Saturday, April 21, 2018

fear God

In the One Year Bible, we read from Luke 20:27-47 today. We read about the teachers of the law coming to Jesus and trying to trap Him with questions. Of course He answers their questions easily, and then asks them some questions they don't answer so easily.

But it reminds me of something I heard recently. I was listening to a YouTube video about someone coming to know God for the first time. And when they realized that God really was interacting with them, it scared them! That's a common response... like when Peter realized that Jesus was more than just a man... he said, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man." Many times when Jesus performed miracles, the people asked Him to leave because they were afraid.

That's what the teachers of the law lacked - the fear of God. They didn't realize that Jesus WAS God. But Jesus let us know that the way they treated the poor showed that they didn't fear God. And the fear of God, the Bible tells us, is the beginning of wisdom.

So should we be afraid of God? Well, it STARTS there. But every time God interacts with someone in the Bible, He tells them, "Don't be afraid." So the fear of God - realizing who He is - is the beginning of wisdom. The fool says in his heart there is no God. But then we grow past that fear, and into love. Once we realize that He IS God, but that He loves us (for some reason that I'm not sure we'll ever fully understand)... our fear turns into love in return. We never go back to BEFORE... when we neither feared NOR loved Him. We move past the stage of fear and into something beyond fear - the love of God.

God, thank You for teaching us to fear You - and to move beyond fear into love.

Friday, April 20, 2018

amazed by His answer, they were silent

In the One Year Bible today, we read from Luke 20:1-26. Jesus is answering the questions that the teachers of the law are using to try to trap Him. And He's answering them so well that "amazed by His answer, they were silent."

There's another time in the Bible that God's answers produce silence. In the book of Job, most of the characters in the story seem to be accusing God of dealing with Job unfairly. But then God speaks, and the only proper response is silence.

Of course, there are exceptions to the statement Dostoesvky makes in the pic above. There are times to speak, and times to remain silent. When dealing with people who need hope, our words bring comfort and joy. When we're dealing with other people in general, speaking the truth in love is usually better than not saying anything at all.

But when we're in the presence of God, silence is usually the best posture. When St John Vianney asked a peasant man what form his prayer took when he was in the presence of God for hours on end, the peasant replied, "I look at Him, and He looks at me." Sometimes that's the best form our prayer can take. To lay the burden of words aside, and just BE in His presence. You've probably experienced that kind of intimacy with your spouse or children at some point. When words are unnecessary, and you can just BE together. That's the kind of intimacy that, sometimes, is best with God too.

Let's be amazed by His answer, and be silent.

God, thanks for calling us to all forms of prayer - even the silent type.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

whose will?

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from Luke 19:28-48. We read of Jesus entering Jerusalem. He entered triumphantly, and He entered of His own free will. As He told us in John 10:18, no one took His life from Him - He gave it willingly. He laid it down for His sheep, as the good shepherd.


In the garden of Gethsemane, we read about His very confusing prayer. He is praying to God the Father, and He says "If it's possible, take this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done." That's some deep and confusing theology right there. Because first of all, He gave His life willingly, according to John 10:18. On the other hand, He didn't want to drink the cup on the night He was betrayed. But God the Father DID want Him to do it, since He prayed that God's will be done, not Jesus's. But Jesus and the Father are One. If we've seen Jesus, we've seen the Father. So how could Jesus have one will and the Father have a different will?

I'm not pretending to understand this fully. But I think it DOES give us some insight into our human condition. Because we are strange creatures ourselves, aren't we? We are physical creatures... with organs and blood and muscles and bones, just like animals. But we're also eternal beings, with spirits or souls, and we will live forever. We are the place where the physical and the spiritual meet. We're like the animals on one hand, and like the angels on the other. And so we often war with ourselves - our spirit is willing, and our flesh is weak. We WANT to be close to God, to put sinning behind us, and to become saints. But our bodies argue with our spirits, and we find ourselves doing the things we don't want to do. St Paul makes that clear when he says that which he wants to do, he doesn't do, but what he doesn't wanna do, that's what he finds himself doing.

So even though the depth of the theology behind Jesus giving His life willingly, but not wanting to drink the cup on that terrifying night in the garden, and also behind the idea of the Son who is one with the Father having a different will from the Father might be beyond our ability to fully grasp... even though that might be true, I think we can relate to it on our limited human level. We know what it's like to want goodness and yet shy away from it when the moment comes. We know what it is to be pulled back and forth between holiness and humanity.

God, thank You for sharing in our struggle - as You told us You did by becoming human. Help us to make the right choice, like You did.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

to seek and to save

In the One Year Bible today, we read from Luke 19:1-27. Jesus tells us very clearly that He came to seek out and save sinners. The phrase pops out of the story about Zacchaeus. Jesus invites Himself over to his house, knowing that he was a notorious sinner. And those who consider themselves righteous murmur among themselves and say, "This great "messiah" is hanging out with a sinner?"

