Tuesday – June 11, 2019
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. James 2.10-26
But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith without works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. James 2.10-26
Word of Hope
When I was in Catholic high school, we were taught that salvation came through works. And so we did community service hours in order to guarantee our faith and place in heaven. I didn’t buy it then, and don’t now.
To me the key phrases in then passage refer to faith without works as a dead faith. I see this as a metaphor for live versus dead, comparing faith and a body. In the first century a person was considered dead when there was no breath. This was a time when the chest moving upon and down or seeing “fog” appear on a shiny object placed by the nose determined life. There was no understanding of brain dead. There were not EKG’s EEG’s, MD’s or any of the things we know today. A body without breath was a dead body.
So how does this metaphor work with faith? A living body will breathe. A faithful person will do good works. No breath, no bodily life. No works, no faith. This is not as harsh as it seems. We can hold our breath; sometimes we must. Those who live near water, and work in boats know that if you fall in over your head, you better hold your breath until you are above the water line. Sometimes people who are doing great works need to take a break. This is why many churches allow pastors a time of sabbatical. Does holding your breath mean you are dead? No, it means you need to get your head above water. Does holding back on works mean your faith has died? No, it means you need to recharge. Even Jesus took time out away from his ministry even if only for a few hours.
But, if you hold your breath too long, it becomes painful and impossible to hold. The same applies to works done in faith. You will need to let go and go back to the work that living faith demands. But it is not only ok, but good to take a respite. Your faith will not die.
Loving God, my faith compels me to seek you and to do the work you need for me to do. Embolden my faith, strengthen my resolve, and comfort me when I need to take a break.
Order of Saint Francis and Saint Clare
Monday – June 10, 2019
I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. God will not let your foot slip–God who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, the God who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you–the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm–and will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121
“Life is totally unfair. And the only real predictor of good or bad luck is the ability to deal with setbacks. ” Quote from “An American Princess” by Annejet van der Zijl
A Word of Hope
I just read “An American Princess” and am blown away by how Allene Tew made the best of her life and was a joyful and optimistic person most of the time in spite all the many setbacks she endured. She started over many times and even survived the most disastrous economic times in her lifetime.
I post optimistic thoughts on Facebook daily. I hope people who are searching for a bit of encouragement or a smile feel better for having seen my posts.
As a director of a boys’ ranch, when teenage boys used to complain that a decision I made was “not fair” I often told them “Life is not fair.” And most of the time it benefits you. If life was really fair, we would get caught and ticketed EVERY time we exceeded the speed limit. We would be punished every time we broke any rule. But lucky for us, usually life is not FAIR! God gives us unconditional love and grace instead of being fair. How wonderful is that?
Life is manageable in the way we respond. If we make up our mind to be positive, the setbacks we face are bumps in the road, not a wall that ends our happiness. The 121st Psalm reminds us that God is in control and desires good for us.
Gracious God, you give us unconditional love. Help us remain positive and face each challenge with your help. Help us see all the beauty of the life you give us. Thank you for the amazing joy you place in our souls.
Cathedral of Hope Volunteer
Friday – June 7, 2019
This one will
say, “I am God’s,”
and another will go by the name Jacob;
That one will write on his hand “God’s property”
and be proud to be called Israel.
Isaiah 44:5 The Message
A Word of Hope
How do you introduce yourself when meeting a stranger? Which of the many various parts of your life and history do you disclose? Of course the setting makes a big difference. You emphasize different aspects of your life experience, interests, and personality when meeting someone at a party contrasted to what you share in a business venue. How we chose to introduce ourselves defines us.
You might have grown up as I did with others defining you. It might have been the taunts and names of the school yard bully. Or, as in my case, the rantings of a preacher during a sweltering July camp meeting who blamed the fall of civilization on gays and lesbians – I was only 10 years old but I knew he was talking about me. The epithets he hurled took me years to get out of my head.
Senator Kamala Harris said during a recent town hall that one of the wisest pieces of advice her mother gave her was “Don’t let people tell you who you are; you tell them who you are.”
Today’s assigned reading (Isaiah 44: 1- 5) exhorts us to proudly take on God’s name as our own. We are encouraged to take to heart how God defines us. Ignoring the labels others put on us; we should lay hold of the claim to be God’s own. Others can call us what they will but we know we are “proud to be called Israel.” One translation of Israel I found on Wikipedia is “triumphant with God.” I like that: call me Triumphant.
