you hear the voice of the shepherd calling to you. You bleet out, “I am here.” Immediately you feel the rush of comfort and peace as he sweeps you into his arms and onto his shoulders. You feel special, you feel his love, that he came to find you.

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Place yourself in the place of the lost coin. Hidden under the couch in the back with all of the dust and other strange things. It is dark, but you see a light. It’s rays feel so far from you yet illuminating at the edges all around you. You hear footsteps, but you can’t make a sound. All of a sudden the darkness over you is lifting and the light of the lamp springs forward and rushes in on you. You see the face of love and rejoicing as your searcher finds you and encloses you in the warmth of their hand.

So today I invite you to encounter His love for you by allowing yourself to be found by Him, to be carried by Him, to encounter His joy at finding us. As much as we can often think, or hear, that we are on a journey to find God, it truly is our God who searches for us (as we hear in the gospel today); Our God, who is crazy in love with us, who rejoices in finding and loving us, and whose love can transform our lives.

*Main idea for reflection borrowed from Bishop Robert Barron

Further Reading:

Luke 15.11-32

Spiritual Athlete

We are faced with a sobering question in today’s Gospel (Luke 13.22-30), as we here a man asking Jesus, “Will only a few be saved?” And maybe he is asking because he is wondering of his own salvation. Maybe, at one point or another, we have asked of ourselves the same question, “Will I be saved? Will I go to heaven?” Jesus responds with an equally sobering response; “Many will try to enter [through the narrow door] and will not be able?” What does this mean for us? If our God is a God of love would he not want all of us to be with him. The answer is “YES, ABSOLUTELY!” And yet his response for some, as he says, will be, “I do not know where you come from.” I think the reality of this is that many have presumed that they are saved by baptism or take comfort in the presumption that the vast majority of people will go to heaven and so they try to be good and end up in that crowd. Yet scripture states it very clearly, and differently than this. And so what are we to do?

One thing this scripture places on my heart is the call to urgency, to act now! We are encouraged and challenged by Jesus’ words; “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many… will try to enter and will not be able.”

As I was reflecting on this Gospel for today, I couldn’t help but think of the Olympics, which are just wrapping up today after a couple of weeks of events. I have been really captivated by many of the athletes as I watch them and hear their stories. These athletes, I imagine many of them, have been in intense training for years to prove that they can make it and stand among the top in the world. I also imagine for most, if not all, this requires intense discipline, a strict diet, grueling commitment, and pushing through the pain; they have to eat and sleep with their goal in mind, to push to limit and be the best. How will they know that they are the best, that they are able to make it? By giving it everything that they have.

Also, behind every great athlete is a coach, someone who knows how to guide them down the one right path and who has usually gone there before them. They push you to accomplish great and difficult things, sometimes things you never thought you could do. And so, likewise, we are not alone as we have the example of our great teacher, Jesus. He leads the way for us by taking up his cross. He is the narrow gate, and so it is only by following him and comforming to him that we are able to enter.

It seems to me then that this is our answer, we must be spiritual athletes; striving to enter through the narrow gate. This is our spiritual training program, if our goal is heaven. There are many paths that lead away from this narrow door, but only one that leads to it; the path of Jesus. There will only be victory for those who are willing to push on.

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It is not an easy thing. As we hear in the letter to the Hebrews (12.5-7,11-13), “Endure trials for the sake of discipline.” You must be willing to walk the path of love in all that you do every day and you must take up your cross and be willing to endure the trials of resisting temptation. Ultimately you must be willing to surrender to the grace of God and then allow that grace to invade every aspect of your life so that grace flows through you and into the wider world.

So today I encourage you to take consolation that you have a loving coach, a loving teacher, who is willing to show you the way if you are but willing to commit and push on! There is no better day than today. There is no better moment than now!

 

Further reading:

Isaiah 66.18-21

Psalm 117

A Devouring fire

“I came to bring to bring fire to the earth… I came, not to bring peace, but rather division.”

These words of Jesus are intense. His words make clear the purpose he came for, to embody the all-devouring love of God who has a passion for us that doesn’t let us settle in mediocrity, but rather calls us to something greater. These words also speak a truth that sets aside any notion of compromise and coexistence with evil. The truth is that we are in a constant battle. And in order for there to be true peace and holiness there must be clarity in our lives, not compromise. There are two camps, not a third, one must win while the other loses! Jesus is the one who can bring clarity to our lives!

In today’s first reading(Jeremiah 38.4-6, 8-10) we hear about the prophet Jeremiah, a man who spoke clarity which he received from God. And he was hated for it! Jeremiah was amidst God’s Chosen people, the Israelites, and was sharing God’s word with them; that they would face destruction by the Babylonian empire because of their sins. However, the popular opinion of the people was that they needed to fight and that God would deliver them, as he had in the past from other oppressors and foes. And so they didn’t believe Jeremiah’s message. And this was even in a Theocoratic culture, a culture that widely recognized God. Jeremiah was hated for speaking God’s word to them.

Earlier in Jeremiah we hear the famous verse, “I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm, plans to give you a future full of hope.” And Jeremiah stood in that truth. He stood against the popular opinion of his day and chose to stand uncompromising on God’s word and was hated for it, even being thrown into a cistern.

We also are called to stand, as Jeremiah did, uncompromising in the truth against all that is a lie in our world today. But how was Jeremiah able to stand amidst the culture of his day with such strength? He was consumed by this fire that Jesus speaks of in the Gospel; the devouring fire. This image of fire is important. Fire is powerful and transformative! It gives warmth and also consumes and destroys. When I think of fire I always think of forest fires. You can see the devastating effects of fire out of control, devouring everything in its path. As devastating as it is have you seen, years later, an area devastated by a forest fire? It is flourishing, space is made for new life and new growth; seeds that were unseen now take life and so are able to flourish.

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In the same way, in order to establish his kingdom on earth Jesus had to clear out, burn away, and destroy certain things; all that is false. And he seeks to do this in our hearts and our lives. Instead of settling for the ways of our fallen world he calls us to take a stand, as Jeremiah did, in his promise; not caring what others will think and not settling for what will make others “happy”, by our compromising (and this comes even in our own families), but only settling for the truth. It will most definitely never be the easy way, but it is this fire that will burn away all the underbrush and the dead wood in us that clings to this world and that will leave us open to grow and flourish in the all-devouring love and truth of God.

As we read from St.Paul’s letter to the Hebrews; “Consider Jesus who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.”

So let us actively seek out His fire to consume our hearts, knowing the goodness and truth that it will bring!

 

Further Reading:

Psalm 40

Hebrews 12.1-4

Luke 12.49-53