It's funny that the pattern just keeps repeating itself over and over through history. Today, we find the same thing. People who get their hands dirty in helping the poor and forgotten, like St Mother Teresa (her official title is St. Teresa of Calcutta, but you know who I mean) or Amy Carmichael or John Paul II or Dorothy Day... they cause people to mutter, too. To wonder how in the world they can claim to be holy when they associate with "known sinners".

But that phrase.... when you stop and ponder it, you find something pretty profound. Those people - the tax collectors and prostitutes and so forth... they're KNOWN sinners. They can't hide it. Everyone knows they've sinned. And so they're very grateful for the forgiveness that Jesus offers, because it heals the wounds that everyone can see.

However, those who are muttering and murmuring about how this preacher is going too easy on sin, or that Pope is being too welcoming to sinners...they've done too good a job of covering up their sin. They have even convinced themselves that they don't have any sins that need forgiving.

Jesus had harsh words for them back then. And His words still apply today. Not because He hates those people... but because He loves them. And as long as they keep deceiving everyone, especially themselves, that they are perfect people who don't need forgiveness... they're falling into the greatest of all sins: pride. And that pride will destroy them, unless they learn to see that they too need forgiveness, just like the prostitute, just like Zacchaeus.... just like me.

God, please help all of us to see that we're sinners who need You. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

closed minds and open ones

In the One Year Bible today, something kind of remarkable happens. We read from Luke 18:18-43. Jesus flat out tells His disciples that He is going to be beaten and killed when they reach Jerusalem. And then He tells them very plainly that He will rise again from the dead. And they scratch their heads in puzzlement, because according to Luke, "the significance of His words was hidden from them."

Later, when we get to Luke 24, we'll find a verse that says that Jesus will open their minds so they can understand what He's teaching them.

I'm pretty sure you've felt that way, haven't you? You read the same sentences over and over and you just don't get what they're saying? Or have you ever read a verse in the Bible and you could SWEAR that verse was not there before? Because your mind wasn't open to it yet.

God, through the Holy Spirit (who is also God, of course) opens our minds at the right times for what we need to learn. You can read the same verse 100 times and not really grasp the meaning of it... and then one day you need to hear it, and suddenly the words leap off the page and into your life.

Ask Him. He will open your mind as you read. He'll teach you through His powerful, life changing words that He gives us in the Bible. He will bring His words to life, opening your mind to connect with them like never before. Ask Him, and you'll be amazed what you learn.

God, thank You for opening our minds to Your words.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Jesus tells a little joke

In the One Year Bible today, we read from Luke 18:1-17. In it, Jesus says what must be a joke.

Some people say He was joking when He met with the Samaritan woman who came to Him asking for a miracle. He says that you shouldn't give the children's food to the dogs, and she says that even the dogs get to eat the scraps. I've read Bible commentators who say that He was joking in this exchange. Maybe so, maybe not.

But in today's reading, He had to be joking. He is telling a very insightful story about a judge who has no sense of right and wrong, but he gives in to this woman's demands because she is so persistent. That's a good reminder to be persistent in prayer, because God, who cares about us greatly, will answer our prayers, since even this unjust judge did due to sheer persistence. Good story, good take home lesson. But the joke is in how He says it. He tells us right up front that the judge "doesn't fear God or care about people." And then He tells us that the woman persists, and the judge says to himself, "I neither fear God nor care about people, but..." and you have to laugh. Like the judge stops and says to himself "I don't fear God or care about people, like Jesus told you before He started this story!"

It's like when you're reading in a book and it says, "John wondered what time the train came. He turned to the man next to him and asked, "What time does the train come?"" The repetition is humorous.

And they say that all of the great saints had good senses of humor. And we know that humor is the sign of a healthy, sane mind. So let's enjoy a good laugh, especially when Jesus is telling the joke.

Just to give you a laugh, here's a joke I like:

This man, his dog, and his horse are lost in the desert. As they trudge along, all of them weary from thirst, suddenly the dog says, "I can't take it! I need a drink!"

The man turns and looks at the dog and says, "I didn't know you could talk!!"

The horse turns and says, "Me neither!!"

God, thank You for the gift of humor.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

and going, they were cleansed

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from Luke 17:11-37. It's the story of the ten lepers that are healed by Jesus. And we're familiar with the one who returns to thank Jesus, prompting Him to ask, "Where are the other nine?"

But if we rewind back in the story a little bit, we find something interesting. When the lepers call out to Jesus to be healed, He doesn't just walk over to them and say "Be healed" or touch them. He tells them to go to the priest. And when they obey Him, they are healed.

That's an interesting lesson to take home, isn't it? These men ask God to help them. And in answer, He tells them to go to church. When they take Him at His word, and go to church like He tells them to, they're healed. Today, we call out to Jesus for help, don't we? And He tells us just what He told those lepers - go to church. That's where you'll find your healing. "And going, they were cleansed." And we will be too. When we obey Him, He meets us in that obedience, and gives us what we need.

God, thank You for healing us lepers. Help us to be grateful.