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Posts Tagged ‘Poor’

I have shared more than a few personal stories, and have tried to somehow relate them to a Gospel message that might be encouraging or insightful.  Sometimes I have tried to make them humorous, but others are simply just facts of life where I have failed or struggled with the God to whom all hearts are open. I guess you can consider the stories confessions of sorts.

Who knows? But what I do know is that one of the things that drives all of these stories – is my inaction. Places where I have failed God by my inability to act upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My most painful experiences as a Christian, are those times in which I did not put physical form to the love of Jesus Christ.

Sure, I have faith. Having faith for me is usually the easy part. I have experienced too many supernatural things for me to so easily discount the ability of God to exist. And logically, throughout all of my searching and wandering, I have yet to find a more compelling case than that of Jesus of Nazareth. Not only as evidenced in the Scriptures, but in my own life as well.

The problem with faith however, is that it is useless all alone. It can no more save a man’s soul, than raise the dead. Faith requires a body to enact it. Every time in the New Testament, when Jesus heals someone, he always says that it is their faith that has made them whole. The thing is, he always requires a physical action to prove that faith.

In James, it is written that we must be doers of the word, and not only hearers. Those who only hear the word, are like people who look in a mirror. They look at themselves, and turn away, only to forget what they are like. But those who study the perfect law, the law of Christ, and put it into practice, those people will be blessed. (James 1)

James continues this in chapter two, where he admonishes those who believe that faith alone will save them. For even the demons believe in God. But faith must be accompanied by action. Who are we to disagree? Time and time again, it is proven that a person of true faith will act out on his faith. They will abide by the Lord’s commands: love God, and love thy neighbor.

How can we love our neighbor if we do not show them our love? If I never speak to my neighbor, can I truly be loving him? How will I show my love if I never offer to mow his yard? Or the widow across the street, how will she know my love for her if I never offer to fix her mailbox that has been smashed by renegade kids?

The Scriptures say that they will know we are Christians by our actions. For a healthy tree bears forth good fruit. But inaction is the sign of a tree that is dying from within. It is the fig tree that the Lord curses and which withers away.

According to Ezekiel, the sin of Sodom was that she was full of pride, and had plenty of food. She was prosperous, but did not aid the poor and the needy. Because of this they were haughty, and did horrible deeds. Inaction is just as sinful as physically committing evil deeds.

The Book of Common Prayer portrays this beautifully in the Confession of Sin: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone…” it adds, “We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves…” It recognizes that the two go hand in hand.

Faith without works is not only useless, it is dangerous. For it leads to arrogance and pride. Self-righteousness leads to Pharisaism. It wasn’t the faith that the Pharisees had that he opposed – it was the way they approached faith. Their faith did not care for the poor and the oppressed. It had no action behind it.

God does not wish sacrifices of blood and flesh, but sacrifices of justice and mercy. How can we offer those sacrifices if we do not choose to act on our faith? The faith that teaches us to not only love God, but to love our neighbors as ourselves?

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It is remarkable to me that there are so many who view the Catholic Church with such disdain, even now. Do not misunderstand me, I’m no Papist. My great-grandfather’s dying words were, “Damn the Pope!”. But surely we have come to a point in the Christian religion where we can disagree on secondary issues, even so far as to call each other out on where we disagree, without questioning the salvific status of the other person.

No man has knowledge of who will enter the gates of Paradise. But I do not see how one can damn another professing Christian, especially when it is a man like Pope Francis who seems so remarkably intent on spreading the Good News of Christ to the poor and the least of these. It seems to me, that Pope Francis is the most Christ-like pope there has been in ages.

Do I have issues with the Church of Rome? Absolutely. For starters, they can begin to renounce papal infallibility when speaking ex cathedra, begin to consecrate women to Holy Orders, and allow Latin Rite priests to marry. But these are not salvific issues. None of them contradict the message of the Gospels, which is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit.

However, I have noticed a remarkable lack of the fruit of the Spirit when it comes to folks who lambaste the Catholic Church and Pope Francis, and refuse to acknowledge his stature and prominence in spreading the Christian religion. They would sooner gnaw off their own foot, than to admit that the Pope may indeed be a Christian, and may indeed be advancing the cause of Christ.

