To see Christ through our poverty

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness ‘sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~Matthew 5:1-11 (CEB)

When we are not afraid to confess our own poverty, we will be able to be with other people in theirs.  The Christ who lives in our own poverty recognizes the Christ who lives in other people’s.   Just as we are inclined to ignore our own poverty, we are inclined to ignore others’.  We prefer not to see people who are destitute, we do not like to look at people who are deformed or disabled, we avoid talking about people’s pains and sorrows, we stay away from brokenness, helplessness, and neediness.

By this avoidance we might lose touch with the people through whom God is manifested to us.  But when we have discovered God in our own poverty, we will lose our fear of the poor and go to them to meet God. ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Heavenly Father, give me courage this day to speak from my heart the things that need to be said. Where I see poverty help me to speak out of my own experiences so that I may lead others into Your light. May I not leave anyone in darkness today. Amen.

To see God’s dwelling place

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness ‘sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~Matthew 5:1-11 (CEB)

How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich?   Poverty has many forms.  We have to ask ourselves:  “What is my poverty?”  Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence?  Each human being has a place of poverty.  That’s the place where God wants to dwell!  “How blessed are the poor,” Jesus says (Matthew 5:3).  This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.

We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it.   Let’s dare to see our poverty as the land where our treasure is hidden. ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Help me to see where You dwell in my life this day O Lord. If I cannot find You this day, help me to see what is blocking my sight. Help me to look to You for my security, my safety and my self-confidence. Amen.

To gain my soul

Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? ~Matt 16:26 (CEB)

“What I most desire for you is a certain calmness which recollection, detachment, and love of God alone can give. St. Augustine says that whatever we love outside God, so much the less do we love [God]. It is as a brook whence part of the waters is turned aside. Such a diversion takes away from that which is God’s and thence arise harassment and trouble. God would have all, and [God’s] jealousy cannot endure a divided heart. The slightest affection apart from [God] becomes a hindrance, and causes estrangement. The soul can only look to find peace in love without reserve. ~ From The Royal Way of the Cross: Letters and Spiritual Counsels of Francois de Salignac de la Mothe-Fenelon

Heavenly Father, I am nothing without You. My heart races, I feel lost and alone without You. Help me to not have a divided heart so that I may find the peace and love I need for this day. Amen.

Focus

 

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint. ~Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)

How can we stay in solitude when we feel that deep urge to be distracted by people and events?   The simplest way is to focus our minds and hearts on a word or picture that reminds us of God.  By repeating quietly:  “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want,” or by gazing lovingly at an icon of Jesus, we can bring our restless minds to some rest and experience a gentle divine presence.

This doesn’t happen overnight.  It asks a faithful practice.  But when we spend a few moments every day just being with God, our endless distractions will gradually disappear. ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Heavenly Father, help me this day to focus on Your will for my life. Guide me and direct me in the way I should go so that I may not tire or grow weary. Amen.

Clinging to truths

Many people were coming and going, so there was no time to eat. He said to the apostles, “Come by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” They departed in a boat by themselves for a deserted place. ~Mark 6:31-32 (CEB)

When we enter into solitude to be with God alone, we quickly discover how dependent we are.  Without the many distractions of our daily lives, we feel anxious and tense.  When nobody speaks to us, calls on us, or needs our help, we start feeling like nobodies.  Then we begin wondering whether we are useful, valuable, and significant.  Our tendency is to leave this fearful solitude quickly and get busy again to reassure ourselves that we are “somebodies.”  But that is a temptation, because what makes us somebodies is not other people’s responses to us but God’s eternal love for us.

To claim the truth of ourselves we have to cling to our God in solitude as to the One who makes us who we are. ~ From Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Heavenly Father, Help me this day to claim those truths You have for me. Help me to stand strong in the quiet times of life. Help me to feel Your assurance and love surround me. Amen.

Deep thirst

A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” His disciples had gone into the city to buy him some food.

The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other.)

Jesus responded, ” If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water? You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!” ~John 4:7-15 (CEB)

Have you ever been extremely thirsty? If you have experienced deep thirst, you know how wonderful and refreshing cool water can be. We can live for many days without food but we can only live a short time without water. When the Samaritan woman encountered Jesus at Jacob’s well, she was searching for that which would quench her body’s thirst for life-giving and life-sustaining water. In the presence of Jesus she recognized a deeper thirst, the thirst for God. And it was to this thirst that Jesus offered living water and the promise that her thirst for God could be satisfied.

The thirst for God is universal because we have been created with a longing for the Creator. This desire to know and be known by the One who made us and loves is often ignored, denied, and finally buried under a multitude of pursuits and interests. But then some event in life invites or forces us to pause, and the desire for God comes rushing back to our awareness. And once again we know that real life is impossible without the companionship of the One who first gave us the gift of life and who sustains us even how. We know for certain that we need living water; we need what only God can give if we are to really live.

Today Jesus continues to offer living water, a way, and a companionship that can quench our thirst for God. Our part is to recognize the deep need for God to fill and satisfy that need. Like the psalmist, our souls thirst for God. The good news we share is that through Jesus Christ our thirst can be satisfied. ~A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Ruben P. Job

Almighty God, you have sent Jesus to take our nature upon himself and to be for us sign and Savior. Grant that by the power of Your Spirit Christ may be born within us today to the end that our ministry may be pleasing to you and helpful to your people. We pray in the name and spirit of Christ. Amen.

Solitude

But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. Don’t lie to each other. Take off the old human nature with its practices and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people. ~Col. 3:8-11 (CEB)

If indeed the spiritual life is essentially a hidden life, how do we protect this hiddenness in the midst of a very public life?   The two most important ways to protect our hiddenness are solitude and poverty.  Solitude allows us to be alone with God.  There we experience that we belong not to people, not even to those who love us and care for us, but to God and God alone.  Poverty is where we experience our own and other people’s weakness, limitations, and need for support.  To be poor is to be without success, without fame, and without power.  But there God chooses to show us God’s love.

Both solitude and poverty protect the hiddenness of our lives. ~ From Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Heavenly Father, in this quiet space I look to You for guidance. Center me so that when I go out into the world I may still feel Your presence and remember the work I am to be about. Guide my feet to go where You would lead, steady my hands to do Your work. Amen.

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