Sunday, August 27, 2017

Unsearchable Ways

"Oh, the depths of the riches and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are His judgments and how unsearchable His ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that He may be repaid? 
From Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be Glory forever. Amen." --[Romans 11: 33-36.]

This passage is not just a Verse from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, it is also considered a Doxology. The word doxa in Greek means praise. The suffix-logia means verbal or written expression. [Source:].

In Praise of God. How often do we hear that these days? In this so-called "Post-Christian" era, how often do we dare to utter a praise of God, out in public? We are chastised to, "Keep your religion to yourself".

And yet, for Christians, ALL things come FROM Him, THROUGH Him, and FOR Him. That is, "He is the Source of all things, including ourselves." -[NIV Bible, footnote 11:36].

How utterly humbling is this!

 And so, the notion that a human being would spend his life accumulating more and more and more is patently absurd in the Biblical sense.

I once knew a man who had a wife, two sons, five cars, four homes, two dogs and a yacht. I confided this to a church friend, who said to me --"Is he happy yet?" I had to shoot this friend a "meaningful stare."  My reply to him: "No. He is miserable."

And in fact, this consumerist man told me not long ago, that he had reached his ultimate goal in Life-- a 50' boat. EXCEPT, when he docked his huge yacht in a slip at his summer place, right next to him was a guy with a yacht much bigger.

I told this man, "Ah, but there will ALWAYS be a man with a bigger boat."

Romans 11: 33-36 instructs us that everything comes from God and needs to be FOR God; nothing else matters. Do all the riches in the world impress God? No, not compared to the depths of the riches and knowledge of God.

Romans 11:33-36 is sobering because it reminds us that we can never be smarter than God, can never criticize God ("who has been His counselor?"), can never give God anything that will measure up to who He is, or what He has given us.

And so, the notion that a human being would spend her life trying to accumulate the most "Likes" or Friends on Social Media is patently absurd in the Biblical sense.

God doesn't care about the approval of the earthly World. The only approval we require as human beings is being Right with God.

Romans 11: 33-36 teaches us, "How inscrutable are His judgments and how unsearchable are His ways." --And, we DARE to judge others and think we know more than anyone?

Do we unerringly see right through to the Eternal Truth in other human beings? A person who appears cold and  disengaged may not be a snob like you think; she may be depressed. A person who walks right past you may not be unfriendly; she may be hard of hearing.

Romans 11:33-36 reminds us of the harrowing Truth that God did not have to bring us into this World, and He does not have to keep us here, either. For, God is "the Source of all things, including ourselves."

This ought to make us live each day as if each day were our last here on Earth. No, this is not some saccharine wall plaque, about dancing in the rain and allowing ourselves our mistakes and living with no regrets.

We need to ask ourselves what makes us get up each day, get dressed and eat breakfast, and get about our day. What DOES get you out of bed in the morning?

IF our motivation is to make millions and congratulate ourselves for our success, thereby forgetting Who is in charge, then, in a Christian sense, we are very wrong.

IF our motivation is to assume that by being materially successful, then we have the right to judge others, or instruct others how to live, because somehow we have to formula for Life, then we are way off base.

This Scripture says that we are NOT in charge, no matter how successful we may be in an earthly sense. This Scripture says, No, we do NOT know more than God, just because things are going right for us, most of the time. That attitude is self-worship -- and it is dangerous.

IF I am nothing without God, IF everything I have comes from God, IF everything I do is FOR Him, then what motivates me each day is to give all I have to God-- because He has given me all that He has!

[Related Posting: "Prayer for Wisdom", 7/23/11; " Mysterious Wisdom", 2/12/17; "The Inexpressible Spirit", 7/24/17].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Woman of Faith

" At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came out and called out, 'Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.'
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus' disciples came and asked Him, 'Send her away, for she keeps calling after us.'
He said in reply, 'It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.'
She said, 'Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.'
Then, Jesus said to her in reply, ' O woman, great is your Faith! Let it be done as you wish.'
And the woman's daughter was healed from that hour.' " -- [Matthew 15: 21-28].

I was raised in the Episcopal Church. Then when I was 14, after I had been baptized, had received my First Holy Communion, and had become Confirmed, my parents stopped taking me to church. They said, "We don't believe in that stuff any longer. Only losers need God."

To all those who take their children to church, teach them all about God, then take church away -- I really don't believe that you can really ever take away what you have bestowed.

