Having said that I would write on justice during Lent this year, I find that I have not addressed at all what I thought I would. The Scriptural texts that I have used seem strange even to me. And today I use another odd one. Romans 12:9-21 is really about how we treat one another, how our relationships should be transformed when we become Christian. For example, love one another, serve the Lord by serving others, be joyful, be hospitable to guests. These may be common ways of acting for anyone.
But then Paul goes on to speak of how we should relate to our "enemies." I suspect most of us relate to our enemies by avoiding them. But that is not what Paul anticipates. He says we should bless them, live happily with them, celebrate with them, don't hold a grudge, don't think we are better than they. "Beloved, don't be obsessed with taking revenge, but leave that to God's righteous justice. . . . 'If your enemy is hungry, buy him lunch! Win him over with kindness. For your surprising generosity will awaken his conscience, and God will reward you with favor.' Never let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good." (TPT)
It's a tall order. And as in another Scripture where it is asked, "Who is my neighbor?", I am tempted to ask, "Who is my enemy?" In America today it seems as though we have classified entire groups of people as our enemy: immigrants, the poor, the rich, those who wear a mask or those who don't, Republican or Democrat, White, Black or Brown, followers of QAnon. Take your pick. There are plenty of enemies to go around.
Buy him lunch, be kind, generous, defeat evil with good. We might even add listening during lunch.
#justice #peace #Lent #prayerandfasting #generosity
"What is justice?" may seem like a simple question. But what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear it? Some think of punishment: who deserves it, how should it be meted out, where should it be administered, how long should it last. Others think of the lack of justice: disproportionate rates of poverty, higher rates of arrest among minorities, the work load of public defenders with too little time to concentrate on the abundance of clients, implicit bias and racism, who is offered a plea deal, the role of rehabilitation and keeping people out of prison to start with.
Both kinds of justice aim for transforming the world. But one would lessen the need for the other.
#justice #fastingandprayer #prayer #Lent #punishment #reform
"God seems to reveal Himself to man as rapidly as man . . . is prepared to receive the revelation". So says John G Lake in his reflection on Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Although Lake was speaking of God's revelation of himself to mankind over the centuries, perhaps we should ask ourselves, "How ready am I to receive further revelation of God?"
Sometimes we get stuck in the "same old, same old". We can ask God to show us where we are stuck and how we can get "unstuck". Now is the time; today is the day.
#JohnGLake #Lent #Prayer #Baptism #Baptism in the Holy Spirit
We last spoke of growing fruit trees and being thankful to God for the first harvest. God provided the seed, the soil, the sun and the rain to make the fruit trees produce fruit. Paul uses a similar analogy in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 3. Evidently there was some arguing going on in the community about who baptized whom, who was a follower of which apostle, etc. And Paul uses the analogy of farming to make his point.
"What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe -- as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor" (1 Corinthians 3:5-8).
Paul's point is that we labor with God to make things grow whether they are crops in the field, trees in the orchard or people in the Kingdom. We play our part, but it is God who gives the growth. Therefore, whatever our role is we should not boast as if we have done it on our own. Whether we see them or not, we have co-laborers in Christ. We may plant a seed one day and water seed sown by someone else the next. We may not even know that we are planting or watering, or nourishing or providing sunshine. Those jobs may go unnoticed and seemingly unrewarded while the one who harvests gets all the credit. But it is God who makes things grow.
For Reflection: Have I taken credit for another's work? Have I been discouraged because I don't see my work as unimportant?
Let us pray. "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord (Jeremiah 9:24).
For the times when I have taken credit for your work, God;
For the times when I have taken credit for someone else's work, God;
For the times when I have been disappointed and discouraged in my own work, God;
If Satan was so bold as to tempt Jesus himself, should we expect to be treated any differently? Jesus was tempted in the desert; he was tempted through Peter; he was tempted in the garden and on the cross. And who knows how many other times he was tempted. In his desire to be fully human, Jesus chose to endure the temptations that we all endure.
If we have chosen, during this time of preparation for celebrating Easter, to follow more closely in Jesus' footsteps by getting rid of bad habits or picking up new, better ones, we should not be surprised that Satan redoubles his efforts to tempt us to return to our old ways. If we have decided not to nag our spouse and to treat him/her more lovingly, it should not surprise us when she/he does something eminently "naggable." If we have decided to pray every morning, small crises will arise to keep us from doing so. It is all too easy to lose sight of the goal of becoming more like Jesus.
The key to overcoming temptation is to fight back. We can quote Scripture as Jesus did (Luke 4). We can tell Satan to go away as Jesus did with Peter's suggestion (Matthew 16:23). We can refuse to argue as Jesus did with Pilate (John 18). We can pray as Jesus did in the garden (Matthew 26:38-44). We can refuse to give up as Jesus did when he was whipped and ridiculed (Matthew 27:26-31).
For Reflection: What is my typical response to temptation?
Let us pray. Father, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation (Luke 11:2-4).
"When Jesus had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do." (John 13:12-15).
"Only when power is changed from the inside, and we accept Jesus and his way of life, whose whole self is there in the action of foot-washing, only then can the world be healed and the people be able to live at peace with one another." (Benedict XVI)
What do we get by forgiving and loving others? What's in it for us? Jesus actually answers those questions. "I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45a). In 6:14-15 Jesus goes on to say, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
If we go beyond loving those who love us (Matthew 5:46), we can participate in the divine forgiveness that God the Father offers, be true sons of the Father, and have our sins forgiven also. Those promises would be incentive enough, but forgiving others sets us free from the judgments we have made (Matthew 7:1-2) and brings spiritual and (often)physical healing to our bodies.
For reflection: What lingering unforgiveness can I get rid of this week, before Easter?
Let us pray. "My prayer is not for them alone (the apostles). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:20-21).
The teachings of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5 are certainly counter-cultural. They were counter-cultural then; they are counter-cultural now. That's because we have never really put his teachings into practice. "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44) has never been easy. It may even be the hardest.
In October 2006 a man killed a number of girls in an Amish school in Pennsylvania. Then he killed himself. Some of those families buried their daughter one day and attended the funeral of the killer the next. A year later they were still helping to support the man's widow and his three children. "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
This radical forgiveness stopped the community from being torn apart. The Amish live a counter-cultural life and they chose to follow the counter-cultural command of Jesus. Like the Rwandan people we spoke of on Friday, they took the road less traveled. They chose love rather than hatred and forgiveness rather than revenge.
For reflection: "Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, 'Father, forgiven them, for they do not know what they are doing'" (Luke 23:32-34).
Let us pray. Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
The Rwandan genocide began 20 years ago this week. There was already a civil war going on, but now there was a government-ordered mass killing of civilians of all ages, even babies. Those being killed could offer little to no resistance. It was a horrible time.
What has happened since? The new government realized that they could not put half the population on trial for war crimes. So they chose, for the most part, to emulate the truth and justice commissions of South Africa. Neighbors faced neighbors with the facts of the murders. The guilty were asked to repent; the innocent were asked to forgive. It is hard to imagine even one of those meetings. Yet with one million people killed, how many of the face-offs had to be held?
What if the Rwandans had followed an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Matthew 5:38-42) instead of repentance and forgiveness? Who would be left?
For reflection: From what do I need to repent? Whom do I need to forgive?
Let us pray. "If today you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts" (Psalm 95:8). Let me hear your voice today, Lord. Grant me the grace of repentance and forgiveness.
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.