Monthly Archives: July 2019

Separating Ourselves and Others from Jesus

“Send the crowds away.” (Mt. 14:15)

These words were spoken by the disciples to Jesus because they were concerned about the crowds needing to get something to eat. Jesus responded that they did not need to go away, that the disciples should give them something to eat. The disciples protested that they only had five loaves and two fish. Jesus asked that the loaves and the fish be brought to him. He gave thanks, and broke them and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. Matthew reports that “they all ate and were satisfied,” a crowd of five thousand men, besides women and children.

This was not the first time that the disciples tried to keep people from getting to Jesus. We might recall the time when people were bringing their little children to Jesus to have him touch them. “When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” Luke 18:15-17)

The disciples rebuked Bartimaeus and told him to be quiet as he shouted out to Jesus to heal his blindness. (Mark 10:46-52) In another incident they told Jairus, who had asked Jesus to come and heal his daughter, not to bother Jesus any longer after word came that his daughter had died.   But Jesus went on to raise his daughter to life. (Luke 8:49-50)

How often do we unwittingly seek to separate others or ourselves from Jesus?

The possibilities are numerous — letting our kid’s soccer game or an invitation to play golf on Sunday morning get in the way of attending church; sleeping in and missing a time we had set aside for prayer; being a bad example to our children on an issue of integrity; holding on to anger and refusing to forgive another for some slight or wrong done to us; any kind of sin that tends to drive a wedge between us and God. Even though we may not realize it, all of these examples tend to build separation between us or others and God.

Rather, our actions should be like the friends of the paralytic who carried him on a mat and tried to lay him before Jesus to heal him. When they could not break through the crowd to get to Jesus, they carried the paralytic up on the roof, removed the tiles and lowered him down in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith and the efforts to which they had gone, he healed the paralytic and forgave him of his sins. (Luke 5:17-26)

One of our prime responsibilities as Christian parents is to introduce our children to Jesus. We should encourage them by our word and example to grow in their faith so that they will be able to live out that faith in their own lives.

Jesus called us to make disciples and teach them everything he commanded. Then he promised his presence would always be with us.

“I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.” (Psalm 119:58)

Finishing the Race

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

These are the words of Paul to Timothy while Paul is under house arrest in Rome and expects his martyrdom to take place soon.  Paul is reflecting on his life since meeting Jesus on the Road to Damascus, and his call from Jesus to bring the message of Christ to the Gentiles.  He is concluding that he has kept the faith in fighting the battle Jesus gave him and has now finished that battle and race.

Last week, Ann, a good friend of ours from Armonk, New York left this physical world to be with God the Father.  Like Paul, who brought the message and presence of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles two thousand years ago, Ann did the same in her time and place. 

I first met Ann as a fellow volunteer religion education teacher of high school students in our small Catholic parish.  She had a smile that radiated the joy and love of Jesus.  Her smile sparkled like a diamond and served like a magnet, drawing people to her, and thus to Christ.  Since I had never served in the role of a religion teacher before, she befriended me and became kind of a mentor.

After a few months, she started inviting my wife and me to various spiritual related events. One such invitation was to a week of Renewal in the Holy Spirit conducted by a group of nuns from Scarsdale at a nearby parish.  The result was that we both ended up experiencing the release of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

It was a watershed moment for both of us, renewing our relationship with Jesus and totally changing our perspective on all of the priorities of our lives.  And what was the driving force for this amazing impact – the loving and gentle persistence of Ann, conveying the love and joy of God, as reflected in that beautiful smile. 

The last time I saw Ann was in a nursing home with her husband Tony, living nearby one of their adult children.  Though she was in a wheelchair and partially paralyzed from a stroke, she still had that beautiful smile.

Before Paul’s imprisonment in Rome when he was saying his final farewell to the Ephesians, he prayed that he would “complete the task the Lord Jesus had given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”  (Acts 20:24)

While Ann fulfilled many tasks that the Lord had given her – loving and supporting her husband, Tony, for over 60 years, raising a family of three daughters and one son, she, like Paul, brought the love and message of Christ to many.

Ann, may you rest in the Father’s arms free of all physical limitation, with your beautiful smile still reflecting the joy and presence of God.

Mocking Jesus and his Followers

“But they laughed at him.” 

This was the reaction of the crowd who were crying and wailing over the death of Jairus’s daughter when Jesus said, “The child is not dead but asleep.” (Mark 5:21-43)  Jesus proved the mockers wrong when he raised the little girl to life.  Mark reports that their mocking turned to astonishment.

When reflecting on the mocking of Jesus we often think of his trial and crucifixion when the Roman soldiers put a crown of thorns on his head, a staff in his hand and knelt before him saying, “Hail King of the Jews.” (Mt. 27:29)  But the mocking started from the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry when the devil began his temptations of Jesus with the words, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”  The devil was mocking Jesus and his being the son of God soon after Jesus heard the words from his Father, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  (Mt. 3:17)

Even Jesus predicted his mocking to the disciples when he said, “They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.” (Mt. 27:29)

We who follow Jesus are not exempt from being mocked for our faith.  Once in a gathering of several employees where I worked including one of our senior executives, I happened to mention that I was involved with an organization with the name of Christians in Commerce, whose mission was to encourage people to live out their faith in their work.  The senior executive started laughing and saying that Christians in Commerce was an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.  All of my fellow employees started laughing as well, taking joy in my discomfort and piling on with similar mocking statements.

What was interesting was that when I was later with this executive with no one else present, he would ask me all kinds of questions about Christians in Commerce, the Bible and God.  This happened several times.  While he may have not realized it, he was searching for God.  We had worked together at various times along our respective career paths, so we had a good and credible relationship with one another, and were able to have meaningful conversations.

Proverbs 9:7 says, “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult.”  Jesus did not respond to people who mocked him.  He let his works be his response.  After his arrest, he did not respond to his accusers and mockers; he let God respond for him with his resurrection.

So, how should we respond when we are mocked for our Christian faith?

First, we should stop and ask the Lord what he wants us to do.  There may be circumstances where we have the opportunity to clarify a misunderstanding.  Then again, he may want us to trust in him and say nothing, like Jesus — letting God act then or at a later date.   For me with this executive, I was given an opportunity to speak about all kinds of things with respect to Christians in Commerce and my faith at later date.