Anger = Sin?
Paul picks up on the theme of anger in his letter to the Ephesians. He says, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:26-27). Paul doesn't say that we should not get angry but that we should deal with it right away. And Paul had reason to be angry. How many people tried to kill him? I assume he practiced what he preached and forgave his persecutors the same day. No small feat.
The reason that Paul gives for letting go of our anger quickly and being forgiving is not the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" (as Jesus cited) but that we are all members of the same body. The longer we wait, the harder it is to be rid of the anger, and the more damage we do to the body. Damage to one part of the body affects the entire body, including us, and the head of the body which is Christ Jesus. Letting our anger linger and not dealing with it quickly is sin against both God and man.
For reflection: What anger and resentment is still lingering from my childhood?
Let us pray. Jesus, I am guilty of letting my anger linger and fester, sometimes for years. Help me to get rid of all the old anger, resentment and unforgiveness in my life. Please bring to mind all those I need to forgive and set free.
(After praying a prayer like this, pay attention to odd thoughts you have, people or incidents you haven't thought of in years, or dreams that you have about the past. God's speaks to us through these thoughts and dreams.)
Keep On Keepin' On
"Keep on keepin' on," is an old exhortation. I think it stems from St. Paul's words to the people in Philippi: "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12b-14).
As I watched some of the figure skating at the Olympics last night I heard one of the commentators say that the couple skating had practiced a particular move for years before putting it in the competition. How many times did they fall, do you think? At the end of one year of trying, did they want to give up? No. They ignored how many times they failed and pressed on, kept on, straining toward perfection, having in mind the Olympic gold, the prize which called to them.
For reflection: Jesus never gave up. Paul never gave up. Peter never gave up. What has God called you to do that you have not yet accomplished?
Let us pray. Jesus, I thank you for taking hold of me. I am pressing on to take hold of that for which you took hold of me. I am forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I am keeping on toward the goal you have set for me.
God With Us
Often when I pray with people it seems that they think God has "put them through tough times" deliberately in order to develop their character, help them grow, or whatever.
Let's take a look at this concept through the lens of Joseph's story. If this concept is true, then God meant for Joseph to be sold into slavery in order to punish him for sin, or develop his character and turn him into a great leader, or even just to get him to Egypt from his homeland.
First, if all God wanted was to get Joseph from Canaan to Egypt, God could have done that any number of ways without putting Joseph through turmoil and suffering.
Second, Joseph's suffering helped to develop his character and abilities as a leader, but God is not the one who sold him into slavery, or falsely accused him, or put him in prison. People did that, not God.
Third, clearly God was with Joseph throughout this time. Genesis 39:2-3 tell us that God was with Joseph in Potiphar's house and that Potiphar recognized this fact and that Joseph was a blessing to him. In Genesis 39:21, it clearly says that God was with Joseph in prison where he rose to a leadership position and he had favor with the warden. When Joseph went to work for Pharaoh, it became obvious that God had raised him to that position to save Egypt from the famine. God was continually blessing Joseph, not punishing him.
Finally, Joseph himself recognized that what his brothers had done to him was not the work of God. "You meant evil against me; but God has used it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive," Joseph tells his brothers after they are reconciled (Genesis 50:20). The evil, the slavery, the imprisonment were not God's doing. As with Joseph, God is with us in our trials, with us in our suffering.
For reflection: How has God been with me in my trials? For what problems am I blaming God?
Let us pray. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness
How hard was it for Joseph to believe the angel who told him Mary was innocent? It is an incredible thing to believe - that Mary is having a child by the Holy Spirit. Even today it is one of the hardest things to credit that God became man through a woman. And yet it is a founding pillar of Christianity.
It helps that it had been foretold that God would send a Messiah, a Savior. More specifically, Isaiah prophesied that "The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). Did Joseph remember that prophecy? Did he ever doubt?
For reflection: When I have doubts, do I turn to God for answers and reassurance?
Let us pray. "To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. . . . Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior" (Psalm 25:1-2, 4-5).
Joseph of No Respect
Joseph gets no respect. Sometimes I think he is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Scriptures. Little is known about him. He has no speaking lines. After the early years of Jesus' life, he simply disappears from the story.
But Joseph is a man open to hearing God's instructions in a dream and following through on them. He bases a life-long decision on that dream. And, like Mary, Joseph too says "Yes" to a sticky situation. As a man of integrity he keeps his word until the end of his life (Matthew 1:18-25).
For reflection: Do I hear God in dreams? When I hear God's instructions, do I make a complete commitment to following them?
Let us pray. Jesus, I don't know how many times it says in the Scriptures, "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts", but I know it is repeated over and over. I make a commitment to you today. If today I hear your voice, I will not harden my heart.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.