Friday, August 26, 2016

The Door

The Door

         What’s up with The Door?  Two Gospels make reference to The Door which locks us out of God’s Presence.  Matthew 25:10 refers to the Foolish Bridesmaids caught unprepared by the Bridegroom’s arrival.  They begged to be let in, but the The Door to the banquet hall was already locked, and the Bridegroom said to them, “I do not know you.”  Luke 13:25 refers to the Master, who after a long day’s work, got up from supper, and locked The Door to go to bed.  To the stragglers who begged, ‘Lord, open to us’, the Master said, “I do not know where you come from.”  In both Gospels, those locked out are condemned as Strangers to God.
         Lest we portray Jesus as mercilessly cruel, there is a third reference to The Door –one with a profound nuance.  In Revelations 3:20, John also references The Door which separates the Unrepentant Sinner from Jesus, but this time, it is Jesus who is begging to be allowed to come in: “Behold, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share his meal, side by side with him.”  
         In all three cases The Door separates us from Jesus.  In Matthew and Luke, The Door keeps us from Jesus, yet in Revelations, The Door keeps Jesus from us.  In Matthew and Luke, the Sinner does not control the lock.  Yet, in John, the Sinner controls the lock.  So, what is The Door and how does its lock work?
         Clearly, The Door is the consequence of personal sin, for sin separates us from God.  Sin renounces the Reign of God over our life as it exalts the Reign of Self over God.  Sin is the bottom line of where we stand in relationship to God.  We are cast as Strangers, not because Jesus does not know our name, or where we were born, but because our selfish life is foreign to him –he knows only the Will of the Father.  He cannot relate to disobedience, nor can the Disobedient relate to him.
         If The Door is the consequence of sin, then the lock speaks to the ‘eternal-ness’ of that consequence.  Matthew and Luke plainly describe, that once The Door is shut, it cannot be opened –yet, John clearly has Jesus hoping it will open again.  Why the difference?  The difference is not so much ‘why’ as ‘when’ -for the ‘when’ makes all the difference in the world.
         In Matthew and Luke, The Door is locked at the coming of Night.  Scripture tells us we have but one life to live, and then we are judged.  Like the Bridesmaids, ‘we do not know either the day or the hour’ of that All Important Moment -when our ultimate destiny becomes Eternally Chosen.
         And lest we portray this Sober Truth as mercilessly cruel, John, the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved, leaves us with the Hope of Mercy –with the Sacred Heart of Jesus knocking at The Door of our heart, begging that we trust him to become Lord in our life.  While we yet breathe, we are in the Season of Mercy –repenting of our selfish ways immediately opens The Door to the Bridegroom who so Desires our heart.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Who Then Can Be Saved?

Who Then Can Be Saved? (Mt 19)

