Intermittently we are looking at our titles or designations in Scripture. Another is "Ambassador for Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:20). There are several layers of meaning to the idea of being an ambassador. An ambassador, by definition is a high-ranking diplomat sent by one country to another person or country as a representative. In the case of the U.S. the President sends an ambassador to every country with which we have diplomatic relations. That ambassador represents the President. When s/he goes to see, for example, the President of France, it is as if the President of the U.S. walked into the room. That is the type of authority that an ambassador carries.
We are Christ's ambassadors. When we walk into a room it is as if Christ himself has entered. Our behavior and words represent Christ. That is a lot of authority. Paul says the message we have been given is the message of reconciliation. Christ is reconciling the world to himself and he has chosen us to get that message across. Therefore, we are ambassadors of reconciliation, speaking to all people everywhere about being reconciled to God. It is an important message which needs to be heard by everyone.
Wherever we go we are always "on." We are always acting as Christ's ambassador. There are no days off, no after-office hours when we do not represent Christ. Having chosen to follow Jesus, we follow him at all times and in all places.
For Reflection: Do I know my stature as an ambassador? How well have I represented Christ this week?
Let us pray. Jesus, I want to represent you well as your ambassador. Help me to walk in your authority and with your love in all the places and to all the people where you send me. Keep my heart open to always sharing your message of reconciliation to the Father.
In his final words about the resurrection of the dead and the return of Christ, Paul says to the Thessalonians that the day of judgment should not surprise them life a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:5). In saying this, Paul does not mean that Christ's followers will not be surprised because they will know the day in advance but that they will not be surprised because they are always ready. In fact, Paul himself seems to think that the Lord will return soon. Yet here we are.
And so we are to encourage one another to always be ready because the Lord Jesus could return at any moment. Paul instructs us to warn the idle, encourage the timid, help the weak and be patient and kind with all (5:14-15).
For Reflection: While we wait for the coming of the Lord, how are we spending our time? Are we in right relationship with God and others? Is there anyone with whom we need to be reconciled? If He returned tonight, would we be ready?
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.
Returning to Matthew 5, looking at verses 23-24, Jesus puts a twist into what I would expect him to say. I expect him to say, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that you have something against your brother, go and be reconciled first." That would follow naturally from his previous statement, "anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment." But that is not what he says.
What Jesus says is, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24). Did Jesus get confused about who was angry with whom? I don't think so. He was making his point from both sides. It doesn't matter if you are angry with your brother, or if your brother is angry with you; it must be dealt with quickly, now, immediately. Make all haste to deal with it. Don't let the sun go down another day.
We can't approach the altar when we are angry with someone because our relationship with others reflects our relationship with God. As John says, (1 John 4:20), "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen."
For reflection: Before the sun goes down today, who can I set free from my teenage years? With whom am I angry? Who is angry with me?
Let us pray. Jesus, the body of Christ is hurt, bruised, broken and some of the fault is mine. I have stepped on toes, twisted arms, knocked the knees out from under. I have broken hearts. I have left people handcuffed and tongue-tied. I have berated and belittled. Show me how to do my part to build up the body rather than tear it down.
We have been speaking of Joseph and his brothers for a while and the terrible thing they did to him. We noted how Joseph forgave them, and their father forgave them. But did they forgive themselves and change their ways?
Well, they still weren't above a little deceit. When their father died they were afraid that Joseph would rescind his forgiveness and start taking revenge on them. So they told Joseph that their father Jacob, on his deathbed, asked for Joseph to forgive them. Joseph wept when he heard this from them for he had truly forgiven them and thought that was behind them all.
Why had they been unsure of his forgiveness? I think it was because they still had not forgiven themselves. Their own lack of forgiveness reared its ugly head as suspicion of Joseph. Then they slipped back into their habit of lying to get what they wanted.
For reflection: It can be hard to break out of habitual ways of relating to one other. If forgiving others and forgiving ourselves becomes our habit, then other habits like lying will disappear.
Let us pray. "His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers" (Luke 1:50-55).
Of the 12 sons of Jacob, 9 had conspired to sell Joseph into slavery. Another one participated in the cover up. It was a terrible sin, but they were forgiven both by Joseph and by God. From those 12 came the nation of Israel. God did not choose 12 men who were without sin, he chose 12 who knew the power of forgiveness.
Forgiveness restored the relationship of the brothers to Joseph. Forgiveness restored the relationship of the guilty sons to their father. They had lied to their father and kept it secret for many years. No doubt if Joseph had not forgiven his brothers, his father would not have forgiven them either. Forgiveness saved their lives. Had Joseph not forgiven them, they never could have gotten the food in Egypt that saved them from the famine.
For reflection: Forgiveness still has that power today. It has the power to restore relationships and save lives. It has power across miles, across generations, across time, death and eternity. Whom do I need to forgive?
Let us pray. Father, I thank you for showing me the way to forgiveness. It is possible to even forgive people who have tried to kill me, or who wished me dead, or who have lied to me for years. With your help, I choose to forgive.
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
Grandparents often joke with their children about getting the same kind of children they were, especially if they were rascals. "Just you wait," they say. "Your children will be just like you when you were growing up." Often that is true.
Let's continue to look at Jacob and his life for a moment. Yes, Jacob showed favoritism among his sons and they were rivals for his affection. Where might he have experienced favoritism and sibling rivalry in his own life? Jacob had a twin brother named Esau. He and Esau were rivals for their parents' affection. The Scripture tells us that Esau was a hunter and a man of the open country while Jacob was a quiet man who stayed at home. Their father Isaac loved Esau, and their mother Rebekah loved Jacob.
So Jacob grew up with favoritism being shown by his parents and in rivalry with his brother Esau (Genesis 25:19 -27:45). As a father himself, Jacob showed favoritism among his sons and experienced rivalry among them too. His boys turned out just like him and his brother Esau.
For reflection: What habits of my parents have I carried forward into my life? Are they good or bad habits?
Let us pray. Father God, I thank you for my parents. I thank you for the love they showed to me and that they did their best to raise me to adulthood. I thank you for being my Father also, for keeping me under your wing even today.
I ask you to help me forgive my parents for not being everything that I needed them to be. I repent of judging them for what they did and did not do. I forgive them for not being perfect parents. (It is important to forgive them as specifically as you can in this type of prayer.) I ask you, Father, to bring to my mind the other things for which I need to forgive my parents. (Pay attention to memories that come up in the next couple of weeks. As God brings these to mind, forgive your parents for them.)
I repent of carrying on my parents' bad habits in my own life and with my children. Forgive me for the bad ways I have acted toward my children (again, be specific and pay attention to memories that arise in the next couple of weeks). Help me to see my children through your loving eyes, Father. You are the only perfect Father. Help me to be more like you.
"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.
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.