Wednesday, December 13, 2017
St Ephrem talks to us today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He talks about a time when a Pharisee came to Jesus and questioned His teachings. Jesus gave him truth, and said it in a gentle, kind way that enabled the Pharisee to accept it.
We run into this every day on the internet, don't we? We find people who question our views. Who attack us for what we believe. And how we answer them can make a huge difference in their lives.
It's easy to respond in anger, and to be honest, if I reply to FB comments first thing in the morning, that's the tone my replies unfortunately take. But once I've had some caffeine and have woken up and gotten some joy in my heart :) I try to respond in a more gentle, kind manner. I'm not always successful, and I do use the block feature on FB when necessary. But it amazes me how often the person I'm arguing with begins to start "liking" my replies, and we end up being FB friends.
The Psalmist wrote that a gentle answer turns away wrath, and it's still true today on the interwebs. Let's all try to answer kindly. You'll be amazed what happens.
God, thanks for teaching us timeless truths.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Today in A Year with the Church Fathers, we hear from St Augustine, one of my favorite saints. He tells us about his mother, who prayed so earnestly and diligently for his salvation that he says he seemed to have little choice in the matter.
In fact, his mother went to a priest to ask for help because St Augustine had fallen into the Manichee heresy, and she wanted the priest to talk him out of it. But the priest very wisely said to give St Augustine some time, and that in his reading he would see the error of the heresy. This is what happened.
But the priest also said something very interesting, and it is something that is heartening to those who have loved ones who are away from God. When she was talking to the priest, he said, "It is not possible that the son of these tears should perish."
Do we have tears for the people that we know who are far from Jesus? If not, we can ask for them. God can soften our hearts so that we are able to weep again. And in that weeping, maybe we can find those who need Him. What St Monica was able to do for St Augustine, maybe we can do for those in our lives who need Him.
God, please show us who we can help find You again.
Monday, December 11, 2017
Today in A Year with the Church Fathers, we hear from St Dionysius of Alexandria. He tells us that early Christians had a big argument about whether they would let people back into the church who denied their faith under persecution. The result was that they DID let them back in. But you can see the dilemma. How would you feel if someone betrayed you? Would you forgive them?
That's not an easy question to answer. But it does put it in perspective when we realize how many times we've betrayed Jesus ourselves. Every time someone says bad things about our friend, and we stay silent. Every time a hungry person needs help and we ignore them. Every time we have an opportunity to share the love He's given us, and we chicken out. Yet He welcomes us back every time, doesn't He? I know in my life, He's forgiven me alot more than seventy times seven times.
Maybe we can, in light of that, find it in our hearts to forgive those who betray us?
God, thanks for forgiving us. Please help us to learn from that forgiveness.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Today in A Year with the Church Fathers, we hear from St Gregory the Great. He tells us to pray for people who refuse to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. People who say that He isn't the Messiah, isn't the savior of the world. He says we should lift them up in prayer anyway. Because, as he says, "as long as life remains in the body, we must not despair of anyone's restoration."
When you read the news today, you hear one of two things on a regular basis. Either there's been another shooting, or there's been another celebrity accused of indiscretion. In both cases, you have an opportunity to pray.
We can pray for the victims of the shootings and their families. We can pray for the victims of the celebs. Those are pretty much a given. But we also need to remember to pray for the shooters. And pray for the celebs. Not all of the accusations are true, and some celebs are trying to clear their names from false accusations. But those who are guilty also need our prayers. Their lives are taking a drastic turn. It's easy to look down your nose at them and call them names. But are we without sin? Do we have room to point our fingers? As fellow sinners, let's lift them up and pray they receive the help they need to get their lives fixed. Maybe, like the people St Gregory prayed for, they'll even find Jesus along the way.
God, thank You for reminding us to pray for sinners... and reminding us that we're sinners who need prayer, too.
Saturday, December 9, 2017
St Ignatius of Antioch talks to us about praying for others in A Year with the Church Fathers. He says we should pray without ceasing for other people. He points out that Jesus had many enemies during His ministry, and He prayed for them. He even prayed that those who killed Him would be forgiven. For "they know not what they do."
How many of your enemies know what they do? How many of our brothers and sisters are caught in the lies of the enemy? Have bought the spin that our world has spun? There might be some who know the evil that they're doing. But so many that do wrong do it because either they're deceived, or they're being forced into it by others. Whatever the case, they need our prayers.
Two of the spiritual acts of mercy are praying for the living, and praying for the dead. Some of my readers might not feel comfortable with praying for the dead, and that's fine. Take what's useful to you from my blogs. But those of you who believe in purgatory, don't forget to pray for those who have passed away, that they might go through their purgation quickly and go to heaven sooner rather than later.
But in all things, rejoice. And pray without ceasing. Let every conversation you have turn into a prayer. If you involve God in everything, your whole life becomes a prayer from one end to the other.
God, please help us pray without ceasing.
Friday, December 8, 2017
St John Chrysostom talks to us today in A Year with the Church Fathers about helping out those who are younger in the faith. He says that one of the things we can do that helps younger Christians the most is sharing the things we've struggled with, and sharing how to deal with them.
That's not something everyone likes to talk about. We don't always like pointing out our weaknesses or our areas of vulnerability. It doesn't make us look good. But when we humble ourselves and share what we've struggled with, we help the next generation to learn several important things.
First, they learn that they're not alone in their struggles. They learn that others sin, too. That even people they admire struggle with sins from time to time. That it's to be expected. And that there is a way to deal with it.
They also learn to share THEIR struggles with the next generation, to pass on what you've taught THEM. Not only do they learn the content of your lesson, they learn the importance of the lesson itself.
And they learn that humility is important, because without it, none of the lessons would be possible.
So the next time you're spending time with someone young in their faith, keep St John's lesson in mind. Share your struggles. You'll impact many generations to come.
God, thanks for teaching us through the experiences of others.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
St Palladius of Galatia tells us an incredible story today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He says that an ascetic Christian once sold himself into slavery to some actors so that he could share his faith with them. He ate only bread and water, and talked to them about the faith day and night until they became Christians and left the stage.
They wanted him to become their teacher, but once they'd freed him from his slavery, he said he needed to leave to go help other people become Christians. That's quite a story.
And maybe God wants us to do something that dramatic? It's possible. But when He calls us to do huge things like that, He usually gives us the desire to do it, too. There is a little Jonah in all of us, I'm afraid, and sometimes we want to run in the opposite direction when God calls us to do something.
But usually He puts the desire in our hearts. Psalm 37:4 means both things, remember. That He will give you what your heart desires. But it also means He'll give you the desires themselves. If you delight yourself in Him, He will help you desire good things.
God, please help us to do great things in people's lives, so they can know You better.