I wonder how people would react if I started introducing myself as “a follower of Jesus, beloved of God and triumphant in life.” It might generate some rather interesting conversations.
God of my being. Today, I claim my name “Triumphant.”
Thursday – June 6, 2019
“When we wall ourselves off from uncertainty and fear, we develop an ‘iron heart.’ When we develop a true friendship with ourselves, the iron heart becomes a vulnerable, tender heart, a heart willing to be touched by pain and remain present.” (Trunga Rinpoche, quotation condensed)
A Word of Hope
To the edge of tranquility, night’s dark pool of dream and sleep, you come. You cast your line with feathered lures across the surface over and over until a fish rises to the bait, caught by what it most fears: cancer, total dependence in old age, unremitting pain, loss of a job, abandonment, the death of loved ones, betrayal. I speak holy words into the night, like sacred talismen to ward off your power, but you, audacious intruder, hold the line taut as the psyche futilely thrashes against the hook. No peace till morning.
Learning to live with fear is an important spiritual and psychological issue of our time. Not only do we have our bouts of personal fear in the night, but we wake to a toxic political atmosphere where many seek to stir up our anxieties for their own ends.
One of the best wisdom teachers about fear is American Buddhist nun Pema Chowdron. She advises:
“If we choose to take notice of the actual experience of fear, whether it’s just a queasy feeling in our stomach or actual terror, whether it’s a subtle level of discomfort or mind-numbing dramatic anxiety, we can smile at it….It could be a literal smile or metaphor for coming to know fear, turning toward fear, touching fear. In that case, rather than fear setting off a chain reaction you’re trying to protect yourself from, it becomes a source of tenderness. We experience our vulnerability, but we don’t feel we have to harden ourselves in response. That makes it possible for us to help ourselves and to help others.”
Citing scientific studies, she asserts that what we are most afraid of underneath it all is uncertainty and that the very basis of this is doubting ourselves, not trusting ourselves, not loving ourselves. So the very first step is developing an unconditional friendship with ourselves. Unconditional.
That means taking “the very scary step of getting to know yourself, being willing to look at yourself clearly and to stay with yourself when you want to shut down. It means keeping your heart open when you feel that what you see in yourself is just too embarrassing, too painful, too unpleasant, too hateful.” Meditation and prayer become key practices as we learn to observe whatever floats across the stream of consciousness and not enter into judgement.
Oh Sacred Heart to whom nothing is alien, nothing excluded, may we learn to love ourselves with tender compassion. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
Wednesday – June 5, 2019
Then [Jesus] said to them, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23
A Word of Hope
“Deny” is not a word that most of us like to hear. When we think about denying ourselves, we assume that we are going to be losing something, something that we like, something that we believe is a good thing in our lives. Deny is one of those words that most often carries with it negative connotations.
For most Christians, the idea of self-denial surfaces only during Lent. The belief is that self-denial is something that is done only during this penitential season. After Easter, all bets are off. How many times have you heard someone say, or maybe you have said yourself, “I can give up ____ for forty days?” In this passage from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is not talking about denying ourselves only during the forty days of Lent. And, He is not talking about denying ourselves of only one worldly thing. He is talking about denying ourselves all day every day. He is talking about denying ourselves anything and everything that comes between us and Him.
In this passage, Jesus does not tell us the “why” for his instruction. Though if we stop and think, it is not difficult to figure out. Simply stated, to be a true disciple, Jesus needs to come first in our lives. What God desires of us and from us needs to be our primary motivator in all things. It is not about what we want for ourselves. Jesus is telling us that we need to let our false selves die, that self that seeks power and control and satisfaction through worldly things.
When we deny ourselves something, the place that something once occupied is now vacant. This creates room for something else. Namely, Jesus. When we are not preoccupied with making money or taking care of the things that we have bought with our money or what we need to do to climb the social or corporate ladder, etc., that time can be spent in prayer and doing the true work of Christ.
The final part of this passage, “…take up their cross daily…,” is Jesus acknowledging that what he is asking of his disciples is not easy; it’s challenging; it’s hard. The weight of the cross is both a burden and our source of strength.
In this life where so many things are competing for my attention, help me to keep my heart and mind foremost on Jesus. Amen.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)