For decades, I became a "Nothing". I still believed, in my heart, but I never spoke of my Faith around my family. I feared that they would try to "talk me out of" my Faith. If they could take church away, could they rob me of my Faith as well?

Then, as if to prove that God has a sense of humor, I married a Catholic. My family was outraged. Still, I went to Mass with my husband, but I sat on the sidelines, not ready to talk about receiving the Eucharist again, certainly not ready to talk Conversion.

I believe that the Canaanite woman had Faith, even though she was the "wrong kind of tribe". When she encounters Jesus at the well, she calls out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!"  She knows who He is.

She also knows that He has the power to heal. She pleads, "My daughter is tormented by a demon."

Jesus is now in foreign territory in Tyre and Sidon. The basis of Christ's kingdom until now has been that the Israelites were God's Chosen Ones. Jesus says, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The Canaanites and the Jews hated each other. How dare this Canaanite woman ask for healing? How dare Jesus even respond?

Then, at a time in my life when I had lost my father in seconds to a massive heart attack; when my best friend was succumbing to cancer; when I took my mother back into my life despite a lifetime of cruelty, only to find out that she was terminally ill -- my world suddenly spun upside down and backwards.

One day, I was trying to explain to my husband how utterly lost I felt. He said, Do you want to talk to someone?"

I found myself saying that I wanted to talk to the priest of our parish. But, I said, "I am not even Catholic. WHY would he talk to ME? I am not even worthy to pour the juice to the students in the Religious Education classroom."

My husband looked at me, stunned: "I am sure if you went to him in good faith, he would never turn you away."

In fact, he did not turn me away. After we spoke for some time, he wrote out the Scripture reference to Paul's Conversion in Acts. I felt like he was a physician writing out a prescription. He told me to read it and meditate upon it. He also told me to imagine Jesus reaching His hand out to me.

Like the Canaanite woman, I was from the "wrong tribe".  But I still had Faith.

Before long, I was in preparation to join the church and to receive the Eucharist again -- after so many decades.

People in the church became, not just fellow-parishioners, but friends. Many said that I was transforming before their very eyes.

When I met with the priest before receiving the Eucharist, he told me, "You have a steely bond with God. You remind me of the woman of whom Jesus said, 'O woman, great is your Faith!' And the woman's daughter was healed.' "

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Don't Look Down

" When it was evening, Jesus was there [up on the mountain to pray] alone. Meanwhile, the boat [with the disciples], already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.  During the fourth watch of the night, He came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. 'It is a ghost', they said, and they cried out in fear. At once, Jesus spoke to them, 'Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.'  Peter said to Him in reply, 'Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You in the water.'  He said, 'Come'. Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ' O you of little faith, why did you doubt?' After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did Him homage, saying, 'Truly, You are the Son of God.' " -- [ Matthew 14:22 -33].

It has been said that, if you are in a precarious position-- Don't look down.

I am a bit afraid of heights. The worst thing I can do, as I go up, is to look down. From the heights, I can fully see the depths to which I might fall.

The embedded symbolism in this is that, in troubled times, Jesus says, "Come". But will we accept His offer for help?

These days, people misperceive Christianity. Or, just as likely, people mis-USE Christianity. Christians are perceived as acting all "Holier than Thou", as if our Christian label permits us to be the moral police, running around with a GOTCHA attitude, trying to wag our finger at those caught in Sin.

I heard all of the arguments against Christianity, and Christians, in my childhood home. My parents called Christians "the worst sinners", and therefore, the worst kind of hypocrites. They called Christians "losers", who had no natural ability to fend for themselves; so these pathetic individuals had "only God" to get them through life.

My family even fumed that "religion was the opiate of the masses". In other words, if citizens could be persuaded to pray for what they needed, then these citizens would not rail against society and the government for what was lacking.

This attitude attempts to turn Faith on its head.

The fact is, as a Christian, I fully understand in all humility, that I cannot "walk through storms" alone, without coming to Jesus. I have been given many gifts and talents from God. I praise HIM for those, I do not elevate myself. But, I do not overestimate my abilities, either. Overestimating our strength in this life alone is the surest way to drown.

My family tried to teach me that everything good and everything bad in life is the fault and the responsibility of the individual.

Take this to its logical extreme-- and, mistakes, human errors and accidents are always and foremost the fault of the individual. You accidentally drop something at a hot stove, and the burn is ALL your fault!!

This is a path to frustration, anxiety and overwhelming guilt.

Take this to its logical extreme -- and, any success of ours is 100% the result of human effort. This is a path to egotism, greed and superior attitudes verging on Hate.