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I finished my lunch, and paid for it. After the tip for the waitress, I paid ten dollars total. They swiped my debit card, gave me my receipt, and told me to have a good day. A sentiment which I returned.

When I walked out of the restaurant, there was a beggar woman sitting out front. She was missing an eye, and looked quite frail. A hospital band around her wrist denoted that she had probably just been released. She asked me not for money, but to buy her a meal. A taco in fact. I looked her square in the eye and told her I didn’t have any money.

A few steps later, I was in my car, already feeling guilty about the lie which I had spoken so boldly. Sure I didn’t have any cash on me, but that was a technicality. I had sufficient funds in my bank account to pay for this woman to fill her stomach. My keys had already found their way into the ignition, but I didn’t turn them. For a few moments, I had a crisis of conscience. I was busy after all, in a hurry to spend my Sunday doing nothing in particular. What an inconvenience this woman was to me.

Yet all the more, I heard the still voice in the back of my head, “When you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me.”.

She wasn’t asking for money which could be used for all sorts of evils. She was asking for a basic human need to be met. She was asking for her hunger to be satiated. How could I have denied her? Yet the deed was already done, I had already turned her away. How would it look if I waltzed back over to where she was and granted her request? What a jerk I would look like!

Who was I trying to impress? Certainly not her. She was hungry, and she just wanted some food. She didn’t care about my pride, that wasn’t even on her radar. She was worried about starving to death. And if I drove off, forget looking like a jerk, I would be committing an evil deed. To drive away from her would be a sin. I would be denying the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He who identifies with the poorest of the poor, and the afflicted and oppressed. Damn my pride and hypocrisy, Jesus Himself was asking me for a meal.

I got out of my car, and went into the gas station next door. After withdrawing some cash, and breaking a twenty, I went back to where the beggar woman sat. I pulled the ten dollar bill out of my pocket, handed it to her, and told her to get her some food.

“God bless you!”

I walked away, too ashamed for any reply. Knowing how unworthy I was of such words. And after I got in my car, and closed the door, I looked up into the heavens and got level with God: “You suck!”

He does suck sometimes. Because He calls us out of our convenience and comfort. And I’m sure there are a lot of things I could have done differently to make a better impact as one who claims to be a Christian, on this woman’s life. But I didn’t. I drove off, feeling guilt and shame. As I should. Who do I serve, God or Mammon?

In this instance, I’d like to believe that I served God. Although I don’t always make the right decision. None of us do. But the glaring temptation to deny Christ as beggar was almost too powerful to resist. Yet as I write these words down finally at the end of today, I am reminded of a parable.

A father asked his two sons to go tend to the vineyard. The first son vehemently objected, and refused to do his father’s will. The second son told his father that he would indeed go, and tend to the vineyard. However the second son never went, but the first son changed his mind, and did as his father had asked. Which one truly did his father’s will?

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Litany of the Broken

Officiant: Let us approach the throne of God with humility and solemnity, asking Him to grant us our petitions by His grace and love.

O Great God of Heaven, have mercy upon us;
And hear our pleas.

We are but sinners approaching a Holy God;
Have mercy upon us.

Yet here we intercede for the broken among us;
For those who are in distress.

We ask that your Holy Spirit give comfort to those who are grieving;
For blessed are those who mourn.

We pray for those who suffer from loneliness;
For you are with us always.

We pray for those who have been alienated from your Church;
For you would leave the ninety-nine for the one.

We pray for those whose marriages have ended with divorce or annulment;
For your love knows no bounds.

We pray for those who have been victims of abuse and persecution;
For justice flows from your throne like streams of living water.

We pray for those who have been afflicted with illnesses of the body;
For you are the Great Physician.

We pray for those who suffer from addiction;
For you are the God who has delivered us out of Egypt.

We pray for those who suffer from mental diseases;
For you O Lord, are our peace.

We pray for the poor and the oppressed;
For the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.

We pray for those who struggle with belief;
For blessed are the poor in spirit.

We pray for ourselves, and all others;
For we have strayed away from You, and the road is dark.

Allow that we may partake in your Divine Nature;
For you have granted us fruit from the Tree of Life.

