When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians (and his other letters), he was writing to a community of people. He envisioned a group of people who were working together and growing together into greater maturity in Christ. They were to do this by fulfilling the roles to which Christ had called them. Some were called to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. The goal of all was to prepare the community for works of service among themselves until they should reach maturity. Their first goal was to build one another up into a cohesive unit who know the truth and live as the body of Christ. They were to become such a unit that they could not be swayed by outside influences.
If we picture a human body, we realize that all parts grow at a certain rate. In the younger years there is a great rate of growth. In the teen years things can be a little out of balance physically as the body adjusts to greater maturity. But what if the arms decide they are not waiting for the rest of the body to grow? They want to grow now! Disaster results.
Unfortunately, I've been in churches where people were growing individually but not corporately. Paul consistently warned against this. He was always pleading for people to get along and to grow in unity. I've also been a part of churches where it seemed the goal was not to build one another up, but to tear one another down. This does not help the body of Christ to grow in unity and maturity either.
For Reflection: Am I a source of unity or division in my church? Am I growing together with the body of Christ or doing my own thing? What am I doing to help others grow?
Let us pray. There are times, Jesus, when I have been guilty of doing my own thing. There are times when I have torn down rather than built up. Jesus, I want to fit better into your body. I want to be a better member of your body. I want to do my part - the part you have called me to do. I want to fulfill my destiny in you.
In his letters, St. Paul is fond of providing lists of bad things to avoid and good things to do. He also is quite clear that our old rebellious nature died when we were baptized. Speaking for myself, it does not always seem that way. I think I'm just as temped to do things on the bad list as I would have been without baptism - but it's hard to know for sure. I've been baptized a long time.
When writing to the Colossians, Paul tells them that the old rules - don't do this, stay away from that - simply don't work and never did (2:20-23). Instead, since we have been baptized into Christ's death and raised with his resurrection, we should change our mindset. Change what we think about. Put off the old and clothe ourselves with the new ways of Christ. In baptism, this is symbolized by putting on a white garment. And what does this white garment represent? Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Forgiveness, peace and thankfulness (3:1-15).
Some years ago I asked a young boy, who had just been baptized and had on his white garment, what did it mean when the pastor told him to bring it "unstained" to the judgment seat of heaven. He said, "Don't get mustard on it."
For reflection: How is my white garment looking?
Let us pray. Jesus, would you give me a visual on how my white garment is looking today?
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One more reflection on settling our differences quickly from Matthew 5:25-26. Although these verses are about avoiding being thrown into debtor's prison, they follow along with what Jesus has been teaching. The previous verses (21-24) have been about having right relationships with others and therefore with God primarily by avoiding anger and hatred and not holding things against one another.
I think one interpretation of the difference in the scenarios between 21-24 and 25-26 is the difference between subjective and objective wrong. Many of our arguments and disagreements with people are subjective. By this I mean that an outsider might have trouble discerning who is at fault, either because there is fault on both sides or because the two sides disagree on exactly what happened. These arguments drag on and on because each one thinks the other should apologize first. In 21-24, Jesus is saying, "Get over it. Be the bigger person and go apologize."
In verses 25-26 there is a more objective wrong. One person borrowed a certain amount of money which is not in dispute. The borrower is objectively wrong for not repaying the money on time. Therefore the borrower should work things out before they come to a head or pay the consequences.
The conclusion from these verses is, I think, that no matter whether you are in the wrong or not take the first step in working things out. It is more important to be at peace than to be right. If you are not at peace with others, you are not at peace with God.
Let's be on the lookout today for good things. Too often we notice the bad things going on around us without taking note of the good. So today let's watch for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
For reflection: Who can I compliment today?
Let us pray. "I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together." Psalm 34:1-3
"O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart" begins the sixth O Antiphon. Since we looked at the kingship and Kingdom of God in November and December, we won't spend much time on it today except to say that he is not the usual type of earthly king. The Israelites expected a king in the mold of David who would wage wars against their enemies. Isaiah says, "Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a child is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever" (Isaiah 9:5-7).
Our God is not a God of war, but a God of peace. His weapons, our weapons, are spiritual because people are not our enemy. Our enemy, God's enemy, is Satan and his works. When we complete the defeat of Satan, full peace will be restored in the Kingdom of God on earth. Our weapons are prayer, forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, salvation, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 13). All of these destroy Satan's stronghold and deliver people into the Kingdom of God. For God wants everyone to be saved and to join him in his Kingdom.
For Reflection: Have I slipped into the mindset of considering any person to be my enemy?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are Messiah, King, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God and Prince of Peace. The government of justice and righteousness is on your shoulders. Change my mindset and give me eyes to see my true enemy. Let me be a warrior using your weapons to bring peace and justice.
