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Archive for June, 2011

15 And the servant of the man of God rising early, went out, and saw an army round about the city, and horses and chariots: and he told him, saying: Alas, alas, alas, my lord, what shall we do?

16 But he answered: Fear not: for there are more with us than with them.

17 And Eliseus prayed, and said: Lord, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw: and behold the mountain was full of horses, and chariots of fire round about Eliseus.

18 And the enemies came down to him, but Eliseus prayed to the Lord, saying: Strike, I beseech thee, this people with blindness. And the Lord struck them with blindness, according to the word of Eliseus.

19 And Eliseus said to them: This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will shew you the man whom you seek. So he led them into Samaria.

20 And when they were come into Samaria, Eliseus said: Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw themselves to be in the midst of Samaria.

21 And the king of Israel said to Eliseus, when he saw them: My father, shall I kill them?

22 And he said: Thou shalt not kill them: for thou didst not take them with thy sword, or thy bow, that thou mayst kill them: but set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master.

23 And a great provision of meats was set before them, and they ate and drank, and he let them go, and they went away to their master, and the robbers of Syria came no more into the land of Israel. (2 Kings 6)

What a fantastic passage to read this morning! When Elisha prays and God opens the eyes of his servant to see the spiritual protection around Elisha, I am simply in awe and filled with questions. Is this around us all the time? Is it reserved for Elisha alone, or for all believers? Or all mankind? Or is there an evil army that follows and surrounds those who choose evil?

I used to hear stories of people who “saw” angels (or demons) and the idea of that is so foreign to me; I’ve never had such an experience. I guess I often wrote it off as probably a mental illness. But several years ago I met a girl online who saw both – angels and demons – and she spoke so matter-of-factly about it and was very believeable. Did she see what Elisha saw? Why is the veil so thin for some people but not for everyone? Honestly, I’m not sure I would like that gift – I can see how it could be frightening. I’ve read many accounts since meeting Ginia and this passage certainly give credence to her experience.

I think it’s comforting to know just how close spiritual protection is to us at each moment – it’s not far off or distant at all. I often pray for the LORD to protect me and those for whom I pray … I ask Him to give wider protection around us from evil. This vision has given me a new and exciting perspective. I visualize the prayers I am speaking and this visual is pretty awesome and completely Biblical!

I also loved the way Elisha treated the enemies who had sought to apprehend and kill him. He led them safely away and though he certainly could have had them all killed, he chose to bless his enemies instead. He fed them … and he fed them well: “a great provision of meats.” And he let them go.

If only we sought to treat our enemies that way first, instead of seeking to destroy them. Every time we strike and kill a leader of al-Qeada, don’t we create more enemies and people who hate us? Oh, what a different world this might be if we truly blessed them by providing food to them instead.

I believe that is what Jesus taught us. Sadly, I don’t believe mankind really grasps that or is willing to “let go” and follow. And not just “mankind” in general, but Christians as well. I’m a firm believer in non-violence but all of my discussions have revealed just how tightly we hold onto fear and maintaining control our “selves” instead of trusting and following Jesus’ example.

I don’t blame people – it is natural; it is “human nature.” Oh, but to be able to set aside our very human nature and step out in faith … how powerful we would truly be, then!

 

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As I continue to ponder works and prayer and grace and power, I think about how we help each other. The prayer of one can fortify another; the works of one feeds another; the faith of one inspires another.

I love that, the way that God uses us for each other.

In Jesus’ ministry, multitudes came to Him for healing. Sometimes they sought healing for themselves … I love the story of the woman who touched the hem of his garment and “the power went out of Him” and she was healed.

Often, though, we see people seeking healing for another. A mother whose daughter was demon-possessed came to Jesus; a father whose child was very ill and died also sought ought Jesus. And in another story, some friends brought a paralytic to Jesus and Mark 2:5  says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, Child, your sins are forgiven.” He doesn’t mention the paralytic at all … He heals him based on his friends’ faith.

So this makes me wonder how powerful our love and prayer and faithfulness benefits another?

As lovers of God, believers desire so deeply that others could see and know and understand the power of God. We ache for our loved ones to know the strength and comfort and guidance that could be theirs if only our prodigals would come back to the LORD.

Sometimes as I pray for loved ones who have either drifted away in some measure, or who have consciously set aside God, I wonder how much effect prayer can have if they are unwilling; if their hearts are hardened.

And I think about the people who covered me in prayer during my prodigal days. Their faithfulness in prayer may have protected me far more than I will know in this life.