Grant these petitions O Lord as you see fit, in accordance with your Holy Word. We ask these things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Amen.

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God Bless the Refugees

To this land they have traversed,
From dangers only God can tell.
Chancing life and limb and sanity;
Daring climate extremes, and living hell.
For a chance at freedom, it was worth it all.
Some lost friends along the way,
They were herded like cattle,
Once reaching Freedom’s shore.
Their entire lives they dreamed,
Of a land that accepted the poor.
The hungry, and the weak they are;
The huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.
And what has America,
The haven of hope, decreed?
No asylum! No mercy!
Send back the refugees!
Yet I cannot help but wonder,
If it is they who should be deported.
Or perhaps those who believe freedom is a birthright
To only we few fortunate.
America could learn a thing,
Or two, from folks such as these,
For the very rocks and I cry out:
“God bless the refugees!”

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O great God of Heaven!

How far we have strayed from your Holy commands.

In your most august Name,
we have murdered our brethren,
plundered the poor,
and spit upon the forsaken.

Even now we have cast an idol
of steel
and iron
and we have worshiped it-
crying,
“Lord! Lord! Truly only thou art god!”

No longer is our trust placed in You,
O Lord.

Our trust is in missiles
and machinations of war.

With a single button,
we can annihilate the entirety of our enemies.
We can send millions of your children to their deaths.

Without regard for our own children,
we have raped the earth of its natural resources
in futile attempts to gain temporal riches.

This we have done in spite of knowing
that true richness is found only in You,
O God.

Forgive us Father of our sinful ways,
and guide us back into Your merciful arms.

Let us be blessed enough to somehow accomplish
even a minuscule portion of Your work
before we enter eternity.

Thy will be done, O Lord.

Amen.

28 April 2011 (revised 29 May 2014)

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Why should we pray to God?

The prevailing viewpoint in America is that we should not pray to God, at all. This viewpoint stems from the period of Enlightenment, and questions whether God even exists. It also posits: that if God does exist, then praying to Him is pointless because He does not answer our prayers. Supposed proof of this statement is backed with something akin to, “if God was real or all-powerful, He would abolish all evil”.

However, I would put forth that expecting God to solve all of humanity’s problems would be more the work of a magician or lesser deity, rather than the God who is described in the Scriptures. Regardless of whether or not one believes the book of Genesis to be historically factual, we have a pretty good idea about what kind of happened. Somewhere along the way, humanity rebelled against God and His perfect plan for the world. Our ancestors screwed up, and we lost the utopia known as Eden. The rest of the Hebrew Scriptures spend tremendous effort trying to convince us of where we went wrong, and how to get back to Paradise. They tell of a God who is constantly trying to get humanity back on the right track, back to perfect harmony.

But they also tell a different story – the story of a human race that though not intrinsically evil, often turns toward evil. God created mankind, and He called us good. But we fell, and we became broken. The ideal vision of humanity was now corrupted. So, not unlike a file that has been corrupted on a computer, we don’t act exactly how we are supposed to all of the time. We need to be restored back to how we were meant to be.

How does that happen?

The short answer, is through prayer. Paul gives us a little advice about this in 1 Thessalonians, where he exhorts us to pray without ceasing. This is a call back to the Gospel exhortation of Jesus himself. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 18, Jesus tells a story about a widow who had been wronged, and a judge who was unjust. The judge did not want to help the widow find justice, but the widow would not let the matter rest. She begged and pleaded persistently, until finally, the judge relented. The unjust judge sought justice for the widow out of pure weariness. He was tired of her nagging.

One could probably take away a negative: that if God is like the unjust judge, then God Himself is unjust. The alternative, and more appropriate take-away, is that if even an unjust judge will find justice after persistent nagging, how much more likely is God to answer the prayers of people whom He loves dearly? Jesus insisted that God will give justice to those who cry out to Him day and night – persistent prayers will be answered.

Why then, should we pray to God? Because He cares for the sparrows and for the lilies; how much more then does He care for us? And if such love is magnified, then how much more quick will He be to answer our prayers and petitions out of love. What father would give his child poison, when he asks for bread?

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