My Christianity teaches me that there are storms in life, not always of our own making. We fragile and faulty humans need to find a means to get through them. We don't need to suffer alone. There IS a God, and we are His children.  Sometimes we can get through life relatively unscathed. But often, we need to call on God and Jesus for help.

This does not make us weak losers. This does make us human. It is what makes us a people of  Faith.

The opposite of fear IS Faith. No, I will not look down at the roiling storms of Life and fear my own weakness. . But I WILL look up to the Father and to the Son, who readily reach out to us during stormy times.

"Oh, you of little Faith, why do you doubt?"

[Related Posting: "Walking on Water", 8/5/11].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Brilliant Star

 " BELOVED : We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of His Majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to Him from the majestic glory.
"This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
We ourselves heard this voice come from Heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as a lamb shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." -- [ 2 Peter 1:16-19.]

In Genesis 1, the earth is created from Light, in order to vanquish the Darkness.-- "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be Light", and there was Light. --[ Genesis 1:1-3].

In the Gospel of John, "The Word (Christ) was in the beginning. The Word was with God. The Word was God. He (Jesus) was with God in the beginning. He made all things. Nothing was made without Him making it. Life began by Him. His life was the Light for men. The Light shines in the darkness. The darkness has never been able to put out the Light." -[John 1:1-5].

There are actually persons who would call themselves Christians AND Scientists. There is today a small cadre of scientists who quietly believe that, even before the Big Bang, there must have been a Grand Consciousness that initiated the Big Bang, and the whole of Creation. In other words, before a Bang, there must be a Spark.

There are those deniers who would argue that Christianity is based on myth and fairy tales. But even reading through the poetic language of the Biblical Creation story, there is a definitive moment of Creation, and a Grand Consciousness present from the beginning of time.

The Creation Story in John has been called a story of Infinity-- The Word was in the beginning. Jesus was with God in the beginning. "Christ became human and lived among us." Jesus returned to His Father. And so, as children of God, we may return to Him and to His Son.

We see in John 1, a clear and uninterrupted lineage -- "This true Light came into this world. He gave the right and power to become children of God to those who received Him. He gave this to those who put their trust in His name." --[John 1: 10-12.]

In 2 Peter, therefore, Peter is able to say: "Beloved: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of His majesty [at the Transfiguration]. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to Him from the majestic Glory: 'This is my Son with whom I am well pleased.' We ourselves heard this voice come from Heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain." -[2 Peter 1:16-19].

From eyewitness accounts came oral testimony, which became the Word, written down in the best-selling Book of all time.

You could say in our times, WHY do we care?

Well. . . Everyone knows how much darkness there is STILL in the world. I would venture to say that every human being on our planet spends his or her life battling dark things-- greed, jealousy, lust, hate, worship of self [narcissism], bitterness. .

On a global scale, we have hunger, war, dictatorship, violence, consumerism, racism. . .

When I was a little girl, there was enough darkness in my home to swallow you up whole, and spit you out. Looking back, I can see that I was not in the midst of a loving family. No! --I was in a Cold War. Deep space cold. . . Bitterness, envy, materialism, narcissism, hate, greed, binge drinking, anxiety, rebellion, impatience, revenge, blackmail, distrust, lack of faith, excess of self gratification.

My young life was just like the world before Creation - - " an empty waste and darkness over deep waters." -- [Genesis 1: 2]. Our home was closed off. The windows were shrouded in layers of shades, under curtains and heavy drapes. My mother used to say, "What happens in this house, STAYS within these four walls." --This struck Fear in my heart.

I surely could have used a little Light!

God Himself promises us, though, that "This true Light (Jesus), coming into the world, gives Light to every man. Christ became human flesh and lived among us. We saw His shining greatness." -- -[John 1: 9-14]. " AND the light shines in the darkness. The darkness has never been able to put out the Light ." - [ John 1: 5.]

And, as Jesus GIVES light to every man, then WE must BECOME the Light.

St. Paul ( the Saint who saved my Life) said in Ephesians 5: 7-14, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in Love. Therefore, do not be partakers with (immoral ones deceiving you with empty words), for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret."

As witnessed in the Transfiguration, as Jesus IS the Light; so, I strive to escape the darkness and thereby to BE the Light.

FOR, "We possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart."

[Related Postings:"Transfigured", 2/22/16; "This is My Son", 3/16/14; "Transfiguration of Christ", 3/5/12.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.