I guess that’s why this passage, 1 Cor 7:12-16, shone for me this morning. Clearly, somehow, the LORD uses us to magnify Himself. What a wonderful mystery to ponder and hold onto, and what great encouragement to stay on my knees in prayer!

If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she consent to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And if any woman hath a husband that believeth not, and he consent to dwell with her, let her not put away her husband. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband: otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever depart, let him depart. For a brother or sister is not under servitude in such cases. But God hath called us in peace.

For how knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

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I think sometimes Christians are pretty hard on each other, and on non-believers. We seem to struggle with the tension of having one set of moral values, and the world having another.

It seems to me that sometimes, we try to impose our values on the world. And while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing to try to influence the world’s values to be more Godly, I think we have to keep in mind that it is a balancing act … we don’t want to become oppressive ourselves, or arrogant, or judgmental so as to drive non-Christians further away from God instead of being His body to them.

To me, this passage clearly tells us that Christians can’t expect non-Christians to “follow our rules,” so to speak.

I wrote to you in an epistle, not to keep company with fornicators.  I mean not with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or the extortioners, or the servers of idols; otherwise you must needs go out of this world.   But now I have written to you, not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or a server of idols, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such a one, not so much as to eat.   For what have I to do to judge them that are without? Do not you judge them that are within?   For them that are without, God will judge. Put away the evil one from among yourselves. (1 Cor 5:9-13)

With my personality, I have a hard time “wanting” to put anyone out, brother or not. I struggle with my church having a closed communion, for example – the idea of denying communion to anyone who wants to join us at the table troubles me.

I don’t like churches making others feel unwelcome because of a “lifestyle” or past sins. I think we need to welcome the worst of sinners (and aren’t we all the worst?) so that all can hear. My friend says sometimes that we act like a country club  instead of a hospital for the sick and dying.

But I think this passage gives us a good guide to strike the right balance. I am understanding closed communion better as I’ve been “in the world” and learned how others view it. It is not just “a cracker and grape juice” but Jesus’ body and blood. Part of me desires that high-profile Catholic politicians who support abortion be denied communion.

But it continues to be a wrestling match in my heart and soul – if a priest is going to deny a gay couple communion because they are practicing a homosexual lifestyle, shouldn’t he also deny a heterosexual couple who are unmarried but living together? And do we really want or expect (or want) a priest to police our lives like that?

The previous passage says:

Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you are unleavened. For Christ our pasch is sacrificed.Therefore let us feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.(1 Cor 5:7-8)

I guess it will always be a struggle for me – I don’t like judging others when I know my own failings. But there really is a balance of holding others accountable, strengthening the whole, and helping each other to be better.  I know one of my gifts is encouragement. “I” don’t have to do it all … we are a church, a body, a community that works together. I will try to do my part and support the other parts as they do theirs.

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Heaven on Earth

Mass tonight was inspiring. Father Secora’s homilies are always interesting, but tonight was especially thought-provoking.

He was speaking of the “great commission” and going to the ends of the earth. He was making the point that even though we are a family of believers, we are to reach out and encompass others who may be very different from us, outside of our comfort zone of familiarity. We are to be a world-wide community “meant to embrace people of every race, language, culture, nation and time.”

He quoted Pope Benedict XVI (Benedictus: Daily Reflections by Pope Benedict XVI, Magnificat/Ignatius Press, May 14):

…man has found an everlasting place in God. Heaven is not a place beyond the stars, but something much greater … Heaven means that man now has a place in God …  heaven is not a place but a person … And we go to heaven and enter heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him. In this sense, ‘ascension into heaven’ can be something that takes place in our everyday lives.”

Just as Jesus was the human face of God while He walked this earth, we are now the human face of Jesus. That’s pretty awesome and humbling … and blessing and a call for each of us to live the gospel every day.

I loved that … and I loved it that Father sang the Eucharistic prayers tonight. He has such a powerful voice, but not “polished” and for me, that makes it very human and real. I am just kind of glowing from this evening; I love the tools and blessings and gifts the Catholic church gives to help us in our walk and relationship with God.

Edit note: The quote was attributed to “Pope Benedict XVI (Benedictus: Daily Reflections by Pope Benedict XVI, Magnificat/Ignatius Press, May 14)”  Someone asked me about it and I searched online. It appears to me this is something Joseph Ratzinger wrote before becoming pope, in Dogma and Preaching, Franciscan Herald Press 62-63. I am not certain if it was reprinted in the Daily Reflections. Here is the homily from which I copied the quote.

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