Wednesday, June 28, 2017

now is the time

Jacob of Serugh talks to us today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He's talking about coming in late for mass, but what he points to is pertinent for everyone who follows Jesus, regardless of what church you attend.

He says that now is the time for us to get things right with God, and to do good for a heavenly reward. It brings to mind the old saying that "Life is what happens while you're making other plans." This is the life we're given, my friends. We need to make the best use of our time that we can.

Is there some sin that has you wrapped up? Ask for His help. He can free you, so you can enjoy your life and do good in it.

Are you struggling with making time for prayer? What more important thing can we do with our time than be with our Creator? Every moment we spend with Him makes us better people. That's why we're instructed to "pray without ceasing". Not because He needs our prayers... but because we so desperately need Him.

Do you have priorities that include visiting the sick? Spending time with those in prison? Feeding hungry people? Jesus made it pretty clear that whenever we do this for anyone, we're doing it for Him. And when we fail to do it, we are failing to help Him. Let's not neglect our Savior, whom we can find every day in the poor.

These words I'm writing tonight grab at my own heart. They remind me to stop wasting time, and make a difference in the world. If we all do that, what would the world look like tomorrow?

God, please help us make good use of the time You've given us.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

killing a rival

St John Chrysostom leads us to some profound wisdom today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He talks about when Herod killed the newborn babies in Bethlehem. And St John tells us to make sure we don't come to mass in a sinful state. But there is more to be found there, I realized.

See, he told the wise men from the east to let him know where the found Jesus, because he said he wanted to come worship, too. But what he really wanted to do was kill the rival to his throne.

It's easy for us to do the same thing. Instead of laying our lives down at the feet of Jesus and asking Him to do with us as He wills, which would be the worship that Herod promised, we often find ourselves trying to kill the rival to our throne. Because WE want to be in charge of our lives. We don't want to turn over the throne to anyone else, especially someone who wants us to do things that make us uncomfortable. And you can bet your last dollar that when you start following Jesus, He will call you to do things that make you uncomfortable. Because He's making you into someone new.

So we need to emulate the wise men, and bring our gifts to Jesus, and then go back a different way than we came... because we're changed into new people, walking in a new path.

God help us to be like the wise men and give You our gifts, and avoid the little Herod inside of us that wants to keep the throne.

Monday, June 26, 2017

who's responsible for my holiness?

St Cyril of Jerusalem gives us good advice regarding holiness today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He talks to us about holiness.

As we all know, God is merciful and forgiving. But He doesn't allow us to come into His presence presuming that everything is fine when we're sinful. He does require us to repent of our sins and ask forgiveness. Jesus made it very clear in one of His parables that our relationship to God is very much connected to our relationship with others. If we come into His presence, and remember that someone else has something against us, we should go make it right with them before we worship. He forgives us in the same way that we forgive others.

So it's very important when we come to Him, whether it's in church or in prayer or in Bible reading... in any way that we come into His presence... that we repent of the sins that so easily creep into our lives before we do. He will ALWAYS forgive us when we ask Him to. He never wearies of forgiving our sins. But we do have to ask.

God, thanks for forgiving us. Please help us remember to ask for that forgiveness.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

smoke gets in your eyes

St John Chrysostom talks to us today about living clear lives, free of smoke, in A Year with the Church Fathers. He talks about how the worries and cares of this world fill our lives with smoke. When we aren't being clouded by the smoke of our fears, we're having difficulty seeing past our desires. We need to blow that smoke away and experience life the way it really is, clear eyed and sober.

Many of us try to avoid that clear, sober experience of life because of pain. Pain isn't something we usually enjoy facing head on... we try to alleviate the experience through medication or at least distraction. And that's certainly understandable. If you're going to suffer, even if you're offering your pain to God to unite with Jesus's suffering and to do as Paul described, "I fill up in my flesh what is lacking in Christ's sufferings", you still don't usually want to experience that pain without some alleviation.

