Monthly Archives: November 2021

Exercising Faith on Another’s Behalf

A few years ago a close friend who had been battling cancer for more than four years had a massive brain hemorrhage.  He could not pray for himself or take other action, but his family and friends gathered around his hospital bed praying with him and for him, singing his favorite hymns, reading his favorite Bible verses and leading him into the arms of God the Father who was waiting for him.  Instead of lying in a comatose state indefinitely after years of suffering, his family and friends escorted him to the Father.  He had led a long and fruitful life loving God and serving his family, friends, and others.  What a glorious day it was for him AND us who were privileged to be present exercising our faith on his behalf. 

The Gospel of Luke reports the story of some friends of a paralytic who were trying to bring him to Jesus on a stretcher so that Jesus could heal him.  When they arrived at the house where Jesus was teaching, they could not get in because of the crowd.  So they took him up on the roof, removed the tiles and lowered him down on his stretcher into the crowd, right in front of Jesus.  When Jesus saw the faith of his friends and the extraordinary effort they went to get him in front of Jesus, he both forgave the paralytic his sins and healed his paralysis.  (Luke 5:17-26)

Luke’s account of this event indicates that Jesus did this not because of the paralytic’s faith, but the faith of his friends and the extreme efforts they undertook to get him to Jesus.

This is a good example of how we can exercise our faith on behalf of another to bring the Lord’s presence, healing and forgiveness.  Sometimes a person cannot act on his or her own faith, or take the kind of action that may be necessary.  While we don’t know anything about whether the paralytic had faith in this story, it does not appear that he would have been able to act on this faith without the help of his friends.

Jesus healed others on behalf of the request and faith of family and friends.  He healed the servant of a centurion who believed that Jesus could do this simply by saying the word without even coming to pray over the servant. (Mt. 5:5-13)  Others were healed based on the faith of a parent — Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21-43); and the royal official’s son in Capernaum. (John 4:43-54)  We should never underestimate the power of our faith to bring God’s presence to others.

Is there someone in your life who needs you to exercise your faith on their behalf?

Belief in More than Ourselves

On a cruise vacation a few years ago, my wife and I visited the Island of Gozo, part of Malta, where we toured the Ggantija Temples dating back to 3600 BC.  This makes them older than the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge in England.  Eighteen hundred years before Abraham, these ancient ruins reveal the human heart attempting to acknowledge a cause, force, or person larger than itself to explain our existence.  

The psalmist announces, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour fourth speech; night after night they display knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2)

God created us with a desire to seek him.  It is part of our DNA.  Intuitively, we know that there is something more than ourselves to explain all that we observe in the world in which we live.  

God demonstrated his great love for us by becoming one of us in the person of Jesus, in order to bring his presence into the world in a very visible way at a specific time in history.  Jesus demonstrated his great love for us by sacrificing his life to free us from the grip of sin and Satan’s power over the world.  By the resurrection of Jesus, God confirmed the saving nature and power of that sacrifice. 

In contrast to the people of the ancient world, we are blessed to have the benefit of God’s revelation through the prophets, scripture, the words of Jesus and the teaching of the Church over many centuries.

God’s plan for creation is to dwell in us, his human creatures, who were the last act in his creation.  He accomplishes this through his son, Jesus Christ, so that we, with the power of the Holy Spirit, can partner with God in bringing his presence to the people and circumstances of our lives.

God never stops reaching out to us.  Like the Father of the prodigal son, he is always waiting to receive us. (Luke 15:11-32)  Even when we have turned away from him, he is still seeking us.  Like the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine in search of the one lost sheep, God never stops loving us. (Luke 15:1-11)

We are incomplete without God in our life. No matter the knowledge we have gained, the success we have achieved, the fame we have experienced, the wealth we have accumulated, the friends we have made, we are not complete and will not be satisfied until we ask the God of all creation to dwell in us. 

Forgive me, Lord, for the times I have excluded you from the core of my life.  Come, dwell in my heart. 

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” (Is. 55:6)

Do you have a sense that there is more to life than what you are experiencing? 

Words, Faith, and Action

“I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)

When I worked in the legal department of a large oil company we had an administrative assistant who was quite vocal about her Christian faith.  Her conversation was filled with references to her Christian beliefs and opinions on a variety of subjects. 

Her job performance in providing assistance to three attorneys, however, fell short of the expectations for her position.  It fell to me to counsel her about her performance.  I will never forget her response when I pointed out that her work in serving the three attorneys to whom she was assigned was not meeting the requirements for her job.  Indignantly, she retorted, “I don’t serve anyone but God!”

Clearly, her actions were not living up to the words she was professing about her Christian faith.  St. Anthony of Padua said, “Actions speak louder than words. Let your words teach and your actions speak.  We are full of words but empty of actions.” 