         Matthew’s 19th chapter sets the stage for the Coming Kingdom.  The first half paints God’s picture of marriage –how Two Souls consecrating themselves for the Other, become melded as One; how this Unity of Love points to our destiny in God; and how children, the fruit of Espoused Union, are the precious embodiment Love’s Offspring, of the New Life which awaits all who give themselves to the Name Above All Names.
         The second half of chapter 19 illuminates the path to this Mystical Union.  It wets our appetite for what is universally repugnant –the Renunciation of Self.  Matthew begins with Jesus’ encounter with the Rich Young Man who asks, 'Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?'  When Jesus said, 'If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me'  the young man went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
         Jesus then solemnly tells his disciples '… it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.'  With wealth as the insurance of our dreams, our path can only lead away from Christ.
Bewildered, the disciples ask, 'Who then, can be saved?'  It was a rhetorical question.  They were not asking as though seeking Truth, but as knowing the answer.  Since wealth was considered a sign of God’s favor; and because the rich young man was leading an exemplary life, the answer must surely be that no one can be saved.
Their expectation was kind of right, but totally wrong.  Yes, without a Savior, there is no hope of salvation.  Yet, all mankind was predestined to know the Eternal Love of its Creator.  In this revolutionary moment, Christ pierces the Darkened Mind of Man with the Light of His Truth -He reveals Hope for our Salvation.
Matthew says “Jesus gazed at them.”  He lovingly looked into their troubled souls and gave them that Anchor of Hope when he said, 'For men, this is impossible; for God everything is possible.'  In the end, the Love of our Father will conquer Sin.  All that is required is to renounce the transitory love of our Self for the Eternal Love of God.  But as great a deal as it must have seemed, even greater still must have been the disciples gloom, for they knew well the Weakness of Man.  
         Even though they had the assurance of Christ’s Promise, they would not reap the Repose of its Restful Waters until after Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Pentecost.  Only then, could they take hold of Hope, and have the Power to live in its Promise.  The Blood of the Cross, the Hope of Resurrection, and the Power of the Holy Spirit broke the chains of sin which condemned us to the worship of Self over God.
         This is the Mystery of Grace, that in choosing Christ, the fear, of losing our all, dissolves into the infilling of his Love.  In giving away what we possess, we become possessed by the Giver of All.  As we surrender our Old Self into his Love, we are freed into New Life.  Even now, Jesus is gazing into our eyes, beckoning us to lose ourselves into his Spousal Love –to live for him, in him and with him.  
         Lord Jesus, what I have possessed has often possessed me, blinding me to Life in Love with you.  Do not allow me to be deceived by my selfish dreams, but open my eyes to your Truth, to your Dream for me.  Do not let me walk away sad, but empower me with your Holy Spirit to desire only what you desire for me, that I may run to do the Will of our Father, that I may know the Joy of your Spousal Love. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

This Little Child

This Little Child (Matthew 18:1-4)

         At this time the disciples came to Jesus and said, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'  So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them.  Then he said, 'I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
         Why were the disciples asking this question of Jesus?  The context of Jesus’ response suggests they probably were jostling amongst themselves as to who was the most “together” disciple.   It is also probable, that the answer Jesus gave, was not at all what they expected.
         They probably expected Jesus’ rendition of ‘The Greatest’ to be the one who, best understood his sayings; or, was the most faithful to his commands; or, worked the hardest; or, was the most gifted; or maybe even, the one who loved the most. But, the fact that they asked the question, guaranteed they were clueless to the response Jesus would give.  The Fullness of Truth was still waiting for their minds to be opened by the Spirit of Pentecost.  
         That the essence of ‘The Greatest’ would not be found among the wise, but rather, in a Little Child, was beyond radical.  It was unimaginable.   Our future in Christ’s Kingdom was not to be achieved by what we might do for God, but in our openness to what God can do for us.  We secure our Grand Destiny by surrendering into Smallness – by wholly accepting the unmerited Love of God, Creator of all that Is.
         The celebrated philosopher Descartes, in exploring the nature of reality, surmised, “I think, therefore I am.”   His brilliant mind carried him to this lofty conclusion -that thoughts of self-awareness prove the reality of our existence.  Yet, Descartes’ grasp of reality pales in the profundity of God’s revealed Truth –that we came into existence by a thought of God; and, that we are sustained in existence, only because he continues to have thought of us.  For God cannot stop thinking of what he has created in Love.
         If Descartes had the mind of a ‘Little Child’ theologian, he may well have written, “God loves me, therefore I am.”  We must become as a Little Child in order to grasp this Truth. For, this is how a Little Child thinks: “Mommy and Daddy cherish me -because I Belong to them, because I share their Name.”   Anything other than being the apple of their parents’ eye is inconceivable. The love and devotion of Mommy and Daddy is unquestioned.
         In the mind of a child: As long as I am holding the Fingers of Daddy, the path is not dark.  As long as Mommy caresses my cheek, the monsters in the closet are powerless.  As long as I am held in their arms, no hurt can overpower their comfort.  This is the place to which we are being called in our relationship with The Father of All.
          Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change….’.  In life, our default mission is to ‘grow up’ -to provide for ourselves; to take control; to make our own decisions.  Now Jesus upsets our applecart, demanding we ‘become like little children’.  Like Nicodemus, we ask, ‘Can I go back into my mother’s womb and be born again?’  And so it is that Jesus beckons us to submit to a heart transplant -to recreate our heart into that of a Little Child.  Like all things spiritual, this quest depends upon Faith – not a faith in God, but a faith in God’s Love for us.
         Lord Jesus, I am because you Love me.  Help me to Trust in your Love -that you have only Good in store for me.  I believe this, but it is not how I yet live.  I want to live according to your Perfect Will for me –to fulfill the Purpose for which you created me.  I surrender into the Mystery of your ways.  Draw me into the Womb of your Holy Spirit.  Re-Create what Sin has disfigured.  May I be Reborn into the image of my Father.  May I carry your Name knowing that you cherish me.  I receive your Embrace now.  No hurt or evil can overpower the comfort of your All-Providing Love.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Scared To Life

