Brothers and Sisters:
Welcome to 2021! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s break!
One of the traditions Pam and I have been practicing on New Year’s eve is to think of all the things we are grateful for. Good health, a relationship with Jesus, the gift of our family are all easy choices. But as I pondered the question, “What am I grateful for” I realized how generous the Father is to us, and how often we focus on material blessings instead of the gifts that profoundly represent His love for us. One thing I observed at Christmas this year with my grandkids was how much they enjoyed giving gifts they had made for each other and seeing the reactions of their cousins to the labor of love they had crafted. It beautifully took the focus off of “what did I get” and created an atmosphere of mutual blessing. The Father loves to give us gifts; His only begotten Son Jesus to save us, His Holy Spirit to sanctify us, the Blessed Mother to lead us to a relationship with her Son and the Saints to show us a heroic witness of the way of life God calls us to. And finally you, my brothers and sisters in City of the Lord; we are Gods’s gift to one another. We “represent” God’s love to each other—in other words we “Re-Present’ or present over and over the Love of God and the Gift He is to us! Let’s not forget this!
Although there is much to be grateful for, it is wonderfully easy to be influenced by what the World “represents” as important. Cynicism, negativity, hopelessness, despair, self-centeredness are all the currency of the evil one and falling prey to these deceptions is effortless. What takes effort is to focus on the grace to “not be conformed to the World but transformed by a renewal of our minds” (Romans 12). This is a beautiful contrast to what the World offers. Looking around at what we can see in the “natural” frequently gives rise to the attitudes and thoughts of the “flesh” I listed previously. But we are called not to see with the eyes of flesh but spiritual eyes if we are to see God in all circumstances and remain hopeful, AMEN? I am reminded of the scripture passage from Romans 8:
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:5-10, 14-15, RSV-CE)
At our December 6 GCG, Rob Drechsler had a prophetic word that I believe we all need to ponder in this regard. He said ”City of the Lord, you are slow to obey because of your need to understand.”
The context of this word was John 3, when Nicodemus and Jesus meet, and Jesus said to him:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born anew.' The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:3-8, RSV-CE)
Nicodimus needed to “understand” what Jesus was talking about and was hesitant to obey. Jesus, the Messiah, was right in front of him, but with Nicodimus’ eyes of flesh, he was missing the visitation of the Lord! How often do we miss opportunities to fulfill our calling to bring the Baptism of the Spirit to others, or pray with someone that needs healing, because we don’t understand how its all going to work out, or if we will make an impact by our obedience to the call to “represent “ Jesus to others?
Fr. Dave Pivonka, at his Encounter Ministries conference talk this week, used the analogy of a snorkeling trip to give a picture of one aspect of our calling. When you are on the boat, you can’t see the realities under the surface of the ocean. When you put on the mask and go into the water fully, a whole new amazing world presents itself- one of color and life and energy, that was always there, but was unseen above the surface. The experience we have all had of the Baptism of the Holy spirit is like putting on the diver mask and seeing a new world. Can we be obedient to the call to show others this world, even if we can’t understand the impact it may or may not have? Only by giving this gift to others will the focus come off of ourselves, and the blessings of this life we are called to live, will be apparent and manifest.
Finally, regarding living with a renewed mind and staying obedient to the path God has called us to in City of the Lord; Peter Waltersheid sent our fellowship a quote I would like to share from C.S. Lewis circa 1948- when the nation was preoccupied with a different kind of National threat than we face from Covid- the atomic bomb and mass annihilation.
“In one way, we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world that already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”
Regardless of the circumstances of our world in 2021 and beyond, economically, politically or socially; we are called, with renewed minds, to be obedient to the mission and the life we are called to live as a member of City of the Lord. It may not be easy or convenient, but obedience to the call brings blessing. We need to continue to say Yes to the Lord, and as the words of the song “Find us Ready” say:
“Find us ready Lord, not standing still; Find us working and loving and doing your will!”
Blessings, JeffBACK TO LIST