Bearing fruit in our lives is important to Jesus.  What kind of fruit? “Fruit that will last,” says Jesus.  St. Paul describes this as the fruit of the Spirit, which includes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)  I believe that faithfulness includes seeking to do our best at whatever we may be doing – our work, loving and serving our spouse and children, responding to the needs of friends, and growing in our relationship with Jesus.

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus has a very harsh response for the servant who buried the talent he had been given — a lack of action on his part. (Mt. 25:14-30) In the Parable of The Judgment of the Nations, Jesus condemns the people who did not provide food, drink, shelter, medical care and their time to individuals in need – a lack of action on their part.

Faith and love are not real until confirmed by our actions. When Jesus told someone that his or her faith had healed or saved them, it was usually the result of some affirmative action of the person exhibiting faith.  For example, the woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years, fought through a crowd saying, “If only I can touch his cloak.” (Mt. 9:22)

This is not about whether salvation comes from faith or works.  This is about whether our actions make our professed faith and love real. 

Do your actions attest to your faith and love?

Holy Spirit Power Outage

Have you ever suffered multiple inconveniences due to an extended power outage?  The lack of air conditioning on a hot muggy night; spoiled food from a refrigerator not working; eyes straining to read by candle light; groping for clothes in a dark closet — just a few of the inconveniences we are likely experience.

In the same way an electrical power outage can make life difficult, so too will a Holy Spirit power outage be a challenge to live out our Christian faith in today’s world. 

Jesus instructed the disciples before his ascension not to leave Jerusalem until they had been “baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem…and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:5, 8)

This is exactly what happened to the disciples.  They began to testify boldly to Jesus’ resurrection and experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  These gifts included wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge and fear of the Lord, as described in Isaiah 11: 2-3, and faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophesy, discerning spirits and praying in different tongues, as described in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10. 

Just as Jesus affirmed that the disciples needed the power of the Holy Spirit, so too, do we need this same power if we are to fulfill our calling as Christians, living out our faith in today’s world. 

While I received the Holy Spirit when baptized as an infant, it wasn’t until I seriously confronted the sin in my life as an adult and people prayed with me for the release of the power of the Holy Spirit, that I began to experience God’s presence in deeper way.  Only then did I begin to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the reality of the gifts of the Spirit.  All my priorities and values began to change.  I no longer compartmentalized my life, putting Jesus in a box, but accepted his offer to dwell in me. My objective was to bring his presence into every aspect of my life, including my family and work life. 

The Holy Spirit gives us eyes of mercy for the homeless person asking for money at a stop sign,  gives us patience to listen to a business colleague who needs to talk, and empowers us to pray with a friend for the healing or resolution of a significant need.

If you are not experiencing the fullness of God’s presence and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, follow Peter’s advice in Acts 2:38: repent of any sin and pray for the release of the power of the Holy Spirit which you received in your baptism.  Jesus said, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)  All we have to do is ask.

Are you experiencing a Holy Spirit power outage?

Being Christian in a Changing World

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” John 1:10

What was true when the Apostle John wrote these words 2000 years ago is becoming more prevalent in our culture today.  As a young boy growing up after World War II in the 1940’s and 50’s, our country was much more of a Christian nation than today.  Sundays were reserved for church and visiting family.  Most businesses were closed to give people a day of rest; there were no Little League games on Sunday.  Movies avoided four letter words and scenes of explicit sex. Abortion was not a readily acceptable form of birth control.     

We started our days in public schools with both prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.  In 1954, the phrase, “under God” was added to the Pledge, “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  In 1956, Congress added “IN GOD WE TRUST” to our currency.

During the Christmas season, displays of the crèche and the Holy Family would appear in the central park of my home town.  The Christmas story was recited and Christmas carols were sung at our school concerts.  Safety for kids was not a concern.  When I started kindergarten, I walked to school six blocks from our house by myself or with other kids.  Parents did not wait with their kids at bus stops.  We rode our bikes everywhere without concern.

Though these recollections are less evident in our culture today, we can take heart in John’s additional words.  “Yet, to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” John 1:12

Jesus Christ is still present in the world today!  All who accept his offer to dwell in them, all who believe in his name, are given the opportunity to become children of the Most High God.  Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”  John 14:23

Regardless of what is happening in our culture or with our government, God still offers to be present in our lives.  He promises that “on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Mt. 16:18  Throughout history, governments and ideologies have come and gone, but God’s church has remained.

May we not lose heart in the societal changes we see, but join with our Christian brothers and sisters to be and bring the presence of Christ to the people and circumstances in our lives.

To what person or circumstance can you bring the presence of Christ today?