Monthly Archives: March 2018

Building the Kingdom through Relationships

When Jesus sent out the twelve and the seventy-two to proclaim the Kingdom of God, he gave them very specific instructions. He said, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.” (Mark 6:10)  “Do not move around from house to house.” (Luke 10:7)

Although these two instructions might appear a bit obscure in the story the gospel writers were describing, they convey an important message to all Christians who are trying to share their faith with others: Build relationships first, serve people’s needs, and then share your faith and proclaim the kingdom of God.

How often have we tried to share our faith or evangelize someone without having first established a relationship?  Without the credibility of a relationship, without finding out and serving someone’s needs, our words about God and the life he offers through his Son and the Holy Spirit may ring hollow.

After Jesus called Matthew, he dined and spent time with Matthew’s tax collector friends.  He invited himself to lunch with another tax collector, Zacchaeus.  He stayed on two days with the Samaritans after encountering the woman at the well, and the Apostle John reports, “Many became believers.”  He obviously had a relationship with Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary, because of the message they sent to him about Lazarus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (John 11:3)

The Parable of the Yeast would seem to confirm the need of our mixing it up with the world in our relationships.  “The kingdom of heaven [God] is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” The yeast, which is the good news, needs to mix with the flour, which is the world, in order that the dough, God’s kingdom, can rise. (Matthew 13:33)

In my own walk, I can think of several people who reached out to me with sincere friendship that had the effect of deepening my faith walk.  There was Father John, who gave me instruction to join the Catholic Church when I was a young teenage boy.  We shared many hours together in our mutual love of music, in addition to his individual instructions about the faith.

When I was a young man in my mid-thirties there was Ann, a fellow teacher of Religious Education to teenagers in our church.  Ann had the radiance and joy of the Lord.  She kept inviting my wife and me to various charismatic Christian events, which resulted in my meeting Jesus in an entirely new way and experiencing a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

In my mid-40’s, I was introduced to a Christian outreach to business, Christians in Commerce, that helped me better live out my faith in the workplace.  All three founders of this ministry, who happened to live in different cities from where I lived, spent time discipling me in becoming a better Christian at work.  They offered guidance, witness and friendship, and stayed with us whenever they were in town.

Jesus instructs us to go and make disciples of all nations. Like the seventy-two, he sends us out and instructs us to build relationships, serve people’s needs and proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand.

“Let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)


Cleaning Out Our Temples

Jesus_templeDoes your temple need cleaning? 

Three different times in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, he declares that we are God’s temple or that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Co. 3:16)

All four gospels relate the story of Jesus going up to Jerusalem at Passover and clearing the temple courts of cattle, sheep and doves and the people selling them and exchanging money.  He said, “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”  He made a whip out of cords, driving them from the temple, overturning the tables of the money changers and scattering their coins.  He said, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of robbers.” (John 2:14-17; Mt. 21:12-13)

Obviously, Jesus felt passionately about upholding and protecting the sacredness of God’s temple, and he was compelled to clear it of anything that detracted from that sacredness.     

If, as St. Paul says, we are a temple of the living God, then there may be things that need to be cleared from our lives in order to maintain the sacredness of our temple.

Like many a building or structure, have we allowed things to accumulate that get in the way of our relationship with God?  Perhaps we have allowed anger, bitterness and unforgiveness to take up some of our space; maybe an addiction to opioids or pornography?  Have we allowed work or some other activity to become an idol detracting from our responsibilities to family and others?

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen in his book, Life of Christ, observes that it was naturally a problem for people who came to the temple to offer sacrifice to get ahold of the material of sacrifice.  Accordingly, a flourishing trade in sacrificial animals gradually developed closer to the temple and, for the sake of convenience, eventually moved inside the temple courts.

For the sake of convenience, do we allow our busyness and other activities to get in the way of a regular time of prayer with the Lord each day?

When I was young, I remember my mother doing “spring cleaning” every April.   She would take down our lace curtains to clean and stretch them, wash the windows and thoroughly clean the whole house.  My father would clean out the garage and basement of things that had accumulated over the winter.

Similarly, we may need to do a periodic cleaning of our temple of the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes it may require just a good vacuuming or a little dusting; other times, a junk removal service may be needed.

We can be confident that Jesus, who is experienced in clearing temples of things that don’t belong, will assist us in making our lives a fitting residence for the Holy Spirit and the presence of God!