But aside from pain, I think we would benefit greatly from taking St John's advice and casting aside the distractions of fear and desire that fill our eyes with smoke and keep us from clearly seeing the life that God has given us. We miss so many blessings every day because we're rushing ahead to what's coming or we're regretting what's happened in the past. We spend so much time worrying about things that will never happen. We waste so much time feeling guilty about things that have happened before, or we harbor grudges that fill our minds with the smoke of anger and prevent us from experiencing the joy of crisp, clear daily life.

God, please help us clear the smoke from our eyes and clearly experience the lives You've given us.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

blessed are the poor

St John Chrysostom talks to us today in A Year with the Church Fathers about the advantage that the poor have over the wealthy.

He says that the rich benefit from medicine more than the poor do, since they can pay for the best treatment. But the poor, he says, benefit more from spiritual medicine because they pay more attention to spiritual things and are less distracted by money and other diversions.

This is good advice for us today in America. In Jesus's parable, the seeds of the gospel fall on stony ground, get choked out by weeds, and get eaten by birds. That's what can easily happen in our lives, too, can't it? Even if we are Christians, we can lose out on growing as disciples if we get so distracted with various forms of entertainment that we don't spend time with Jesus.

This is how our wealth can prevent us from growing in our faith. We have to make it a priority every day to spend time with Him, to read the Bible, pray, and spend time doing acts of mercy for other people so that we will grow in our spiritual life. As long as we keep Him first, all of these other things will be added to us. We don't have to stop watching movies and shows, listening to music, and reading books as long as we don't let them distract us from following Him as our first priority. In fact, staying relevant through movies, shows, music, and books will allow us to share our faith more effectively with those who don't know Him. It helps us to build bridges.

If you feel like you're struggling to put Him first, ask Him to help you. He wants you to grow in your faith. He wants you to put Him first. He'll help you find ways to do it if you ask Him to help you.

God, thank You for giving us spiritual medicine. Help us to keep ourselves "poor in spirit" so we can benefit from it.

Friday, June 23, 2017

broken men doing good

Today in A Year with the Church Fathers, we hear from our buddy St Basil. He tells us that we find great examples in the Bible to emulate when we want to learn how to be more like we ought to be. And he's right... we can learn a great deal from the examples of those in the Bible.

But what I really like learning from reading the Bible is that God uses broken people. Even the great heroes of the Bible, like David or Moses, do stupid things sometimes. They're human. They were flawed, and they sinned. Yet God used them in mighty ways to accomplish the good that He intended for all of us.

To me, it's very reassuring to realize that ALL of the disciples abandoned Jesus when He was arrested. They ran scared. That reassures me, because believe me, I'm scared myself sometimes when I face the crosses in my life. I want to run away. But, just like Jesus strengthened His disciples and reinstated Peter by asking Him "Do you love Me?", so He strengthens me and reinstates me every time I fail Him.

And just like Peter, the way that I show I love Him is by "feeding His sheep".

God, thank You for using broken men to do good.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Satan attacks you, Jesus defends you

St Jerome talks today about how the Bible is a great defense against the attacks of the devil in our lives. And he's right... studying the Bible and memorizing important verses is very helpful when temptation or spiritual attacks come our way.

But he says something in almost an offhand way that I thought was pretty profound... and sums up life as many people I know are experiencing it right now: Satan attacks us, and Jesus defends us.

Many people I know are struggling right now. With many of my friends, life just doesn't make sense some days. It seems the odds are stacked against them, and if anything CAN go wrong, it WILL. Even things that they don't think will go wrong find some way to do so.

At the same time that they are feeling beaten down, they're being picked up. They see that God is indeed working in their lives. They sense how God is using things for their good. And so they continue to trudge down the difficult road that they're on, knowing that Jesus is defending them and they'll make it to the end.

If you are struggling, take heart. He has overcome the world. If you know someone who's struggling, give them an encouraging word. You never know what good you can do in someone's life... you might make all the difference. Jesus might be using YOU to defend your friend against the enemy.

God, thank You for showing us how to keep walking when we are beaten down... because You are defending us.