This Christmas season I am remembering in prayer all those who read the blog every week. I appreciate your faithfulness in tuning in. Perhaps in the coming year you will post more comments. They are always welcome. In fact, I wouldn't mind if the posts became more of a conversation.
I encourage you to keep knocking on Jesus' door through prayer and see what happens. His desire is for us to be whole and healthy, and he wants everyone to be saved. There is more than enough manna to go around.
There are three parts to Manna Prayer: the email requests, the phone calls, and the blog and other prayer resources on the website. People who email Manna Prayer hail from around the world – from the United Kingdom to the United Arab Emirates, from Kenya to Kuala Lumpur and from Pakistan to the Philippines.
Who calls Manna Prayer? People who know me call; and people who don't know me call. Some who call, call only once for a specific need, others call regularly for prayer for long-term illnesses, ongoing situations, or for a job. Thanks to our merciful Father, people are being healed, set free and having their lives changed.
Surprisingly to me, the blog is the most popular part of Manna Prayer. It is available on both Facebook (www.facebook.com/MannaPrayerMinistries) and Twitter (@alicenoe1). There have been over 10,000 hits on the blog. If you have only experienced Manna Prayer through one portal, I invite you to explore the entire website. Also, there is now a donation option on the home page through PayPal.
This blog post comes with a prayer for you. May God bless you and keep you and make his face to shine upon you all the days of your life. May your relationship with Jesus grow stronger every day.
He is our Peace.
As Advent begins we continue to be immersed in images of the Kingdom of God on earth which mirrors the Kingdom of God in heaven. In Isaiah's vision of the last days (2:1-5), all nations come to the Lord's house for instruction. The Lord himself sits as judge between peoples. His objective is peace and life. "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again".
Let us pray. Lord, I need your instruction in the ways of peace and life. So many things compete for my attention. Disorder and chaos surround me. Help me in the midst of the chaos to tune in to your thoughts. As I find my peace in you, allow me to spread that peace to others. I want to be an overcomer of chaos.
What else might we see or not see in the Kingdom? Paul mentions in his letter to the Galatians that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free" (Galatians 3:28). If there are neither Jews nor Greeks, then religious and political divisions are gone. They are gone because all are "sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (3:26-27). In the Kingdom the only designation that matters is that we belong to Christ. We don't belong to a religion or to a country. We don't belong to someone else. We cannot be bought or sold or given to someone else because we belong to Christ. So there is no slavery, no bondage, no sex trafficking. There are no religious or political wars. All are equal and treat each other with respect and love.
For reflection: This type of equality is difficult to imagine in our present situation where what country you belong to, or what religion you practice, or your sex determines much of your life. Let us open our minds to Christ, put on the mind of Christ, clothe ourselves with Christ. And imagine.
What else might the Kingdom of God on earth look like? The next line from Isaiah, read by Jesus in the temple, is "recovery of sight for the blind" (Luke 4:18). This restoration of sight can be spiritual or physical. Either way it is a good thing and helps to bring about the Kingdom.
Spiritual sight would mean that people would know God. If all people on earth knew God the world would be a different place. It would be a world of love and mercy, peace and justice. For if we know Christ and have the Spirit of God, then "we have the mind of Christ" as St. Paul says (1 Corinthians 2:16). Being like-minded in Christ is a recurring them for Paul. "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ . . if any fellowship with the Spirit . . . (have) the same love, (be) one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:1-5).
For reflection: Do I know God? Do I have the Holy Spirit? To what extent am I spiritually blind? Do I really see other people and their needs?
Let us pray. Jesus, I want to be like-minded with you. I want to see people the way you see them. I want to see people's actions and circumstances the way you see them. I want to help bring about the Kingdom of God on earth. Your kingdom come, your will be done.
Lately I realize more and more the truth of Paul's statement to the Ephesians that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph 6:12). And as James says, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight" (James 4:1-2). If our enemy is not a flesh-and-blood person, then killing that person is not the answer. Killing and war are not the solutions that so many people think they are.
As Christians we must take the battle where it belongs. It is a spiritual battle of good against evil, of control over the minds and hearts of people, because a person devoted to God seeks peace not war and death. Whether the battle is between nations or just two people, as Christians we must identify the real enemy and engage the battle there.
For reflection: Am I able to identify the true enemy facing me? Facing my family? Facing my country?
Let us pray. Father, I ask for discernment in identifying the true identity of the enemy facing me. And I ask for the spiritual weapons I need to defeat that enemy. I also need greater love for the people who appear to be my enemies. Help me to see them as you see them.
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.