Monthly Archives: May 2021

Thorns of Busyness

“Those sown among thorns…are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit.” (Mark 4:18-19)

In explaining the Parable of the Sower, Jesus says the seed is the word of God.  Some seed falls among the thorns, is choked, and bears no fruit.  Jesus explains that there are many kinds of thorns – worries, ambition, wealth, recognition, position, possessions and busyness, to name a few. 

Busyness, as much any other circumstance, makes the word in many of us unfruitful.  We rush to get dressed in the morning and have our breakfast before we rush to work.  At work, there is often more to do than the time available, so we rush from one task to another.  After work, we rush to take our kids to practice or a sporting event.  We then rush home for dinner because we have a meeting after dinner at church, school or some other place, or we need to help the children with their homework, or we have a brief case full of work.  

Even when we are not in fact being rushed, we have a sense of being rushed.   

All of this rushing crowds out God. Intimacy with him is sacrificed.  The noise of busyness keeps us from hearing the whisper of the Holy Spirit and understanding the Spirit’s call each day.  Notice that Jesus says the outcome is that the word in us becomes unfruitful.  The rich guidance of the word goes unused.  Jesus’ desire for us is just the opposite – “I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)  

Life will always have its demands.  Do we let these demands choke out God’s word and presence in us, or do we invite him to join us in their midst?  I used to pray a lot in hallways and elevators as I went from one meeting to another, acknowledging God’s presence and asking him to go before me.  There seemed to be more fruit when I did and less when I didn’t. 

God’s presence is available to us in the midst of our busyness.  Offer up your schedule to him at the beginning of each day.  Remember his words, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)

Does busyness choke out your relationship with God – spending time with him in prayer, reading scripture and seeking his will in your lives? 

Do We value the Holy Spirit?

“’No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ – but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” (1 Co. 2:9-10 NIV)

St. Paul says that no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God, but in the Holy Spirit, we may come to understand what God has freely given us – words taught not by human wisdom, but by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 

In contrast, St. Paul also says that the person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to them, and they cannot understand them because they must be spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2: 14)

The Holy Spirit gives me a sense of belonging to God – a feeling of security, knowing that the God of all creation is my Father. He is not distant and out of reach.  He has made himself available to me by becoming one of us through his son, Jesus, the Messiah.  I can see how much he loves me by how he sacrificed his life for me through the tortuous death of Roman crucifixion.  His Spirit gives me the desire to overcome my selfish nature, and love and serve my wife, family and others as much as I am inclined serve myself. 

The Holy Spirit helps me to understand that I am to be a good steward of the responsibilities and circumstances in my life, including family, work, and relationships with others.  He has taught me to have courage and trust in God when faced with the life threatening illness of cancer, the family challenge of a child with an intellectual disability, and circumstances that threaten a presumed career path.

The Spirit gives us knowledge and understanding in our perspectives, conduct, and relationships.  He enables us to see the natural order of God’s creation.  Some people see conflict between science and faith, but the Spirit shows us that science is simply the discovery of the mysteries of God’s creation.

How remarkable!  Who can equal God’s love for us and the gift of the Holy Spirit which is our enabler in love, wisdom, and truth?   

I once read that the contrast between living life in the fullness of the Holy Spirit and not doing so is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Jesus said, “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”  (Luke 11:13)

As we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost this week, are you experiencing the personal presence of God the Father and God the Son as enabled by the Holy Spirit?  If not, ask God to release the power of the Holy Spirit in you.  It will change your life. 

A Stretch Goal – Loving as Jesus Loved

“This is my commandment: Love one another as I love you.” (John 15:12)  

In business, athletics and other endeavors of life, we often set goals for ourselves that exceed anything we have done before. Whether they include increased sales or production, running faster and longer, improving our grade point average in school or job performance measures at work, we refer to them as stretch goals.

Jesus set a stretch goal for the disciples and us with the above commandment.

How did Jesus love the disciples?  He called them.  He taught them with his words, stories, and example.  He empowered them and sent them out to serve the needs of others by healing, casting out demons and proclaiming that the kingdom of God had arrived.  And in a crowning illustration of love, he freely laid down his life for us to reconcile us to the Father and provide a means to overcome sin, death and Satan’s hold on creation.

He simplified all of the commandments into the love of God and neighbor, and said our neighbor is anyone we encounter, even a stranger as in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Through the Beatitudes, he promised blessings and happiness if we are humble in heart, mourn over sin, hunger for righteousness, show mercy, and seek to be pure in heart and peacemakers. 

How do we love as Jesus loves?  The opportunities are endless.  The key principle in most situations is to think of others over ourselves.  When our oldest daughter was three or four, as I walked in the door after a long day at work, she would say, “Come on, Daddy.  Let’s play.”  I got so tired of playing the board game, “Flintstones,” again and again, but I knew that I needed to love my daughter and our other children by spending time with them. 

Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)  While this could actually involve giving up our life for someone else, more often it is about laying down our will, comfort, and desires for the needs of someone else.  Some examples might be letting go of career ambitions for the sake of family; accepting that someone else’s idea is better than ours; letting love rather than judgment be our first response to another’s difficulty; or simply stopping and listening.

A few years ago I participated in a gathering where people were being prayed with for physical healing, reconciliation of broken relationships and other needs.  At one point as I was standing to the side of the room observing all that was happening, the words came into my mind, “It’s all about love.”  People were caring for one another, showing mercy, and humbly and faithfully interceding with God to be and bring his presence to bear on others’ needs.  It was a stretch goal, but that did not deter those who were praying. 

Are you called to stretch in your love for a family member, friend or colleague?

Why Forgive?

“If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Mt. 6:14)

Jesus spoke these words immediately after giving the disciples the Lord’s Prayer, apparently to highlight the importance of the petition on forgiveness — “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  In other words, we can’t expect God to forgive us of our sins against him and his Word if we are not forgiving others of their sins against us.

When Peter asked how many times we should forgive, Jesus said “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Mt. 18:22) Jesus then shares the parable of the unforgiving servant who, after having his debt forgiven by his master, did not do the same with a fellow servant. When his master learns of this he responds, “You wicked servant!  I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” (Mt. 18:21- 35)  Finally, we remember the example of Jesus’ unforgettable words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Forgiveness is absolutely essential for the advancement of the kingdom of God on earth.

Without God’s grace, our nature is not to forgive. We hold a grudge or seek revenge for wrongs committed against us, “an eye for an eye.” But unforgiveness is like a cancer.  It gives rise to anger and resentment, robbing us of our peace and affecting us as negatively as the original wrong that may have been committed against us. This effect applies to groups, tribes and nations as well as individuals, and has led to a never ending cycle of violence throughout human history.

Many years ago a friend and I joined the music group playing our guitars for a Saturday evening mass at a small parish in New York. After a couple of months we were abruptly asked to leave without any explanation.  We were naturally angered by this summary dismissal. We brooded for several months.  At a Christmas Eve mass during the sign of the peace, I walked over to the music group and offered the sign of peace to the leader, which led to an embrace. The leader and I became close Christian friends, and even though we no longer live in the same locality, still stay in touch. My guitar playing friend continued to brood.  That was more than 40 years ago.  

Are you brooding over a past hurt or wrong that God is waiting for you to forgive?