Popular Posts

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

All or Nothing!

Good Morning Jesus…I know I ought to worship You because morning has broken. I hear the birds singing…they are praising You. But I cannot stop, you see…I have to get the family out the door on time and then I have to wash the dishes, make the beds and put on a load of laundry.

Just a few more minutes, ok Jesus? I know you’re there, but I know you’ll understand. After all, I want to go to Church this morning. I don’t have time to give you right now…you’ll just have to wait until I get there.

The stupid neighbours who blocked me in… the stupid driver in front who wouldn’t go beyond 20 mph this morning! Now, I’m late and I won’t have time to reflect before Mass starts and I won’t get the seat I want.  Grumble, grumble…. I’m on my knees, yet I cannot focus on You.   Sorry, Lord…please take away my distractions.

“Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed”

Not worthy…not worthy!  Is my heart a fit place for You Lord? Even when I ask you to come and make it so? 

Am I giving you my all…my everything?

I have gone to Church, I have said prayers, I have received the Eucharistic Lord…yet what of my heart?

“These people honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Matt 15”8-9

For me, this is the main focus of my study of St Paul’s letter to the Colossians this week.  Colossians 2:16-21 is all about St Paul’s warning to the people about losing their focus on Jesus and concentrating on the externals…the feast days and the legalities of the law on appropriate food and rituals.

The Jewish Law had many rules and regulations, which were all so burdensome and did not encourage the people to render their hearts, but to perform some outward action that supposedly demonstrated their devotion to God.

St Paul is very clear in stressing that no external action must be superior to the glorifying of God with the heart!

I am reminded of how Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees and warned people not to act as they do. See Matthew Chapter 23. Further on in this chapter in vs 27, Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but inside full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean!

Do you remember the story of the rich, young man in Mark Chapter 10? When he asked Jesus what he could do to enter the kingdom of heaven, he couldn’t do the one thing Jesus asked him to do...to give up everything and follow Him.

This young man obeyed all the commandments, in his own words “from my earliest days”, yet he would be denied heaven because he would not give his everything...his heart.

What does this mean to me? Well, look back at the beginning of my post.  If I am going through the motions, routines and, yes, even going to church, if I am obeying every commandment but my heart is lukewarm…then I am only honouring God with my lips. I am no better than the Pharisees whom Jesus chastised. I am no better than the rich young man… it’s a bit scary to think that heaven could be denied me!

Jesus wants my all...with Him its all or nothing. Lukewarm doesn't cut it! Halfway is midway to nowhere! In her diary, St Faustina writes that Jesus cannot bear a lukewarm heart. It offends Him even more than a cold one.

Well…today is a beautiful new day! A new chance to begin again, to try harder, to lean heavily into His grace. If you find yourself, like me, struggling to keep the fire burning in your heart for Him…do not despair.

 Let us take St Paul’s advice in Colossians 2:6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ as the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness” and  in Colossians 3:2 “Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things that are on the earth.”

May Jesus fire us up with love for Him so that our hearts may never be lukewarm, but always on fire, a blaze that never goes out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Spider and the Fly

It is always interesting to read the different biblical translations. The wording evokes different degrees of meaning for me. For instance, while studying Colossians 2:8, I came upon these:

Jerusalem Bible : "Make sure that no one captivates you with the empty lure of a "philosophy" of the kind that human beings hand on, based on the principles of this world on not on Christ."  Here philosophy is in inverted commas to show that St Paul mocks this kind of thinking.

English Standard Version: "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world,and not according to Christ."

King James Version: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."

New International Version: "See to it that no one takes you captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world, rather than on Christ."

The words that I have highlighted give me a different clue as to what St Paul means here. This one little verse gave me so much to contemplate and I thought I'd share it with you here.

"Will you walk into my parlour?", said the spider to the fly
Tis the prettiest little parlour that you ever did spy...

Does anyone remember this poem from school days?  The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt. If you've never heard of it, check it out here. This poem is, for me, a graphic illustration of what St Paul is talking about.

The spider starts working to break the fly down. He does the typical bait and trap manoeuvre.  He promises all kinds of wonderful things and appeals to the vanity of the little fly with deceitful flattery. He confidently spins his web and waits for her to succumb...which she does.

First of all, let us agree that subtlety is the devil's tool of choice. 
He works just like the spider. He sets a seed and waits for it to grow. Many a Christian is lured away gradually, it is seldom a sudden thing. An infiltration of thought, suggestion and the breaking down begins.

Seduced is a very good word to use here. We are seduced by so many things. We get caught in the trap of popular thinking.  Well...popular doesn't mean right.  Check out these common sayings meant to justify our actions:

If it feels good/right, then do it
Something doesn't have to feel wrong for it to be so.  Our own walk with the Lord and the depth of our communion with Him is usually a good barometer to measure this by...but, even so feelings are deceptive! The surest way to know right from wrong is to look at the Word.

You deserve to be happy
At what cost and could we ever truly be deserving of God's great love?  How do we pursue happiness, what does it look like in the world? Scripture tells us in Mark 8:36 "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"  God didn't promise us happiness on this earth, but an eternity of joy with Him in Heaven. Doing His will is the only thing that will bring lasting and true happiness. 

Everyone else is doing  it
Sometimes  we can feel that we're the cheese that stands alone.Its hard to stand up for our values when we are one out of many. This is especially hard on young people. My own children have questioned whether we are the ones who are wrong...after all how could so many other people be wrong and just us be right. Sadly, this is more the norm than ever in today's world. More often than not we are alone...so was Christ. We have to seek our strength in Him.

These are just some of the ways we can begin to dilute our faith and be broken down.  This is what St Paul is warning us about in such strong language. Beware, see to it, make sure... we have to guard against this gradual breaking down.  How?  Like this...

Colossians 2:6-7 "So then, as you received Christ as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."

We have to remain in Christ, when we are grounded in Him He is our foundation.
The world cannot easily shake us and break us down. When we are so deep into His Word and have an abiding relationship with Him, He builds us up, not the world.

He builds us up. 
When He builds us up...we allow Him to transform us, to guide us and teach us with His Wisdom. We are less susceptible to the winds of life and do not seek the love and approval of the world...those "elemental spirits of the world" that St Paul speaks of. 

We are strengthened by Him
He is the source of all strength. We could never do this tug of war with the world without Him. He gives us the advantage. Isn't that a wonderful thought? An all-powerful God has got our back in battle!

Last, but my no means least... 

We must never cease to be thankful for all that He has done and continues to do for us. Gratitude has a way of keeping us humble and focused on what is important. As you leave me today, I want to give you this thought:

There is no room in a grateful heart for discontent.  Let us always be grateful to God and perfectly satisfied because His Grace and Love are sufficient.

Blessings to you and your families. May God protect, guide and provide for you as you continue to do this tug of war in His service.