Archive | June 2016

PEACE

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And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body;                 and be ye thankful. Colossians 3:15 KJV

Peace is just another five letter word unless you’ve struggled with anxiety, unless you’ve suddenly awakened in a panic wondering how you will be able to survive one more day in the mess you find yourself in, or unless you put on your glasses to search for the light at the end of the tunnel, but find only blackness no matter how hard you squint your eyes. It is a positive good, not just the absence of conflict. Indeed, real peace is possible in the midst of uncertainty and conflict.

Peace is a pearl of great price the we can only acquire from God Himself. We might acquire it when we have made the difficult, but good decision or done the truly loving deed. Once experienced, we long to live in that peace again and we joyfully let go of bad habits and preconceptions into order to feel it again.

The peace of God is the perfect high that all people pursue. Unfortunately, most of us seek it in the wrong places and in the wrong way, totally unaware that God hardwired us to seek it through Him. Although sexual fulfillment is a wonderful gift from God to all husbands and wives who wholly give themselves to each other, it is not the ultimate high. The peace of God is a greater, more lasting high that is readily available to all: married, single, old, young, educated, illiterate, rich, or poor.

Seeking the peace of God propelled Mother Teresa into the streets of Calcutta to joyfully care for the  abandoned ones, the untouchables. She herself said that she wouldn’t do it even for a million dollars, but she gladly did it for the love of God even when the rest of the world watched with disgust, curled lips, and disbelief. She and the many people who followed her into her ministry from all over the world were the happiest people one could ever find.

Perhaps we anxious ones could learn a lesson from her. . . .

 

ROMANS 15:13   May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.

 I THESSALONIANS 5:23-24   Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [that is, separate you from profane and vulgar things, make you pure and whole and undamaged—consecrated to Him—set apart for His purpose]; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete and [be found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 HEBREWS 13:20-21   Now may the God of peace [the source of serenity and spiritual well-being] who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood that sealed and ratified the eternal covenant, equip you with every good thing to carry out His will and strengthen you [making you complete and perfect as you ought to be], accomplishing in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

II PETER 1:2    Grace and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be multiplied to you in the [true, intimate] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

COLOSSIANS 3:15   Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].

The last group of  quotations are from The Amplified Bible.

 

“Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

dreamstime_xl_22824210The admonition in the title of this post is a difficult one for me. It comes from that incident in Bethany when Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was “wasting time” instead of taking care of the needs of the people they had invited to their house. (Luke 10:42b)

I certainly understand Martha’s consternation better than I do Mary’s choice. I believe that prayer is important, but when facing a busy day or difficult task, I tend to jump right in and get to work instead of seeking God first. Stopping to pray during a crisis seldom, if ever, occurs to me. And frankly, if Mary had gone to high school with me, most of us would have called her a “brown-noser.” I hate to admit it now, but we really were that vulgar and that misinformed.

It’s partly a cultural thing for us Americans. We are do-ers, not pray-ers. Just show us the problem and get us excited about solving it. Pretty soon, we’ll have a committee organized to plan the work, another one to raise the money, and a third one to advertise for workers to complete the project. At the end, we’ll have a ribbon cutting ceremony and a luncheon   to congratulate ourselves .

I didn’t realize how unusual we Americans are until a German student lived with us when my youngest child was in high school. She was amazed at all the civic meetings, projects, and activities that we engaged in that year. Looking back, I’m not at all sure that we activists accomplished a lot, but we did stay busy “improving” our community.

So it’s disconcerting to read that Jesus praised Mary. That forces me to rethink my attitude about my own priorities. I finally begin to really understand that prayer, especially prayer as a conversation with God,* is more powerful than mere actions, however well-intentioned they are. In fact, without prayer we often create more problems than we solve. The fact that we must act out our faith does not mean that we just go with the first bright idea that comes into our head.

When I read Saint John Paul The Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert, I finally found a real life example of someone who embodied both the pray-er and the do-er. His life is remarkable for all of the great things he accomplished and I had long admired him for the things he wrote, said and did. But not until I read about the hours he spent in intense prayer every single day, did I begin to understand how he knew what to do and how to go about it.

He got up at 4:30 or 5 every day, prayed until time to dress for Mass, prayed the liturgy of the Mass, then prayed again after Mass before meeting his guests and having breakfast.And that was just the beginning! He often stopped to pray in a nearby chapel even when it wreaked havoc on his schedule. He prayed the rosary while walking, whether alone or with a friend. The most astounding thing to me was that, according to his associates, he didn’t just say prayers, he was so intensely involved in prayer, he seemed to be in another universe.

Perhaps it was partly his background of living under totalitarian regimes that tried to cripple the people’s culture that helped him understand prayer better than I do. His lack of autonomy forced him to rely on God more often and more completely than Americans who think they are the masters of their own fate can begin to fathom.

Oh, Dear God, please teach me how to pray. Help me to quit being a slacker, but to persist until I know You better than I do now. Amen.

*Not just saying prayers or just asking God to help us out

Mary Was NOT An Unwed Mother

I cringe when someone speaks of the Virgin Mary was an unwed mother, usually in a silly attempt to make the Christmas story “relevant” for today’s licentious audience. Such people not only blaspheme, they reveal their own ignorance of Jewish wedding customs.

The Jewish wedding employed two ceremonies before completion and consummation for thousands of years, although very recently they have begun merging them into one. At the first one, the betrothal or kiddushin, the couple promise to remain faithful to each other until “death do us part.” A written contract, ketubah, is completed where the groom promises to provide for the bride and the bride promises to keep herself for him. A religious divorce is required to nullify the marriage after this point. Only the groom can ask for one if he finds something untoward in his bride.

In the time of Joseph and Mary, each then went back home to live with family while the groom prepared a home for his bride, often by adding rooms to his father’s house. When his father decided that the new quarters were ready for the bride, then the groom and his friends went through the town to get the bride and bring her to the new home.

There, another ceremony takes place with vows and blessings under the wedding canopy.[1]

This nissuin is the ceremony that permits the bride to her husband and permits the consummation of the marriage. The party usually lasts seven days and friends and family join in the celebration.[2]

Therefore, Mary was legally bound to Joseph when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. When it became known that she was with child, Joseph began considering a quiet divorce to spare her as much as possible. But the Lord God told him to stay in the marriage to protect and provide for Mary and the child in her womb. She was wed the whole time, but conceived by the Holy Spirit, not Joseph.

Interesting Side Note: When one studies the common wedding practices of at the time of Jesus, he gets a new appreciation of John 14:12-13

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.