Meditation: Matthew 7:21, 24-27
Saint John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church
It did not collapse. (Matthew 7:25)
A family finds their house in danger of flooding because of local landscaping changes. To make things worse, they live in Ireland, where the most beautiful day can become a torrential downpour in the blink of an eye. Although they cannot control the weather, they learn that they can still be prepared. They buy sandbags, learn the early warning signs, and enlist help from friends. And so, even in the wettest weather, their house escapes devastation.
Today’s parable, which Jesus used to conclude his Sermon on the Mount, depicts two men who experience identical storms—but only one of them is ready for it. You see, Jesus knew there was no way for people to avoid crises. Hard times are bound to come, no matter how hard you try to avoid them. But that’s okay, because by putting into practice Jesus’ words in this sermon, we can learn how to survive every natural and spiritual storm. If his teaching forms the foundation of our lives, we won’t collapse at the first sign of trouble.
Sometimes you will receive a metaphorical slap on the cheek—snide criticism or unfair treatment perhaps. If you remember Jesus’ words about turning the other cheek, then instead of slapping back, you’ll remember God’s forgiving heart, and you’ll find the grace to react with peace instead of aggression and anger (Matthew 5:39).
Maybe the looming storm is the feeling that you may miss out on something you think you need or deserve. Rather than collapsing in anxiety, let your foundation be the promise that your heavenly Father will clothe and feed you in every way you need (Matthew 6:25-34).
Jesus promises that if you ask, you will receive (Matthew 7:7). If you keep this in the forefront of your mind, the first thing you will remember in any challenging circumstance will be how generous God is. Instead of trying to get through on your own strength, you will remember to ask the Lord for grace to overcome a temptation, for resources to perform a task, or for the energy you need to serve joyfully.
Isn’t Jesus marvelous? Not only does he teach us the right way to live; he also promises to support us in every storm of life!
“Lord, help me build on the solid foundation of your words.”
Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 19-21, 25-27
Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Be hospitable to one another without complaining.
As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Let us all remember to use our gifts this Christmas Season to help serve others!
My Utmost for His Highest
Daily devotionals by Oswald Chambers
. . . I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord --Jeremiah 1:8
God promised Jeremiah that He would deliver him personally— “. . . your life shall be as a prize to you . . .” (Jeremiah 39:18). That is all God promises His children. Wherever God sends us, He will guard our lives. Our personal property and possessions are to be a matter of indifference to us, and our hold on these things should be very loose. If this is not the case, we will have panic, heartache, and distress. Having the proper outlook is evidence of the deeply rooted belief in the overshadowing of God’s personal deliverance.
The Sermon on the Mount indicates that when we are on a mission for Jesus Christ, there is no time to stand up for ourselves. Jesus says, in effect, “Don’t worry about whether or not you are being treated justly.” Looking for justice is actually a sign that we have been diverted from our devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will only begin to complain and to indulge ourselves in the discontent of self-pity, as if to say, “Why should I be treated like this?” If we are devoted to Jesus Christ, we have nothing to do with what we encounter, whether it is just or unjust. In essence, Jesus says, “Continue steadily on with what I have told you to do, and I will guard your life. If you try to guard it yourself, you remove yourself from My deliverance.” Even the most devout among us become atheistic in this regard— we do not believe Him. We put our common sense on the throne and then attach God’s name to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts (see Proverbs 3:5-6).
The First Gaze
Monday, June 30, 2014
I am just like you. My immediate response to most situations is with reactions of attachment, defensiveness, judgment, control, and analysis. I am better at calculating than contemplating.
Let’s admit that we all start there. The False Self seems to have the “first gaze” at almost everything.
The first gaze is seldom compassionate. It is too busy weighing and feeling itself: “How will this affect me?” or “How can I get back in control of this situation?” This leads us to an implosion, a self-preoccupation that cannot enter into communion with the other or the moment. In other words, we first feel our feelings before we can relate to the situation and emotion of the other. Only after God has taught us how to live “undefended,” can we immediately stand with and for the other, and in the present moment. It takes lots of practice.
On my better days, when I am “open, undefended, and immediately present,” as Gerald May says, I can sometimes begin with a contemplative mind and heart. Often I can get there later and even end there, but it is usually a second gaze. The True Self seems to always be ridden and blinded by the defensive needs of the False Self. It is an hour-by-hour battle, at least for me. I can see why all spiritual traditions insist on daily prayer, in fact, morning, midday, evening, and before we go to bed, too! Otherwise, I can assume that I am back in the cruise control of small and personal self-interest, the pitiable and fragile “Richard self.”
Adapted from “Contemplation and Compassion: The Second Gaze”
(article by Fr. Richard available free on CAC website)
Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.
“Do not be afraid.” We have read these words in the bible many times. We sing it in our songs. We hear our family and friends tell us not to worry. But we go on our fearful way, thinking our worry will solve the problem and then our fears will be gone with the wind.
We know in our hearts that Jesus is taking care of us. But why can't we get our thoughts to go along with our hearts? Why should that be hard? And the answer is in our humanity. Our weakness. We are tempted away from God and fall so easily into being lost in our questions. So we spend our time worrying, wasting our time and days. Worrying doesn't help anything, it just takes us away from Jesus. Worrying takes us out of the presence of God in the now and leads us nowhere.
I want you to remember something. Jesus is holding your hand. Just like Isaiah 41:13 says, 'I am holding you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, do not be afraid. I am here to help you.'
Those are the words we need to live by. God is with us at all times, holding our hand. When we are worrying, we are letting go of Jesus' hand and saying, “Hold on Jesus. I am going to sit here alone for awhile. I need to figure this out.” Why would we want to make the choice to let go of Jesus' hand? Why would we want to tell Jesus to hang on a minute, while we worry about something we cannot change at that moment. Why would we let go of the loving hand of Jesus.
He has a wonderful plan for us. Part of that plan is allowing our Father to take care of us, allowing Him to hold us by the hand. In our most difficult times, when we do not feel God's presence and feel abandoned, those are the moments we need to hold on fast. Don't let go! Talk with Jesus, pray with Jesus and trust in Jesus. “Do not be afraid.”
By: Mary Maddox
Prayerful Path/Mary Maddox