Scared To Life (Matt 14:22)

Jesus sent his disciples ahead on boat so he could spend some hours in solitary prayer with his Father.  They assumed he would walk around on foot and join up with them on the other side.  But a storm arose, and instead of making land before nightfall, they found themselves exhausted; in the middle of night; far from shore; and unable to make progress against the wind and the waves.
In those days, the sea was the Abode of Terror, where fearsome creatures hid in its unfathomable shadows.  To find oneself in its death grip; in the dark of night; struggling for life, would stretch the courage of even the bravest to the breaking point.   Into this scene of chaos and terror, Jesus presents himself as if a ghost walking on water.  To an uninformed observer, it would appear he was playing a tasteless joke the disciples -provoking them into sheer panic.
Matthew recounts the moment, “…they were terrified.  ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and they cried out in fear.”  These rough, seasoned seamen were reduced to screaming, as men with their heart in their throat.  A person of faith is struck numb by this.  What is my All-Loving Jesus doing?  What is the Good to be found in this Divine Provocation?
Mercifully, Jesus immediately replies, “Courage!  It is I!  Do not be afraid.”  What follows is the most befuddling response imaginable.  Peter answers, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.”  Now, a clueless person, with a half thimble of sense, would have known that was not a reasonable thing to say!  If it was Jesus, this was hardly the time to try out untested water-walking skills.  If it was not Jesus, then attempting to walk on raging water would only prove his demise.
Why would Peter say such a crazy thing?  Neither logic, nor emotion can offer a plausible explanation.   The key, perhaps, lies a few days into the future, in Peter’s defining moment -when Jesus asked his disciples about their belief in him.  Peter alone responded saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  Jesus then told Peter, “…it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”(Matt 16:17)   It was not human intelligence at work, but the workings of the Holy Spirit which moved Peter to utter these Words.  Peter had just proven himself to be a conduit of the Holy Spirit.  So momentous was this defining moment –this revealing of Peter’s character - that Jesus linked it to Peter’s destiny as head and foundation of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
Such then, might be the method to the madness –the Holy Spirit has led Peter to walk on water as an awakening to his destiny.  In attempting to walk of water, Peter, both, found his utter dependence on Jesus, which alone would equip him to lead the Church; and, inked into history his unquestioning abandonment to the obedience of Christ.  To those yet to find meekness in faith, Peter is remembered as the one who failed to walk on water.  To those who have walked faith’s demanding path, he is remembered as the Faithful Rock who climbed out of the boat.
In allowing the storm to take his eyes off of Jesus, Peter began to sink into the chaos that was trying to swallow him.  Jesus heard his desperate cry for help, and Peter found the Saving Hand of God.  His sinking was the beginning of his Baptism into a Life in Christ.  Because of his relationship with Jesus, Peter was not scared to death -he was scared to Life.  Terror may have scrambled his soul, but his Faith allowed the Holy Spirit to remake him into Something New.  As the word “Scared” can be scrambled, then reassembled into “Sacred”; so too, “Peter-the-Failure” was scrambled by Fear, then transformed through Faith, into the “Rock That Would Not Sink”.
          Lord, your glorious plan for Peter the rock was unimaginable to Peter the burly fisherman.  What is your Plan for me?  Do not allow my fears, inadequacies, or the storms in my life, to hinder my destiny in you.  I will follow you wherever you lead, with your Saving Hand upholding me.  Father, as I spend this hour with you, may your Holy Spirit infill me with the Faith and Grace to walk in the footsteps of my Saving Lord.